Upgrading a 2009 Macbook Pro to an SSD

Another thing I love

Another thing I love

My current MacBook Pro is from 2009, from a Christmas trip home to Texas. It worked perfectly fine until OS X Mavericks came around and slowed it down to a crawl. All right, to be really honest, it was already slowing down, but Mavericks was nearly a death knell. I kept putting off dealing with the problem because I was considering buying a new one in Canada this summer. But financially that ended up not being a reasonable goal so I figured I’d just live with it longer. Then came my sick leave, when I hoped to plan some new units for my classes. The first day I actually sat down to get work done I gave up entirely. English units require a lot of copying and pasting texts and images from the Internet, and things were loading so slowly it would take me twenty minutes to do five minutes of real work. I started dreaming of a new Macbook and even went on the Apple website to figure out which one I could actually afford.

When J came home that evening I told him I was considering shelling out for a new computer because I was sick of the problem. He was skeptical for many good reasons and managed to bring me around.

1) His Asus has lasted for over five years now and though it is sometimes prone to random shutdowns and strange noises, as well as being freakishly large and heavy for my tastes, I couldn’t deny that it didn’t make sense that my Mac couldn’t last as long. (Though to be fair I am way more into gadgets than he is.)

2) Planned obsolescence also really drives me nuts on principle.

3) To be perfectly honest, with the wedding coming up, I couldn’t really afford it if I wanted to be able to splurge on any personal purchases (e.g. wedding ring).

I’ve always been a Mac girl, from a Mac family, and though I make things work pretty well with the crusty PCs I’ve always had at work (crusty as in outdated), I was totally unwilling to make the jump to a PC just because it might be cheaper, especially because the cheaper computers were unlikely to be of the quality I’d like.

So I poked around on the Internet to figure out what the problem might be. The problems with my perfectly good 2009 13″ Macbook Pro were:

1) My 160-GB hard drive was almost full. After deleting as much as possible, I still only had about 10 GB free.

2) My hard drive was a traditional one running with an OS that pretended it was a solid-state drive.

3) I only had 2 GB of RAM.

The clear solutions were to replace my hard drive with a bigger SSD and to upgrade the RAM. This was all sort of intimidating to me at first, so I called our Apple re-saler and asked if they would do it for me. Not only did they say they would not (although they would change the RAM), the guy on the phone advised me not to replace the hard drive with an SSD because he thought it would “brusque” my computer and also my computer was no longer really worth the money it required to upgrade the hard drive.

I said thanks, hung up, and called bullsh*t. All over the Interwebs people were saying that SSDs worked fine back to 2009 and that it was the best thing they’d done to their computer. So let me add myself to that list of people.

I found some really great tutorials on said Interwebs by said people:

Don’t Upgrade Your Macbook Pro till You See This: video tutorial that also includes how to replace your DVD drive with another SSD if you want to. Personally I still want my DVD drive because it is the only place I know that will play a Region 1 DVD, i.e., most of my DVDs.

Upgrading a 2009 13″ Macbook Pro with SSD and RAM: A step-by-step article about how to do this.

How to Format a Start-up Drive for Mac: An intermediary step that was actually longer than replacing the drive and RAM. Since the new Mac OSes are released as downloads whose installers are automatically deleted once you use them, I needed a “start-up drive,” you know, like the CDs we used to get with the operating system on them. This was in order to install the new system on the new hard drive, and also, in case everything blew up in my face, to be able to manipulate my computer. I now have a Mavericks start-up disk on a thumb drive, which I won’t be upgrading to Yosemite because this took over an hour to do.

I won’t go into technical results of the change mostly because I did this over a month ago and I don’t remember. But the computer is ten times as fast now. IPhoto used to open in about a minute, and now it takes five seconds. I counted. I cannot stress how much it is LIKE NEW. I used to avoid opening iTunes unless I really needed it and now I don’t hesitate to have it open at the same time as Spotify AND iPhoto.

I HIGHLY recommend doing this if you have an old regular hard drive Macbook that’s slowing down with the new systems. It cost me about 250 euros for everything, including RAM, SSD, and a tool set that I ordered from Amazon with all sorts of little screw drivers. I ordered the RAM and the SSD from Macway.com.

Also, it’s good to know the the current Macbooks coming out have all their components soldered together, so you can’t upgrade anything once you buy it. I’d like to wait and see if that changes in a few years, though I do get that it makes the computer lighter and more reliable. But it also means that you can’t buy the cheapest one possible and hope to upgrade the components later.


4 thoughts on “Upgrading a 2009 Macbook Pro to an SSD

  1. pretty much off your topic, i do want to point out that people who said “Mavericks” was for the Dallas basketball team and that MacOSX would be going through the NBL, I am so happy to see the new system named “Yosemite” and look forward to many US (or will it be California?) geological formations. Didn’t we have lunch with Louis once at the Mavericks bay? Or was it Half Moon Bay? And was it Liam? Now I’m rambling

  2. My 2009 mac lost it when I updated to Mavericks as well. It would shut off randomly and would freeze at least a few times a day. I’m not as tech savvy, so I just wiped it and reinstalled the OS I was using before. I thought I had really messed it up before, so I’m glad to hear it’s a common problem!

    • Yeah, I considered doing that too. It would have been cheaper. But I wanted the new system so that everything would continue to be supported on my computer as long as possible. Also I like the new system!

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