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The fastest, toughest, and most compatible portable SSD ever with speeds up to 2800MB/s.

The All-SSD Mac Pro

OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD

With the imminent release of OWC’s 480GB Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD, and the existing 240GB and 120GB models, those seeking the ultimate system might consider an SSD system without a hard drive, albeit at some significant cost.

The goals:

  • Ultra high performance;
  • No drive noise or vibration;
  • Low power draw and hence quieter Mac Pro fans;
  • Higher reliability and longer service life (see OWC’s 5-year warranty).

While it’s true that in the 2009 and 2010 Mac Pro have “only” SATA 3 Gbps, the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs perform at a much higher level than the 3G drives for incompressible data (e.g., image and sound files), keeping data rates near the limits of 3G performance, at least for the 240GB capacity model, and presumably for the 480GB also (to be confirmed).

The Mac Pro can easily take five drives: one in the lower optical bay, and four in the standard drive bays.

RAID-0 stripe with 2 drives = FAST

And here’s a kicker which I have permission to discuss in advance of the official announcement: the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSDs will be officially supported for RAID-0 striping!

That simple fact means that you can make a 2-drive RAID-0 stripe of 6G drives that will perform not far off the motherboard limitation of the Mac Pro. If you must have the max speed possible, even for incompressible data, then a triple SSD stripe is an option.

For example, using dual 480GB units yields an ultra-fast 960GB single volume. Three of them would yield a 1440GB single volume. The speed with even two of them exceed what virtually any program can make use of.

Sample configurations

As a practical matter, a Time Machine volume should probably be a hard drive, both to save on cost, but also to have plenty of capacity for backup history over time. The point is to use solid state drives (SSDs) for daily work; the rest of the time, the hard drive for Time Machine can spin down and effectively not be involved.

Also, there is no reason to use a RAID-0 stripe for the system drive; a single 3G or 6G SSD is just fine, and it’s a good idea to keep the system/apps separated from your regular data— fewer headaches should something go wrong with the system.

I’ll be updating my own Mac Pro system to the Advanced Setup soon, and/or higher capacity setup, and documenting just what I end up with, and why. Other variants are of course possible.

Basic setup

Very nice setup, for those with modest data storage requirements. All internal drives:

  • 120GB SSD for system and applications: Boot volume.
  • 240GB or 480GB SSD for data.
  • 2TB hard drive for Time Machine backup.

Advanced setup

Larger boot drive, more data storage, larger Time Machine backup drive:

  • 240GB SSD for system and applications: Boot volume.
  • 480GB or 960GB RAID-0 stripe for data (double speed);
  • 3TB hard drive for Time Machine backup.

Higher capacity setup

Move Time Machine externally to allow for high capacity and high performance had drive storage. The SSDs are used for high performance working space; the hard drive stripe is used for storage of less frequently used stuff that still is desirable to have online.

  • 240GB SSD for system and applications: Boot volume.
  • 480GB or 960GB RAID-0 stripe for data (double or double+ speed);
  • 2 X 3TB or 3 X 3TB hard drives in 6TB or 9TB RAID-0 stripe.
  • 9TB RAID-5 QX2 external eSATA enclosure for Time Machine backup.
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