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All the data your MacBook uses to operate is stored in a single location: the drive. If you owe an old MacBook, this specifically means a hard drive (HDD), which is a physical disk that spins at very high speeds to access chunks of data.
If you’re using a newer MacBook, you should have a solid-state drive (SSD, or flash storage), which is completely electronic with no mechanical parts and thus does not spin.
To check whether your MacBook is with an HDD or SSD, click on the Apple icon on the top left of your screen, select About This Mac, and select Storage.
Hard drive performance is measured in two categories: read speeds and write speeds. The former is a measure of how fast you can open something that already exists, while the latter is how fast you can add something new to your computer’s drive.
Why Test Mac Disk Speed
Measuring your hard drive speed is one of the easiest and most effective ways to benchmark your MacBook. The data you get by testing will provide a standard to measure customizations such as added extra RAM or drive replacements against, and will also tell you if you need an upgrade in the immediate future.
Knowing your hard drive speed can also help you determine if you’ll be able to run certain apps (especially heavy creative software) effectively or if you don’t have the necessary read and write speeds.
How to Test Disk Speed on a Mac
You are going to need a third-party app since this functionality isn’t built into macOS. Two of the most popular ones are BlackMagic and Novabench, so we’ll show you how to use both.
For context, most modern hard drives have read and write speeds averaging 120 Mbps, while SSD drives should have at least 400 Mbps.
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test
First, you’ll need to download BlackMagic from the Mac App Store (it’s completely free!). Once it is installed, launch the app.
If you only have one drive (if you’re not sure, then you probably just have one), all you have to do is hit “START” since the program only has one window.
If you do have more than one drive (such as an external drive), you can navigate to FILE > SELECT TARGET DRIVE to choose which one you would like to test, and how strenuously. You can also CTRL + CLICK or right-click with a mouse to bring up a small menu.
Whichever you choose, your results will be shown on the two large gauges at the top of the window. Since Blackmagic was created for video editors, underneath the main measurements is a series of tables for those creative professionals who need to know what their computer is capable of. If you’re not in that business, however, you can ignore these and focus on your overall speeds instead.
Note: this app only works with Macs with Intel chip, if you have the latest MacBook with M1 chip, it will not work.
Once you have the app downloaded and installed, open the program and choose “start tests” from the splash screen.
There may be a pop-up advising you to close other applications, and then NovaBench will proceed with testing.
Once completed, the test results will be saved with the date and time in the application, and you can view them at any time from the NovaBench start screen.
What is a good Novabench score for Disk Speed?
According to Novabench database (as of this writing), the average score for Storage (i.e. disk speed) is 103. Average disk read speed is 721 MB/s, and average write speed is 700 MB/s.
What to Do If My Mac Disk Speed is Slow?
If your hard drive or SSD drive doesn’t seem to be performing up to par, there are a few things you can do to keep your data safe and your MacBook running at its best.
1. Replace the drive
This is the most effective way to get your MacBook back in order, but it isn’t the best option for everyone.
For MacBook Pro users, if your machine was made after 2013, you probably don’t have this option at all since models made after this point cannot be opened without voiding the warranty. For MacBook Air 2017 or later models, you will not be able to upgrade the storage either.
If you want to replace your drive, you have two options: buy another HDD, or upgrade to an SSD. A new HDD will be cheaper and get you more space for your money but will eventually face the same problems as your current drive. An SSD will offer significantly faster speed and you can consider one of these SSD upgrades for MacBook we listed.
2. Supplement Your Drive
Not sure about replacing the entire drive or physically can’t do it? You can get an external HDD or SSD that plugs in with USB. It will work in tandem with your existing drive and can be a great fallback in case your drive fails or needs a little extra help.
If this sounds like the right solution for you, check out our list of the best external drives for MacBook Pro.
3. Backup Your Data
Since slow read/write speeds could be a sign of the impending death of your hard drive, it’s a good idea to make sure your computer is completely backed up.
You’ll need at least as much storage space on the cloud platform or an external drive of your choice as you’re currently taking up on your Mac.
Then, you can copy your entire library of files, images, videos, and more to this backup location. Many cloud services also offer an automatic backup service, so you never have to worry about accidentally missing your recent files in the event of a hard drive failure.
Additionally, getting excess files off your overworked hard drive could help increase its speed.
Testing your MacBook disk speed is something everyone should be doing at least occasionally. It provides valuable data for future reference, helps you understand how your computer is functioning, and is a good indicator of when it may be time to upgrade a few things.
How has testing your MacBook’s disk speed turned out? Leave us a comment below and tell us what you’ve done with the information you discovered!About Eric