So you’re like me, and you just love your unibody Macbook Pro. The design still turns heads, the size is just right and you can’t get enough of the great apps and software available for it. The only problem is, over time your baby has become sluggish and unresponsive, and your iTunes library has your stock hard drive bursting at the seams.
Not to worry, all hope isn’t lost, it just took me $300 and a couple hours of scouring the web, to take my 13″ MacBook Pro through time into 2012.
- 2009 13″ MacBook Pro 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
- 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 RAM
- 160GB 5400RPM SATA HDD
The Good: Since it’s release in ’09, besides releasing the MacBook Air which is a slimmer “SSD standard” laptop, Apple hasn’t changed the design of the MacBook lineup, so the design is still current. My 13″ is the perfect size for me, it’s light, portable and the battery life is impressive still after 3 years!
The Bad: Speed. I’m a bit of a self proclaimed app hoarder, and with over 100 applications including Adobe CS5, Lightroom 3, Aperture (all RAM hogs) I see the colour wheel so much i feel like I’m trippin on acid! 4 gigs of ram is nothing to sneeze at, but with the price of memory so low, and with the capability to upgrade to 8GB it’s a no brainer. Finally, 160GB stock hard drive!? It probably had cobwebs coming out of the factory!
- 128GB SATAII SSD ($120) — To replace the currrent 160GB hard drive
- Dual Drive Enclosure ($20) — To house the second hard drive in the optical bay location
- 2x4GB 1066 DDR3 RAM ($45) — Upgrade from 2x2GB sticks
- 750GB 7200RPM SATA HDD ($90) — To replace the stock SuperDrive Optical Bay
- USB Hard Drive Enclosure ($20)- To format the new drives before install
- USB Optical Drive Enclosure (Optional) — To turn the SuperDrive I remove into a functioning USB optical drive
I had a hard time deciding how I wanted to go about the upgrade. Every Joe and his brother has “the best” method of swapping hard drives and upgrading to an SSD. Spend an hour searching the web, and you’ll be on the verge of throwing in the towel because you can’t decide which route to go. But there are a couple of simple two or 3 step methods that I liked, and I’ll share the one I chose with you here.
This was a good read, it gave me an overview of what I wanted to do.
Another good read, to grasp the concept.
Here is a good video to help you swap the RAM, if you decided to do this upgrade at the same time.
Swapping Hard Drives and Optical Bay Components
The ultimate goal here is to utilize the SSD’s impressive speed but limited size by having it run the OS, system files and applications–that’s it. My user directory and all my media and other files will be stored on the new, upgraded SATA drive which will sit where the optical drive currently resides.
The overall procedure goes like this; Format the drives and install a clean version of Lion onto the SSD. Use Carbon Copy Cloner to copy my /user directory to the 750GB SATA drive, and install it where the optical drive currently resides. Back up the current Lion setup using Time machine and omit the /user directory (it’s already on the second drive). Install the SSD where the current hard drive resides, and restore the version of Lion that was just backed up using the Migration Assistant in the Utilities folder. Finally, point Lion to the second drive, so it knows where the user directory now lives, and how to access it. That’s it! All done!
1. Format both hard drives. I bought a USB hard drive enclosure for $20 so I could complete this step. Simply connect the hard drive, open Disk Utility, and partition the drive with 1 partition, and select Mac OS Extended (Journaled) as the format. This shouldn’t take long, and repeat this process with both hard drives.
2. Install OS X Lion onto SSD. This step is simple, with the SSD connected via USB I just inserted my Lion disc, and chose to install Lion onto my new SSD. Make sure to choose the proper drive!
3. Time to back up your current OS using Time Machine. Open preferences, and deselect your user directory. The total backup size shouldn’t be more than 50GB or so. Once the backup is done, turn Time Machine off.
4. Now with the new SATA drive connected in the USB enclosure, run Carbon Copy Cloner and copy the user directory to the new drive. Depending on the size this shouldn’t take longer then an hour or so. I only had 100GB and it took an hour.
Recap: Now, the MBP is still in the same condition as when I started yet my 2 new hard drives have both been formatted, and my SSD has a clean install of Lion on it, and my SATA drive (750GB) now has my user directory on it and is ready to become home to all my files from here on out. Time to get to swapping hard drives!
5. First I took the backing off my MBP and swapped out the RAM. Next, I did a simple swap of hard drives, putting the SSD where the current drive was. Finally, using the video found here I exchanged the optical drive for my dual disk housing and storage drive. I then put the back on, flipped her over and powered her on.
6. Upon powering up, the SSD is now running a brand new version of Lion, so I went through the setup procedure, and created myself a new user (which I will redirect the system to the /user folder located on my second drive in the optical bay).
7. Now it’s time to run the Time Machine restore using Migration Assistant found in the /Applications/Utilities folder. This will restore Lion to the way it was before the drive swap. Only one more step!
8. Finally, I went into System Preferences and in the Users tab, it was time to redirect Lion to my user directory ‚which is now stored on my second drive. By default now, when I log into Lion using the new user I created, all the preferences from the previous hard drive will load, along with all of the files.
Voila! I now have a super fast MacBook Pro which will give the newest of MacBook Airs a run for its money! And all for just $300 and a couple of hours time!
Just to recap. I replaced the original hard drive with 2 new drives; a 128GB SSD to run OS X and house all my applications, so everything runs super fast, and a second SATA drive (which replaced my optical drive) cming in at 750GB and 7200RPM to keep all of my music, photos, movies and documents with room to spare. I also doubled the RAM from 4GB to 8GB, so I can run as many applications as I want with no lag.
I’ve been running the new setup for 2 weeks now, and is it ever fast! Boot time went from about a minute from login, to under 20 seconds. Apps open without any bouncing icon. But the biggest improvement is found when I run apps like Aperture, which used to slow my system to a crawl, and crash it all the time, but now I can import, organize and edit photos all in real time with no color wheel, or lag at all! I even have iTunes and other apps running in the background while using Aperture of Photoshop with no worries.
If you own an older MBP, and are debating an upgrade, save your money and go the dual drive route. And if you’re worried about not having an optical drive, for $20 you can get a USB enclosure for the one you remove, and problem soved!