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Setting Up a Fusion Drive on Your Current Mac


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Even Older Macs Can Have a Fusion Drive
Setting Up a Fusion Drive
Images courtesy of Western Digital and Samsung

Setting up a Fusion drive system on your Mac doesn't require any special software or hardware, other than a recent version of OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.2 or later), and two drives that you want your Mac to treat as a single larger volume.

When Apple updates the OS and Disk Utility to include general support for a Fusion drive, you'll be able to create your own Fusion drive easily. In the meantime, you can accomplish the same thing using Terminal.

Fusion Drive Background

In October of 2012, Apple introduced iMacs and Mac minis with a new storage option: the Fusion drive. A Fusion drive is actually two drives: a 128 GB SSD (Solid State Drive) and a standard 1 TB or 3 TB platter-based hard drive. The Fusion drive combines the SSD and the hard drive into a single volume that the OS sees as a single drive.

Apple describes the Fusion drive as a smart drive that dynamically moves the files that you use most often to the SSD portion of the volume, to ensure that frequently accessed data will be read from the faster part of the Fusion drive. Likewise, less often used data is demoted to the slower, but significantly larger, hard drive section.

When it was first announced, many thought this storage option was just a standard hard drive with an SSD cache built in. Drive manufacturers offer many such drives, so it wouldn't have represented anything new. But Apple's version isn't a single drive; it's two separate drives that the OS combines and manages.

After Apple released a few more details, it became apparent that the Fusion drive is a tiered storage system built from individual drives with the express purpose of ensuring the fastest possible read and write times for frequently used data. Tiered storage is commonly used in large enterprises to ensure fast access to information, so it's interesting to see it brought to the consumer level.

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