Apple SSD Drive Data Transfer Guide

Transferring or cloning your Mac's data onto a new SSD drive requires a bit of forethought before your SSD purchase. Sadly, modern solid-state drives don't provide the convenience of a built-in mini USB port that could ease data migration as some once did. You'll likely need additional USB 3.0 or ThunderBolt external drive adapter hardware for formatting, cloning, and testing the SSD before you perform the drive swap.

ThunderBolt SSD Enclosure

The absolute fastest way to transfer data onto a Mac is using a ThunderBolt interface. At this point however, there are few stand-alone ThunderBolt drive enclosures on the market, and most are 2 or 4 bay multi-drive RAID enclosures. A good alternative though is using a Seagate Thunderbolt Adapter that's ideal for 2.5" laptop SSD drives. Though not technically an 'enclosure', this portable hard drive dock features a standard SATA connector for 2.5" drives. Just push the drive onto the SATA connector and you're ready to go.

SATA 2.5" ThunderBolt Dock

TBolt Cable Included

Below, Delock also offers a single-drive SATA III ThunderBolt adapter for Mac SSD data transfer needs. Do note that it only has a single ThunderBolt port, is NOT self-powered and requires an AC adapter, and is a bit expensive compared to comparable USB 3.0 solutions.

Delock ThunderBolt Adapter

2.5" SATA Drives
Requires AC Power

USB 3.0 SSD Docking Stations

Alternately there's a growing number of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 drive docks that are a forward-thinking way to help migrate your data onto a SSD. Often costing only $20-$40 they're a cheap solution for a Mac SSD drive swap, and the dock can be repurposed and used with your old mechanical mechanism for a Mac backup drive after the SSD upgrade to your MacBook, iMac, Mac mini, or Macintosh Pro is complete.

USB 3.0 SATA Drive Dock

2.5" & 3.5" Drives
Hi-Speed UASP SSD Support

Note that even if you have an older Mac, USB 3.0 is BACKWARD COMPATIBLE with USB 2.0 ports. So you can invest in a USB 3.0 case, dock or transfer cable regardless - and be ready for the USB 3.0 SuperSpeed future. You should also explicitly look for UASP SUPPORT for more efficient data transfer speeds when using solid-state drives.

USB 3.0 Transfer Cables

Another excellent piece of hardware than can help with an Apple SSD drive upgrade is a Universal transfer cable with SATA (and/or IDE) interfaces for both full-size and laptop drives and devices. Again, your money's best spent on a USB 3.0 - and NOT an older USB 2.0 model to make sure the Mac transfer onto SSD goes as fast as possible - with an eye towards continued usability in the future.

Newer Technologies

USB 3 Transfer Cable

Laptop SATA Dual-Interface Drive Cases

More versatile - and much faster than a simple USB 2.0 laptop disk enclosure - this dual-interface USB 3.0 + FireWire 800 bus powered portable 2.5" SATA drive case might be the right solution for some users such as video production people who have a significant investment in legacy FireWire 400/800 video cameras and editing gear.

Combo Drive Interface Case

USB 3.0 + Dual FireWire 800

ICY-DOCK Full-Size 3.5" SSD Adapter For iMac or Mac Pro

For Mac SSD upgrades in models with a standard, full-size 3.5 hard drive, the most elegant solution is a $25 IcyDock converter. Simply open the lid, plop in a 2.5" SATA SSD and close it! It's now ready to perform an SSD upgrade in older Mac Pro or iMac systems. It has standard 3.5 screw mounting holes for the guide screws or grommets.

Laptop to 3.5" SSD Converter

No Tools Needed!

3.5" SSD Combo Interface Drive Cases

If you're doing a solid-state drive upgrade in a Mac Pro tower or iMac, you may want to repurpose the old drive as a backup solution for use with TimeMachine or as an auxillary storage drive. Here, a combo interface 3.5" full-size drive enclosure may come in handy. Check out this state of the art full-size drive case with not only USB 3.0, daisy-chain dual FireWire 800 ports - but an eSATA connection as well:

Combo Drive Case For Mac

eSATA, FireWire, USB 3.0 Ports

Software To Clone Mac Data Onto An SSD

Hardware is only part of the equation, the right software can help with a SSD for Mac upgrade. A couple of free Mac drive cloning utilities for OSX that can help with the transfer your hard drive's data onto an SSD can be found at's Mac download site. In particular, Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper! CLONING a Mac's startup drive IS CRITICAL to copy all the invisible files that make OSX startup and retain proper file permissions for users files and applications - Highly recommended. Alternately, Apple's Migration Utility that comes bundled with OSX may be helpful in copying a complete bootable system, or in other instances, restoring from a recent TimeMachine backup onto the new SSD may do the trick.

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