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MacBook Pro (late 2011) Fixing SATA 3 / 6G issues with the DVD bay

MacBook Pro (late 2011) Fixing SATA 3 / 6G issues with the DVD bay

MacBook Pro (late 2011) Fixing SATA 3 / 6G issues with the DVD bay

Prelude


I wanted to upgrade my MacBook Pro 15″ (late 2011, i7 2,4 GHz, 16 GB RAM) to a faster hard drive/ssd.

Because I carry around lots of files, a complete SSD option was too expensive (I would have needed a 1 TB+ one).
First I bought a Seagate 1 TB SSHD with 8 GB Flash Storage which gets automatically filled with the most used files. But this solution didn’t work very well for me because the 8 GB often got crowded with documents etc., overwriting the System files and apps (which again took way too long to load when I booted up the next time). The System updates caused the same problems because the SSHD always needed lots of restarts until all necessary files were in the flash cache.

So I considered replacing my DVD drive, which I only use once a year, with a SSD using a drive bay adaptor.

I bought a Crucial MX200 SSD with 250 GB of space and kept the 1TB Seagate SSHD for data/Music/Steam etc.

First I bought a 20 EUR chinese version by TheNatural2020 – it either didn’t work at all or the drive disappeared while in use or was gone after a reboot. (gray question mark at boot up)

Then I went for a 45 EUR version by hardwrk, which looked very well crafted. It worked with the SSHD but the drive always disappeared on reboot (a cold boot worked fine) and the SSD caused lots of trouble (beach balls and lots of waiting time) but the SSHD worked well besides disappearing after a reboot and some UDMA CRC troubles.

Then I stumbled upon the MCE Optibay Extreme and ordered it for around 100 EUR as my last resort. They claim to have fixed all MacBook Pro late 2011 specific issues – so I had to give it a try.

When it finally arrived, I was kind of disappointed – it wasn’t even nearly as well assembled as the hardwrk one (misplaced screw holes on the bottom which were fixed by adding overlapping holes) – but at least it fixed the “reboot” bug that the previous adaptors had, but it still didn’t work with the SSD (only the SSHD), and the UDMA CRC Error count went slowly up. Still it was the best solution (but not worth more than double the price of the hardwrk adaptor), so I kept it.

Until recently, even with the SSHD in place, OS X started beach balling often and the Finder got stuck for minutes on each directory change and the System got unusable.

As the SSHD had other, more worrying, SMART problems, I bought a Samsung/Seagate 2TB HDD which should be able to be forced to SATA2 speed using a jumper – but it wasn’t my first choice because the HDDs are decoupled and better shock protected in the original spot and a bit louder in the DVD adaptors.

 

Shielding the SATA cable


So I dug deeper into the problem and stumbled upon this article at the MacBook Project. Especially the first part about lots of EMI noise at the SATA cable got me interested. One of the articles solution is to solder an own SATA cable – but I wasn’t willing to do that.

So I thought maybe I can increase the shielding with regular tinfoil and insulation tape.

 

  • I cleaned all sata contacts with contact cleaner
  • I put double sided adhesive tape on both sides of the cable (cutting it carefully to fit the cable dimensions) and on the back of the connector, sparing out the area around the “FOX” label (see picture below) and beyond, in order to avoid short-circuiting the connector pins.
  • I placed regular kitchen tin foil on each side, removing everything that didn’t fit the cable dimensions but leaving a small edge to overlap the sides of the cable, again make sure not to get too close to the mainboard connector pins.
  • Finally I used insulation tape to cover the tinfoil. (to prevent a short circuit)
  • Additionally, I did the same with the MCE Optibay Extreme, covering its sides (especially the one facing the mainboard with the circuit board underneath) and the area where the Airport Cable and board run along. – I think that may not have been necessary but I didn’t want to have to reopen my MBP over and over again (I have done that way too often already).
    922-9032_a1286_s-ata_kabel_720x600

 

Result


What shall I say? The SSD (not SSHD) now works flawlessly within the MCE Optibay Extreme! No more UDMA CRC errors and running at SATA3/6G speed!!! Furthermore I can finally place the HDD in it’s original decoupled/shock protected spot again (where I can’t hear it at all).

Bildschirmfoto 2015-09-09 um 22.05.47 Bildschirmfoto 2015-09-09 um 22.05.43

 

 

 

 

Let’s look at the SMART status using Drive DX:Bildschirmfoto 2015-09-09 um 22.24.29

Yes: no more errors since 10 days ago (when I shielded the cable!) and I know that the UDMA CRC error count is at a crazy high from all the other adaptors and testings before.

 

 

The Crucial MX 200 delivers the same speeds as in the HDD bay!

Bildschirmfoto 2015-08-30 um 16.23.42

So I finally got a very fast booting MacBook Pro with the System, Apps and Documents on the SSD and Music, Games and Movies on the HDD. And there’s still enough space left for the future 🙂

Bildschirmfoto 2015-08-29 um 17.13.48

 

I don’t know how the fixed cable would perform with the hardwrk adaptor – I’m not really willing to reopen my MBP once more (never touch a running system) – I think that the reboot bug might still be present (which isn’t that bad because a cold boot still fixes it), but it should work flawlessly as well.

 

Unfortunately, I made no pictures during the process but I will add some of the finished version here soon.

 

Disclaimer


This text is meant to be an inspiration – I can neither guarantee that my solution fixes your technical problems, nor can I be held responsible for any damage that may result from it. You can use it as an inspiration, but only at your own risk!

4 thoughts on “MacBook Pro (late 2011) Fixing SATA 3 / 6G issues with the DVD bay

    1. Arne Fahrenwalde Post author

      It's actually not too spectacular – just some double sided adhesive tape on both sides, a layer of tin foil above and all that wrapped up in insulation tape, leaving the contacts clear of course (and a safety gap not to short wire it, and not making it too thick).

      I thought of making photos now but then again I was thinking "never touch a running system".
      (The UDMA-CRC Error count increased to 126 616 in the meantime, once by one every now and then, last time it was 12 working hours / 14 days ago) – but it never affected the system in any way.

      I helped a friend install a SSD in the drive bay with my unused hardwrk adaptor in a 2012 13" MBP, not knowing that the bug shifted from the 2011 15" & 17" models (with the 13" unaffected) to the 13" 2012 model (with 15" & 17" fixed). He also had a Crucial MX200 in first place but shielding the cable did not help at all (and cleaning contacts etc neither. ) – switching to a Samsung 850 Pro solved all issues for him – so next time I might just try another SSD first >.< (some models are more robust than others as it seems).

      I hope this helps a bit, I'm kind of disappointed by the "quality" of Apple Notebooks in the past years.

      PS: I wanted to make photos of shielding the 13″ SATA cable but it has a different layout/look then the 15″ one so I skipped that :/

  1. André

    great article!!
    I need to try this with my own MacBook Pro late 2011 15" (8,2)
    I already have an SSD installed in the HD bay and works great, but its only 480GB.
    So I'd like to install a second SSD in the optibay.
    I found the MCE extreme, which I just need to order.
    Just a little daunted that I'll have to shield the cables and drivebay e.t.c, but if it works, then it should be worth it.

    One question, will the system be faster by having dual SSD's?

    1. Arne Fahrenwalde Post author

      Thanks for your comment:
      In the meantime my MacBook Pro had those video issues and the logic board had to be replaced.
      The technician at Gravis broke my SATA DVD cable in the process (the drive didn’t show up at all) and pretended it was my fault because of the “suspicious” insulation tape around it. I therefore had to replace the cable on my own cost because I couldn’t prove it worked flawless before.

      With the new cable the UDMA-CRC error count is stuck at 126 640 since February but Drive DX shows it as changed every now and then (it get’s marked “yellow” again and the last changed value changes (last time 8 days ago on April 23rd at 10:56 pm)).
      So I assume the Optibay Extreme is catching those errors in hardware but the system still notices that something didn’t work out perfect. (I as well did an firmware upgrade of my Crucial SSD and wrote a blog post about it — which I should translate from german some day x.x)

      So my suggestion is as follows:
      – buy the Optibay Extreme (you could try the hardwrk one before if you’d like to save some money because not all 2011 MacBook Pros make trouble with it, but I guess it’s a 50:50 chance that it won’t work as flawless).
      – buy a Samsung 840/850 Pro: a friend of mine tried the exact same Crucial MX 200 in his MacBook Pro 13″ 2012 and it didn’t work at all – the Samsung worked without any trouble — I assume they got the superior firmware (and are (one of) the best SSDs in many tests for a reason)
      – test the SSD for some days in the Optibay (watching the SMART stats with Drive DX (or something similar) and restart regulary to test if it’s still there after a reboot.
      – if all that succeeds: follow this guide (or something similar, note that you can enable TRIM with trimforce with the latest OS X) to set up a RAID 0 with disk utility (both SSDs should have the same size). You will get close to 2x the speed and the full size of both added (in your case ~1 GB/s read and 960 GB storage). I don’t know if you will feel the doubled data rate on everyday use but if you work with large video files etc. you should note a difference.

      And finally: let me know if it worked out! 🙂