…it’s amazing! Mac or PC, doesn’t matter – for a system drive SSDs are where it’s at. My boot times have gone down to less than 10 seconds and OS X is fluid and fast again. The drive I ended up going with was the Crucial M4 128GB. I would have preferred 256GB, mostly for the potential for greater write-reliability, but at that size I consider things still a bit cost prohibitive. I wanted to go with a SandForce-based SSD (such as the offerings by OCZ), but the compression option would have been less important if I wanted to use FileVault and I noticed that more folks complained less about the m4’s reliability.

For FileVault, I’m actually a bit annoyed at Apple. Basically all modern SSDs offer encryption via the ATA standard. Apple has not yet supported this option. While FileVault is basically free on modern Macs and HDDs (based upon what I have read), it does end up causing a performance hit with SSDs. Granted, you still get very fast performance, but using native encryption ON the drive is completely fee and, in most cases, is done regardless of whether or not you set an ATA disk password. Hence there is basically no penalty. I can’t figure out why Apple has not opted to implement this option as FileVault more or less would work the same way but has obvious performance drawbacks.

The last time I remember applications launching seemingly instantly was back in the days of DOS where program code size was tiny and there was nothing really to get in the way. Ever since those times, I always felt that as applications and operating systems become more complex, so did the sluggishness in launching things.

Sort of makes sense when you consider the code size of applications written back in the DOS days versus today, and the relative speed in hard-drives over the speed increases in CPUs and RAM. Hard-drives haven’t been able to keep up to those trends, particularly given random I/O. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful, however – quite the contrary. But it does mean that using a hard-drive for the operating system, applications, and frequently used data is no longer be ideal.

Certainly that is the case for me. My old system drive was a 500GB monster, and it was fantastic for not worrying about keeping things on my laptop. It is now relegated to an external enclosure connected via Firewire (unfortunately FW400 for now since I could not find an FW800 enclosure at the time). I still keep my lesser accessed applications, my VMs, iTunes, and photos on it as well as MacPorts and things I don’t use or need while on the go. The only problem with this setup is that Spotlight tends to become sluggish while it either waits for the drive to spin back up, or simply waits for results off the drive. Everything else, however, is unaffected. I tend to leave it disconnected until I need it to compensate.

I opted not to go with the MacBook Pro optical drive bay replacement (which allows putting a hard-drive in the place of the optical drive) because I didn’t want to worry about spinning media, or my battery life, on the laptop itself. Both of those seem to be improved via the SSD. I remember even small adjustments while having the laptop on my lap would cause the drive-head to park. Similarly, my battery life, as a cursory experience, seems to be noticeably improved.

I still tend to be concerned about high writes on the SSD as well as space since the more data is on the SSD, the less wear leveling may be helping. I sort of wish I could either disable things like my browser cache, or relegate those sorts of things to RAM. I also have noticed myself saving a bit less, particularly in things like EagleCAD (where I would save almost constantly). I did have to change a few things around, like turning off ‘atime’ on the system file-system, and enabling TRIM using a small hack since Apple only enables it by default on their certified SSDs (I mean, really?)

Overall, my opinion is that SSDs are a necessary upgrade for laptops, desktops, doesn’t matter. Put your speed-sensitive stuff on it, get a big-ass HDD for all your copious amounts of digital media. Best of both worlds, and it makes desktop computing feel fast and fluid again!