Adding extra storage to a MacBook using an SD card is easy, but it works like a thumb drive or external hard drive and not like your permanent, built-in storage. That means you’ll have to manually manage the storage, dragging files to and from the drive. But TarDisk Pear lets you add extra flash storage to your MacBook using an SD card and 1-click setup to merge the storage with your internal drive. After a quick setup, the TarDisk SD card installed in your Mac will act as one fusion drive with your built-in storage. I’ve been testing the product to see if it works like it should…
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To get started, you simply stick the TarDisk Pear in your MacBook’s SD card slot like any ordinary SD card (it doesn’t stick out like in the image above and sits flush with the machine when inserted fully). The installer software is supposed to launch automatically, but I had to open it from the SD card itself which was recognized and popped up inside Finder after inserting.
There are a few steps to go through (more on that below), but all the formatting happens behind the scenes, with the entire process taking me around 50 minutes with a few clicks of the mouse and a few restarts.
Requirements: You’ll need a MacBook with an SD port, 8GB of free space (at least temporarily for the installation), and Bootcamp partitions aren’t officially supported. After starting the installer, it then prompted me to turn off encryption on my internal drive by switching off FileVault and to enable Core Storage (you can enable FileVault again once Pear is installed).
A little over half of the installation time mentioned above was spent on turning off FileVault and Core Storage with a couple restarts in between. I already had a recent back up, so the install time will vary depending on what your current setup is, how long your backup takes (the company not surprisingly recommends running a full backup first), and whether or not you run through the recommended steps to check the health of your current drive, remove BootCamp if installed, etc.
You shouldn’t have to think about TarDisk much after installing it. The idea is that it merges with your internal drive so you can use it as if you have just upgraded your internal drive, and I found the process went smoothly. In my month-long test I didn’t run into any issues with my upgraded storage, and I didn’t find a noticeable difference in performance overall on the original, 2012 Retina MacBook Pro I tested it on.
How does it work? The company explained it uses “a combination of undocumented OSX commands and proprietary software.” For those that want to know a little bit more about what’s happening behind the scenes, the drive itself is formatted with Apple’s Disk Utility into Mac OSX extended Journaled. And in the background, this is how OS X will handle your storage between the two drives once installed:
- The new logically merged volume is managed by OSX.
- Internal SSD is primarily used before data is sent to the product.
- More frequently used files are maintained on SSD hardware.
- TRIM enabled SSDs maintain original speed benefits of Trim.
- Read/Write buffer (“swap-space-equivalent”) is maintained on SSD to buffer writes to files located on the product.
- Failure modes, if ever encountered, allow for direct restoration from TimeMachine backups.
Disk Utility allows users to format drives and since OS X 10.8.3 create DIY Fusion drives, but the entire process is a one-click step with TarDisk’s installer software handling everything for you.
Since the TarDisk Pear works like one drive in combination with your built-in storage, you won’t see the SD card mounted in Finder anymore. And you’ll be able to manage storage in the same way you manage the built-in storage in your Mac. Once installed, you’ll see the new drive appear under “About this Mac” and System Profiler (as pictured above).
Removing TarDisk isn’t recommended. The company refers to the product as a “permanent upgrade” and warns you’ll have to restore your old drive completely from a backup if you remove the product:
“…This is comparable to the level of involvement required to replace a hard drive. Because it creates a hybrid drive, removing it will cause files to appear as missing. Re-inserting the TarDisk remedies this problem. As with any storage device, a backup should be a part of your routine. TarDisk Pear becomes part of your hard drive, and just like your regular hard drive if it fails, you lose that data.”
Should you buy it?
Out of all the options for upgrading the storage on an old Mac— a standard SD card, an external drive, or upgrading the internal drive— the TarDisk Pear proved to be the easiest overall solution. If you can deal with the pricing ($149 to $399) and the available storage and speed options, and you don’t want to put up with the mess of upgrading internal drives on Macs, then I’d recommend TarDisk as the easiest, although one of the priciest, approaches to upgrading your storage.
The TarDisk Pear is available now in 128GB ($149) and 256GB ($399) versions. It’s compatible with MacBooks that have an SDXC port and Yosemite or El Capitan installed. Update, Apr 14, 2016: 9to5Toys has a 15% off promo until May 5th.