Upgrading My Macbook Pro 13" Late 2011

I have a 13 inch, 4 gig ram late 2011 model Macbook Pro that I bought during my senior year of college. As the years have gone by, it's gotten a little slower but it's still the durable, reliable machine it is.

When I updated it from Maverick to Yosemite a few months ago, its speed really nose-dived. Opening iTunes was a nightmare, everything lagged, Chrome and Sublime always shut down unexpectedly. Not good for someone whose entire life revolves around their computer.

So, I replaced my harddrive with a solid state drive and upgraded my RAM to max (8 GB, from 4 GB).

And OH MY GOODNESS, the change! My Mac is super fast now. NO LAG ANYWHERE. It boots up in just a few seconds. I'm no longer concerned about how many tabs I have open or how many applications I have running at the same time.

Upgrading your Mac is shockingly easy, cheap, and pretty life-changing. There's two changes that you can make that'll have a major impact: swapping your hard-drive for a solid-state drive and increasing your RAM.

Here's how I did it.

Hardware & Tools You Need:

  1. An internal Solid State Drive

    I bought: Crucial MX100 256GB SATA 2.5-Inch Internal Solid State Drive for $105.
    It's considered the second best. The "best" one is the Samsung 850 Pro but it was almost $50 more for not noticeably higher performance. Crucial is well regarded and on Amazon, equally well rated.
  2. Extra RAM
    I bought: Crucial 8 GB Kit (4 GB x 2) DDR3 for $65.
    Your Mac takes two RAM modules so be sure to check what you have by going to "About this Mac" on your computer and checking "Storage".
    My Mac had two 2 GB RAM modules installed (for a total of 4 GB) so in order to upgrade it to 8 GB, I had to buy two 4 GB RAM modules.
  3. Two tiny screwdrivers.
    I suggest this. It is what I used--a Tekton Everybit Electronics Precision kit for $13. From it, you'll need the T4 and Philipes 000 heads.
    This is just a useful kit in general.
  4. 2.5" SATA hard drive USB 3.0 enclosure for $13
    This is what you'll use to clone your hard drive to your new SSD.

Software You Need:

  • SuperDuper

    Download it from the link provided--I remember seeing a lot of sketchy websites when I googled it. Download and install it. It's free! They want you to pay, but you don't have to.

Let's Get Started!

  • Open up your brand new SSD and stick it in the SATA hard drive enclosure! Connect your SSD to the computer!

  • When you connect, you may get a quick pop-up about configuring the SSD. Just ignore that.

  • Open up Disk Utility and check that everything's in order. Make sure to check if your hard drive memory will fit in your new SSD plus at least 20 GB of buffer room. My Mac had a 512 GB hard drive, of which I had used about 300 GB of. The SSD I had bought though, was 265 GB. I went through my computer and deleted a lot of movies I will never see. I got it down to 230 GB before I made the clone.

  • Empty out your trash can, unless you want to copy all the garbage in there, too.

  • Start up SuperDuper! It's really easy to use and its interface is quite intuitive. Just choose to clone your hard drive to your new SSD and click on the start button.

  • After it begins, you may be prompted about using your new SSD for Time Machine. Ignore/reject that.

  • Wait. For several hours. I left mine overnight. I went to sleep about 1.5 hours into the cloning and my computer had only gone through about 40 GB (out of 200+). Admire how quiet your new SSD is compared to the whirring of your hard drive.

  • When it's done, turn off your computer! Time to crack it open.

  • Use your screwdriver with the Philips 000 head to unscrew the 10 little screws on the underside of your computer.

    KEEP TRACK OF THOSE SCREWS AND WHERE THEY GO! I put them in the plastic container that my new RAM modules came in. It was rectangular and had a little pocket to correspond with location on my laptop.

Disclaimer: A few tutorials tell you to disconnect the battery connection (like the picture below). I did not do this. As long as your computer is not connected to an electrical outlet, you should be fine. These are pretty painless procedures.

HDD --> SSD

  • First thing is to take out your existing hard drive. You'll need to unscrew the two little screws in the image below--they are on the hard drive bracket and help kep your hard drive secured. Remove the hard drive bracket after.
  • There's a small piece of transparent tape on your hard drive to help you remove it. Give the hard drive a little bit of a wiggle, pull on the transparent tape and it'll pop out. Be careful about the black ribbon on the bottom.
  • Detach your hard drive from the hard drive cable (at the end of the black ribbon). I had to use some force to get it out. Just be careful not to break the black ribbon and you're fine.
  • Detach the transparent tape from your hard drive and put it onto the corresponding area on your SSD. This will help you if you ever need to remove your SSD.
  • The Crucial SSD comes with a little frame to be taped at the bottom (to keep it from moving around). Take off the sticky cover on the Crucial frame and stick it on the bottom of your new SSD.
  • Put your new SSD in! Remember that the white info sticker faces up. Connect it to the hard drive cable. The transparent tape should be sticking up.
  • Remember to replace the hard drive bracket and the two little screws.
  • Congrats! You're now running on an SSD!

Upgrade that RAM!

  • Upgrading the RAM is pretty easy. Your RAM modules are stacked one on top of the other north of your battery.
  • There will be two little rubber-y/plastic-y nubs on both sides of the RAM. Push them outward and the RAM should pop up a little.
  • Take out your old RAMs and snap the new ones in place.
  • I had to be a little rough here because they were wedged in pretty tight. Don't be afraid to put on a little pressure.
  • You're done!

Dust a Little

  • DON'T use a paper towel. The static = bad.
  • The most important thing to dust there is the fan. Blow hard onto it but if your computer is like mine, blowing will do nothing. I got a little can of air and lightly sprayed some air on it.
  • Pick out the dust bunnies.

Before You Put the Screws Back

  • Replace the bottom and carefully flip over your Mac WITHOUT the screws.
  • Turn on your Mac to make sure everything's been properly put in place and that your hard drive properly cloned.
  • If everything works, great! Turn off your computer, flip it over and put the screws back!

Resources

CNET - How to Upgrade your Macbook

iFixit

Thanks to Wangular for helping me out!