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2011 MacBook Pro SATA Problems Resolved!

If you’ve been reading the OWC Blog for the past few months, you’re probably well aware of the problems that 2011 MacBook Pros were having with 6.0Gb/s SATA performance. If you’re not familiar with it, the short form is that in many 17″ 2011 MacBook Pros (and some 15″ and 13″ as well) had problems with SATA 3.0 Revision SSDs such as the Mercury EXTREME Pro 6Gthrough no fault of the SSD— resulting in spotty performance,  beach ball timeout delays, and even complete failure to recognize SATA 3.0 6Gb/s SSDs at all.

Well, if you ran Software Update this morning, MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.2 appears to be the answer. Nearly seven months after these machines first became available, all indications are that we can now reliably count on taking full advantage of the 6Gb/s capability provided.

Apple has somewhat dodged giving any direct response on the issue itself, but this long awaited solution just happens to be there in this update with the official description on Apple’s support site only mentioning the update as addressing Lion Internet Recovery and Thunderbolt. We are very thankful and excited to see the ‘quiet’ fix for 6Gb/s SATA 3.0 main bay drive reliability as a further benefit of this update.

Very important points though concerning the optical bay. #1 – if your MacBook Pro 2011 model currently has SATA 2.0 3Gb/s reported for your optical bay max link speed, this EFI update does not change that to SATA 3.0 6Gb/s. It really makes no difference for the optical drive, but if you wish to add an additional 9.5mm hard drive or SSD with a product such as our Data Doubler, you can continue to do so with pretty much any 3G or 6G drive of your choosing.

#2 – For those with a MacBook Pro 15″ or 17″ model that has SATA 3.0 6Gb/s link capability reported, it is very important to note that this EFI update does not appear to have resolved reliability of using a 6Gb/s drive in the optical bay. If you have a 6Gb/s optical drive bay connnection and are using a product like our Data Doubler, we still recommend only using a SATA 2.0 3Gb/s drive in that bay. MacBook Pro 13″ owners who find 6Gb/s links in their optical bay are not experiencing issues with 6Gb/s drives and this update doesn’t affect that usage.

Our testing has included multiple models of the 2011 MacBook Pro models and using the highest performing OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G and Mercury Electra 6G SSDs. From this testing, we are confident today that Apple has now, by and large, resolved the issues with 6Gb/s drives where issues were being experienced with said drives in the Main Bay/standard drive location. We will continue to review possible solutions for the optical bay, as 15″ and 17″ owners may be rightly jealous of the near 1GB (1000MB/s) data rates currently achievable in MacBook Pro 13″ models with two OWC 6G SSDs in a RAID 0 configuration.

Here are a pair of “before & after” benchmark tests with an OWC SSD in the main drive bay, which show the elimination of the performance inconsistencies after applying the update.

Further testing is being done to confirm this resolution on other 2011 MacBook Pros and we’ll post the result of those findings in an update as well as possible further benefits relating to this under OS 10.7 vs. 10.6.8.

In the meantime, if you’ve been frustrated with how your 2011 MacBook Pro has behaved with a 6Gb/s SATA 3.0 drive to this point, it looks like your system is a “lemon no more”. Now you can enjoy unleashed performance by installing an OWC 6G SSD into the main drive bay of a 2011 MacBook Pro. The SATA 3.0 6Gb/s potential that has been tantalizingly close for so long is denied no longer!

OWC Larry
the authorOWC Larry
OWC Founder & CEO
Larry O'Connor is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Illinois-based Other World Computing (OWC®). Starting as a one-man business in 1988, O'Connor has provided the leadership and vision to establish OWC as the leading provider of technology products and services today.
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  • The limitation to SATA II / 3G limits the capacity of available 2.5″ drives to a max of 1TB while 2TB are available for SATA III. Is there a way to force the SATAS III drives into SATA II mode to make them work in the optical bay?

  • I have a MacBook Pro 15″ early 2011, and I’m having freeze/sleep problems with my Data Doubler and 500 GB SDD in the optical drive.

    When the computer goes to sleep, or if I close the lid, the system freezes when I try to wake it up. Nothing on the screen moves.

    I’ve found that if I hit the power button once, or hit the volume or screen brightness, the computer will unfreeze. But it’s a process that takes about 30 seconds, and it’s fairly annoying.

    Other times, I have no choice but to hold the power button down and restart the machine. Strangely, this restart only takes about 15 seconds. If I’m rebooting my computer after a standard shutdown (without a freeze), it still takes a good 40 seconds to get everything going.

    I’ve called your technical support numerous times and have gotten different answers about the freeze issue—One person said the system software will ABSOLUTELY work in the optical bay, and it should not be freezing. Another one of your tech guys told me that he has a similar setup as mine, and that even HIS freezes. Still another said the system software shouldn’t live in the optical bay, and that I should switch the drives around.

    But I can’t do that, for a couple of reasons:

    1) I have a 1 TB 6G SSD in my HD bay, and a 500GB 3G SSD in the optical.

    If I put the 1TB 6G in the optical, I’ll lose speed, because the optical can’t do more than 3 G.

    Likewise, if I move the Data Doubler 3G SSD to the HD bay, I’ll also lose speed, because the HD bay can clock 6 G speeds.

    Furthermore, I purchased the 500 GB 3G specifically for the system files – I wanted to keep the data separate on the 1TB 6G. (Also, I couldn’t afford two 1TB SSDs.)

    Had I know these sleep/freeze problems would keep occurring, I would have changed my order – I would have put a 500 G 6G in the HD bay, running the system, and a 1 TB 3G SSD in the optical. Make sense?

    In any case, I’d like to get a definitive answer from MacSales about what’s going on.

    Thanks for your help –

    • Please confirm that the drive in the optical bay is connecting at SATA 2.0 3Gb/s. Something else may be the issue as there should be zero issue with a 3G SATA 2.0 drive in the optical bay. What is the exact p/n of the drive you have placed into the optical bay / the brand and p/n of that 500GB SSD?


  • I have a macbook pro 13” late 2011, and i installed to main bay ssd
    The issue is that after i installed el capitan my write speed cannot exceeded 150/mbs
    Any solutions?

  • I have a macbook pro 15″ (late 2011) running OS Sierra with 128GB SSD in the main bay and a 1TB Toshiba MQ01ABD100 HDD Sata II (3Gb/s) in the optical bay. Both are formated as MAC OS Extended (Journaled). Operating System and apps are running fine from the SSD, however the HDD is behaving odd: I can’t write anything on it, even when the permissions say “anyone can read and write”. I got error code -50. Sometimes, the drive icon takes a while to appear in my desktop. I already:

    – Replaced the optical drive flex cable. Nothing changes.
    – Tested the HDD as external drive via USB connection. It works perfectly fine.
    – Relaunched the finder.
    – Reset SMC and PRAM.

    As the optical drive was “out of service” long before I made the dual drive setup, I begun to think it might be a problem with something on the computer itself, but then I remembered my logic board was replaced by Apple only few months ago. And a friend told me he succesfully did the dual setup regardless his optical drive wasn’t working either.

    I don’t know what else to try. Please help!

    • Thank you so much for your comment! We would love to further troubleshoot this with you and see exactly what is causing this. We will be sending you an email shortly!

      • This is happening to me as well. Just had my logic board replaced and it’s all gone screwy (3rd logic board replacement, btw. And apparently last: the program ended December 31st, 2016).

        • By the way, I have almost the exact same setup as Rosario: 15″ 2011, OS Sierra, *512GB SSD in main, Western Digital 1TB WD10JPVX-00JC3T0 in the optical bay. Worked fine for years prior to this last logic board replacement.

        • Same here, second logic board replaced(out of warranty), actually, this is my third replacement computer. Second hard drive is really slow and choppy. Can’t even play back a Quicktime video.

      • Same here. I purchased on ebay MBPRO late 2011 15″ and 3gb/s is not working in dvd bay. The mainboard was replaced in Nov. 2016 (info from seller).
        It all worked well in mid 2010 13″ mbpro.

        • What exact drive model have you placed into the optical bay?

          ANY drive you connect in a 2010 MacBook Pro will only connect at a maximum of 3Gb/s SATA 2.0. But in the 2011 – you’ll see up to a 6Gb/s SATA 3.0 connection occur with a drive that support SATA 3.0… no way to ‘throttle’ that. What your describing really sounds like what happens with a 6Gb/s SATA 3.0 drive in that bay.

          We specially support these 3G SSDs:

          and these 3G Firmware update 1TB HDDs:

          and this 500GB:

          for use in the optical bay of the models where 6G drives do not work properly as well as for specific prior 2009/2010 Mac models with a Nvidia chipset that only connects at SATA 1.0 / 1.5GB/s speed when you use a 6G SATA 3.0 Drive vs. getting full 300MB per second speed/performance from a 3Gb/s SATA 2.0 configured drive.

          If you about this Mac says the drive in your 2011 Optical bay is connecting with SATA 3.0 6Gb/s – the problem is the drive you have placed there. Replace with true SATA 2.0 3Gb/s drive and all should be well. If having the issue with a drive that does show as connected with SATA 2.0 3Gb/s now… Love more details. Could be a defective cable or other like issue since have NOT seen that as an issue prior at all with SATA 2.0 Drives in bay.

            • That appears to be a 3Gb/s Drive… when you look at System Profiler – it shows connecting as 3Gb/s just in case? Don’t have a good answer other than to say have not had issues with the drives I have noted and don’t know why there would be an issue with that WDBMYH0010BNC-ERSN either.

                • the SATA 2.0 drive is a SATA 3.0 enabled drive in actuality. If there is one thing for certain, when you buy the drives we offer with SATA 2.0 connection spec – this doesn’t happen. :)

              • I checked the disk model in system profiler and it is different from what the box says (in system profiler there is a sata 3 disk). So – next step – I will open the mac (again!) and check what is written on the disk. Is it the matter of wrong disk model detection? (is this possible at all?) or is this a matter of wrongfully packed disk by producer/distributor?
                However I will do it tomorrow evening. Thanks a lot! You were very helpful!

                • Glad to help. And glad not something else going on that would be more challenging to solve/repair, etc. I wasn’t aware of WD making SATA 2.0 firmware standard drives for 5 years of so… wonder if they consider this a free spec upgrade, which in this case creates the problem noted.

                  • Just placed the order through your shop :) No more experiments ;) Just waiting for delivery.

                    And one word about WD
                    The number on the box in the shop was WDBMYH0010BNC-ERSN
                    And the number on the HDD: WD10JPVX-22JC3T0 – and that number was recognized by the system.

                    • Good deal and thanks.

                      That WD10JPVT is a current model… sounds like they haven’t updated their retail box to reflect what they ship inside it now. Again, WD hasn’t officially offered a 3G SATA 3.0 HD for some years. For 99.5% is doesn’t matter when it’s a 6Gb/s drive… this is in the exceptions list to where being actual SATA 2.0 3Gb/s limited firmware HDD is critical.

                      Again, glad we could help!

                    • Larry, tu sum up: THANK YOU. Ordering HDD at macsales.com solved the problem. Now it works!
                      And I like your data doubler very much. It is very well manufactured and fits as it should. Previously (in MBP 13) I used the ifixit data doubler, and I thing yours is better :).

    • Hello! See my comments below. It seems that I bought disk that is SATA 2 on the box, however after connecting to the mac it presents itself as a different model! And of course in system profiler there is sata 3 6gb/s speed despite the merchandize description. Maybe it is also your case?

    • Hey Rosario, did you find any solution for your (our) problem? I have exactly the same problem, if i connect two SSD (on on main bay and other on the optical) the SDD on optical i can’t write anything :/


    • I had absolutely the same problem with the same MBP
      just clean cable contacts with russian vodka and HDD start writing without any errors…

  • Hi, I have a late 2011 Macbook Pro 17″ 8,3 running OS Sierra with a 160GB SSD installed in the main bay. I want to install my existing 6G SSD into the optical bay and install a faster and larger SSD in the main bay. Can I use my existing SSD running at 6G and put it into the SATA 2 optical bay using the data doubler? I am aware that I would only get 3G speed even though I put in a 6G SSD but Will there be any other issues that I should be aware of?

    • Thank you so much for your question. Testing has demonstrated that Apple factory hardware does not reliably support a 6G (6Gb/s) Solid State Drive or Hard Disk Drive in the optical bay of 2011 MacBook Pros (ModeI ID8,1; 8,2; 8,3). You should ONLY install the 6G drive in the main drive bay and utilize the Data Doubler with a 3G SSD or HDD in the optical bay.

  • Ok so i’m puzzled..

    I have a Macbook Pro 15 inch, Early 2011, 8,2

    I have a SSD in my main slot, and running the system on that!
    Thinking about adding another SSD in the optibay, which has a 6gb SATA..

    Sooooo.. Im pretty much screwed???

  • What software do you use to evaluate performance inconsistencies? My early 2011 17-inch MBP logic board was replaced under the GPU program and now I have 2 6Gb/s ports where I used to have the SATA2/3 mix. I want to upgrade the HDD in the optical bay to 2TB but the new drive is SATA3 and I want to evaluate if I got lucky and the 6Gb/s in the optical bay works on the new motherboard. Thanks!

  • Confused! Do I put the SSD in former optical or in former HDD? I am moving opticals to external.

    I am upgrading the kids’ MBP 13″ today. Have two 6Gbs SSD
    The one MBP has intel 7 hdd : link 6gbs neg kink 3 on hdd sata and 6/1.5 on other
    The other has intel 6 with hdd 6/3 and optical 3/1.5

    So should I put SSD in former HDD and HDD in optical or SSD in optical and leave HDD where it was?


  • Hi, I hope some one is still checking this tread. I have a perfectly working Early 2011 13″ Macbook Pro. I have updated the HDD a couple times and now I’m looking for a better performance moving:

    1 SSD 120 GB to the main/original bay
    1 HDD 750 GB 7200 rmp to the optical bay

    Now I’m having moving/using big chunks of data to the HDD, “Error -36” I have a 6.0GB/s SATA

    Question: Is adviceable to change positions between the SSD and HDD? It will solve the problem?

    Thanks in advance

  • Hey! I just wanted to point out that I’ve been having some serious problems with this for months. I updated to the latest firmware and all that jazz and finally figured out what the problem really was. It’s the sleep feature of Mac’s. I’m running my optibay drive at full 3G SATA. Here’s my solution:

    1.I recommend going to your spotlight preferences and putting your external drive as “not searchable”. There is a thing about that somewhere on the internet about how it’s still running in the background and gives a hiccup.

    2. Download this program called Jettison for mac. You can tell it to not eject your drives when you close your lid (sleep).

    I want to also mention I am on a 17″ Macbook Pro late 2011 model running OSX Lion. This solution has been glorious!! I’ve been scouring the internet forever. I hope this finds your way in the right hands. Good luck all!! :)

  • Hi! Since this UEFI update a long time a go my early 2011 17″ MacBook Pro (8,3) was running smoothly with a SATA 3 SSD in the main drive bay.
    Due to faulty graphics my logic board has been replaced. Graphic is back to normal but I have massive data errors while reading/writing from/to the SSD again just like I had after purchasing the device in 2011. The system is completely unusable.
    Has anyone successfully installed the firmware update manually? If I try the links provided here, I just get “system not supported” messages from the installer.
    I also noticed I have both SATA ports at 6 Gbit/s now, with the previous logic board only my main drive bay was at SATA 3G. This means I cannot put my SSD in the optical bay to force SATA 2. Damn.

    Any help on this would be appreciated!

  • Hi! Does the logic board hardware replacement program (due to faulty graphics) for the 2011´s fix the optibay speed issue in the 15″ and 17″?

    • Hello Ludvig,

      At this time, OWC only recommends the use of 3G HDD and SSDs in the optical bay for the 2011 MacBook Pro 15” and 17” models (Model ID 8,2 & 8,3) even if the optical drive has been replaced.

      If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact our Technical Support Team!