Date the SSD but marry the HDD

May 03, 2011 by Gabe | [mmd] |

Following up on the SSD post from Jeff Atwood, I love my SSD boot drive but I keep the majority of my data on a secondary HDD. My primary home office computer is a late 2010 iMac with a 256GB Apple SSD and a secondary 2TB "data" drive. Here's how I have configured this setup to maximize the speed of the SSD but the storage capacity (and maybe reliability) of the HDD.


  • The OS and all OS dependencies are installed on the SSD. I don't mess around with symlinks that can break during an upgrade.
  • All applications are installed on the SSD. Applications launch instantly. It's almost unbelievable when you launch an application and it is immediately available to use.
  • Developer tools are installed on the SSD. This is for the same reason as other applications. I want the speed increase for building and searching documentation.
  • My User Folder exists on the SSD boot drive but it is not used for much.
  • iDisk. Oh the disappointment of youthful fantasies. How I wanted iDisk to live up to it's potential. It has not. I have abandoned the use of iDisk for all but the must fundamental use cases. Preference, contact, keychain, mail account syncing is about all I use iDisk for. Everything else is kept in sync through Dropbox.


  • Dropbox is on the HDD. Dropbox sync is limited by network speed so drive throughput makes little difference. It's also impossibly rare that I would need a file instantly accessible.
  • All of my Documents live on the HDD. Working files are kept in Dropbox.
  • My entire iTunes library is on the HDD. That includes Movies and TV shows. My iTunes library does a lot of heavy work but none of it is limited by disk reading. It powers two AppleTV 2's which are limited by network streaming. I also have a small child that loves Pixar.
  • My Aperture and iMovie files are all on the HDD. The performance is fast enough for my needs. If I intend to do a lot of work in iMove I will start the project on the SSD to receive a modest performance bump. I don't have any real data, so that could be my imagination.


Now with this setup, backup is pretty crucial to schedule since each drive has a different class of data. My SSD boot disk simply gets cloned to a small 500GB laptop drive. This happens once every weekend. If I lost my boot drive, the biggest problem would be that I could not immediately boot my machine. No data would be lost though.

My secondary "Data" HDD is backed up every night and also configured to use Time Machine. I also have a drobo that is configured through ChronoSync to be the recipient of a secondary backup of my data files.

In general, it's the larger, cheaper and more reliable drive that is my primary data store. The HDD is dependable and I can grow into it. The SSD is just for fun.