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All the data your MacBook uses to operate is stored in a single location: the drive. For many users, this specifically means a hard drive (HDD), which is a physical disk the spins at very high speeds to access chunks of data.
If you’re using a newer Mac, you probably have a solid-state drive (SSD, or flash storage), which is completely electronic with no mechanical parts and thus does not spin.
To check whether your MacBook is with an HDD or SSD, click on the Apple icon on the top left of your screen, select About This Mac, and select Storage.
Hard drive performance is measured in two categories: read speeds and write speeds. The former is a measure of how fast you can open something that already exists, while the latter is how fast you can add something new to your computer’s drive.
Why Should I Test Hard Drive Speed?
Measuring your hard drive speed is one of the easiest and most effective ways to benchmark your MacBook. The data you get by testing will provide a standard to measure customizations such as added extra RAM or drive replacements against, and will also tell you if you need an upgrade in the immediate future.
Knowing your hard drive speed can also help you determine if you’ll be able to run certain programs (such as heavy creative software) effectively or if you don’t have the necessary read and write speeds.
How to Test Hard Drive Speed on a Mac?
To test your HDD, you’re going to need a third-party program, since this functionality isn’t built into macOS. Two of the most popular are BlackMagic and NovaBench, so we’ll show you how to use both.
For context, most modern hard drives have read speeds averaging 120 Mbps and write at 128 Mbps.
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test
First, you’ll need to download BlackMagic from the Mac App Store (it’s completely free!). Once it is installed, launch the app.
If you only have one hard drive (if you’re not sure, then you probably just have one), all you have to do is hit “START” since the program only has one window.
If you do have more than one drive (such as an external drive), you can navigate to FILE > SELECT TARGET DRIVE to choose which one you would like to test, and how strenuously. You can also CTRL + CLICK or right-click with a mouse to bring up a small menu.
Whichever you choose, your results will be shown on the two large gauges at the top of the window. Since Blackmagic was created for video editors, underneath the main measurements is a series of tables for those creative professionals who need to know what their computer is capable of. If you’re not in that business, however, you can ignore these and focus on your overall speeds instead.
First, download Novabench from the official website or the Mac App Store. The basic version is free, but you can also upgrade to Pro to access more tools if you like the application.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed, open the program and choose “start tests” from the splash screen. There may be a pop up advising you to close other applications, and then NovaBench will proceed with testing.
Once completed, the test results will be saved with the date and time in the application, and you can view them at any time from the NovaBench start screen.
What to Do If My Disk Speed is Slow?
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If your hard drive doesn’t seem to be performing up to par, there are a few things you can do to keep your data safe and your MacBook running at its best.
1. Replace the drive
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This is the most effective way to get your computer back in order, but it isn’t the best option for everyone. If your MacBook was made after 2013, you probably don’t have this option at all since models made after this point cannot be opened without voiding the warranty. Additionally, the MacBook Air has never been able to be modified.
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If you want to replace your drive, you have two options: buy another HDD, or upgrade to an SSD. A new HDD will be cheaper and get you more space for your money but will eventually face the same problems as your current drive. An SSD will offer significantly faster speed and you can consider one of these SSD upgrades for MacBook we listed.
2. Supplement Your Drive
Not sure about replacing the entire drive or physically can’t do it? You can get an external HDD or SSD that plugs in with USB. It will work in tandem with your existing drive and can be a great fall back in case your drive fails or needs a little extra help.
If this sounds like the right solution for you, check out our list of the best external drives for MacBook Pro.
3. Backup Your Data
Since slow read/write speeds could be a sign of the impending death of your hard drive, it’s a good idea to make sure your computer is completely backed up. You’ll need at least as much storage space on the cloud platform (we recommend Google Drive or Dropbox) or an external drive of your choice as you’re currently taking up on your computer.
Then, you can copy your entire library of files, images, videos, and more to this backup location. Many cloud services also offer an automatic backup service, so you never have to worry about accidentally missing your recent files in the event of a hard drive failure. Additionally, getting excess files off your overworked hard drive could help increase its speed.
Testing your MacBook hard drive is something everyone should be doing at least occasionally. It provides valuable data for future reference, helps you understand how your computer is functioning and is a good indicator of when it may be time to upgrade a few things.
How has testing your MacBook’s drive speed turned out? Leave us a comment below and tell us what you’ve done with the information you discovered!