8.15.2011

Upgrading early 2008 MacBook Pro with SSD

My early 2008 (non-unibody) Mac Book Pro came off of Apple Care support this summer. Normally I would buy a new machine, and retire the three year old workhorse to the family depot. A European vacation and my daughter leaving for university have put a pinch on the budget, so I opted for an upgrade instead.

I’ve installed a Crucial 256GB m4 SSD to replace the 200MB original SATA drive. I will install an MCE Optibay drive in place of my existing SuperDrive (DVD), and put the SuperDrive into an external housing for the infrequent times I need to use it. The Opti-Bay will let me run a local time machine and store my various and sundry VMWare images and other encrypted DMG’s housing various working files.

Invaluable were Damieng’s blog covering his experience, and iFixit’s replacement guide showing how to do it. Also required is either Mac OS X 10.6.8 or the new Lion (10.7) release of Mac OS X, coupled with Oskar Groth’s TRIM Enabler 1.2. TRIM enabler patches 10.6.8 or 10.7 to enable the SSD TRIM commands, which are essential for maintaining efficient performance of the SSD. Mac OS X 10.6.8 and 10.7 support TRIM, but only for recognized Apple SSD’s. TRIM enabler removes the restriction and promises long and happy life for your SSD.

Results
Boot times are significantly faster and launch times for apps seem almost instantaneous. Whereas Lotus Notes used to take up to 2 minutes to mount its data drive (encrypted sparse bundle) and launch the app. Its ready to rock in less than 10 seconds now. Login is instantaneous, and Safari seems significantly snappier then when it was using a hard drive for caching. Low latency seems like no latency in comparison. I can’t imagine getting a new Mac without and SSD as its primary drive.

Its important if not useful to note that the Crucial M4 is probably overkill for this machine. Its second generation SATA II native interface at 6Gb/s is 4 times faster than my early 2008 MacBook Pro’s SATA 1 interface that runs at a measly 1.5Gb/s. Nonetheless, my already snappy if old MacBook Pro now seems lightning fast. It’s cooler, lighter, quieter, and less power hungry than the stock 200GB drive.

Bottom line
Upgrading to SSD was a good investment to extend the life of my MacBook Pro, and create a computing environment more suited to my current needs. If I get another 2 years our of this machine, I’ll consider it an excellent investment.

I’m now running OS X Lion (10.7) - the jury’s still out. It seems grayer and more stoic than the previous felines it succeeds.

Tools
Make sure you have the proper tools for the job. The non-unibody Mac’s have a confounding array of screws in different sizes, both Torx and Phillips head. And the drive replacement requires the use of a ‘spudger’ to gently separate a delicate ribbon cable from the drive on which it’s glued. You need a spudger, a jeweler’s phillips head screwdriver, and a torx driver. I got mine from Amazon. I also recommend having 5 small cups handy into which you'll put the various types of screws as you’re following iFixit’s directions. Guessing which go where during reassembly will be a bear otherwise.

Manifest
  1. Crucial SSD
  2. MCE Optibay
  3. Tools
  4. Trim Enabler 1.2
  5. Mac OS X Lion
How To Sites
PS - DO Read Damien Guard’s blogs for additional performance enhancing tips for SSD use!

Cheers!

~r