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Is it possible to install an SSD in the Mac Pro models instead of a hard drive? How does this impact performance?
When this Q&A was first published on July 14, 2009, Apple did not offer an SSD option for the Mac Pro but only for MacBook Pro models.
At that time, it was a bit of a challenge to adequately secure a 2.5" SSD in one of the 3.5" Mac Pro drive bays, but it otherwise would work quite well.
Photo Credit: AnandTech (Hanging SSD in Mac Pro)
In a July 31, 2009 special, the always excellent AnandTech figured out a "quick-and-dirty" hack method to install an Intel X25-M SSD in both the original Mac Pro "Eight Core" 3.0 and the Mac Pro "Eight Core" 2.26 (Early 2009/Nehalem) models, and unsurprisingly found that replacing the slower hard drive with a faster SSD made a significant difference in the performance of drive-related tasks.
In one particular test -- performing a processor-intensive compile for a development project -- AnandTech reported:
With a standard 7200 RPM hard drive, the new Nehalem Mac Pro is nearly 24% faster than the original 8-core Mac Pro. However, swap in Intel’s X25-M and the new Mac Pro is almost 30% faster. . .
The explanation is simple. Nehalem is more data hungry than any previous generation Intel microprocessor. It can operate on twice as many threads as Penryn and Conroe and it has much deeper buffers internally. To fill them with instructions it needs fast access to memory, which it has. Unfortunately not everything you ask of it is already in memory, and that's where the burden gets pushed down to the hard drive. Speed up the hard drive and you'll help Nehalem shine.
Since that time, third-party products like the Icy Dock (available from site sponsor OWC) have been relased and this type of product makes it easy to "convert" a 2.5" SSD to fit in a 3.5" drive bay. Starting on July 27, 2010 -- with the introduction of the "Mid-2010" Mac Pro models -- Apple also began offering a 250 GB SSD in lieu of the standard 1 TB hard drive for an extra US$1250 and as many as three additional 250 GB SSDs for US$1400 each.
Ultimately, it now is quite simple to install an SSD in a Mac Pro -- and the performance difference for drive-related tasks is significant. Whether or not the extra performance of an SSD is worth the extra price compared to a hard drive is up to you.
Also see: How do you upgrade the hard drives in the Mac Pro models? How many drives of what type are supported?