Weekend Geek Project: Installing a SSD in my MacBook

My MacBook has served me well for 2.5 years. I had been planning to upgrade to a MacBook Pro but after a careful look at my financial commitments – an iPhone 5 upgrade, upcoming renovations and moving in to our new house, plus baby Zack – I decided upgrading to a new MacBook Pro would be burdensome for me. So instead I chose to upgrade the components of my existing MacBook.

I had already upgraded my RAM and replaced the battery, so this time I decided to replace my hard drive with a solid state drive (SSD). Why SSD? A SSD read and writes faster than a regular drive, which results in better performance for doing operations that involve reading and writing files. A SSD also promises better battery life and less heat. Check out this video of a SSD reduces boot times.

Installation Steps

Replacing a hard drive in a MacBook is a simple process that only involves 5 screws. See iFixit’s excellent guide for detailed steps with photos. Update: You can use Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper – both of which are free and excellent – to clone your old hard drive to the new SSD before swapping them. Also, make sure you have the right tools:

MacBook SSD upgrade

  1. Torx screwdriver (left)
  2. Philips head screwdriver (right)

Click the images for full resolution versions.

MacBook SSD upgrade

First I removed the rear access door and battery. I then had to unscrew the bracket holding the old hard drive in place. After that I could simply pull out the hard drive with my fingers and disconnect the SATA cable.

MacBook SSD upgrade

Here’s why I needed the Torx screwdriver. I had to remove the 4 Torx screws around old hard drive and screw them into my SSD. The screws serve as holders that fit in the orange brackets in the hard drive bay. I then assembled everything back together with the SSD.

MacBook SSD upgrade

For the final (optional) step, I removed the rear panel to dust off the insides of my faithful MacBook. There was a lot of dust gathered in there from the past 2.5 years.

Upgrade if you can afford it!

I’ve only had the SSDs for a day but I already see some initial results. Boot times and launching apps are definitely faster. I can launch Safari and Mail in a single bounce from a cold boot! I didn’t do any real tests, but my old MacBook definitely feels zippier. If you afford to buy a brand new laptop, I think upgrading your drive to a SSD is definitely worth it.

The only catch is that SSDs are more expensive compared to regular drives. I bought my SSD from OWC and had it shipped all the way from the US. The 240GB drive, an enclosure for my old drive and shipping cost me USD533.50, or about RM1650. I also had to throw in another RM166 for custom duties.

However the RM1.8k+ was still cheaper than the price of 240GB SSDs being sold at LowYat, etc – at this point time in time anyway. The price is likely to go down, but if you want to upgrade now I highly recommend OWC’s range of SSDs. OWC has got great prices, frequent discounts and awesome customer service. Best of all, it takes only 5 days for the drives to arrive – no need to battle traffic and hunt for parking at LowYat.. Tempting right?

And now with the money I’ve saved from not buying a new laptop, I have cash for some more fun stuff!

16 Comments on "Weekend Geek Project: Installing a SSD in my MacBook"

  • Ivan says

    Glad i found your blog article on upgrading to a SSD. I’m also about to do the same thing, but first, is there an easy way(read also:”lazy”) to transfer all my data on my conventional harddisk to my brand new SSD without needing to reinstall everything from scratch?

    • blogjunkie says

      Hi Ivan, sorry I should have included that in the article! I used the free Carbon Copy Cloner software (http://www.bombich.com/) to clone my hard drive. Basically I put the new SSD into an enclosure and connected it to my Mac. It appears as a USB external drive. Then I used CCC to clone my existing hard drive to the SSD – took about 4 hours.. Once the cloning process was complete, I tested the backup by rebooting and holding the option key with the SSD still attached to the USB – this will allow you to boot from the SSD to ensure everything is fine. And finally I swapped the drives. Hope that helps!

  • Ethan says

    Hi, I noticed you mentioned custom duties… Which courier service did you choose from OWC for your SSD shipment…? USPS, DHL, or Fedex…?

    • blogjunkie says

      Hi Ethan, I used FedEx because it was discounted and was one of the faster options. Maybe not so worth it since it aded RM166 to the overall cost of the SDD..

  • Ethan says

    Hmm… I’ve bought a lot of stuff from OWC, but not a single time was custom duties added… Perhaps your purchase exceeded RM 1k, that’s where custom duties came in…?

    • blogjunkie says

      That’s a very plausible reason. What stuff do you usually buy from them?

      • Ethan says

        RAM modules for my Macs, external enclosures and a Seagate Momentus XT… I’m looking forward to getting an OWC 240GB SSD in a few months time…

        • blogjunkie says

          Yes, join the SSD gang! Just look out for discounts on OWC. I bought my drive on the ‘MacWorld special pricing’ at USD480. It’s now 500+ I think.

  • Vernon says

    Definitely more pros than cons for using SSD. Prices should taper off in the near future making it more affordable overall. Also thanks to people like Apple who integrate into their products, it helps to bring the price down due to volume.

    Worth it if it’s a later generation MacBook/MBP like yours. Mine’s too old, so not going to attempt that.

    • blogjunkie says

      Yeah you should just upgrade. You got lots of cash right?

  • XCool says

    Hey David, just wanna let you know that SuperDuper isn’t free ($24.95). Carbon Copy Cloner is free and I’ve been using that since my first iBook G4.

    Glad to know that there’s no custom duties when buying from OWC. Looking to kick up the Mac mini’s RAM to 8GB…

    • blogjunkie says

      Hey Kian Cheong, well SupderDuper is free for the basic cloning. CCC is donationware. Either way both will clone your drive for free when swapping drives. But always support indie developers by buying!

      I think for RAM you can just buy from any brand right, no need to go all they way to OWC. I’ve got 2 sticks of Kingston RAM in my MacBook which I bought from LowYat that works just fine.

      • XCool says

        Ohhh, I saw a Buy Now over their site, but I didn’t know much further about it.

        What model are those Kingston RAMs? Have you had any Kernel Panics with those?

        • blogjunkie says

          Can’t remember the Kingston chip models – the regular ones, not the performance type. Never had any problems or kernel panics

  • adil says

    Hey man just saw your post. I know it was I n 2011 but how much are Ssd now? Is it cost effective to buy a non retina mbpro and install Ssd or . get the retina mbpro that have the Ssd included but soldered in ? Pls email !me thanks

    • Hi Adil, I think SSDs are cheaper now. You can find Samsung SSDs in Low Yat, although I’m not sure what the price is. That being said, if you are buying a MacBook, I think it’s better not to void the warranty by replacing the drive yourself. Just order online and customize your MacBook to upgrade the drive. This way it is included in the warranty too.