Disclaimer: I’m not a tech genius, just an Apple enthusiast, and want to try and give layman’s instructions on how to make a DIY fusion drive. I’ll put links to all the Youtube videos and articles that I used and encourage you to follow them step by step. This procedure can be done by anyone but might involve lots of pausing of videos, lots of double checking for spelling mistakes in Terminal, and some moments where I though I had broken my new computer-I didn’t. I would recommend reading all the source material that I use in this blog as a guide, and accept no responsibility for any date loss
This is a guide on how to make your own D.I.Y fusion drive, in particular for the Mac Mini 2012, but you can do it with most macs running the later OS’s like Mouton Lion and the freely available Mavericks 10.9 update.
What is Fusion:
The fusion drive was brought out in late 2012 and is an upgradable purchase (on the apple store only) which gives you the speed benefits of an expensive solid state drive with the low cost but large storage space of your typical hard disk drive.
What this means for the end-user is that your computer runs ultra quick with <20 second boot times and no lag in opening apps, but also gives you huge amounts of space to save all of your media.
A fusion drive is just a fancy name that Apple gives to all its technology so that you think it’s some special new thing, like Retina display, but in reality the technology has been around for a while, but Apple have done what they do best, and made it marketable to the masses, and made the actual implementation of the software intuitive and easy to use.
What’s going on inside:
My mac mini 2012 actually ships with a spare hard drive bay already, and what Apple do when you pay for the fusion drive is just insert a typical Samsung solid state drive (SSD = no moving parts) into this empty space, and then use some coding to make the computer think there is just one internal drive.
When the operating system is installed on the computer, it is installed on the “single” Fusion drive and does not show that there are actually two physical drives inside it. It then installs the OS on the fast solid state, and uses some fancy algorithms to automatically transfer high use apps and media back and fourth between the hard drive and the SSD to optimise space and speed, without any need for user intervention.
Apple charges a premium for this Fusion drive, but if you already have a spare 2.5 inch SSD laying around, or want to purchase a cheaply available 120GB from the internet, you can save yourself a lot of money and do it yourself. It’s also a chance to learn a bit about computers, and have some fun on a rainy sunday.
You can make a DIY fusion drive on an old macbook by removing the optical DVD drive, and using a bit of kit from OWC to insert the SSD in the newly available space, but I shan’t go in to this.
What I did:
- Buy an SSD online. I got an M500 crucial SSD drive.
- Buy the SATA cable you need to connect the SSD to the logic board/mother board. (You can find this on eBay too)
- buy a set of screwdrivers. (We went to a tech plaza and got a fancy set of Apple specific screw drivers)
- Bootable USB of Mountain Lion or Mavericks
- Backup your stuff
Part 1-Install Your Drive
Open up the bottom plate, remove the fan, remove the black plastic divider, and insert the SSD and connect it to the logic board. Watch these videos on how to do this. It might look scary, but if you have the right stuff, even an rookie like me can follow.
Part 2-Use Terminal to Make Fusion Drive
Boot up your computer in recovery mode (cmd R) and check disk utility to make sure both drivers are installed
(side note: the first time I tried to make a fusion drive it didn’t work, and I think it was because the operating system was not up-to-date. I was able to make the fusion drive but the performance was that of a hard drive with slow read/write speeds, and slow boot times. I couldn’t find anywhere online for why this was the case but in the end I ended up un-fusing the drives using some code I will link to, and then installed the new Mavericks OS from my bootable USB and tried again and then it worked).
- Close Disk utility, and open Terminal from the recovery mode area.
- Now follow the steps on this webpage, making sure to not make any spelling mistakes.
- Make sure you have made a back-up using Time machine if you’re worried about losing data (I didn’t worry about this because I wanted a fresh install).
- Make sure you have a bootable copy of Mavericks or Mountain lion in case anything goes wrong.
If you’ve followed the steps in the articles I have provided, you can then go ahead and install the OS onto your new Fusion Drive.
To check you have a true fusion drive, you can click the apple logo once its finished installing the new OS, and choose “about this mac” The memory tab should only show as one combined volume.
You can then download BlackMagic from the app store to check that you have fast read/write speeds, and try rebooting it to make sure its nice and snappy (around 15-20 seconds).
If you want to revert back to two separate drives, watch the end of this video: