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

8 comments:

theRonosphere said...

Quick Update - Its late October. I added a 750G Optibay. I checked About-This-Mac and saw that TRIM was no longer enabled. I headed to Oskar Groth's site and got his beta 1.72. Trim Enabler which builds a patch that needs to be installed with kexthelper. After reboot TRIM is re-enabled and the mbp feels 'smoother'.

Trim Enabler 1.7.2: http://www.groths.org/?p=511
KextHelper: http://cheetha.net/

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have the same laptop, and I was thinking of an M4. A lot of people are experiencing freezes with M4s on the unibody generation of MBPs. Does it work well on your MBP?
Thanks

theRonosphere said...

The M4 Continues to run well. After certain Apple updates I've had to update Trim Enabler (now v2) - But have had no operational problems - though occasionally my machine requires power cycling to boot the first time after power up (but not frequently).

Cheers!

~r

Anonymous said...

I'm questioning the idea of using an internal Optibay mounted HDD for time machine. On one hand it's good that it's always available and the backups will actually be frequent and consistent. On the other hand though it's like putting all your eggs into one basket: if your laptop gets stolen or severely damaged you will lose both the original copy of the data and the backup. Do not underestimate your chances of having it stolen - even if you do not travel much with your laptop, if someone breaks into your home it will be very easy for them to snatch it up.

theRonosphere said...

I don't use the optibay for TimeMachine. I have an external SAN I use for TM - I do have one partition of the optibay I use with SuperDuper as a local backup of the SDD. All partitions are FV2 encrypted - and the balance of the partitions of the OptiBay are also backed up to SAN via TM.

So if lost or stolen, I can bring everything back on a new machine - assuming I have sufficient volumes and space to do so.

Cheers!

~r

rivervillageperson said...

Hello! I found your blog via google search. I have the same vintage MBP - non-unibody 2008, 4,1. I decided to take the leap and purchase an SSD, I purchased the Intel 520 120 GB version. I also upgraded my ram from 4GB to 6GB. I placed the SSD into my HDD, with the intention of placing a HDD into my optibay. I decided to make the upgrades while in the process of doing a clean install of Mountain Lion (directly from Snow Leopard!) after reading up on Lion and ML, I decided that upgrading would be a necessity. Needless to say, perfomance is phenomenal, and no more beachballs!!! Because I have trouble with delayed gratification, I am just getting around to installing the HDD in place of my optical drive. I've spent a lot of time researching the web, etc - and am wondering if I should put the SSD into the optibay or hdd bay? Is the optical drive bay slower than the MBP 4,1 hdd bay - and would it therefore further limit the speed of my new ssd? If that's the case, I would leave my ssd in the main bay, and install a hdd in the optibay. So given that set up, does it matter whether I install a 5800 vs 7200 rpm hdd in the optibay if it has a limited speed anyway (deciding whether to just throw in the 200 gb 5400 rpm drive or buy a new, maybe faster and larger hdd). Also, after installing an ssd - and using it for my MacOS and programs, would a hybrid, such as the Seagate Momentus XT really matter that much for data storage? Finally: I see you support using TRIM Enabler. I understand the purpose of TRIM, but I am finding mixed ideas regarding its necessity on the internet - particularly in reference to Lion and ML. It could be that newer SSDs and Lion/ML have dealt with the "cleanup" issue. I am wondering what you think about that. I found a blog post (I'll have to see if I can find it again) that was explicit about not enabling TRIM and that the enabler (I think the one you provide a link to, but not sure) should not be used. I have not enable TRIM on my SSD, but will continue to research the topic. I look forward to your thoughts - your set up is one of the few that is similar to mine, so I thought it worth asking the questions! Thank you for the post!

theRonosphere said...

In any event - my Macbook Pro's HDD SATA interface is only 1.5 gb as opposed to 6 supported by my drive - nonetheless it still boots and is ready to run in less than 12 seconds as opposed to over 60 for a traditional drive.

As to TRIM enabler - i continue to use and update it (haven't moved to Lion yet). Performance has remained excellent, so much so that I don't have a compelling reason after 4.5 years to upgrade, except for keyboard wear.

Cheers!

~

J. Bossart said...

Have done similar upgrade using a Crucial v4 SSD 256 GB. All's well with boot up and operation. I am using your recommendation regarding TRIM. I still have my DVD drive.

I am also running Parallels v7 and it at last is acceptably fast. With another year of use and the prospect of a reasonably good resale price on the unit with an SSD it will have turned out to be great bargain.