Review: TarDisk Hybrid MacBook Storage

I am a nerd. I love Doctor Who. I love my MacBook. Nobody should really be surprised that I bought a Mac accessory called a TarDisk.

A Little Background…

When I ordered my Mac two+ years ago, I was stretching my limits a little bit; I wasn’t making a ton of dough and the idea of sinking $1300 into a laptop was both exciting and terrifying. I didn’t have enough to go all-out and trick out every aspect of the computer, so I decided to opt for a smaller SSD (less storage space) in exchange for more RAM and a better processor (so it could handle more programs and processes at once).

At the time, I stored almost everything in the cloud and really wasn’t too worried about storage space. As a web developer, though, I try to keep up with new trends and development techniques. My workflow is drastically different now, and I started getting uncomfortably close to maxing out my SSD.

I could have just continued to offload files and programs onto my external hard drive, but carrying it around with me everywhere was a pain. So I decided to look into other options – specifically this really cool gadget I’d heard of called a TarDisk.

What is a TarDisk?

Their website calls it “Hybrid MacBook Storage”. I also believe I’ve seen the words “Fusion Drive” thrown around somewhere. But, it is, in essence, a very well constructed, fancy SD card. With a little TARDIS-esque logo on it.

A photo of the TarDisk.

It’s smaller than your standard SD card and has a unibody aluminum case, which means once it’s installed in your Mac’s SD card slot, it’s completely seamless.

I bought the 128 GB version, which ran me about $150. I believe the 256 GB version is $299.

The actual device isn’t anything to write home about. But it has really awesome software that comes with it – called Pear – that essentially merges the storage on your computer with the storage on your TarDisk.

In my case, it doubled the storage on my Mac from 128 GB to 256 GB (ish).

Extra storage space on my Mac.
I did a clean out and got myself down to 50-ish GB free on my SSD before Pearing.

Pear is awesome in that you don’t have to consciously move your files to and from an external storage space (like you would with a JetDrive). Once you’re Pear’d, you just use your computer as normal, and the computer manages the storage space for you like always. You literally don’t have to do anything.

How Do You Pear Your TarDisk?

I have to warn you, the Pearing process isn’t exactly user-friendly. They have a guide on their website – however, if you’re not at all tech savvy it can be a little bit intimidating.

Essentially you have to:

  1. Backup your Mac
  2. Turn off FileVault / decrypt your SSD*
  3. Ensure you have enough space for the Pear software
  4. Ensure your SSD is healthy enough for Pearing**
  5. Run the installer/Pear your TarDisk.

*Now, I’ll admit step 2 was a point of contention for me. I asked the sales rep specifically before I bought it if it worked with an encrypted SSD and he said yes. And, technically it does work with FileVault turned on. But you first have to turn it off and decrypt your SSD, install/Pear the device, and then turn it back on and re-encrypt your drive. Re-encryption took twelve fucking hours. I wasn’t happy.

**And step 4 can be a little scary. If you’re not at all familiar with the terminal or how it works, it can really look like your computer is broken. It isn’t and everything is fine. But be warned you’re going to be looking at this:

Step 4 of Pearing your TarDisk is a little spooky.
You haven’t broken it. Everything is normal. Breathe.

Congrats, you’re done.

Once you’ve Pear’d your TarDisk, you’re fine. In a perfect world, you would never, ever have to touch it or take it out again. Just leave it there until you end up needing to buy a new computer. Leave it completely, 100% alone.

But what if you take it out?

Bad and confusing things can happen.

In my case, I never intended to take it out. However, almost a week after getting it set up and Pear’d, I ended up at the Genius Bar. A fuse on my logic board blew (I had no backlight) and had to get my Mac repaired. When it was out for repair, they wiped my SSD and ripped out the TarDisk.

Re-Pearing it was a pain. I’m tech savvy, but even I found the instructions complicated and confusing. I ended up formatting the drive on my Windows PC and allowing a staff member to remotely access my Mac to get it set back up. The entire process took a few days from the first email to re-Pearing, and while the tech support was fantastic, I wish it was an easier process.

The Verdict

I’d give the TarDisk a solid 7.5/10.

While Pearing is a little bit dicey, and they definitely should explain the whole encryption bit better before you buy, I was really pleased with the whole process. As long as you aren’t planning on taking it out, and are a little bit tech savvy, I think the TarDisk is a great way to expand your Macbook’s storage without breaking the bank.

And it has nice packaging.

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