By Jeff Checchi posted May 09th 2012
We have done many “How to” upgrade guides with very few focusing on notebooks, and of those, even fewer talked about a Mac specifically. With Macs being quite a popular notebook, I thought it would be a good idea to show how easily you can increase the performance of your Mac with two of the most noticeable upgrades available on a notebook, Memory and SSD. Today I will be upgrading my own Macbook Pro (MC374LL/A Mid-2010) with a 480GB Force GT SSD and maxing out the memory with 8GB of 1066MHz Corsair Mac Memory (CMSA8GX3M2A1066C7). This Mac is maxed out at 8GB of 1066MHz memory but if you have a newer one you may be able to use 1333MHz+ and up to 16GB.
I use my laptop like most people would use a laptop, web surfing, word processing, spreadsheets, etc, but I also use it for digital DJing. DJing with a laptop is more versitile and convenient than more traditional vinyl and CD decks. I have used this setup in hotel rooms, pool parties, camping trips, and even during long car rides, all of which would have been much more difficult to pull off using vinyl or CD decks. Currently I use a Numark NS6 with Serato Itch, but with my latest purchase of an actual vinyl turntable I think a digital vinyl system (DVS) is in my future, which will mean I will still be using the laptop in my setup when I want to use "control vinyl" to manipulate my mp3s. For those that are curious, I love music from all genres, but when it comes to mixing I especially like house and techno. Untz Untz Untz Untz!
Having had an SSD in my desktop for almost 2 years now, I have become spoiled with the super-fast boot up and application loading times, and when I first started using this Mac, it’s 5400 RPM HDD was the most noticeable weak point of the system. In a desktop, I might have chosen to go with 2x 240GB Force GT drives, and ran them in RAID 0 to get some incredible performance, however in a laptop with a single storage drive bay, I decided to go with maxing out the capacity of the SSD with our fastest 480GB SSD (which is capable of speeds well beyond that which is supported by this SATA II notebook). I also wanted to show off the fact that our fastest and highest density SSDs are fully compatible on the Mac platform, even though they are not specifically designed for Macs.
When upgrading your Macbook, you will need a few tools, here is what you will need:
- #00 Phillips Screwdriver
- #00 Phillips Screwdriver
- T6 Torx Driver
- Disk Cloning Software
Let’s get started on the upgrade! First you will want to unplug your power adapter, and shut down your system. Flip the system over and you will see 10 different screws which keep the laptop’s shell together, we will need to remove all 10 screws using the #00 Phillips screwdriver.
These 10 screws are not identical, so you will want to remember where each screw came from. The way I like to do this is to lay them out in the same pattern in which you have removed them. Once the screws are removed, the back cover should come right off, exposing the internal hardware.
You will find the memory near the middle of the system, in a stacked orientation, one module above the other. We will be removing both of the stock 2GB memory modules that came from Apple. Look closely at the sides of the memory and you will see a plastic latch holding the memory in place.
Gently press on each latch at the same time and the memory should pop up at a 30 degree angle.
Next, use the sides of the memory module to pull it straight out of the slot. Once it’s removed you will see the second module right underneath it.
The 2nd module can be removed in exactly the same way; however it is slightly more difficult to grip it since it is positioned a little lower in the laptop.
Above: One of the 2GB memory modules from Apple has been removed.
With the stock memory removed, it’s time to install the Corsair memory. Make sure that the notch in the memory is aligned with the “key” in the DIMM slot and slide the module into the slot at the same 30 degree angle which the old memory was removed.
Once the pins of the memory are secured into the DIMM slot, gently press down on the memory until the latch catches it and makes it lay flat in the slot. Follow the same process for the second module and you are all done!
Above: The first Corsair 4GB 1066MHz memory module has been installed.
Above: The second Corsair Memory module has been plugged into the DIMM slot and is waiting to be locked into place.
Now on to the SSD upgrade. First you will need to decide whether you want to reinstall all your programs and files (make sure you have all your disks and CD-Keys) or if you want to simply clone the data from your old drive onto the new drive. Since most laptops only have a single storage drive bay, it's not as simple to clone a drive on a laptop as it is on a desktop. One way to do it is to uninstall the old drive from the laptop (see the first part of the guide below for removal instructions), and then install both old and new drives into a desktop. Another way is to purchase a laptop upgrade kit or 2.5in HDD USB enclosure so that you can clone the new drive right from the old drive while its still installed in the system. The upside to buying an enclosure is that you will be able to install your old drive in it when you are done, and have a nice portable storage device that will work with laptops as well as desktops!
If you decide to clone the drive you will need some cloning software. I am using MAC OS X (Lion) on my Macbook and after a little research, decided to use “Carbon Copy Cloner” to clone my HDD over to my SSD (I used the external enclosure method). Not only was it very easy to use, but it was also FREE! If you are running Windows, you might take a look at Acronis, I have used it many times on my Windows systems without any problems. Of course these are just two suggestions, there are lots of cloning programs available for both Windows and MAC systems.
So now you have all your data moved over to the new drive, and you are ready to install the SSD, we will first have to remove the old HDD. There is a plastic locking bar with 2 captive screws in it which lock the HDD in place.
Loosen both screws and the bar should be easy to remove.
Next grab the piece of clear plastic that is adhered to the drive and pull it up to easily expose the SATA connectors that are connected to the drive.
Gently pull the SATA connectors out of the old HDD and it should be ready for removal.
One more step before we install the SSD. If you look on the sides of the old HDD, you will see that there are 4x mounting screws which guide and lock the drive into its slot. You will need a size T6 Torx screwdriver in order to remove these mounting screws.
Once you remove them from the old drive, you will want to install each of them onto the sides of the new SSD.
Above: Pictured here are the 4x threaded Torx screws which allow the storage drive to be locked into place in the laptop.
Above: The Torx screws are installed on the new drive.
Next, attach the SATA connector to the SSD and then slide the SSD into the drive bay, it should be a perfect fit.
The next step is to re-connect the plastic locking bar. Slide it into position and then tighten the two captive screws in order to lock the drive in place.
The last step is to replace the aluminum back cover and screw it back into place using the same 10 screws we originally removed. Now power up your system and enjoy your increased system performance!
Note: In some cases a PRAM reset may be required in order for the new hardware to be detected properly. If you have any problems booting after the upgrade, follow these instructions from Apple in order to do a PRAM reset:
Resetting PRAM and NVRAM
- Shut down the computer.
- Locate the following keys on the keyboard: Command, Option, P, and R. You will need to hold these keys down simultaneously in step 4.
- Turn on the computer.
- Press and hold the Command-Option-P-R keys. You must press this key combination before the gray screen appears.
- Hold the keys down until the computer restarts and you hear the startup sound for the second time.
- Release the keys.
Now let’s do a before and after comparison. When you boot up the system with the new upgrades the first thing you will notice is that you can go from powered off to up and running in seconds, rather than minutes. I recorded my laptop before and after the upgrade to show off the increase in performance that you can expect when it comes to boot times. For the test I used both new and old storage drives which had been cloned, so the information on the disks were identical.
I have now been running the upgraded laptop for a few weeks and am happy to report that I have had no problems at all, the system performance is maxed out and it is stable as a rock. Stability is actually more important to a DJ than all out performance, but in this case I have both!