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How to upgrade your MacBook Pro Retina to a 1TB PCIe SSD

Lucas Mearian | April 18, 2016
For an extra US$50, OWC includes an upgrade kit with a PCIe adapter so you can continue using your factory-installed SSD as an external drive.

When Apple began shipping the MacBook Pro Retina in late 2012, it announced that the built-in solid state-drive (SSD) and RAM would not be user upgradable after purchase.

Well, the RAM part of that statement turned out to be patently untrue. That's a simple piece of hardware to locate. But Apple's proprietary PCIe SSD modules proved impossible to find.

Then along came Other World Computing (OWC) to single-handedly fight Apple's planned obsolescence for MacBook Pro laptops with retina diplays. This month, OWC began offering MacBook Pro Retina- and MacBook Air-compatible Aura PCIe SSDs.

If you purchased a MacBook Pro Retina in 2012 or later, you already shelled out at least $1,300 for the 13-in. model. So, it's reasonable to assume you might have skimped a bit on the internal storage, which ranges from 128GB to 512GB.

Heck, even if you splurged and purchased the highest-end 15-in. MacBook Pro for $2,500, the largest SSD you could get until recently was 512GB. Note: A 1TB SSD is now a $500 option for the current top-end MacBook Pro (vendor price).

What's incluced in the OWC Aura PCIe SSD upgrade kit. Credit: Lucas Mearian

The new OWC Aura PCIe SSDs for MacBook Pro Retina laptops come in 480GB ($348) and 1TB capacities ($598).

You can also purchase a complete upgrade kit, which includes the OWC SSD, screw drivers, a USB standard A to micro B cable and an external PCIe SSD enclosure with USB 3.0 port for $399 (480GB model) or $649 (1TB model).

The kit is actually a pretty good deal because just to purchase the Envoy Pro SSD enclosure would cost you $79. Once you've installed the OWC SSD, you can use your Mac's original flash drive in the enclosure as a fast external USB drive with transfer speeds up to 355MBps.

I've said it many times before: Adding an SSD to your computer is the single best upgrade you can perform for the money. It improves both performance and reliability. But, when you already have an SSD, the next best upgrade is a bigger SSD.

The OWC PCIe SSDs allows you to increase the capacity on your MacBook Pro up to eight times that of the factory drive and it offers up to 5.8 times faster performance than Apple's factory installed drive.

The OWC Aura PCIe SSDs offer up to 763MBps sustained read and 446MBps write rates. They also come with native AES 256-bit encryption and a three-year limited warranty.

Prior to installing a new OWC 1TB Aura SSD, I performed a performance benchmark test on my factory installed 256GB PCIe SSD using BlackMagic software, a free app. As expected, it was blazing fast, offering up to 723MBps sustained reads and 661MBps writes. I was excited to see just how much faster OWC's SSD would push the MacBook Pro's performance.


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