Choosing a New HDD for Your Mac

October 12, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Have you been following our recent guides on finding space and adding a new internal hard disk drive to your Mac? By now you should be ready to start looking for a new HDD, with the most obvious place being the web. As with many components, you will find better value for the same components if you avoid the Apple store. There are plenty of websites that offer Apple-optimized hard disk drives for much lower prices.

Choosing the right model of hard disk drive is important, but so is choosing the right type. For all Macs since 2006, you need a drive with a SATA connection. This is a narrow black connector with a red cable, and is the common HDD connection standard.

You should also make sure that you choose the right hard disk drive for your model of Mac. This is important – you don’t want to have to squeeze a 3.5 inch drive into a slot designed for a 2.5 inch storage device!

Choosing a New HDD for Your Mac

Choosing the Right HDD

So which hard disk drives are suitable for which models?

If you have a Mac Pro (the desktop tower) then you will need a 3.5 inch hard disk drive (although with converter adaptors you will be able to use 2.5 inch devices). Meanwhile, if you own a MacBook, MacBook Pro or Mac Mini then you will need a 2.5 inch HDD.

Finally, you will require a SSD (solid-state drive) for your MacBook Air.

The differences between the three types of drive are interesting. A 2.5 inch hard disk drive is like a scaled-down 3.5 inch device. Both have moving parts, and you should be looking for the device with the highest RPM for your budget.

Meanwhile, SSD devices are super-fast as there are no moving parts involved, but the trade-off is that they are pretty expensive too. Solid-state drives are available for all computers, but the MacBook Air comes with one of these as standard, and relies on this type of storage. The drawback for the MacBook Air is that the SSDs for this hardware feature the mini-SATA connection standard, an expensive options which you will be paying over the odds to replace.

Speed and Capacity

For the best results, your new hard disk drive should have a speed of 7,200 RPM for better results. This means faster data transfer, and with an onboard cache of above 8 MB you should also see improvements.

Note that a faster drive will require more cooling, however, so you will need to keep your Mac well-ventilated and make sure that the computer’s fans are doing their job.

One last note – for the best results on 2011 Macs, select the SATA-600 connection standard on your hard disk drive. This has a speed if 6 Gbp/s which means you will be receiving the optimum rate of data transfer between your hard disk drive, your memory and your Mac’s processor.

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