Mac, PC solid state drives aren't compatible

Mac, PC solid state drives aren't compatible

Summary: Apple MacBook Air and PC ultrabooks use new solid state drive (SSD) modules. But don't count on any cross-platform or cross-manufacturer compatibility.

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TOPICS: Storage
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Apple's MacBook Air and PC ultrabooks use new solid state drive (SSD) modules. But don't count on any cross-platform or cross-manufacturer compatibility.

While working on a recent AnandTech review, editor Anand Lal Shimpi wondered whether he could swap a SSD from a ASUS Zenbook and a MacBook Air. Great idea, but no.

The standard SATA spec calls for a 7-pin data interface and a 15-pin power interface for a total of 22 pins. The ASUS Zenbook/Zenbook Prime SSD features a split connector with 12 pins on the larger portion and 6 on the remaining - I assume for power and data, respectively. The MacBook Air SSD on the other hand has a 12 + 2 pin configuration, with a large power, ground or non-connected pin occupying the remainder of the smaller part of the connector. It's always possible, albeit unlikely, that both ASUS and Apple settled on the exact same pinout for their interfaces, thus making these two form factors electrically compatible but with slightly different configurations. However if you line up the two connectors you'll see that there are physical differences that preclude using one in lieu of the other:

Of course, this also means that the PC drives aren't compatible with Other World Computing's various enclosure kits such as the Mercury Elite Pro mini and the Mercury On-The-Go enclosures. In a quick search, I didn't see a PC enclosure kit for the ultrabook-style drives, but I'm sure one must be on the market.

Topic: Storage

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13 comments
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  • People buying MacBooks

    don't swap out the drives. For that matter 99% of people buying laptops have no desire to open the case.
    AnalogJoystick
  • So

    So, Now the vendors are going back to their old proprietary designs... That's stupid and it is just going to lead me to buy a standard laptop and plug a standard SSD in to it when I can get a 500+ Gig for reasonable money.

    I had a MacBook Air 2011 model and honestly, I was running out of the 128 Gig drive within months of purchasing it. I finally traded it for a new 32 Gig Transformer Pad TF300 with Leather Case and $500 cash. With that $500 cash I was able to get a Core i3 Laptop with 500 Gig of Storage Space, a DVD Drive, and an upgrade to 8 Gigs of DDR 3... The laptop has a larger 15.6" Display and runs faster than the AIR. I loved LION but, I always used my windows machines and tablets more so I got a Windows Machine I could take with me.

    Anyway, the point is that, this is a big issue as many people will be very limited by the 128 or 256 Gig max options these machines offer.
    slickjim
  • sounds obvious...

    they cannot use standard parts and fit... next there will be complaints the iPad isn't using a standard SSD either. Using "standard" parts, means big and bulky.
    doh123
    • Exactly

      This is also why Apple likes non-removable batteries. They allow a small form factor.

      Early on there was the controversy where Toshiba (I think, or maybe Samsung?) started making rlacement drives for the early MacBook Air. Apple stopped them.

      But now Intel copies the current MacBook Air and intel chooses to go with a different connector? Is it a patent that forced them, or a desire to be proprietary? It would be interesting to find out.
      ewelch
  • Apple SSDs are proprietary

    Apple views its components as an advantage that they must keep.

    They bought an israeli Flash memory signal processing manufacturer for $500 millions to make sure that their own SSDs are more advanced and cheaper to make.

    I don't think they will be using standard compliant SSDs in their systems anymore. They sure have the volume that allows them to manufacture their own proprietary stuff for cheap. And since the iPads, iPhones and Macbook Airs aren't designed to be upgradable, then proprietary isn't so bad.
    jbravo556
  • Speed

    Simply put I do a lot with photography and other media. A system isn't faster if it is out of room. It is that simple. It isn't an option to run external drives and media cards in some work environments you have to have larger drive options that are internal.
    GhengisKhan
    • Then you're not the target market for MBAs or ultrabooks

      Since the emphasis in these systems is light weight, long battery life, and small form factor, they won't be getting spinning drives any time soon. What you want is a notebook with a 1TB hard drive.
      ssaha
  • Typical ...

    ... the usual semi-devious lock-in tactic at which Apple is master ... and Windows OEM's are equally adept - ever tried installing standard SATA disks on a DELL server?

    As usual the biased ZDNET commentator (Apple and Windows) just cannot bear to call it like it is. Ah, if it's Apple v M$ we are treated to a lurid flamebaiting headline ... but if it's a an insidious industry practice we get something bland like this post. How about some plain-talking DM? How about:

    "Apple continues foul lock-in practices to match Windows OEM vendor silo perpetuation!"

    Instead of 'damned by faint praise' we have the opposite 'condoned by failure to damn'.
    jacksonjohn
    • OTOH

      Anyone know of problems with OWC's PCI SSD card (Accelsior) ... on Windows PC's?
      Looks like an awesome device.
      jacksonjohn
    • Yes, typical

      Cry havoc and loose the muppets.

      It's not as though anyone (who has a brain and can use it) will not ferret around and determine why people who make anorexic laptops go for non-standard SSD's.
      ego.sum.stig
  • non standard..big deal

    This situation is no different than expecting to replace a fuel pump in a Chev with one from a Ford...they are NOT compatible and only in the world of the old generic interchangeable IBM compatible era were parts just off the shelf. There is no reason for Apple or Dell not to choose the components for their laptops as they desire for whatever reasons. They are not meant to be taken apart and reassembled into new configurations. If a person wants to build a computer therea re options for doing that also...for a PC that is...With a modern Mac with Thunderbolt..this is not an issue at all any longer as that interface will permit thousands of possible permuations as soon as third party fellows start bringing out the options for this interface..n
    nfiertel
  • Target market

    These machines are designed for maximum portability, PERIOD.
    To achieve that, the OEMs are using the smallest form actor parts that they can, and until a 'standard' emerges for ultra small SSDs, that means proprietary configs. If that's a problem for you, then you probably aren't the target market for these devices. Ultrabooks/Airs are not intended to be primary computing platforms. They are intended to be accessory devices for the road warrior. The supposed migration of data to the cloud is *intended* to solve the lack of storage issue (I have my strong doubts), and there are always externals. None of these are great options for a primary machine, but for a secondary, highly portable platform they are workable at least. The need for full-featured, standardized platforms hasn't gone away, and that's why you can still buy them.

    "You pay your money, you take your choice". Pick the features you need and spend appropriately. End of story.
    use_what_works_4_U
  • Apples

    Just another chokehold apple has on its supply parts siphoning money out of their customers
    Mackattack71194