Sunday, June 2, 2019


One of the main avenues to increase the quality of life and the welfare of society is to become more efficient. Concerning one of our most labor-saving devices, the computer, in the last decade, we have not done so well. While previously it had liberated us from typewriters and slide rulers, recently it has been distracting us with social media and CPU power has barely improved, although computers have become pocketable and are now ubiquitous.

However, it is still worthwhile to periodically update a workstation, for example by using a more powerful graphics card with a better GPGPU. Another worthwhile upgrade is to replace hard disk drives (HDD) with solid state drives (SSD). These have become very economical and reliable. From a hardware point of view, the easiest upgrade is to replace the internal 3.5" SATA disks with 2.5" SATA SSDs: it just takes a couple of minutes.

Open the workstation, slide out the drive tray (left), remove the disk, screw in a 2.5" to 3.5" SATA adapter (right), screw the SSD (middle) into the adapter, then slide the tray back in the workstation and close the lid.

replacing a hard disk drive with a solid state drive

The software side is a little more complicated and takes hours (but you do not have to watch it). Modern operating systems have a special partition on the system disk called GUID for the firmware. On some operating systems this partition contains the drivers, including the file system code. On my older workstation, the firmware is in a PROM, but the GUID partition is still required because the EFI system partition is used as a staging area for firmware updates. See this article for the macOS.

The safest update procedure for the software is to format the new drive and then do a fresh install of the operating system. This will start with a firmware update (press the power button until the power light flashes and you hear a long beep). In my case, the firmware was updated from version MP51.0087.B00 to version MP51.0089.B00. If you do not update your boot ROM, from time to time you will get DiskManagement error -69546 from macOS.

With the new firmware, reboot the workstation and install the operating system. In the end, do a full system migration from your backup disk. Your system is now much faster, especially when you boot it up. While I was at it, I also replaced my backup disk with a very inexpensive but high-quality consumer-grade SSD shown below.

an inexpensive consumer grade SSD can be used for backup

No other changes were required and the workstation has now become much more efficient.

One aspect that has become very inefficient in the last years is buying parts. We used to be able to go to the neighborhood store and find everything, but nowadays these stores are in bad shape and it has become difficult to find items due to online stores. In the case of the SSDs, it was not an issue because instead of picking them up in the store in 20 minutes I got them in a couple of days from the manufacturer.

However, for the 2.5" to 3.5" SATA adapter, I was less lucky. The electronic store had over a dozen different adapters, but there was no way to find out which one was for my workstation. I figured that if I order online I will get it in a couple of days from a warehouse in the Central Valley or in Utah, but I was in for a surprise. It came from overseas and unfortunately for the shipping company Palo Alto is near New York and the adapter went on a long random walk across the continent. I feel really bad for my huge carbon footprint to ship this small $16 part.

date / time activity
Wednesday, April 24, 2019 11:42 AM Received electronic information
Friday, April 26, 2019 10:57 PM Shipment information sent To FedEx
Saturday, April 27, 2019 10:49 AM [China-Shanghai Operations Center] waiting for transshipment
Saturday, April 27, 2019 11:47 AM [China-Shanghai Transit Center] left scanning
Sunday, April 28, 2019 4:58 AM [China-Shanghai Transit Center] left scanning - loaded car
Sunday, April 28, 2019 7:06 AM [China-Shanghai Pudong International Airport] Arrival at the airport - exi
Sunday, April 28, 2019 8:06 AM [China-Shanghai Pudong International Airport] Customs Release - Export
Sunday, April 28, 2019 12:17 PM [China-Shanghai Pudong International Airport] parcels from developing countries
Monday, April 29, 2019 10:03 AM [United States - Kennedy Airport] arriving at the airport - import
Thursday, May 2, 2019 11:41 AM [United States - Kennedy Airport] Customs Release - Import
Friday, May 3, 2019 7:47 PM [FEDEX SMARTPOST BREINIGSVILLE, PA]Arrived at FedEx location
Saturday, May 4, 2019 5:50 AM [FEDEX SMARTPOST BREINIGSVILLE, PA]Departed FedEx location
Saturday, May 4, 2019 10:34 PM [JEWETT, IL]In transit
Sunday, May 5, 2019 10:41 AM [QUAPAW, OK]In transit
Sunday, May 5, 2019 9:44 PM [SAN JON, NM]In transit
Monday, May 6, 2019 8:54 AM [TOPOCK, AZ]In transit
Tuesday, May 7, 2019 2:04 AM [WALNUT, CA]In transit
Tuesday, May 7, 2019 2:11 PM [BAKERSFIELD, CA]In transit
Wednesday, May 8, 2019 9:53 PM [FEDEX SMARTPOST SACRAMENTO, CA]Arrived at FedEx location
Thursday, May 9, 2019 12:27 AM [FEDEX SMARTPOST SACRAMENTO, CA]Departed FedEx location
Thursday, May 9, 2019 2:42 AM Shipment information sent To US Postal Service
Saturday, May 11, 2019 Delivered