Review: Doubling MacBook Air drive capacity

There's pros and cons in the TarDisk system

Apple, Mac, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Storage
Credit: TarDisk

I recently doubled the drive capacity of my MacBook Air, thanks to an innovative new solution called TarDisk, a tiny drive that slots into the SD card port on the side of your Apple laptop.

What

Available in capacities of 128GB ($149) and 256GB ($399), TarDisk is a precision cut aluminium flash drive that slots neatly into your Mac’s SD slot to bring you its extra capacity, though there are a few restrictions and limitations to its use. You can also use the disk as a normal (external) SD storage drive and the solution’s available for MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

Installation

Isn’t simple. First you must disable FileVault, run installation software and then re-enable FileVault. Once you’ve installed the software using Pear Installer your Mac’s disk capacity will be increased. If you check Disk Utility you’ll see two drives listed, both with the same capacity (the total capacity applies across both). What’s happened is that Tardisk has become a Fusion Drive, the solution enables commands at the root of OSX to logically allocate files between Tardisk Pear enabled hardware and your original (probably-full-by-now) Hard Drive.

In use the data you use most often will be hosted on your original drive, while less used data (and yes, this includes System files) will be hosted on the new SSD drive. The new logically-merged volume is managed by OS X, and the company cites its own performance tests using BlackMagic, GeekBench and NovaBench, show equivalent or slightly improved MacBook performance once the disk is installed. I’ve seen no impact from its use.

Pros

Once you’ve managed the installation process you end up with exactly what you expect – additional drive capacity that integrates seamlessly with your Mac. The small aluminum device fits snugly inside the SD slot on your computer and when installed sits flush in your machine.

It swallows a negligible amount of battery life (about 5 minutes intime from a full charge), and performance is fast, slick and (in general) worry free. Not only this but the disk is water proof, temperature proof (-13°F to 185°F), shock proof (500Gs), immune to airport X-rays, and magnet proof (3000 Gauss).

Cons

The biggest problem is that you can never eject your TarDisk once you have paired it to your drive (so this means you can’t pop the disk out to install the SD card from your camera without losing your data). If you do want to eject your TarDisk you need to back up all your data and reduce the used disk space on your Mac to at least 20 percent below the original disk size (ie. The original disk you enhanced with TarDisk). You must then follow these relatively complex instructions to return your system to working from its original disk, including restoring your Mac from backup.

The biggest concern I have with this product is the potential for accidentally ejecting the drive. The company warns your Mac may eject the TarDisk if it runs completely out of power, though the company says, “Our testing has shown that OS X manages the removal of the drive well, however removing the Pear'ed TarDisk while your system is running can result in a corrupted volume depending on what is running.”

It really is essential you backup your drive using Time Machine or an online service.

Buying advice

This is a slick and easy to install system that brings you exactly what you need – elegant and efficient additional drive storage for your Mac. I’ve been using it a week and I’ve had no problems, but I wouldn’t recommend TarDisk to anyone who doesn’t regularly backup their Mac. Regular backup really is essential with TarDisk.

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