July '76

Jan 25th


Late last year I decided to either switch to a new MacBook (Pro or Air) or keep my existing one and upgrade it. As always, I punched in the pros and cons, and the latter option made its way to the top.

So, upgrading my existing MacBook it was. But, how do you uprade a 3 year old laptop? I own the MacBook 13″ Unibody (Late 2008, MacBook 5,1). The truth is that I haven’t really added anything to the computer ever since I got it apart from a new HDD (I threw away the 160Gb for a new 320Gb). So I did the obvious. I opted to add more RAM.

At the time I didn’t know you could update the firmware and go all the way up to 8Gb, so I opted for 4Gb. I Got those from my vendor of choice, Crucial.

Now, truth be told, I did see a slight increase in performance, but I wasn’t expecting anything huge. Just a nudge upwards. And that’s what I got. So we’re good. And now to the big upgrade.

I’ve been looking at SSD’s for a very long time. Ever since they came out. Of course, there was no need back then to invest absurd amounts of cash for such a small capcity drive. But now, things have changed. After a bit of research, I set my eyes on the OCZ Vertex 3 120Gb. Although it’s a SATA-III drive, meaning it can go all the way up to 6 Gbps, my MacBook can only support SATA-II (3Gbps) but no harm there right?

What I did find out after I purchased the SSD is that my MacBook needs some tweaking to support this specific drive or else it gets stuck at 1.5Gbps, which is not good. But the fine folks over at OCZ have issued a fix, so no harm. In fact this fix also takes care of other issues that arise form the use of SSD’s, like the temperature control etc.

Now, another thing I wanted to do, is maintain maximum capacity for my laptop. Obviously 120Gb would not suffice. So, opting for a second drive on my MacBook was also a one way. I looked around for what was available, and after dismissing MCE’s OptiBay because they shipped from the US, I found some really good deals on Amazon UK, and ultimately settled for a simple HDD/SSD Bay. I also purchased a toolset.

The Operation

So here is the lo-down of what I actually did to get my SSD and my old HDD into my MacBook.

  1. First off, I downloaded and burned the OCZ Fix to a CD
  2. I moved everything unessecary from my HDD on to an external 2Tb backup drive. Music, Photos, Projects etc. I was left with only 60Gb of system files on my HDD, well below the 120Gb capacity of my my new SSD.
  3. I connected the SSD via an external USB HDD bay (I borrowed an Icy Box) and using Carbon Copy Cloner, I cloned my entire HDD onto the SSD.
  4. Once complete (it takes some time via USB, about 4 hours) I removed my HDD, and replaced it with the SSD.
  5. I started up my MacBook just to test if the SSD was working. All good (and quite speedier already)
  6. I restarted and booted (holding down ALT) from the OCZ Fix CD and ran the fixes to get the SSD working smoothly at 3Gbps, and stabilize the temperature issues (fan worked like crazy on the first run)
  7. I started up again to see if all fixes were applied. All good and even faster, plus the fan stopped running like crazy.
  8. Next stop, replace the SuperDrive with my HDD. I basically followed the instructions as seen on OWC’s demo videos. Although not completely the same procedure (I had less screws) the idea is the same.
  9. Once complete, I started the MacBook up again, and tested to see if everything is connected and functioning. Only after I was sure everythign was ok, I formatted my HDD.
  10. Done.

All in all, the procedure lasted about 1 hour (+4hours for the cloning). It all ran smooothly with no hiccups whatsoever.

The Result

The only before/after test I performed was Photohop launching. And I’m impressed. Prior to installing the SSD, Photoshop loaded in 30 seconds flat. Using the SSD it now loads in 6.8 seconds.

Everything is faster and snappier. I couldnt be happier.

With an overall investment just over €200, I’d say it’s definitely worth it. I’ve revived my 3 year old MacBook, for who knows how many more months (years?).


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I am Constantinos

I'm an interactive user experience designer living in Athens, Greece and I love to build things. Digital things.
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