Speed Up an Old Mac on the Cheap by Installing the Operating System on an External SSD
Intended for Intermediate to Advanced Mac Users
This post is intended for intermediate to advanced Mac users. You should have a good working knowledge of installing Mac operating systems and experience with external drives, as well as being comfortable with VoiceOver or your preferred adaptive interface. It is not intended for beginners. That being said, the processes below are pretty straight forward. VoiceOver works well throughout most of it, with only a few questionable areas. Being careful, I have completed these same manoeuvres using VO, many times.
Easily Five to Ten Times Faster
For my birthday this year, I sped up my old MacBook Pro 2012 by at least 5 to 10 times faster. Really! Now my Mac waits for me, instead of the other way around. I may be a little late for the SSD party, but it was an amazing difference. Here's what happened.
Recently I received an Amazon gift card for my birthday. It was a $50 card, what can I get for that amount of money? My wife and i were thinking of getting a flash storage drive to set up a shared volume on our home Wifi network. It would be an 'always on' drive, accessible from any device that is logged into the network. We could use it for easy temporary file storage and shared photos and music.
After looking around on Amazon, I noticed that the SSD drives were about the same price as the Flash drives, possibly from the holiday discounts. This got me thinking about trying to put an install of macOS Mojave on the SSD instead. One thing that my old MacBook Pro 2012 is not anymore, speedy. I ended up with a 120 Gig SSD, USB 3.0 drive. It cost me a whopping $49. It gets its power from the port, so when I turn on my Mac, the drive is already on as well. It connects through a small 4 inch cable and the drive is about the size of a match-book, though maybe twice as thick. My laptop sits on an elevated tray, so the tiny drive curls underneath and sits on a small shelf/foot of the tray. I can pick my laptop tray up and move it around and the SSD stays in place with no fuss.
The SSD brand name I purchased is a, "King Dian Portable 550". Though there are many SSDs available on Amazon.
One thing to be aware of, I wanted to make sure I got a drive that says 'SSD' in the description. There's a difference between SSDs and Flash Storage. The chip's architecture and lay-out on the latter, is best for file storage and retrieval. The SSDs are laid-out best for running an OS from. I think it's from the lack of delay compared to a Flash unit.
Why is the SSD so Much Faster than my Mac's Internal Drive?
My old MBP 2012 has an internal spinning disk (HDD) that spins at 5400 rpm. This reduces the amount of heat produced and power needed. Both very good things for a laptop, although kind of slow. I know from past experience installing internal drives on desktops for both Mac and Windows, always use a 7200 rpm drive for faster access and an overall quicker system. I have an old iMac that I purposely upgraded with a 7200 rpm drive, specifically for speed. This was, of course, before SSDs existed. Plus at that time I could still see, somewhat. Now I have this tiny SSD hooked up to a USB port on my MBP and it easily has them both beat, hands down. It's all chips, no moving parts, access at the speed of electricity. The max speed of the USB port is probably slowing it down some, but the drive is so fast that I really don't notice. I have been using this SSD to boot from for few weeks now, I think I started to hear the word 'busy' once about a week ago, but it got cut off half way through the word, the system was ready.
I start up from this external SSD as my main drive now. I have Mojave installed on it and just the basic apps that I use on a daily basis. I have my internal Macintosh HD mounted on the SSDs desktop. I used the same user and Home folder names on the SSD install and on the internal. So far, it lets me access everything on the internal drive without asking me for the Admin password. I can not run apps that are installed on the internal, they would have to be re-installed on the SSD. Still, I have everything on the SSD that I need, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, a full install of GarageBand and extra loops, plus a 400 song library of my favorites and I still have about 70 gig free. It's plenty of space to work on my files. I copy them onto the SSD and work, then back them up to the internal drive again. I tried loading files from my internal while running from the SSD and it works well also. It's a pretty neat set up and extremely fast, comparatively. My MBP acts as if the SSD is the main drive and the old internal is an external. After getting the SSD running, I loaded the StartUp Disk in System Preferences and switched the default startup drive to the SSD. This way, if the SSD is plugged in, it will boot from it. If not, it auto-boots from its own internal drive instead. Cool!
Here's the part where I talk about how careful one should be when ever formatting, erasing or partitioning a drive hooked up to your main system. Always make a back up of your computer, or at least all of your important files and information. You can use Time Machine or a cloner app, or simply copy your files onto another drive. Most of the steps below are pretty straight forward, but it pays to be careful and double-check yourself before clicking anything that will make permanent changes. Since we won't be doing anything to the internal drive, we should be okay. If the SSD gets messed up, no big deal. We were going to erase it anyway. The process can always be started over with only some time lost. I am pretty confident that the system will not let you erase a drive that you are started up from, so the internal should be safe. However, please copy or back up your important stuff to another place first (not the SSD). It pays to be careful!
Formatting the SSD
Originally, I was started up from my internal drive, as normal. I had no other apps running. I plugged the SSD into a USB port. When it mounted on the desktop, it was already formatted for Windows with the NTFS+ formatting scheme. I opened it briefly and looked around. There were some Windows install files, and a Mac installer. It seemed that these were mostly bloatware, so I chose not to install anything. Even though the NTFS+ scheme would work for both Mac and Windows and might make a good disk for transferring files back and forth, I knew I needed it reformatted as Mac APFS, Apple's new file system in order to install Mojave. I opened my internal Macintosh HD and then the Applications folder. I navigated down and into the Utilities folder and loaded the Disk Utility.
Disk Utility has a Toolbar at the top, then next I find the Disk Selection Table. Navigating and interacting with this table shows the mounted volumes by default. However, it does not show everything I need at this time. I need to show the actual disk names as well as any volumes/containers on each disk. In the Toolbar I found the View popup menu and chose "Show all disks." This actually shows the actual disk brand names in the table, with the volumes indented underneath each one. Note: in High Sierra, the View menu is actually on the Title Bar of the window, by the Close, Ninimize and Full Screen buttons.
Once I showed all disks, the table now contains the disk names with their volumes indented underneath. Interacting with the table again, I find the name of the SSD I purchased called, "ASMT 2115 Media" and I selected it. I am doing this from my install of Mojave on my internal drive, which I am booted from. Then I moved back to the ToolBar and clicked the "Erase" button. Mojave has a neat feature, if you erase an actual full disk rather than just a volume, it automatically goes into partitioning mode. This is different from simply erasing a volume.
Once I clicked Erase, I navigated past the Disk Selection Table and found the option for formatting an entire drive. I found, "Erase 'ASMT 2115 Media'? "Erasing “ASMT 2115 Media” will delete all data stored on it, and cannot be undone. Provide a name, choose a partition map and format, and click Erase to proceed."
Next is where I give the disk a name. I named it, "ExtSSD". I purposely chose a name that would tell me which drive it is, by the name.
After that I found the "Format" popup menu and chose APFS as the file system.
Next is an important part, the formatting "Scheme" and on its popup menu I chose "GUID Partition Map". This is needed to make the drive bootable. You will not see this option unless you are partitioning or erasing an "whole" disk, not just a volume on a disk.
Then I find the Security Options button. Nothing to bother with here, simply ignore this for now. It has to do with zeroing out all files on the disk so they can not be recovered by someone. Not needed for my current purposes.
That's it, I clicked the Erase button and Disk Utility did its thing. By the time I could navigate a little to check on its process, it was already done. Wow, this tiny drive is fast! The drive was already mounted on my desktop and ready to use. Afterwards, I returned to Disk Utility and ran First Aid on the disk to clean up any glitches from the format process. Again, by the time I could check on its progress it was already done. "The disk appears to be okay."
Downloading and Installing MacOS on the External SSD
Trying to re-download Mojave from the App Store was one of the most frustrating things I've had the displeasure of going through in a long time. When I did it originally, it was a breeze, right at the top of the Featured list. Now that I have downloaded and I am running from it, it is nowhere to be found. I could not find it in Featured, or in any other category. I looked at my account in the Purchased area, but no OS installers were there either. Okay, where is it? I did a search for "Install macOS Mojave.app" which gave me something called "Mojave Utilities Collection". Mojave Utilities? Just in case, I interacted with the collection to be sure. The first item simply said "Mojave". It did not say installer or anything informative, just Mojave. The remainder of the items in this collection were actually utilities.
I clicked on the name Mojave and was brought to a new page with a "Mojave Collection" again. This must be it. Interacting with the collection forced me into "Section4" of the collection. This section had something called Preview, but would not tell me what it was, a tab or a button or a link, just "Preview" all by itself. Clicking it gave me 5 or 6 unlabeled graphics. Next to that was something called "Description" which was apparently non-interactive, but I clicked it anyway. Then Ratings and Reviews. After that was the description with lots of good info about Mojave, but still no "Get" button. After wrapping through this entire collection several times, I finally realized it was not letting me interact with anything except Section 4 and beyond. Obviously, the "Get" button is somewhere in sections 1 through 3, which I cannot get to. I finally got frustrated and started rapidly pushing Tab key and Shift-Tab. Back and forth I went, round and round several times. Eventually, it accidentally entered these other sections and I was finally able to get to the "Get" button. Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, the new App Store on the Mac leaves much to be desired. I clicked the Get button and the download started. Then I walked away for a bit, so my Mac wouldn't receive a flying lesson. It's always good to know when to walk away. However, I digress, back to the amazing experience with my new SSD drive.
Stopping the Install Before it Starts
Once the installer was finished downloading, it automatically gave me the install screen which states something like, "Welcome to macOS Mojave. Press Continue to install." Do 'not' press Continue at this time!
Currently, pressing Continue here would reinstall Mojave onto my internal drive, which is not what I want. At this point, with the first install window on the screen, I quit the installer and returned to my Mac desktop. You can quit the installer by pressing Command-q, or by clicking the MacOS Installer menu up by the Apple menu and choosing Quit.
Next step was to copy/paste the installer file onto the external SSD. I opened my Macintosh HD and entered the Applications folder. I found the "Install macOS Mojave.app" and copied it, then closed all windows. Since the installer is over 6 gig in size, I like to do things very deliberately. No need to accidentally paste it into the wrong window. From here I open the ExtSSD drive's main window, which is freshly formatted and still empty at this time and pasted the installer onto the drive. The copy dialog appeared and said it would take about 3 minutes. Huh? For a 6 gig file? Oh, actually it over-estimated. It finished before one minute was up. Darn it, I was going to make another cup of coffee. Oh well, I'll have to wait.
I activated the installer from the SSD drive and the same first install screen appeared. I clicked the Continue button and went through the license agreement stuff. I agree. I agree. Then the 'Choose which disk' screen came up. Further along in this window is a spot telling me which disk it will install onto. Since I am typing this from memory, I can't remember which disk it chose by default. Regardless, there was a "Show all disks" option right there, which I clicked. This showed all available disks for possible installs. I found and selected the ExtSSD as the proper disk. Moving once to the right was some text that confirmed my choice. Right after that I clicked the Install button. I knew that this process would take a little while and restart the computer as part of the install. So I finally have time to make a cup of coffee. Whew!
As a side note, most OS and app installers will require much more space on the destination drive than just their own file size. As a rule of thumb, it's best to have about three times the amount of space as the file size of the installer. Most installers act like a type of compressed archive. They unpack all kinds of stuff onto the target drive, then use the stuff to install themselves. Then they clean up afterwards and delete themselves. Before installing a larger install, always check the available space on the drive first. Also, it doesn't hurt to back up an installer somewhere else before running the install. You can re-use it for other installs without having to download again.
The SSD was now going through the normal install process. After a little while, the Mac restarted from the SSD to finish the install. My Mac screen suddenly became really bright. This means the remainder of the install is taking place. It should be the normal 'Installing macOS Mojave' screen with the progress bar. I pressed Command-f5 to see if VoiceOver would come on yet, but it was too soon. I grabbed my iPhone and loaded Microsoft's 'Seeing AI' app and used the 'Short Text' option to read portions of the screen to me. Yup, this was the correct screen. After just a few minutes I tried VoiceOver again and Fred began reading the screen and letting me navigate. About 15 minutes later, my Mac restarted again, except this time it was starting up from the SSD drive.
Setting Up Your New Mac
As it came up to the desktop, the normal setup screens began, as if I had just turned on a new Mac. I went through the setup process and logged into my WiFi network and AppleID account. This began syncing all my Contacts, Reminders, Calendar, Notes and everything that I have syncing through iCloud. When I had created the user name and Admin password for this install, I was careful to use exactly the same names as I did on my internal drive, even the Home folders are named identically. This way I don't have to type my user password every time I access the internal drive.
Once the basic setup was complete, I spent a little time going through the VoiceOver settings and tweaking them how I prefer. If I had thought about it, I would've been smart to export my VoiceOver preferences as a file. Then I could have simply imported them into this install. It would have sped things up quite a bit, but, I can't remember everything. You can export and import the VoiceOver Preferences from the VoiceOver Utility, on the File Menu.
Where's My Other Mac?
Well at this point I still had lots of settings to change in System Preferences, but first I wanted to get some stuff from the internal drive. Um, except that its not on the new desktop yet. Oh, I still have one more step. I moved to the Apple Menu, then over to the Finder Menu and chose Preferences. In this small window are four buttons in the Toolbar. I clicked the first one, General. In the window portion it said "Show these items on the desktop". I made sure they were checked; Hard disks, External Disks, CDs, DVDs, and iPods, Connected Servers. The remainder of this window depends on your particular likes.
Then I returned to the Toolbar and clicked the 'Sidebar' button. I chose which items I want to show in the Sidebar of every Finder window I open. I chose mostly the same stuff, but it depends on your likes.
Once more into the Toolbar and I clicked the Advanced button. Below I always choose one option, 'Show all filename extensions'. This shows the '.xxx' file type at the end of the name of every file in a Finder window. Now I know most files and what they are simply by landing on them with VO. If I land on the blog post that I am currently writing, it says, 'SpeedAnOldMac.txt'.
One Final Step
The last thing I did is to load the VoiceOver Utility and in the General section I changed the VoiceOver start up message to 'Welcome to macOS Mojave. External SSD. VoiceOver is on.' This way it verifies which drive I started from as soon as the system is ready to use.
I also made several aliases of my important folders from the internal Macintosh HD and copy/pasted the aliases onto the desktop of the SSD. That way, I can get to my internal stuff without navigating through so many folders.
So my $50 gift card turned into, what seems like to me, a whole new Mac. Even though the start up slowed down a bit after I installed all my apps and stuff, plus Dropbox loading at boot up, it still boots at least five times faster than with the internal drive. After reaching the desktop, loading apps and files is now, almost instantaneous. I load Safari for the first time in a session, it takes less than three seconds to load and is ready to use. iTunes, even with my 400 song library, takes two seconds to load. Wow! It is an amazing difference! VoiceOver is the fastest I have used since I first started using it about ten years ago. Each key press happens immediately. No lag, no dreaded 'busy' message, no discernible delay at all. Note for the sighted, when VoiceOver says 'busy', its talking about the spinning beachball of death. :-)
I wanted to share my results, knowing that manny of us have a limited budget and use older Macs. I know that I cannot afford a new Mac every time they come out with one, but this almost seems like a new one anyway. I was absolutely thrilled with the outcome. My digital life just became much more responsive. Now I remember why...
All of our cool digital stuff that we work with, play with and enjoy, is all about "Living." Live well!
Portions copyright Apple, Inc. All rights reserved.
Wow. This blog was truly inspirational. I just ordered a 256GB SSD which should be more than adequate. The plan is to pretty much reproduce what you've done here. I, too, have a 2012 MBP and it's unacceptably sluggish at times. I hope I see the same speedup as you. Give me a few weeks, I'll be back. Thanks for the helpful article!!
In the recovery mode, you can in fact use the disk utility almost exactly the same as you would in the operating system itself barring the extra things that might show up on the disk list. Also, it saves loads of time when trying to install the operating system itself on the shiny new external drive. To start the install, simply select the aptly named item in the Mac OS Utilities list, click continue, and you're off! There's a list item for the disk utility as well, so getting to it should be no problem at all.
To enter the recovery mode, simply hold command and R for a few seconds while your machine first boots up, noting that the keyboard doing so can't be wireless for this to work. This means of course connecting your keyboard through USB should you be using a desktop mac. I hear the cries: Voiceover does work in recovery mode, even braille in many cases via USB! Voiceover can b started in the usual ways minus Siri summoning.
Cool! Thanks for the reply. Hope you have luck with it, though I have had very few issues when approaching it this way. Once I even made a bootable DVD that was excruciatingly slow, but it worked. :-)
Let me know how it ends up.
Thanks for the excellent tip about Recovery Mode. This is definitely an option and one I have not explored before. This is an additional option for installing an OS on a Mac.
The only question I might have: if starting from a recovery partition on the internal drive, which would have been created by the current OS that is installed on the internal drive, can I still run the installer from the external drive? I ask because I have had installers glitch out during the install process before, only a few times after many installs over the years, which trashed the internal partition where the installer was unpacking the files. The idea for copy/pasting the installer to the external and running from there is to prevent any glitches from occurring on the internal drive, which might be caused during the process. Though, I can't seem to find any verifiable info about where the installer actually unpacks its files. So I am assuming that they are unpacked onto the destination drive.
Also, doing this from the recovery partition while booted from it, from what I can find out, will default to downloading the Mac OS that is installed on the internal drive, or the default OS that the system shipped with. If I am choosing another OS for installation on the SSD (needed for booting/troubleshooting older Macs), would I be able to do so?
Okay, one more question. Does the recovery partition allow for the full version of VO? This is probably a personal choice, but I like to keep the full 'Alex' version of VO under my fingers for as long as possible. Using the method in the post above, during the 'install' process/screens is the only place it switches to the more limited version of VO using Fred. Otherwise, I get to use Alex and my fully customized VO setup through the entire process.
Admittedly, I developed my process long before Macs even had recovery partitions (which began in Mac OS Lion). :-) I am not as fluent with Recovery Mode as I probably should be.
Thanks again for the excellent tip, definitely worth exploring. This is exactly what AppleVis is all about. None of us have all the answers, but sharing our ideas here is why I am a member.
More info from Apple about using Recovery Mode:
Thanks again for the tip. Sounds like I have an adventure in the near future. :-)
I'm doing this as well... I'm going to remove the internal hard drive and replace it with a SSD drive. Aditionally, I'm going to remove the disc drive and load another ssd there.
one as the boot drive and the other as the files drive...
Cool! Let us know how easy the process is, I'd be very interested to know how it works out.
Note, whenever I do anything potentially risky to my Mac, which seems to happen all too often :-), I have often been very thankful that I also had an external drive that I could boot from as well. If any glitches happen during the process, I can at least still boot my Mac to help me figure out what happened. The external boot drive can sit off on a shelf until needed. Just a suggestion. It only consumes one afternoon to give yourself a back up to start up from. One thought, you could get an external USB drive enclosure and put your internal drive into it, start from it once to verify, situation handled. :-)
Thanks for contributing.
Amazing and well written! question: can you install windows on an SSD? I was thinking if I ever decided to purchase the same drive that you have, or something similar, I could use this as my external windows drive, and use my internal drive for Mac OS, while the external drive could be used for windows. also, could it be possible if you could write a blog post on installing windows onto an SSD drive should I ever need assistants this guide could be helpful?
I don't know specifically about Windows. I would assume Bootcamp would let you install another OS, such as Windows, pretty much anywhere. It's been a while since I put Windows 7 on a MBP hard drive partition, but I remember the process being pretty easy.
Similar to putting Windows on an external SSD, I'm going to look at putting Debian Linux 9.6 on one and see if I can get the same kind of speedup for my Linux machine as described here for the MBP.
Before anything else, I'm going to prepare a bootable USB drive to install Mojave.
After that, boot in to the installation of osx I'm using right now and set the start up disc to the USB drive I prepared.
Once that's booting and confirmed working...
I'm going to take the hdd (the drive that I'm writing you from right now) out of the computer in its present working state so ware positive it's working and install the first ssd in the SATTA port where e the hdd was in.
From here, we're going to boot from the installer USB and shoot Mojave on to the new internal drive.
Once we complete the installation and we are booting from the SSD, I'll change the start up disc to the ssd.
I've found a way to make the software side of this entire process totally voice over friendly.
I've tested this on my friend's Mac-he wanted to sell it, and he wanted a clean os installation to give to the new owner.
my friends and I like ripping open mbps and doing things to the internals.
if you guys have any questions about doing this, feel free to write back and I'll answer everything once I have the answers...
I've never tried to install windows on a Mac, but from looking at tech vvlogs on YT , the easiest option is to drop the drive in a windows PC, install windows there then boot the Mac external from the windows drive.
It might be a more convoluted process, but I prefer convolution over simplicity if the question isuser control
Like Paul Martz, I haven't put Windows on a Mac for at least 6 years, then it was on an internal partition using BootCamp. To check into this further, I did a Google search on "Mac bootcamp install windows external drive".
There I found lots of various info about doing exactly this. I no longer have an install of Windows on my Mac and this does not fit my current situation. I probably wouldn't be the most knowledgable person to write about this at this time. However, a good starting point might be,
From what I discovered, the process may include many steps and possibly some virtualization software like VMWare or VirtualBox or such to help in the installation process. While this may be a very doable process, it is not simple or easy, though if you are somewhat proficient with both Mac and Windows and you don't mind a troubleshooting process that involves many steps, it is possible.
I would imagine it could have many areas where VoiceOver may not function. Currently, I personally would not start a process like this without sighted help available, if needed.
That being said, the first step I would make with any possible risky process would be to follow the steps in the blog above and make sure you have something to start up your Mac, on another external drive. Nothing is worse than getting that blinking question mark when you try to start your Mac.
If you proceed with any of the methods to install Windows on a USB drive, there are several ways to go about it, but I would make sure you download and set aside all software and instructions that you might need. If you use a screen reader, download NVDA and have it ready to install. Also find the instructions for turning on/off the Windows Narrator, the mini-screen reader built in software, you will need to use this until you can get to a point of installing another screen reader for Windows.
If possible, put the software and instructions on another computer or device, so you can refer to it while your Mac is tied up in the process.
There are many things to consider first before starting the process. Is your Mac capable of running the version of Windows that you want? Do you need to check the compatibility of NVDA? Do you have Microsoft's Seeing AI app on your iPhone or iPad to help you read the various screens that may appear, where VO may not function? And finally, make lots of coffee. :-)
With all this in mind, it seems like a doable process. Though I must say, not all of the information and resources are fully blind compatible. Plus anything like this can easily take much longer than the time estimates given with the resources. If I think I could do something like this (and I think it is possible), if I estimate the time involved to be one afternoon, I would set aside three afternoons instead. One can never be sure of what troubleshoots one might come across and what else might be needed during such an endeavor. There is always a good chance that it can take much longer than expected.
During the process if you find yourself hurrying through it, get up, walk away for a bit, allow the process to slow down enough so that you are being careful again. I mention this because it has served me well in the past. Also on every screen where you make changes, double-check your changes before you press the "I hope it works" button. Once you click that button, it is already too late to double check.
Whew! With all this in mind, if someone performs this process, successes or failures aside, please consider writing up your experiences and posting them here on AppleVis. It would definitely be worth its own forum post. I will be reading it as well.
Your process for the internal drive sounds correct to me. I would love to read about it afterwards. Tens of thousands of blind people could benefit from it here on AppleVis. Just a thought. :-)
The only thing I see missing from your steps, you probably are doing this anyway, but never assume that an internal drive will automatically work from an external enclosure. Always verify this for yourself by starting up from it once. While you are started from it, here is your chance to cram it full of everything else you think you may need during the process. You may as well have what you need at your fingertips, rather than having to dig around during a possible stressful situation.
On the external Windows idea, another quick reminder, BootCamp does more than just help install Windows. It also downloads the Mac hardware drivers for the version of Windows you are installing. If you create your Win disk on a Windows system, a unique idea, you will still need the Mac hardware drivers for it. It probably will not "just work" like Mac software does. You may also find that a Windows system will default to NTFS+ format scheme for the drive in question, while you may actually need a Fat32 format for use on a Mac. Not sure about this.
Otherwise, I would love to read about it if you have time to type it up, I may consider following it as well, it sounds like a worthy adventure to me! :-)
Wow, I haven't considered running a Unix flavor for a long time. This sounds great. What screen reader would you recommend for Linux?
Also, you should consider taking notes and creating a blog post from it for AppleVis, if possible. I would love to hear your experiences from the process. Hmmm, I may need another few external drives. :-)
I'm probably not going to do the windows thing, tbh, I'm getting everything that I want done in osx at the moment.
I'm going to write a guide to performing an off-line install of osx without any sighted assistance later tonight.
Excellent! I will definitely be reading through it myself. If I may make a suggestion on the writing ,A few tips:
Include warnings and precautions where ever you think its appropriate. One thing I have found from consulting over the past 25 years, it pays to remind the reader about being cautious. Many people, including myself, have a tendency to become frustrated with the complexities of technology. This techno-frustration can sometimes cause one to "hurry up and get it done." This is rarely a good approach to a complex situation. It doesn't hurt to remind people politely to "slow down, be careful, double check everything" before they proceed.
Also, slow down your own process and take notes while you go through it, the notes become your source material for the writing. You may need to write your notes on another system or device while you perform the process. Then email your notes to yourself. :-)
One more, during your own process, never assume anything, always verify for yourself. Remind the reader of this as well.
One last writing tip. Write about what you know, if you need to include info that you are not absolutely sure of, write about it that way. Include a little info about how you were not sure either and how you found out. Thousands of people could read your writing, it can help them through the process by reading about your own. Kind of teach people to teach themselves.
I hope I am not over-stepping bounds here, but I try to use these same approaches myself. I look forward to reading through your writing and process. Go for it! :-)
Thank you for those pointers.
Having come from the land of Windows, forced to work on a rickety system, with no tech savvy people around me, I've learned to power through complicated issues with no real help.
as a result, I find myself giving instructions in a way that would only be helpful if you had a good amount of pre-existing knowledge on what you were doing.
I don't recommend it, but I'm going to write this guide, that, should they need too for some reason, a person with no prior experience with OSX can pick up this guide and if followed to the letter, perform a reinstallation of Mac on their own...
Now that would be an accomplishment weather sighted or not.
I ordered a 256GB SSD for this project. However, I see that my current Mojave install and all my apps and user documents occupies only 150GB of my physical hard drive. In other words, my entire OS and data can easily fit on the new SSD with room to spare.
Rather than scratch install Mojave onto the SSD, I think I'll just restore (from Time Machine) onto the SSD and set that as my new boot device. Once that's done, the internal hard drive becomes free for backups or other data.
Does this sound feasible? And, Ted, did you consider doing this? What made you go with the clean Mojave install? Thanks.
Restoring from a Time Machine backup might be a viable option, especially with current technology. This may be a personal choice, but I still like to do things using an old-school method. Here's my possibly outdated reasons.
The basic concepts of how storage and drives functions work is something like this. Every file (and there are hundreds of thousands of them involved), get written to the drive. However, each file is rarely a whole unit when this happens. Normally each file is split up into pieces which are written into several areas on the disk, for various reasons; quick retrieval, space considerations on the drive, etc. None of the files on a drive, or any storage media, are a whole unit in and of themselves. The 'system drive manager' records where each piece of each file is stored, into an index file of sorts. Even this index file is split into pieces and another deeper-level file keeps track of where its pieces are, at any one time. This is the basic idea of disk/file fragmentation. This is actually done for speed and disk access considerations. All of this is done on the fly at every running moment.
When the processor needs something, it does not pull it in directly from the disk. It actually pulls them into a series of buffers and caches. Some of these buffers and caches are temporary ones created on the disk, some are created in the RAM memory. Even these temp buffers and caches are files. Remember, processors do not actually think or consider anything, they simply follow instructions that are also written somewhere, chips, memory and even on the disk. This is sometimes called "Virtual Memory." At any given moment, the system can be writing or reading to and from any of these sources. This happens hundreds, if not thousands of times each time an app is loaded or a file opened. Even if you let your system 'just sit' and apparently do nothing, it is still doing something all the time. Maintaining network/wifi connections, checking the heat build-up, cycling through the graphics model of the display, keyboard, trackpad, mouse, audio hardware and every port and connection plus any devices that are connected, etc. Even the disk formatting itself is a series of file indicators, written on the disk. You can actually watch all these processes happen in the Activity Monitor, in the Processes section.
With all this reading and writing to all the different places where pieces of files are stored, keep in mind one thing; there is always a chance that the reading or writing process will interpret a 1 or a 0 incorrectly. There are processes in place that monitor and help recover from this situation, but they won't necessarily rewrite the incorrect bit 'in place'. Often a marker of sorts is placed and the correction will be written somewhere else, also in pieces if needed, then recorded into the index/catalog file, which is also in pieces. This is what file/disk/memory fragmentation is all about. This is why disks and seemingly systems, slow down over time. It happens with all technology, regardless of the platform. All of this happens at the speed of your processor at every running moment.
Also, because a Time Machine file is a 'compressed' file itself, here is the basic idea of how it is written. I learned all of this back when JPEGs were first introduced. Let's say that a particular file, Time Machine files included, has 17 ones in a row, then it has 28 zeros in a row. Rather than write 17 ones in a row, it writes something like '1 times 17, then 'zero times 28', etc. Less characters in a file means a smaller file size. Thus, it is 'compressed'. These are still instructions that have a chance to be corrupted in the reading or writing process.
All of this being said, I do not know what Time Machine is actually backing up, at this disk level. Even Time Machine is a compressed, written file in pieces. Over time, the system slows down simply from hunting around for all of the pieces of everything. Thus, the old-school method of 'nuke and pave' applies. Do I want to restore from a back up possibly filled with markers and already slowed down some? It may take a bit longer to do a clean install, but can give a much speedier system to begin with. I might as well start with a fresh minimal set of markers, rather than restoring an old set. So a clean install kind of resets the entire process again and starts over making new markers. Less corruptions to overcome, less pieces to deal with, means a faster happier processor. :-)
I am speaking very generally above, it is much more complex than this and may have other considerations as well. The old school method is 'nuke and pave' because of all of this and more. However, it seems more 'for sure' to me. Again, this nay be a personal choice.
Kind of a long convoluted reply, sorry about that. :-) Let me know what happens.
Ted, you've got a great point that a clean install writes full files and avoids fragmentation. New installs always run faster, and I'm sure fragmentation is a huge contributor to slowdown over time.
I think I'll try the Time Machine restore and see how it goes. If I'm not satisfied with the speedup, I can always do a clean install later. According to Amazon, my SSD arrives tomorrow! Whee!
I know most AppleVis users won't care about this, so it's really more a note to myself.
I tried putting an SSD on my old Linux web server and installing Debian 9.6. During installation, I ran into a problem with partition alignment. I found the following link, but decided this was more than I wanted to chew, so I punted.
I might come back to this someday, but not soon. See next comment for my Mac experience.
I used Recovery Mode to put MacOS 10.14.3 on my external SSD. I started by making sure I had a Time Machine backup (on an external HDD). Then rebooted, and held down command+R.
VoiceOver works in Recovery Mode, but only the Fred voice. Also, though I had the VO volume set at 100%, Fred seemed pretty faint and I had to listen closely.
I recovered onto the external SSD from the Time Machine backup. This wrote about 150GB to the SSD and took about 2 hours. It's not that the SSD is slow, more likely the external HDD backup was the bottleneck.
After restoring, Recovery Mode rebooted with the SSD already set as my startup disk. The only post-recovery issue I encountered was that Recovery Mode had given my external SSD the same name as my internal HDD, so Time Machine gave me an error dialog pretty much right off the bat telling me it couldn't create a backup because two drives had the same name. It wasn't immediately obvious to me which of the two drives was which, but command+I opened the Info dialog and let me see the total space on each drive. I identified the SSD from that and renamed it. End of problem.
As far as speed goes, boot is much faster and application launch is considerably faster. Would it be even better if I had done a scratch install like you did, Ted? Maybe. But I'm happy enough with the results I obtained. Honestly, I must admit I don't reboot that often. My Mac goes weeks or months between reboots. But the faster application launch is well worth the $53 I spend on this 256GB SSD.
Safari is as slow as it's always been, which is unfortunate. Web pages load pretty fast visually, but VO lags behind. I was half hoping this would be fixed with an SSD, but clearly the problem has to do with some information Safari thinks it needs from the web server when VO is running. Too bad Apple hasn't made it so that VO users can interact with web pages as fast as do visual users.
I'll also note that, other than the SSD speedup, my system is pretty much as if nothing had changed. So, if you really want the deep satisfaction of playing around with a clean, unadulterated installation, obviously Recovery Mode won't scratch that itch.
Thanks for posting your results. I don't blame you on the Unix flavor install. I looked at the link you provided. Sounds like an adventure worth having, at some point. Though, it pays to pick your battles and choose when to fight them :-)
On the Mac restore project, you may have already done this, but I always run First Aid from Disk Utility right after any formatting, then again after any major install. It can help take care of any slight corruptions that can creep into the process. I would imagine this applies to Restores also. Some of the slow down with Safari could possibly be from the new APFS disk format or the new 'containers' approach that they are currently going to with disk formatting. Especially adding in a SSD into the mix. Although, I do not see the slow down with Safari that you are seeing. One thing I do frequently with Safari on the Mac; activate the Safari menu, choose Preferences. In the Preferences window, move to the 'Advanced' tab. In the resulting window, make sure the following item is checked.
"Show Develop menu in menu bar", checked checkbox.
Next, put the Safari Preferences away and navigate to the Develop Menu and choose, "empty caches". This can sort of give Safari a clean start. Keep your web page logins and passwords handy, you may need to enter some of them again, though this is not as frequent as it was before.
Another thing with Safari, sometimes when I get sick of navigating web pages crammed with lots of unlabeled images, especially when the images seem unimportant to navigation, I choose another option from the Develop Menu as well. it's "Disable images". This is not appropriate for some web pages that use graphics as their navigation links, but for those where they are mostly frivolous bells and whistles, it sure removes a lot of unneeded clutter. This can help load and cache web pages faster. This always depends on your own use case. Images are mostly unneeded for my own use, unless they are constructed as an integral part of the pages structure.
These little quirks can creep into the writing/saving process sometimes. It's natural with all digital devices, regardless of the platform. I've done this format/reinstall process many times, with my own and client systems. Sometimes a restore option is the best, but for surety sake, I like to jump straight to the "Nuke and Pave" option. It saves time up front instead of later and gets my fingers back into my Mac sooner. It also kind of forces me to re-evaluate the stuff I'm putting back onto the new install. Almost every time, I find things that I am no longer using anyway. Kind of like doing a 'spring clean' on my Mac. It may be more of a personal choice, but over the years it has help me keep a cleaner system over-all.
Thanks again for contributing your experiences. Always a benefit!
To my above experience, I must also add that opening large documents is much snappier. Large PDFs and large Scrivener documents that used to load noticeably slower are now just as snappy as small or empty documents. The Notes app also loads and opens much faster (I have tons of information stored as Notes).
Regarding nuke & pave, I now have an essentially unused internal HDD, so perhaps I'll try installing MacOS onto that using your protocol in this blog. It might be handy for trying out new releases (Mojave burned me on a couple fronts).
Finally, thanks for the Safari tips. I'll tinker around and see what, if anything, helps.
Thanks again for your contributions. Very cool! On my internal drive, I had some of the same thoughts. I ended up partitioning the internal in two equal chunks. Then I install the original OS that shipped with the system, including any dot-updates on one side. In my case, that was Mavericks. That is a personal choice as well, since I had some massive interface dev projects involved. On the other side, I would put the latest beta of the current OS. Plus now I also have the current public release (not beta), on my external SSD. Two partitions on the internal gives me another OS I can start up from, plus an extra one to play around with, each partition is roughly 250 gig. :-)