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OWC SSD Updater and MacBook Pro DataDoubler

OWC is the only Mac vendor I am aware of that offers a firmware updater for the OWC Mercury Extreme SSDs.

The OWC DataDoubler allows installation of a 2nd SSD or hard drive in the optical bay, by removing the internal optical drive.

Sean C writes:

Since ordering my 240GB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD from OWC, I have had nothing but problems, and I think it is an issue your readers should be aware of.

Two drives arrived (one after the other) DOA and had to be returned for replacement.

The third drive worked fine for a week and now I'm having to boot my MacBook Pro (2.2 Ghz quad-core i7) several times each morning before the SSD is recognized

I have a 60 GB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSD in a data doubler in the optical bay as my boot drive, with the 240GB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD in the main drive bay as my data drive, a setup that I am sure many of your readers may be using or considering.

According to the firmware update page on the OWC website, my SSD firmware is up to date.

I think it is nonsense that the OWC firmware updater (were I to use it) requires me to remove the data doubler and replace the optical drive so that I can boot from the internal Superdrive to update the firmware on the SSD.

The firmware updater does not allow me to boot from an external CD/DVD drive - according to the instructions on said firmware update page.

Rather than wait for OWC to figure this out while I lose time and money. I think I will return this SSD for a 'slower' Electra 6G, which I know works in my laptop, as I was using one for several weeks in my MBP while I was sending drives back to OWC for replacement.

DIGLLOYD: I have warned against and OWC warns against using a 6G drive in the optical bay— the MacBook Pro is generally unusable or flaky there. It DOES NOT MATTER that the MBP claims the optical-bay port is 6G. Don’t count on it working properly with any brand 6G SSD.

From the OWC DataDoubler + 6G bundle page:

* 2011 MacBook Pro — testing has demonstrated that the 6Gb/s optical bay interface in 15" & 17" models is not consistently reliable. If your 15" or 17" model's optical bay has the 6Gb/s interface, we do not recommend the use of any OWC Mercury 6G SSD or other brand 6G SSD in the optical bay at this time. We only recommend the use of a 3Gb/s SATA 2.0 drive into 15" & 17" 2011 MacBook Pro optical bays.

Last spring I wrote extensively on the 6G bugs in the MacBook Pro. Apple made some improvements later, but who can say for sure. To this day one cannot reliably run (or run at all) a 6G drive in the optical bay, which says to me that Apple’s quality of implementation is lacking— the motherboard is supposed to handle 6G on both ports. It would not surprise me if there are flaky MacBook Pros out there.

Or maybe there is something wrong with the MacBook Pro. Or the cabling in the MacBook Pro? Or maybe just bad luck and the drives really were bad. Or handled in static enviroment durng installation. Impossible for me to say, nor can I speak for OWC, which would be able to determine if the drives actually were bad, or not.

I run five (5) OWC SSDs in my Mac Pro, two OWC SSDs in my MacBook Pros, and another in my other Mac Pro. I have done so since these drives became available almost two years ago, switching to the 6G models when available. They have operated as reliably for me that entire time.

As for the firmware updater, OWC offers has a Mac-bootable firmware updater, and to my knowledge no other vendor offers one. So I think it’s a bit of context-dropping to ignore the fact that other vendors don’t have a Mac bootable updater, and this particular setup with the DataDoubler is a special case. Perhaps OWC will make the updater bootable by other means (externally) in the future, but I’d say I’d give them a lot of credit (think time and $$$) for the R&D it took to provide the updater in the first place. One alternative is to run BootCamp and use a PC-based installer, which requires installing Microsoft Windows, and is far more involved overall.

Finally, Apple is likely to remove the optical drive in future MacBook Pros, so let’s hope Apple gets its act together on a consistent external boot— dubious given the headache of being forced to use the App Store even for the OS.

OWC says:

Electra 3G models give all rhe performance of Electra 6g - just limited to 3G caps.... And a great choice for any 6g challenged situation .

James W writes

I just read the post about issues with 6g ssd in the optical bay, etc.

mac book pro, 17" 2.3 i7
+ owc 6 g ssd 240 extreme in main bay
+ 3g ssd 480 extreme in optical bay using data doubler
+ 16gb ram
-all via links on your site to help in that regard ;)

I have had NO problems ever. In fact, my last mbp had an unfortunate abrupt ending. Luckily inside was the owc extreme ssd. So, I just removed it, popped it in the new mbp and it's like nothing ever happened. (yes, I do have backups etc)

My question here, that readers might also have, is can you not just boot from an external drive? What's with this stuff about needing the optical bay to boot from?

I don't think I need to do any ssd firmware updates do I? I usually feel like "let sleeping dogs lie"

DIGLLOYD: That’s an ideal configuration. A wonderful property of an SSD is its relative resiliance to shock damage that would kill a hard drive.

Certainly one can boot from an external drive, but in this case we are talking about booting up a CD to do a firmware upgrade. I'm uncertain if the same file system could be used to boot a hard drive, since if that would work, presumably an external CD/DVD drive would also work with the CD itself.

As far as the firmware upgrade itself— if it's working well, leave it alone.

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