Upgrading my 2010 Macbook Pro 13″

I have an older Macbook Pro that I bought around 3 years back. I bought it with grand plans of coding away in a coffee shop or editing photos on a plane back home, but between the fact that I do neither of those on a regular basis and the fact that I have 2 tablets, a (work) laptop and a desktop at home, this guy never got as much usage as his proud unibody self deserved.

Lately, it was starting to feel slower and slower, more so when compared to my snappy 15″ 2012 Macbook Pro Retina. So, rather than buy a new Macbook, I thought I’d swap out the 5400 RPM hard drive for an SSD drive and upgrade the RAM from 4GB to 8GB.

So, Here’s what I did:

Bought 8 GB of Corsair RAM, a 120 Gig SSD and a transfer cable off of Amazon (hooray, Amazon Prime!). Specifically, I bought
Corsair Apple 8 GB Dual Channel Kit DDR3 1066 (PC3 8500) 204-Pin DDR3 Laptop SO-DIMM Memory CMSA8GX3M2A1066C7

OWC 120GB Mercury Electra 6G SSD 2.5″ Serial-ATA 9.5mm Solid State Drive

and

Vantec CB-ISATAU2 SATA/IDE to USB 2.0 Adapter Supports 2.5-Inch, 3.5-Inch, 5.25-Inch Hard Disk Drives (Black)

In theory, I could have done without the SATA to USB cable, but having it made booting off of the old hard drive and cloning it into the SSD much easier.

Installing the RAM and SSD

The next step was to open up the laptop and install the RAM and SSD drive. Fortunately, the Internet is choke full of guides on how to do this. Here’s a couple that helped me:

Both of these are pretty self explanatory, but the one thing that tripped me up was that I didn’t have a torque screwdriver to remove the side screws on the hard drive and attach them to the SSD. I considered going without these screws, but thought of the SSD drive knocking around in the case didn’t seem that enticing.┬áSo, after a bit of experimentation, I managed to use a plier from an IKEA toolkit to remove and reattach these screws.

Cloning my old hard drive into the SSD

Finally once everything was firmly installed and the cover was screwed back on, I booted off of the old hard-drive, attached via the USB cable to the laptop. Note that since the old HD is attached via a USB 2.0 cable, this can be excruciatingly slow. Once the laptop booted up and I verified that the new RAM was detected, I rebooted again and hit Command-R on boot up to enter the MacOS utilities screen and clone the old HD into the new SSD. If your new SSD is smaller than your old HD (as mine was), you’ll need to adjust the partition size to make it smaller or the same size as your SSD’s primary partition – so make sure you have plenty of free space on the old HD!

This process took about an hour over the slow USB 2.0 connector. But once it’s all done, you can remove the old HD and reboot. And… everything just worked! The clunky old Macbook Pro is much faster (and quieter!) after this upgrade and I’m glad I went this route rather than plunk down a grand or more on a new laptop.

To TRIM or not to TRIM?

The one decision you need to make post-upgrade is whether or not to enable TRIM support. Apple, by default, doesn’t enable OS-level TRIM support on 3rd party SSD drives and you can find utilities on the Internet which will do this for you. However, some SSD manufacturers recommend that you DO NOT enable TRIM on their SSDs. OWC, the manufacturer of the drive I used, makes the same recommendation here, so that’s what I chose to do.

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