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Monday, 17 March 2014

Upgrading Macbook Pro 13 Inch Mid 2009 - SSD Upgrade

Some time ago I bought a new Macbook Pro and gave my old one to my wife. She loves it but it already had a good few years on it. It was a Macbook Pro 13 (Mid 2009) and was in need of a good home. At the time since I had my fancy new machine, so the normal maintenance cycle i'd do on a 2-3 year old system just floated by. My wife isn't a techy so naturally she put up with the bad battery life and the performance issues and just put it down to the "Crapbook" :-)

Enough was enough!

There being nothing technically wrong with the system, fans were operating as expected, memory wasn't dropping address's and even the HDD, a 500GB Hybrid Momentus XT was working great. The battery I actually replaced about 6 months ago because it was lasting all of 40 minutes, got it off ebay and was easier to install than the HDD upgrade. The only clear reason for bad performance was that after years of OS upgrades from the original version of OS X to the very latest, it was finally struggling to keep up. Thankfully there is an easy solution to this. The core bottleneck of any pre-SSD system is the HDD. Yes, it didn't have the original hard drive and yes it was using a Hybrid drive, one with a built in 8GB SSD. But, this was simply a bandage. Modern OS's do so much more with disk space than ever before.

My honest opinion on Hybrid drives is that they appealed to a market of people who simply couldn't afford the SSD drives at the time. They promised better performance without really telling you how the "magic" of instant speed improvement was accomplished. For me, the performance gain wasn't significant, but i was doing a lot of work with Aperture at the time and that requires a lot of random reads and writes. Now that SSD drives are significantly cheaper, us mere mortals can afford to stick them into our ageing systems and breath new life into them.

So I bought a 120GB SSD from Amazon along with a caddy for the 500GB Momentus XT:
I didn't know before I purchased the drive, but the Macbook Pro I was upgrading only had SATA II support and the SSD was SATA III. Not a big deal as the drive after installation worked just fine. I've yet to check on any serious performance implications, but a quick check with Blackmagic Disk Speed Test tool showed significant gains.

The process of upgrading a hard drive in one of these pre-retina Macbook Pro's is well documented by Apple and there are plenty of videos of YouTube for the same. But here is a link just in case this is what you were expecting when you arrived here.

After I sealed up the system, I originally wanted to clone the drive from the old HDD to the new SSD. However figured this was a good opportunity to get a clean OS up and running. After all, out of all the OS's i've done re-installs for, OS X requires the least amount of effort by far, so it wasn't a difficult choice.

If you do decide to do a clone, there are a couple of ways to do it. You can use a second system to perform a dd from one drive to another, use a tool like Carbon Copy Cloner or perform a restore from the Disk Utility that comes with OS X. If you don't have a second system, you can always put setup for OS X on to a USB stick and boot to it from your Mac you are upgrading. Once in, use the Disk Utility inside the installer and do a restore from external drive to internal.

Well thats it really. Thanks for reading.