The Best MacBook Pro Hard Drive Upgrade

Aug 31, 2010 - 24 Comments

best macbook pro hard drive Dan wrote in with the following: “I have a MacBook Pro and I want to make it even faster, what’s the best hard drive upgrade for the MacBook Pro?”

This is a great question, and the answer will vary depending on your budget. I’m going to recommend a few options at different price points, all of which make excellent and speedy MacBook Pro hard disk upgrades.

MacBook Pro Hard Drive Upgrades

Upgrading the hard drive on your MacBook Pro is pretty easy and it’s a great way to breathe new life into an older machine, or turn a new machine into a blistering fast workhorse. It’s pretty impressive what a new hard drive can do for your systems performance, so without further ado here are my recommendations for the best drives:

The Powerhouse: MacBook Pro + Seagate Momentus XT 7200

Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB 7200RPM – $150 – the Seagate Momentus XT is basically the newer version of the Seagate Momentus drive. If you want a superfast hard disk but don’t want to spring for an SSD, this is the drive for you. Seagate claims the drive performs 80% faster than traditional 7200 RPM drives, and I don’t think thats much of an exaggeration. Apps launch faster, boot times are faster, everything is snappier, without a doubt you will see noticeable speed improvements. The drive approaches speeds of an SSD but costs significantly less, and despite the huge speed boost from the faster drive, battery life isn’t really affected. Their marketing speak says it’s an “SSD hybrid drive”, whatever that means I don’t know because it’s still a spinning drive at 7200RPM, but one thing I do know is that this is an amazingly fast drive. This is a highly recommended upgrade to a MacBook Pro and offers the best disk performance and reliability for the price.

  • Pro: Extremely fast, best price/performance ratio, more reliable than older Seagate Momentus
  • Con: Costs more than a standard 7200 RPM drive

The Affordable Powerhouse: MacBook Pro + Seagate Momentus 7200

Seagate Momentus 500GB 7200RPM Hard Drive – $65 – the Seagate Momentus is incredibly fast and very cheap, without a doubt this is the fastest MacBook Pro hard drive upgrade under $100. A friend of mine replaced his stock 7200rpm drive with one of these in his MacBook Pro and it absolutely screams, scoring nearly twice as fast in many XBench tests for reads/writes. It is a very noticeable improvement and the MacBook Pro feels much faster even just working in the Finder, opening applications, and cold booting. Whether you choose this model or the aforementioned Momentus XT should depend on your budget and how much you value reliability. For whatever reason this drive seems to have a higher failure rate than the XT model and also a tendency to vibrate a bit if it isn’t installed snuggly.

  • Pro: Cheap, extremely fast
  • Con: Slightly noisier than the stock MacBook Pro hard disk, 7200RPM drives have a higher failure rate, may vibrate if installed poorly

The Reliable & Affordable Workhorse: MacBook Pro + Western Digital Scorpio Blue 5400

Western Digital Scorpio Blue 500 GB 5400RPM Hard Drive – $55 – the Western Digital Scorpio Blue is about as fast as a 5400RPM drive can get, in some tests it will approach the speeds of the Seagate Momentus. So why not just go with the Seagate Momentus you may ask? Well, there’s a few valid reasons; the main being that faster drives have a higher failure rate. All hard drives can and do fail, but the Momentus’s higher RPM’s make it statistically more likely to have a higher failure rate. If you’re looking for a fast and reliable drive, the Western Digital Scorpio Blue is a great option with it’s quick performance and high reliability.

  • Pro: Cheap, reliable, quiet, faster than stock MacBook Pro drives
  • Con: Not as fast as Seagate Momentus or SSD

The Ultimate MacBook Pro: MacBook Pro + Intel X25 SSD

Intel 160 GB X25-M SSD – $438 – no surprise, but the ultimate MacBook Pro hard drive upgrade is a super fast solid state drive. Performance with a SSD is blistering fast; apps open almost instantly, boot time is minimal, and everything just hauls butt, plus it is completely silent since there are no moving parts. I’ve used a MacBook Pro with this drive before and it was the quickest laptop I’ve ever seen. So what’s the downside? Price. For about $440 you’ll get 160GB, which is a fraction of the disk space you get with a standard spinning drive like the Seagate Momentus or Western Digital Scorpio, both of which come in at 500GB for less than $75. If you aren’t concerned about the price, this is without a doubt the best MacBook Pro hard drive upgrade you can get.

  • Pro: Outrageously fast, completely silent
  • Con: Price

So there you have it, these are the four best MacBook Pro hard drive upgrades. These are based on personal experience and reading around on the web, I’m sure there’s other great drives out there but for the price and performance I think they’re tough to beat.

So what’s the best MacBook Pro hard drive upgrade?

After experiencing an SSD drive in a Mac, I’d go for the Intel X25 SSD on my MacBook Pro. If I didn’t pick that one I would go with the Seagate Momentus XT since it represents high speed, reliability, and it’s priced well. Ultimately, the best drive for you will depend no your budget and needs, so choose accordingly.

Regardless of what you end up choosing, be sure to get a USB powered hard drive enclosure to make good use of your old drive, they’re cheap and will turn your old hard disk into a portable external drive.

Feel free to chime in with any recommendations or personal experiences regarding your own MacBook & MacBook Pro drive upgrades.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac, Tips & Tricks

24 Comments

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  1. Michael Spurlock says:

    You forgot to mention another option. Wintec now makes an ExpressCard 34 based FileMate 96GB SSD drive that runs at native 3Gb/s and is less costly than a full blown 2.5″ SSD at just 258.55 where I bought mine. Move the OS to this drive and link larger, more static files like movies, music, and photos that you don’t need blistering speed to the internal HD and you have a Mac with serious speed without completely breaking the bank.

  2. Mr Kitty says:

    OWC Solid State Drives smoke the Intel SSDs backwards and forwards.

  3. inket says:

    There’s also 1TB hard drives that work on MacBook Pros. Check http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=1120492

  4. roasties says:

    I have the Momentus XT in a Mac Mini and it’s faster than a Core i5 iMac, obviously it won’t perform the same in CPU and GPU tasks but for disk tasks it’s faster. You can’t beat the speed, I will always upgrade with these until SSD’s become affordable.

  5. Ken Reilly says:

    NO! NOT the Western Digital Scorpio Blue 5400! I installed one of these in my MBP and got the WORST delay on everything! Typed text took a second to show up, links clicked did nothing for a second, it was awful! Found in forums that many users have experienced the same problem. I replaced it with a Hitachi drive, and the problem went away. DON’T use this drive!

    • t-mies says:

      I had the same problems with Scorpio Blue 5400. I wouldn’t recommend that but Momentus XT really is as good as you said.

      • Charlie says:

        I must agree, do NOT buy the WD Scorpio Blue. BTW it definitely isn’t quiet. It is much more noise than MBP factory drives.

  6. deci says:

    “Their marketing speak says it’s an “SSD hybrid drive”, whatever that means I don’t know because it’s still a spinning drive at 7200RPM”

    It means that alongside the spinning 7200rpm drive it also has 4gb of Flash memory for regularly accessed data.

  7. j5un says:

    I just did an SSD upgrade to my MBP and did TONS of research on them. The OCZ Vertex 2 smokes everything else out there and the price is the same or lower than the others. I’m loving life right now….but unfortunately I could never go back to a spinning drive again.

    You failed to mention that the SSD upgrade should not be done by beginners with cash to throw around. Snow Leopard’s lack of TRIM support adds maintenance tasks to your new SSD.

  8. giffnyc says:

    Recent article on anandtech points out the the latest Sandforce chipset generation of SSDs is the best choice right now for Macs, which lack TRIM support in the current OS.

    The Vertex 2, the OWC offering and the one I just got, a G.Skill Phoenix Pro, are all based on this chipset.

    It’s great, faster and cheaper than the Intel drive, and pretty well tested to avoid the speed drop off of other SSD solutions (including the stock Apple SSDs).

    It’s hard to convey just how much of a noticeable difference an SSD makes in day-to-day use. Totally worth the $250 I spent on a 120GB model.

  9. Machead says:

    The Momentus XT has a 4 GB “cache” that stores frequently accessed files. Hence “SSD hybrid”. ;)

  10. alex says:

    Is there a slow spinup pin/jumper option for the Seagate Momentus 7200?

  11. [...] cousin. Using a faster hard drive can make a machine feel significantly faster, and it’s a recommended upgrade to existing MacBook Pro machines because of [...]

  12. [...] Momentus XT hard drive is a fantastic drive that we have recommended in the past as the best MacBook Pro hard drive upgrade for the price. That combined with maxing out the RAM is a great way to get some killer performance [...]

  13. [...] Pro is natuurlijk een apparaat dat het beste verdient. Hier ga je geen merkloze HDD instoppen. Een korte zoektocht op internet bracht me bij een mooie opsomming van opties; van goedkoop en matig, tot duur en [...]

    • Jaap says:

      Ben zeer geïnteresseerd naar jouw lijstje beste HDD’s!

      Welk type HDD kan net als de standaard 250Gb stilstaan als het niet te hoeft te lezen/schrijven? Dat scheelt nogal in batterijverbruik!!

  14. dave says:

    evan, read that…. looks like a LOT of people are having problems with that HD???

    The price and performance seem good with xt… but damn so many problems???

  15. dave says:

    I have a 17 inch 2.5 dual core with a 7200 rpm HD (180 gb).

    I need more space (320 or 500 would rock), the SSD’s with those storage amounts are INSANELY expensive.

    the Seagate Momentus XT 7200 seems to have a LOT of problems.

    Whats the solution?

  16. Johan says:

    Hitachi is always the safest bet as that is what Apple is using :)

  17. Josh says:

    Hi,

    MBP currently has a 5400 rpm drive. Can I change to a 7200 rpm drive?

    Thanks,
    Josh

  18. dmedina says:

    unfortunately i see no mention of the new 4k sector issues plaguing many upgrades.

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