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SSD as Boot Drive - smaller drive than existing

I am installing a 120GB SSD in my macbook pro. I have a 500GB drive existing. How can I just get the OS on the new SSD and boot from it. I understand Carbon Copy but what folders do I need to move? I can't move the entire drive :) so I need to know what to move. Any thoughts?

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Before starting this, you should make sure your EFI firmware is up to date. Follow this Apple TN EFI & SMC firmware updates for Intel-based Macs

If you are just replacing your current HD for the SSD drive:

You first need to prep both your SSD and an external FireWire or USB HD or a USB Thumb drive as a bootable drive (you'll use this drive to do the file transfer). Using the Startup Disk Control panel make sure your external HD your SSD is able to boot up your system. Once you get to this point you know your SSD is ready (reset your startup back to the external HD) then using CarbonCopy or other cloner copy over your OS & data from your old HD to your SSD. Again using Startup Disk select your SSD as the booting disk again making sure everything is working. Only at this point should you take your current HD out and put the new drive SSD in.

Clearly you can't fit all of your stuff over if you have more than what your SSD can hold. In fact I wouldn't use all of the space at all. You should leave at least 1/3 of the storage as free space (not to be used). Using an external disc make a full copy of your stuff and trim back what you have on your HD to what you will have on your SSD. I would recommend running Disk Utility using your external disk as the booting drive to test out and repair as needed your internal HD. Also make sure you repair the permissions too.

You may want to think about swapping out the optical drive using the dual drive kit. If you can't trim things down. Maybe even setting up the two drives as a Fusion drive.

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Hello Dan - thanks for the instructions. I am planning to use both my existing HD and this new SSD drive. I think (if this is the best option) I would like to run the OS on my new SSD and have my data on my old drive. And Yes, I plan to pull the Optical Drive out (I bought a caddy from OWC).

When you say "Startup Disk Control Panel" where is this? Also, does the external HD (not my SSD) need to be formatted or can I just do this on a partition? What do I copy to this drive using Carbon Copy? Just the System folder like John recommended?

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You need to have still another drive here (3 total) - Your internal HD, your new SSD and one more to run the process from. That means the 3rd drive here must be a bootable drive. You'll need to use the OS installer to prep it and I do recommend do this as well on your new SSD. Then using the control panel Startup Disk' switching between the three to test things out and to set the 3rd drive up as the running drive to clone your OS & app files from your HD to the new SSD. To find the control panel open up System Preferences look down to the fourth row and you'll see the HD icon with a question make on it thats it.

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The best analogy I can come up with is the cobbler can't re-sole your shoes while you still wearing them ;-}

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Still follow the same process, While you could just put a fresh copy of OS on the SSD alone you'll have issues trying to run some of your apps. Which is why you need to use the cloning tool or re-install your apps. If you haven't bought your SSD yet consider going with a hybrid drive (SSHD) which is a HD with a SSD for caching in one unit.

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You just need to move the main OS folders. On the desk top open the hard drive then choose the folder called "System" copy that over and I think that should do it. Keep us posted.

Hope this helps,

John H. Laney

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Not so fast here... If the files are in use they won't copy over. Which is why you need to setup another drive as the startup disk to then move between the two not in use drives (internal & new SSD)

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