Solid State Drives have grown immensely in popularity over the years – and with good reason considering the performance they provide. In fact, I recently upgraded my own Mac mini to a speedy OWC SSD using an OWC Data Doubler kit. One of my original hesitations with buying a Solid State Drive, however, was the relative higher cost of storage per gigabyte than an HDD. My other primary hesitation was not being able to keep all of my data on a single drive without breaking my budget. But SSD costs have been trending down, so a 240GB drive was now within my budget.
The only other hurdle I imposed on myself was how to handle my data. There are a few viable options available: I could have set up a Fusion Drive, which would have combined my 240GB SSD and the stock 500GB HDD into a 740GB drive. This would have fit all of my data, however I was not impressed when I did my Fusion testing.
I recently began doing a lot of movie editing and being able to maintain the editing strictly to the SSD would greatly improve my workflow. My other option would be to install the OS onto the SSD and split my Home folder (one’s personal account on the computer that holds all of your data by default) off onto the HDD. This setup would have given me the needed flexibility with video editing, however I felt there was another option I’d be happier with. The third option available to me was to install the OS on the SSD and keep the home folder on the SSD, but store my larger libraries of data on the HDD. Having my OS and home folder on the SSD gave me the absolute best performance, flexibility, and peace of mind.
What do I mean exactly by storing my libraries of data on the HDD? Apple’s staple iLife programs – iPhoto, iTunes, and iMovie – store their information in a consolidated package file called a library. These libraries are stored within a user’s home folder in the corresponding folders. iPhoto stores its library in the Photos folder, iMovie in the Movies folder, and iTunes in the Music folder.
So how does one setup their computer with a new SSD and keep their existing iTunes, iPhoto, and iMovie library on the original HDD? I have crafted a step-by-step guide to accomplish this setup.
Let’s take a closer look:
We will want to make a backup of your original HDD before we do anything. My preferred backup program is Time Machine. I use Data Backup 3 as a secondary backup as well. It’s important to have a backup, just in case any issues are run in to during this setup.
Install your new SSD into your computer. OWC offers step-by-step installation video guides for many Mac models.
Boot your computer from your OS installer. Once we have booted from the OS installer we will need to format the SSD from Disk Utility. Next we will proceed with doing a clean install of the OS onto the SSD.
Once the OS installation has been completed the computer will reboot and begin the Mac OS X setup process. During this setup it will ask “Transfer information to This Mac.” We will want to choose “From a Mac, Time Machine backup, or startup disk.” It will then list all available options – choose your original drive. Next it will show us a break down of what we may transfer: Applications, Documents & Data, and Computer & Network Settings. We will want to specify not to transfer the Music, Movie, and Photos folder, this is done by clicking the “Edit…” button next to Documents & Data. Within the edit menu we will want to uncheck mark the Movies, Music, and Pictures folders.
These are the folders we will be keeping on the original drive to save space on the SSD. We can then click “OK” and hit the continue button. This transfer will take some time depending on how much data you have to transfer.
Once the transfer is complete, you’ll need to select your time zone and then click the “start using your Mac” button. At this time we should see the familiar desktop from the HDD. We will want to run our software update, which is found in the Apple menu.
When all of the updates have been completed we will check the Documents and Desktop folders we transferred to the SSD from the HDD to make sure everything made it over properly. We will want to navigate to the Home folder on the SSD, this can be done within Finder by choosing the “Go” menu and selecting “Home”. We will then want to select the “Documents” folder and go up to the “File” menu and select “Get Info”. The size of the folder will be shown in the upper right corner of the “Get Info” window.
We will want to navigate to the HDD in Finder and proceed into the “User” folder, then your “User” folder, select the “Documents” folder in there and do a “Get Info” on it as well. We will want to do the same for the “Desktop” folder. If the sizes match for each folder we know the transfer was successful.
Now that we’ve confirmed our User’s folder documents and desktop folders were safely transferred to our SSD, we are now set to get the HDD transitioned into a storage drive instead of a startup drive. We will want to proceed to the “Go” menu in Finder and select computer. Within there we will be able to select the HDD and then proceed to the “File” menu and select “Get Info”. In the “Get Info” window of the HDD expand the Sharing & Permissions and click the lock in the lower right corner to unlock the permissions. The computer will prompt for the user password to be entered. Once that is done, we will want to change the Privilege for the user with the “(me)” at the end of it to “Read & Write.” Next the gear wheel below the Name column will need to be selected and chose “Apply to enclosed items…” This will bring up a status bar, which might take a few seconds up to a minute or two depending on the number of files on the drive. Lastly, we will want to checkmark the “Ignore Ownership” box at the bottom of the window.
Next we will want to delete the System Folder, Library Folder, and Applications folder on the HDD since we will no longer need them. We can move those folders to the Trash and then empty the Trash. When emptying the Trash you may see a warning about deleting locked items, you can safely say remove all items.
Now we should only have the “Users” folder on the HDD, we will now be able to move our Photos, Movies, and Pictures folder onto the root level of the HDD. This is done with the great ease with the Finder window in the Column view. Within the HDD we will need to open the “Users” folder then the user folder. We can then click and drag the Movies, Music, and Pictures folder to the same level that the Users folder is at. Once these folders have been moved, we can move the Users folder to the Trash.
We are now set to tell iPhoto, iMovie, and iTunes where to find their libraries. While opening each application hold down the option key until a window appears asking which library you’d like to use. iTunes will require you to select “Choose Library” and navigate to the HDD and select the iTunes folder within the Music folder.
iPhoto and iMovie automatically search your computer for compatible libraries and will prompt you with the results. You can confirm it is the library on the HDD by viewing the directory path under the window. Once you’ve confirmed that it is the proper library, you can hit “Select”. The application will launch and should look identical to how it used to be!