SSD as Boot Drive in Express Card Slot

  • Posted: 21 September 2009 02:18 AM

    Calling all Geeks,

    listened to MGG eleven score - 5 (215) and I drank the kool-aid.

    I bought a new (refurbished) MacBook Pro 15” (Late 2008) with Express Card slot and Wintec 48GB SSD.  I was hoping to use the Wintec as the Boot Drive with applications and keep all document files on the internal spinning drive.  GREAT when it works!  These are the problems that I had:

    1.  Could not install the OS 10.6 onto the Wintec SSD in the Express Card Slot.  Tried both cloning and fresh install from Apple DVD.  Neither worked.  I was able to clone and install from DVD via USB.  Why??

    2.  SSD would occasionally “die” and freeze the Mac requiring power button to shut down machine.  Occasionally when in the Express Card slot, but not as the Boot Drive I would spontaneously get a message to the effect of “Finder cannot repair the drive, copy your data and reformat.  You can read from the drive but will not be able to write to it.”  Why???

    3.  Could not “repair” the drive until I upgraded Disk Warrior to version 4.2, but then only effective some times, not all.  Therefore I partitioned the drive and reinstalled the OS about a dozen times.

    4.  At one point I could not even get the Mac to recognize the drive in the Express Card Slot or via USB.

    5.  I have sent the drive back to Wintec believing it is defective and have not heard back from them yet. 

    Any ideas?  Am I doing something wrong.  Your help would be greatly appreciated!


  • Avatar

    Posted: 02 October 2009 01:15 PM #1

    Hi JR

    Sorry I missed this the first time around, and thanks to Stephen for re-alerting me!

    This is not consistent with the behavior John or I saw at all. Definitely sounds like a defective unit. Have you heard back from Wintec yet?


    -Dave Hamilton / The Mac Observer / Mac Geek Gab / Dave on Twitter
    When you find a big kettle of crazy, it’s best not to stir it.

  • Posted: 02 October 2009 01:41 PM #2

    I talked with Wintec 2 days ago and they are expecting a new shipment of the 48GB SSD cards and will be forwarding a new card either today or Monday 10/5/2009.

    I am hoping for better results this time. 

    Should it make any difference wether I install OS X 10.6 by clone or from install disks?  (other than the fact that I would then have to install the applications if I use the install disks).

    Am I correct that installing and using the SSD should not matter if it is in the express card slot or connected by USB?  (obviously faster performance in the express card slot and that is where I intend to use it).

    Should the original drive be verified and repaired before cloning?

    Any other specific tips for use would be appreciated.

    I currently have my internal drive partitioned into a 50GB section and 450GB section.  I am hoping to use the SSD as the Boot Drive, but clone it to the internal Hard Drive for 1 level of backup.  I also have 500GB external drives to duplicate the entire hard drive.

    Any tips, tricks or help greatly appreciated.  JR

  • Posted: 05 October 2009 12:55 PM #3

    As an owner of an Apple 17” Macbook Pro (Circa Summer 2008) with an Intel X-25M (160gb)  installed into my system, I would agree and say it sounds like a defective unit.  I have had no issues with the Mac hardware recognizing and using Leopard or Snow Leopard.  Both were installed as new “virgin” installation from the DVDs.  It is amazing what OS X is like on an SSD.  Hopefully they are able to get you a replacement drive so you can get this working.

  • Posted: 05 October 2009 02:08 PM #4

    I’ve been contemplating putting the ExpressCard slot in my MacBook Pro to good use with an SSD, but I’ve read that the ExpressCard standard transmits data using the USB 2 protocol, so effectively an ExpressCard SSD would be limited to the bandwidth afforded by USB 2. Does anyone know more about this?

  • Posted: 05 October 2009 04:05 PM #5

    Well, I just plonked down the deposit for an Intel X25M (160Gb) drive for my MBP. I should hopefully (pretty please) have it by Friday.

    All reports point to it just being able to be swapped in instead of the old HDD. I’d be grateful though if there are any gotchas I should know about.


  • Posted: 05 October 2009 04:57 PM #6

    QDexter, I don’t have the X25M but I do have the Samsung 250GB SSD (“Corsair”) in my MacBook Pro. The biggest problem I had was finding the right sized Torx screwdriver; in other words, you shouldn’t encounter any problems you wouldn’t have installing a regular hard drive.

    I would be curious to see battery life comparisons between these SSDs and the hard drives they replaced. I got my SSD the same day as the new MacBook Pro, so I never got to establish a battery-life baseline to compare with. My MBP lasts 2 hours or a little more at best; typically it’s more like 1.5 hours.

  • Posted: 06 October 2009 08:58 AM #7

    I would expect that the X-25M would perform like any other drive.  My problem is using the Express Card Slot.  Wintec is sending a new unit and others have been able to use the Wintec 48GB Express Card for primary boot drive.  I did not want to sacrifice storage space (currently 500GB 7200 RPM internal drive) for speed (SSD).  I wanted my 500GB and SSD!  (i.e. “cake and eat it too!”)

    I felt that $180 was much more reasonable amount to spend for SSD performance and still be able to maintain the storage capacity of 500GB internal drive.  When it did work for me it was amazing. 

    Hopefully this week the new Express Card SSD will arrive.


  • Posted: 18 October 2009 07:46 PM #8

    I received the new Wintec SSD 48GB Express Card about 10 days ago.  I was able to insert the card into the SSD slot, clone the internal Boot partition (a 50 GB boot partition of the total 500GB internal HD) without any issues.

    The computer now boots primarily from the SSD Card and will start up the computer in less than 1/2 the time of the internal HD (spinning at 7200 RPM - upgrading from 5400 RPM to 7200 RPM was previously the best performance improvement I had seen in a long time).

    I have all the applications and system files on the SSD Card, the user files/record on the internal HD.  Programs will launch about 4 to 5 times faster.  An incredible boost in performance!

    I have also noticed that it takes less than 5 seconds for my computer to go to sleep as it writes the sleep file to the SSD! 

    I routinely use CCC (Carbon Copy Cloner) to do the backup to my internal HD partition and thus always have two copies of my Boot drive on two different drives inside of one computer!  The initial clone of the Boot drive (about 26 GBs) took around 25 minutes.  Subsequent Clones take only 3-5 minutes to update.  Since there are so few changes to my boot drive from day to day I suspect that most of the 3-5 minutes to update the internal HD boot partition is the “sleep file”.  Probably not any way of avoiding this unless I can control when the computer writes the sleep file??  Any way of telling the MBP to only write the sleep file if battery power < 10%??  Would the computer wake up briefly to write this file if battery power goes under 10%??

    1.  Best damn kool-aid I ever drank! THANKS!
    2.  Apple should consider putting the Express Card slot back OR putting in an internal SSD device of 48 to 64 GB to use as the boot device AND have a separate internal HD.  Thus you can have your SSD device/speed/performance improvement and your 500 to 750 GB internal drive too!  Computer version of having your cake and eating it too!!!

    1.  What is the life of an SSD device like the Wintec 48GB SSD?
          a.  Since I am using the SSD as primarily a read only device (system files and applications) will this prolong its life?  The only files that are being written are the VM swap files and sleep files.  Only other writes would be system and application updates.  Is that correct?
    2.  What are the options for writing the sleep file?  Is it possible to set the computer to go immediately into sleep mode (i.e. not write the 4GB sleep file) unless the current Battery power is <10%.  Is it possible to have the computer wake up briefly to write the sleep file if while in sleep mode the battery life goes under the 10% limit??
    3. How fast is the RAM compared to the SSD?  There is obviously a significant cost difference.  Currently 8GB RAM would cost $476.00, 48GB SSD was $180.00.  So the SSD is about 1/18th the cost of RAM. 
    4 (Fantasy Wish): Is it possible to have combined SSD/RAM device?  Partition between RAM and “SSD”?  Could I choose 10GB for RAM and then use the remaining 38GB for “SSD” boot device?  Obviously this would be a major hardware redesign…..Most logical solution is #2 under Assessment?

    Bottom-line:  The Express Card SSD is the best performance improvement I have ever seen.  For $180.00 probably the most cost effective too!

    Thanks for the show and the kool-aid!


  • Posted: 18 October 2009 07:56 PM #9

    Current price on the Wintec 48GB SSD is $141.00 at Circuit City and Tiger Direct!  JR

  • Posted: 16 November 2009 11:08 PM #10

    That’s really awesome. I’m going to do this myself. I need to ask a dumb question, however. When making your boot partition on your 7200 HD, did you leave OS X installed on the larger file portion? Or do you just have your docs, music, et, al on there by themselves? (as in a storage drive). It sounds like you have OS X and your applications installed ONLY on your 50GB boot partition, yes?

  • Posted: 18 November 2009 09:34 PM #11

    This MacBook Pro came with a 320GB HD spinning at 5400.  I partitioned the new 500GB 7200 RPM drive in an external case to 50GB for Boot sector and 450GB for “Storage”.  I then cloned all of the applications, system disk and other info into the external 50GB partition.  The user files, photos, music and other stuff went to the 450GB partition.

    After swapping drives, updating and tweeking I then cloned the 50GB Internal Boot partition to the Wintec 48GB SSD.  All partitions should be GUID, MacOS Extended, journaled.

    I now have had the computer running on the Wintec SSD for just under 2 months with no problems whatsoever.  Absolutely great. 

    I use CCC (Carbon Copy Cloner) to frequently copy my SSD to the internal 50 GB partition.  That way I always have 2 copies of the boot disk in my computer!  This takes about 3 or 4 minutes to copy any changes or updates.  I do this about 3 or 4 times a week since it takes so little time.  Likewise after the initial copy of the 450GB “data” partition updates are 20 to 30 minutes at most. 

    I currently have 27.23 GB on the SSD with 20.89 GB free.  I have about 100 programs installed, many of which are the default stuff from apple with MS Office, Toast and many others third party apps.  MS office just flys open when running from the SSD.  That alone is worth the price!

    Good luck and happy computing.


  • Posted: 19 November 2009 10:49 PM #12

    That really clears it up. Thanks!

  • Posted: 30 November 2009 10:44 AM #13


    I received my Wintec SSD, but I’m having difficulty following your partitioning scheme. CCC tells me that the 50GB partition “will not be bootable” if I do not include the Library files. Problem is, doing so would exceed the 48GB limit of the SSD.

    Since you stated that you “currently have 27.23 GB on the SSD with 20.89 GB free”, precisely which files/folders did you include on your 50GB?



  • Posted: 16 December 2009 12:00 AM #14

    Hey Mac Geeks, this is John in Santa Fe. Thought I’d share a success and also ask a question. I have a MacBook Pro 15” (2007) 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4 GB RAM and 160 GB HDD, running Snow Leopard. I’ve installed the Wintec FileMate 48GB SSD in the Expresscard slot (which I had never even used before!). I had some trouble formatting it at first, but eventually it worked to boot to the Snow Leopard CD and use its Disk Utility to format the SSD as a single GUID Partition. I then installed Snow Leopard from the Snow Leopard CD to the SSD. After booting to the SSD, I installed a user with my same short name, and then right-clicked on my picture in System Preferences >  Accounts > My Account. This brought up Advanced Options. Under Home Directory I selected my home directory on the HDD. Then I used Migration Assistant to move ONLY my applications and settings from the HDD to the SSD. It works like a charm and I agree with John and Dave, it FLIES!

    So here’s my question - do you geeks know how to implement (if indeed it’s possible) FileVault in this setup? I would be fine keeping the OS and my Apps on the SSD, but if possible I’d like to encrypt the HDD to protect my files.

    Thanks, and don’t get caught!


  • Posted: 20 December 2009 05:31 PM #15

    John after doing the file migration how much room did you have left on the Wintec drive?  Also how much room do you need for a fresh install of Snow Leopard?  Finally does OS X require a swap file like Windows does which would require some spare room on the drive?  I’m very interested in this setup and would love to implement it on my system.

    Thanks, Roger