Extending Your Systems SSD Drive

Culkin sym link

There are huge advantages of going with a system that is comprised of an SSD drive. First and foremost, as far as performance goes the drive cannot be touched. You can have at your disposal an incredibly fast system yet with one condition that could be limiting. SSD drives tend to be smaller in size than their comprable hard drive cousins thus potentially proving a limiting factor.

This simply doesn’t have to be and there doesn’t necessarlly have to be a performance hit depending on the manner in which you configure your new SSD system. It is not uncommon to take delivery of a 128k or a 256k system as a stock delivery system even in the form Apple‘s ultra high-end Mac Pro system.

You might wonder, when machines come typically configured with 1 Terabyte drives how you’ll function on a 256 gig machine. In this article I’d like to outlline briefly an apporach that is commonly employed provided you and Apple are aware it can be done.

Using Stock Hard Drives to Extend the SSD Drive

Hard drives have become increasingly less expensive from Thunderbolt through to USB 3 drives. Using Symbolic links on your Mac you can extend your internal SSD drive. Rather than cramming everything on the internal, SSD drive you put a number of things logically on a drive of your choice connected via USB or Thunderbolt.

Futher, the drive that you extend to can be whatever you choose from a USB drive to an external SSD drive. Your choice of drive is generally dependent on performance required relative to cost. If the data that you’ll be accessing requires frequent accesses and speed you’ll want to go with a faster drive whereas if the data is very infrequently used and there is no pressing need to near instantaneous speeds to access the data you can choose a less expensive, yet still robust drive.

What are Symbolic Links and how do they Work

Symbolic links are really a part of the underlying Unix operating system that powers your Mac. If I’m simplifying I’m doing this purposely as it is very easy to engage symbolic links with powerful payoff. Symbolic links are like aliases pointing to the file or group of files sitting on the volume you’ve put them on.

Symbolic links are so powerful that aspects considered critical to the OS such as your Movies and Music folder can be externalized and made to operate from a Symbolic link with excellent results but knowing what you’re doing is of course critical to successful outcome.

Symbolic Links Defined

At this point, I’d like to just draw on a standard definition of symbolic links before continuing on. Just to be sure though, that which requires fast operation should (with a caveat) always reside on the System and that which can be accessed slower speeds, such as a word processing file might reside on a USB connected drive. Speed of access of all of this is your choice.

To sumise a definition from Wikipedia I’d like to draw specific attention to the following:

In computing, a symbolic link (also symlink or soft link) is a special type of file that contains a reference to another file or directory in the form of an absolute or relative path and that affects pathname resolution. Today they are supported by the POSIX operating-system standard, most Unix-like operating systems such as FreeBSD, GNU/Linux, and Mac OS X… A symbolic link contains a text string that is automatically interpreted and followed by the operating system as a path to another file or directory. This other file or directory is called the “target”. The symbolic link is a second file that exists independently of its target.

The full page definition resides here.

And This Means …

In a nutshell what this means is that we can have our high intensity activity happening on our internal SSD. A lot of the data can reside on an external drive that isn’t generally expensive but allows for a large computer storage capacity.

There is one instance where the connected drive might be both fast and expensive and that if its an SSD, Thunderbolt connected drive. This will turn in dynamite performance but extend the say 256 k drive by whatever size you choose for your connected drive. Thus you might have another 256 k external SSD Thunderbolt drive connected giving you tremendous throughput yet extending your internal drive so that it is neither undersized nor underpowered.

To Do this…

Rather than tell you how to do this I’m going to refer you to two articles that clearly and easily spell out how this is accomplished. I do want to let you know though that I do this with my own machine with great success.

The first article I’d like to refer you to was written by Christopher Breen titled “Slim down your SSD with symbolic links” wherein he fully describes how to write commands to logically extended your computer.

The second article, which is quite comprehensive is written by Matt Gemmell and is titled “Using OS X with an SSD plus HDD setup.”

Your SSD Drive is as Powerful as You Want to Make It

The SSD drive is probably one of the most important advancements in computing. It brings with it massive increases in compute speed. The subsystem has always been a bottleneck to enhanced speed as no matter how much RAM you thow at your system, if the subsystem is slow or by comparative standards slower, then the whole system is slower.

However, since SSD’s are relatively new systems deployment they’re expensive and in short supply especially as we reach in for the larger drives. Thus, it isn’t unusual for today’s modern SSD drive to be of a size that was standard ten years ago.

This will change with time and the increased availability of these drives. Eventually, they’ll replace the hard drive at least in the medium range size deployment. Yet, with all the new apps we’re doing that are often multimedia in nature, the apps can be large. For the HDD this is a non-issue as it is now becoming standard for a Mac to be delivered with a terabyte HDD.

Techniques though such as sym link can prove a valuable tool to be able to extend our systems with an SSD and gain the speed enhancements without a tradeoff in functionality or worse still the inability to deliver the functionality taken as a given.

Gladly take advantage of the new SSD drives but be prepared to deploy it in such a way that allows you to extend the functionality of the system without impacting performance. Sym link is a valuable tool to do just that. In fact, learning to utilize that can enable a vast array of computing fasciities that you didn’t know you could avail yourself of. Without it getting overly complex, you could find yourself working with an extremely powerful system in which you aren’t making any trade-offs. Our systems and our productivity are nicely able to march ahead yet awaiting a time when the hardware resources are naturally available to do that which we have been able to do ahead of the curve.