Tiago Costa

Internet entrepreneur and triathlete (Ironman Finisher). Founder of WayNext – digital agency and other companies. Blogging for myself, this is not the agency voice. Welcome!

Macbook Pro Upgrade: SSD & Mountain Lion

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I am the proud owner of a Macbook Pro (late 2008 model) and with two OS upgrades (from Leopard to Snow Leopard and then to Lion) this laptop was not running as smooth as I would like it to be. This is the first Mac I bought to work and it has been my main computer for almost 4 years now.

When Apple released their new shining thing, the Retina MBP I immediately browsed the online store, only to realize that the configuration that could support another 4 years and justify the investment would be a 3k€ laptop, which is quite expensive (16 Gb RAM and 512 Gb SSD drive). Besides speed the laptop is most likely the same which left me thinking twice about shedding such a huge sum just for that – I’m not interested in Retina display because most of the time I work with an external screen.

That is when I started wondering about an upgrade for my current MBP. I could go from 4 to 6 Gb RAM (unfortunately this motherboard won’t take 8 Gb) and I could also look into a new SSD drive. From what I read on the internetz I could figure the SSD drive would really make a difference so at about 150€ I decided to give it a go, buying a 256 GB SSD (Samsung 830 Series).

Last Friday I came home thinking about a lost to the laptop weekend, but to my surprise Apple really makes this kind of procedure very easy and much less time consuming than Windows (I always feared laptop re-installs in Windows with all the trouble and without a proper full backup solution – I still remember those days when you had to re-install Windows, install each piece of software on top and then waste 2 days until everything is set just like in the old machine).

This is because I had never tried a clean install and installing everything again (applications and all the settings) on a Mac – but really, Mac OS Migration Assistant really is up to the job.

In my case, since I was also doing a drive upgrade I decided to go ahead with a clean install of Mountain Lion. For this I have followed the steps described here. So after a while I found myself preparing an 8Gb flash drive with Mountain Lion. After that I made sure that my time machine backup was fully updated and then it was time to grab the screwdriver. Opening the battery compartment you access the drive and I just removed the old Hitachi hard drive and slipped in the Samsung SSD.

Turning the laptop on, with the flash drive on the usb port and pressing the Option key will give you the menu that allows you to install Mountain Lion on the new drive. So after about 30 minutes the new OS is up and running. By then I could already figure that the new drive was really a lot faster, but that could still change when I filled the drive with all my apps, files and settings. So using Migration Assistant I was able to bring everything and I mean everything from apps, to files and all settings to the freshly installed version of ML. It took about 4 hours to copy everything from an external hard drive.

After that it took about 1 to 2 hours to import all messages into Mail.app – which is as easy as clicking a button reading “Import”. After that Spotlight also had some indexing to do, so I went for a run and left it going. When I returned it was finished and I had my “new” laptop, working just like the day before except that it is now a lot faster to launch applications and also to boot. It also seems to me this drive is more energy efficient because my tired battery that would usually power the laptop for about 1 hour, now seems to be near 2 hours.

So if you are wondering if you should buy a new MBP or upgrade your current one, you should consider upgrading to a new SSD, because with a 150€ price tag you can’t go wrong adding another 1 to 2 years to your current laptop.

Update [26th September]: I found out that the Migration Assistant missed the tranfer of my /private/etc/hosts files (where I happen to have lots of entries for projects without DNS record) and also my 3G USB Stick configuration – which I happen to have here.

Author: Tiago Costa

Internet entrepreneur, Ironman Finisher and kitesurfer. Founder of WayNext – web agency and other companies. Blogging for myself, this is not the agency voice.

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