Noticing the performance of my 5-year-old MacBook Pro was becoming – well, noticeable, I thought it might be time to replace it. The trouble with that is cost. That, and the inconvenience of it. I asked around some of my Mac buddies, did a bit of googling (other search engines are available, but nobody uses them), and sought advice from the Apple Store. The hive mind seemed to favour and recommend an increase in RAM and a replacement of the hard drive with a solid state drive (SSD). Here’s how it went.
The first thing I had to do was create a copy of all the files on my 256GB internal hard drive. The drive was running with about 75GB unused space but I had a 256GB external USB hard drive available for this purpose. You can buy USB enclosures for about a fiver which would allow you to clone your old hard drive straight to your new SSD but I took the intermediate step because I wanted to tread carefully and also create a backup of the drive and settings, something I hadn’t properly done before. I am a regular backer-upper of my files, sometimes keeping several redundant copies of important things. The backup tool of choice is Bombich’s Carbon Copy Cloner. I like this software because (a) it works, (b) it anticipates the user’s possible lack of caution or experience and (c) helps the user do the right thing. There’s a 30-day trial available but if you’re spending money on an upgrade, why not include the just-under-thirty-quid full licence as part of your budget and get a decent backup solution while you’re at it?
2. Buy the right bits
The Apple Store people were quite clear and unhesitant in telling me that Crucial Memory is the place to buy your upgraded memory chips and drives. There is a config checker tool on their site that will tell you what you need and guarantee it’s right if you buy from them. If you’re certain that it was 2009 when you bought your Mac, then you might not need this. I was certain but used the tool anyway. I was impressed with the speed of service and delivery from Crucial. Ordering late on Wednesday night and not paying extra for faster postage, the new drive and memory dropped through my letterbox on Friday morning.
The replacement is pretty straightforward. The back of the MBP is retained by 10 cross-head screws (you’ll need instrument screwdrivers), 3 of which are longer than the rest. Remember where they go. I recommend that you read about and follow good static discharge protection procedures, before you fry anything electronic and sensitive. The big yellow sticker is trying to tell you that. I used a bonding wrist strap that I connected to the case of the laptop and generally tried hard not to touch anything metal at all.
The memory cards are held in their slots by two plastic clips, one on each side, that you pull aside to allow the card to pop up for easy removal. The second card slot on my MBP is under the first.
Make sure you align the new memory cards correctly before trying to press them into the holder. There is a notch in the connector side which requires you to put it in the correct way round. On mine the notch is to the left of centre. If you refer to the top image of the new memory, you’ll see this meant that I had to put the memory in with that “Crucial” label facing down (i.e. on the keyboard side).
The HDD came out easily enough. There are two retaining brackets held in by a total of four cross-head screws. You can only see one clearly in the picture, at the bottom left. Remove these and disconnect the HDD carefully. For some reason there was a rubber blind washer in the case by this connector (see picture). I have no idea why. I have put it back where it was.
The HDD is fitted with four spigots which are needed for the new SSD. They are Torx screws, of a size I do not have the tool for, so I removed them with pliers and installed them in the SSD the same way. Reassembly is the reverse of what you’ve done so far.
Once your MBP is back in one piece, so to speak, you will need to boot it from the external clone if you made one, or straight from the new SSD if you didn’t take that step. If like me, you used the external clone, then you have another couple of hours to wait while you clone onto the new SSD.
What I have now is the same MBP as before only a lot faster and quieter. The fan did run fast for the first hour or two of operation but this is partly due to Google Drive getting its knickers in a twist. GDrive cannot cope with moving your GDrive folder to a different place – it has to start from scratch, synching from the web. Yet another good reason not to use GDrive. Dropbox needs you to log in again. Copy.com just copes.
Some of your file associations will have reverted to default settings in the process of setting up partitions on the clone. Apart from that, it looks exactly the same as it did before but somehow feels new. Browsing, email and compiling are all noticeably faster.
Thanks to those who steered me in the right direction; also to CarbonCopy and to Crucial for great products and customer support.
6. Next steps
Next? Probably a new battery. Even with the low-energy SSD, I’m probably down to about 3 or 4 hours maximum use from my five-year old battery which has been asking for service for months.