Updating a MacBook Pro

I have had my current MacBook pro since mid-2012. It has a 2.5 GHz i5 processor and is the last model to have a HDD rather than a solid state drive, and so over time as my drive has become more full with old apps and cached files, the computer has become slower and more sluggish. This is coupled with the fact that the puny 4 GB of RAM results in the computer crashing when I try to run too many tabs or have too many apps (for ‘too many’ read, ‘2’) open simultaneously.

I was craving a new machine, but the 2016 MacBook Pro prices are astronomically and prohibitively high for a poor grad student.


Instead I decided to attempt to upgrade the RAM and hard drive on my existing machine. I was expecting it to be difficult and thought it would make a good blog post, but it was so easy and the online tutorials so simple to follow, I’ll do nothing more here than point you in the right direction.

First step is to run the Crucial System Scanner. this will tell you what RAM/SSD updates are compatible with your current machine. It obviously lists only Crucial products, but once you know the maximum RAM or compatible SSD you can then shop around. However I also found Crucial to be the best value.

Upgrade the RAM

  • Buy some RAM from wherever. I got the 16 GB DDR3L set from Crucial. DDR4 RAM is now also available, which runs at a lower voltage than DDR3. However it is currently drastically more expensive and the benefits minimal, unless you are doing a lot of video encoding. See here for a full discussion and comparison of DDR3 vs DDR4

  • Follow the very simple steps from the CNET Tutorial

Upgrade the HDD to SSD

SSD upgrades deliver huge performance gains. They are still more expensive per GB than a HDD drive, but that price has been dropping steadily since SDD drives were first introduced.

  • Buy an SSD from wherever. I got the 525 GB SSD from Crucial. Most standard drives should work.

  • Follow the equally simple steps, again from a CNET Tutorial

That’s it! The difference this has made to my MacBook has been night and day. Apps open and run quickly and smoothly, I can run multiple programs without the laptop crashing and a basic ‘app-opening-speed’ test vs a modern MacBook shows zero difference. I paid ~ £115 for the SSD and ~ £80 for the RAM, putting the total costs at ~ £200. Currently a non-TouchBar Macbook Pro with 2.0 GHz i5 processor (i.e. slower than my current processor), 512 GB SSD and 16GB RAM goes for ~ £1800.

Everyone should do this