Don't Upgrade Your Macbook Pro Until You See This

Before you shell out a ton of cash for a new MacBook consider a few DIY options that can drastically increase the performance of your machine. For me, there is nothing more frustrating than having a program take four minutes to open, having programs crash or the spinning beach ball of death. Computers, like most things, need occasional maintenance and tune ups. If you don't address this on a semi regular basis then you are wasting all those duckets you spent on your fancy Macbook Pro. Consider the following DIY video I made that increased my MacBook's startup speed from 105 seconds to 10 seconds. 

The biggest upgrade to consider, outside of maxing out the RAM, is actually replacing your operating system drive with a solid state drive, and if you are going to do that, you may as well get two solid state drives and get rid of that massive optical drive that just wastes space. You can do all of this with a $37 glorious piece of hardware called the data doubler from OWC. Seriously, if you are using your "DVD" drive on a regular basis then you are doing it wrong. I refuse to use DVD's for anything. If a client asks you to put their photos on a "CD" then put them on a flash drive, spend an extra 3 dollars, and explain to them why this is better. Trust me they will love it and if they don't you are still somehow doing it wrong.

Another thing I refuse to purchase is the Retina MacBook Pro. That computer can suck it, and here's why. I salute Apple for making is so damn light and putting a bajillion pixels in the display, but I hate the fact that the RAM and solid state drive are actually soldered to the logic board. This means that if you purchase the Retina, or Tina as I like to call her, and your RAM or hard drive fail in X amount of months, you have to replace the entire logic board and RAM, as well. Or let's say you were on a budget when you purchased Tina, and now you want a bigger hard drive and 16GB of RAM. Well, you can't put a new one in there because it's soldered to the motherboard, and don't even get me started about not offering it in the matte display on the Retina Macbook Pro. The Retina screen is still reflective and a pain to deal with on set. I can STILL see the reflection of the windows in the background, Apple; and seriously what the heck happened to the 30 inch Apple Cinema Display AKA: the best display ever built? Ok rant over.

So, If you are considering a new MacBook Pro, please consider not spending the money and testing the waters with more RAM and a SSD from somewhere like OWC. By replacing the optical drive with a second hard drive, you are able to increase your storage capacity for photo shoots and other large volumes while keeping your OS drive clean and pristine. If you are considering buying a new MacBook Pro, I would STILL recommend the regular MacBook Pro with the anti glare matte screen. You have way more options down the road for upgrading your machine when YOU want to.

PLEASE NOTE: Don't forget to backup your computer before upgrading with something like Time Machine or Carbon Copy Cloner if you want to reinstall your user account onto your new hard drive.



Gary Winchester Martin's picture

Gary W. Martin is a commercial photography producer and founder of PRO EDU. His company creates documentary style Photography and Photoshop tutorials with some of the best photographer/instructors in the world. Gary has spent 20% of his life abroad and once made a monkey faint in Costa Rica. He speaks English and Romanian.

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Previous comments

if my mac book is configured with window 7, after upgrading , will my window 7 still remain in my mac book?

Obviouly not if you replace the hard drive

Good tips. But please don't use TimeMachine for complete recover. CCC is the way to go.
TimeMachine uses a non-standard filesystem extension, and the recover fails completely if any one file is corrupted.

I've been running like this for years with two x half terabyte HD's - not SSD. Seagate momentus makes negligible difference over a standard HD though no issues with reliability. Battery life goes down a bit running two discs. Mine's now due an upgrade to a 500Gb SSD for boot disk and 1Tb HDD for the media. Definitely clone your operating system on a small partition on the HDD it's a life saver and NEVER trust a time machine backup to recover your system, they fail. CCC and Acronis are both great. Use these simple upgrades and you'll get years of extra life out of your MBP for peanuts :-). Good article and some well informed advice in the comments

Does switching to SSD would make video playing (youtube) smoother? Would it make web surfing faster? Or just working on the HD will improve?

If you just surf the web with your laptop, you don't need any upgrade

I understand but that doesn't answer my question. I'm trying to understand.

You will notice improvements only on heavy applications, like using photoshop or lightroom for example, but it will not make you video on youtube any smoother.

You need either more RAM or a better video card. Start with maxing out the RAM you are stuck with the video card you have. A faster hard drive will help software open faster, files open faster, and if you are working on large files where the system is caching on the hard drive then that will be faster as well.

Yes already done that. I'm running 8GB on my macbook 5,1 (not pro) 2008. I've had to upgrade to leopard so it recognize the 8G otherwise it only accept 6G. I don't think going SSD is a good idea in my case, I'll better hold on till I can afford a new mb pro. Thanks.

It sounds like you need a better ISP

You can upgrade the hard drive in the MBP Retina, it's not soldered rather it has one screw holding it in place. Right now the upgrade can only really be done from a 256gb to 512gb but I'm sure as the capacity of SSDs increase there will be bigger options. I've attached a Youtube of a Retina's hard drive being upgraded. It wouldn't to hard to do a good search to verify before you bash the Retina.

Replacing the SSD is one thing, and yeah it's easy since it's on a daughter board card. But the RAM is soldered, and that makes it a waste unless you're already maxing it out. Side note.. OWC's instructional vids= worst background music EVER.

Totally agreed but it does make me feel a bit better about the retina machines. Not being able to upgrade the RAM sucks but it's a lot worse to not be able to upgrade the HDD.

I did exactly what is proposed in this article and the result is staggering on my mid2011 MBP.
The SSD brought 100% more speed, shifting a whole wedding in LR is a piece of cake. But after upgrading to 16GB, it is just so smooth.
The money I safed goes into a new Lens I always wished for.

Why not just have your OS boot off the SSD and move your HHD that came with the computer to the optical drive location. You save $$ by not having to buy 2 SSD's and the HHD the comes with the macbook have more GB's

This is what I did about a year ago and haven't looked back.

I totally did this exact process over a year ago. My 2009 MBP runs like a new machine. Video does not describe how to put the OS and Apps on the SSD and move just your data to be stored on the traditional drive. After a good backup or two, I put my home "Users" folder on the old drive using symlinks. I followed this technote here in 10.8 with good success:

The retina screen is worth the "added hassle" to me. Not only do I get maximum resolution for working with FCPX and other apps that support the retina display, but the screen is positively BEAUTIFUL. Once you SEE a retina screen, or work with it, you won't be able to go back to a regular LCD, they look like crap. Not to mention that the retina is faster at just about everything than the regular mbp. Sure, I won't be able to upgrade in a few years, but in those few years, I will have the best screen that you can get on a laptop, I will have saved hours (days? weeks?) worth of time due to the faster boot times and program launch times.

Really, how many reports have you seen of a retina crapping out on people? Sure, it happens, but it happens with EVERY computer. There is no higher risk of a retina breaking than a regular mbp. I'm knocking on some serious wood here, but I am very, VERY happy with my purchase of the retina. I would recommend it to anyone who works with photographs or video, if they need something portable (it will never replace an ultra-powerful desktop for editing, obviously, but then it's not MEANT to be a desktop replacement). It's light, fast, beautiful and it does exactly what it's supposed to do, what more do you need?

honestly that could be wrong, cause when i had my macbook pro it was 160gb and i replace it my self with 500gb apple hard drive then something was wrong, and they replace, logic board, dvd optical, screen, top shell and battery i had bought apple care extended which is worth the money. They never said we cannot get it fix for you cause you have a replace the hdd, what they call me it was to verify how many gb i had, i said 500gb and inside the machines was mark with 160gb when i bought it.

Thanks for this video. Definitely helpful.

Can anyone suggest what's best for my situation? I have an early 2011 15" Macbook Pro, upgraded to 16GB RAM and a 1TB internal HD (not an SSD). I use Lightroom to import lots of images, which are always stored on an external portable Hard Drive. I've been thinking that the bottleneck in terms of how fast I can transfer large image files is my USB speed, which is USB 2.0, but perhaps an SSD would make an equivalent boost in speed as shifting to USB 3.0? Any thoughts or personal experience on this is welcome. Thanks.

When starting the machine up what will happen? I have a brand new macbook pro 13" and I am thinking of installing SSD and more RAM because the start up time is already awful and it seems slow. Also the harddisk head keeps parking and making a clicking noise every 10 seconds and that's driving me insane. However I like the machine and think the solution you give here is a good one. Could you say more about what happens after turning it on after the installation? It runs Mavericks and I have no disc to reinstall but have to do it online. Will all that work once I turn on the machine or is there some steps I would need to know? Thanks :)

apple has totally entered the suck zone on so many levels, that someone somewhere has to come and rescue the midrange user who cares about more than phones and gaypads.

Hi What advice would you give on buying a new mac book versus replacing things etc When the colour displays are disintegrating regularly and rapidly. I don't really want to shell out but I've had this macbook pro since mid 08 and it's behaving like a geriatric in all senses.

Okey dokey well where do you insert the flash drive now that you have replaced the optical drive with the SSD? The flash drive isn't going to fit into that narrow disc slot.

I heard about hybrid drives. Is there any reason to keep the SATA and couple it with a Solid State Drive?

I have Sony VAIO from 2009.
If its says standard disk drive, I'm assuming it's not Solid State Drive.

so just replacing RAM and and Hard-drive would give me some boost.
and there is no way to replace processor right?

And, be careful while buying macbook pro retina 15 inch. My screen just went crazy and apple refuses to replace it under apple care. Apparently there are many others facing a similar issue

I am so glad to see this video, BUT when I checked my Macbook and OWC site it seems as if my MAcbook Pro is too old. I have a 17" from 2008 model 5.2 with 500GB HD and upgraded RAM to 8GB. How much can I upgrade my Mac ? I would LOVE to have 2 SSD drives, I never use my optical drive. I can't work much more with my pictures and films and i can't afford another Mac. I am NOT going back to PC.

Hey Gary, Awesome Video question. You didn't specify how many GB your SSD's are. I would be curious to know if you maxed it out at 960GB x's 2 SSD or What? What are your thoughts on Hybrids. and what are your thoughts on 1 SSD to BOOT and HDD in theOPTICAL drive. The only reason i keep my optical in my 2008 MBP because I have Software from LOGIC back when Logic Studio cost $499 now Logic X is only $199. Also do you think apple Hid this info about the RAM and SSD being tied down to the motherboard or logic board ? I did not know this and forked over $2200 for 2013 MBPR and had I have known this I might have asked for a 16 GB up front and a larger SSD upfront. This seems so unfair not to tell the loyal customers that they made this i am stuck with a new MBPR that I cannot upgrade I am flaming MAD over this. Do you know why they chose to do that? And will this always be the way it is done in the future?? NO ALLOWED UPGRADES? unless you replace the LOGIC BOARD that is freakin INSANE.

I bought a 2008 Late 15" MBP and never hardly really used it for much and after 3 years exactly to the date the Logic Board needed to be replaced. That cost me $370, plus I was stupid and bought RAM from APPLE 4GB cost me $400, then I found OWC bought 8GB for $100 i was in SHOCK OWC Rocks. Now I am about to install a SSD after buying a 1 TB HDD from OWC because I have a 2013 MBPR and it BOOTS up in 8 Seconds. So now I can't stand my 2008 MBP BEACHBALL WHEEL BOOT UP so it's getting a New SSD. The reason i asked you about the Size of your SSD's you put into your MBP was because I have DVD's and i use the drive with the REMOTE option because I have 2 offices at home and a STUDIO. So sometimes that drive comes in handy. But I guess i need to get used to not using the opticaldirve , i have switched over to FLASH drives and 3,0 Turbo Thumb drives by PNY on my new MBPR 2013 (waste of a Laptop now that I can't upgrade my DRIVE OR RAM)

is this worth doing on a 2008 mac book, upgrading from 2gb to 4gb and the ssds

nice post , made me have a different outlook on this matter...very deep

I wanted to buy a MBPS and upgrade it just like you did but I wasn't sure if I should upgrade the standard processor or not? I look forward to purchasing the MBP in a couple of days

Hi there. Thanks for video. I realise that it was put on a couple years back, so not sure if you're checking thread links. I have a question re: RAM. You put in 16GB. All the info on the net is telling me that Mac takes max 8GB. I understand that this was the limit at the time of the logic board first design. Some forums have people saying their RAM didn't take properly and the full RAM wasn't recognised. I have a MBP 15" 2.4 i5 currently on 4GB DDR3 (as build) - build date says mid 2010 (bought 2011). Currently running OS X 10.9.5. I like the idea about removing the optical drive. At first I thought No - but I am using a series of external HDD for images and other media, so replacing optical drive makes sense. Thanks again

Great video
Could I install this and keep the optical drive?

I have a macbook pro 2010. i thought i followed all the steps correctly but when i went to restart it a white screen came up with a file with a question mark on it. What did i do wrong?

how to upgrade my 2008 macbook pro with Processor 2.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with Memory 2 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT 128 MB to a super macbook pro?
any help or advice would be greatly appreciated !

Hey, I have an early 2011 macbook pro and obtained a Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SSD. I wanted to know should i install the new SSD in the optical drive and keep the stock HD? or is there a difference if I replace the HD(500GB SATA DISK) with the new SSD and make it as the primary? Is making the SSD primary like a huge difference or what should I do?
I swapped my 4GB ram for 16GB ram from watching this video. Thanks for the video really is a lot cheaper than bringing it into apple for an upgrade.

Can I upgrade the new 2016 Macbook pro 13" to SSD? Maximizing the highest GB available in SSD form? Thanks.