Upgrading my MacBook Pro with a Crucial M500 SSD

crucial_m500

Last week, I finally pulled the trigger. Convinced that my 2010 MacBook Pro had seen better days and unimpressed with the arrival of more spinning umbrellas of death in Mavericks, I knew I had to make a decision. Either buy a new laptop or upgrade the internals.

The latest MacBook Airs with its 10+ hr battery life made me yearn for something better than the 4-5 hours I was seeing. Combined with the speedy SSD, how could I go wrong?

One night, while perusing the Apple subreddit, I came across a post by someone who had recently upgraded their MacBook Pro with more RAM and a new SSD. Inspired by his experience, I conducted some additional research. To my surprise, SSDs have become more affordable since I last checked. A 250GB SSD could be bought for around $200. Why pay five times that amount with a new rig when I can simply replace the one part that can provide the biggest benefit?

With that said, this is what I did:

The Parts

Crucial M500 240 GB SSD – I ordered this off of Amazon for $155. This is one of the more inexpensive models out there. I went with the 240 GB capacity since I was replacing the current HD on my Mac which had a similar capacity. Other SSDs that I had considered included the Samsung 840/Pro and Crucial M4.

Phillips #00 and Torx T6 screwdrivers – These are required for opening the case and removing the screws on the HD. The bits are very small so you will likely only find them in computer repair toolkits. I ended up buying this screwdriver set from Lowe’s for $10 which contained a variety of bits including the two I needed.

Bootable Mavericks Install Drive – Since I was planning on doing a clean install of Mavericks, I needed to create a bootable install drive. Macworld had a nice writeup about the various options for this process. I went with the createinstallmedia method as it was the simplest approach to follow.

Performing the transplant

Thanks to Youtube, there are a plethora of video tutorials walking through the steps required for replacing a hard drive on a Macbook Pro. Here’s one I really liked:

iFixit also has a detailed guide for removing the hard drive from a MacBook Pro that includes plenty of high-resolution photos.

Step 1: Backup data, Run Disk Utility

As always, when performing any major changes on a computer, back up your data. I use a 1.5 TB WD external hard drive for backups via Time Machine.

I also like to run Disk Utility to repair any permission or disk problems but this is not required.

Step 2: Swap out the hard drive

First off, unplug the power, remove any USB devices connected to your computer, and set up a clean, open space with plenty of light to perform the work.

IMG_20131109_112807

There are a total of ten nails at the bottom of the MacBook Pro. Here, you will need the Phillips #00 screwdriver to remove them. It should be noted that three of the nails nearest the battery are about double the length from the rest. One way to keep track of their location is to arrange the nails in the exact position as you remove them and place them aside.

Dusty computer...meet my compressed air.

Dusty computer…meet my compressed air.

Lift the metal back plate gently and behold! Dust everywhere! At least that’s what I found coating the insides of my MacBook Pro. Bring out some compressed air and do a much needed cleanup. Remember: you don’t need to shake the can, avoid pointing it downwards as you spray, and hold the fan with your finger as you clear out the dust near the CPU.

Don't forget to reattach this later on.

Don’t forget to reattach this later on.

Using the Phillips #00 screwdriver once again, you will need to loosen the two nails securing the metal black hinge that holds the hard drive in place. Remove the hinge and place it aside. Next, gently lift your hard drive out of the chassis by pulling by its plastic pull tab. Then, disconnect the power and SATA cable from the hard drive.

With the old hard drive completely removed from your computer, it’s time to bring out the Torx T6 screwdriver. There are two nails embedded on each side of the hard drive that you will need to remove. Remove the screws and then transfer them to your new SSD.

Two Torx T6 screws line each side of the hard drive.

Two Torx T6 screws line each side of the hard drive.

Remember that plastic pull tab on your old hard drive? Put it to good use and stick it onto its successor! You will probably never need to use it but it might come in handy again one day.

With the SSD in hand, attach the power and SATA cable back and place the drive gently into the chassis. Don’t forget to secure it with the metal hinge you had removed earlier!

The SSD secured in its new home.

The SSD secured in its new home.

Do one final checkup to make sure everything is in order and then place the metal back plate on again. Then, simply screw the nails back on and you should be good to go!

Step 3: Turn it on, format the disk

It’s important to remember to breathe at this point. You’ve finished swapping out your old hard drive and are about to turn on your machine for the first time. Will it turn on? What if I forgot something? Did I just break my computer?

Just turn the damn computer on already. You’re embarrassing me.

Apple boot up chime.

See! It works! Pat yourself on the back!

The first thing you need to do once you boot up your Mac is to format the new hard drive so that it can be used as your Mac’s startup drive. Once again, I followed a guide from the reliable folks at Macworld which provides all the directions you need to do it right. It should take 5-10 minutes at most.

Step 4: Install Mavericks

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With your SSD properly formatted, you can now install Mavericks. Attach the bootable USB installer, and restart your Mac while holding down the option key. You will be presented with a list of drives to boot from at this point. Select your USB drive and then follow the prompts to start the installation.

Once it is finished installing, create a new user account with the same username you used on your old hard drive. This will be important in the next step.

By the way, did your MacBook Pro just boot up in under a minute? I know right! Awesome! Stop drooling though. You’re embarrassing me again.

Step 5: Transfer data from Time Machine backup with Migration Assistant

Now that the Macbook Pro is fully functioning, it’s time to transfer your data from your old hard drive. To accomplish this, I used Migration Assistant to transfer data from the Time Machine backup I created at the beginning. The app in located in your Utilities folder. You can find detailed instructions on the Apple help page.

migration assistant mac

The only thing you should know is that since you created a new user account on your SSD with the same username as your old hard drive, the transfer process will need to overwrite that user account. Migration Assistant should tell you this and then you simply confirm that you want this to happen.

Depending on how much data you have, the time it takes for the entire transfer to complete will vary greatly. I had about 100 GB of data and left the house while the transfer was underway. It may be best to have this done overnight so you don’t end up locked out of your computer for a long period of time.

Once the transfer is finished, the Macbook should restart, and that should be it! You have successfully upgraded to an SSD! Woot!

SSD Tweaks

There are a number of additional steps you should take in order to maximize the performance and improve the health of your drive in the long run. I recommend these two sources for detailed explanations:

Here are the three configurations I did end up following:

Enable TRIMAccording to Crucial, all of their SSD’s have built-in garbage collection. If your SSD does not have this feature, it is generally recommended that you enable TRIM. However, Crucial shares this rather interesting tidbit:

Garbage collection only works when your Crucial SSD is idle, so make sure to configure your system so it doesn’t go to sleep when it’s idling. Garbage Collection takes time to do its job, but as long as it gets time to idle every now and then, your Crucial SSD will maintain its high level of performance over time.

That was rather vague. How often is “every now and then”? How long do I have to leave my machine idle for the SSD to complete garbage collection? Subsequent Googling led me to this blog post with the answers:

You restart your Mac every couple of weeks, holding down the Option key during the reboot, then let it sit at the boot menu for 24 hours as the firmware cleans the SSD.

Forget it. Not gonna happen.

To enable TRIM on your Mac, download a free utility called Trim Enabler. It also comes with additional features such as tools for monitoring your disk health if you purchase the Pro version for $10. Once you download it, simply toggle the setting to activate TRIM, and that’s it! You will have to restart your computer for the changes to take effect. To verify it is running, go to System Information > SATA/SATA Express and look for the line that says “Trim Support.” If it says “Yes” next to it, then you are good to go.

trim enabler

It should be noted that you will need to re-enable TRIM with every OS X update – both 0.1 and 0.0.1 updates. If you’re using Trim Enabler, the app has a setting you can enable that will check for Trim support on system boot.

Disable sudden motion sensor – SSDs have no moving parts so you can disable the sudden motion sensor with this Terminal command:

sudo pmset -a sms 0

You can verify the changes with:

sudo pmset -g

Turn off hibernation – If you’ve ever noticed after closing your MacBook’s lid and wondered why it took a couple more seconds before the Apple logo light dims, it’s because the computer is writing out RAM to the hard drive. The more RAM you have, the more data it writes. It does this because it helps ensure that if your MacBook ever loses power while in sleep mode, you can recover your current state the next time you boot up your computer.

The main argument against hibernation is that is contributes to greater wear on SSDs. Since SSDs are more susceptible to degradation in performance from write operations, leaving hibernate mode on would exacerbate this problem. To disable hibernate, use the following Terminal command:

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0

You can also delete the sleep image file to free up some space on your hard drive:

sudo rm /var/vm/sleepimage

Related: Why hibernate or ‘safe sleep’ mode is no longer necessary in OS X Lion

The results: It’s fast!

The simplest way to quickly test the performance of the new SSD is to reboot your Mac. Previously with my old hard drive, rebooting took around 5 minutes! I’m not counting until the time I can actually see my desktop, but rather when I can actually launch my browser and actually start doing something. With at least 5-7 login items combined with Dropbox doing its usual indexing at startup, there was plenty of room for improvement.

With the new SSD, my Mac now reboots in about 60-70 seconds.

Fuck yeah! It works!

Fuck yeah! It works!

When I first installed Mavericks on the day of its release, the installation took about 1.5-2 hours while running on my old hard drive. With the new SSD, the whole process finished in under an hour.

Best of all, the frequency of rainbow umbrellas of death have been reduced to very rare occasions and last only seconds. I used to launch Microsoft Word, Chrome, or Photoshop and leave my room to get a snack to give the apps enough time to finish loading. Now, it takes just seconds for it to open. The days of waiting are mercifully over.

One final task awaits: checking the read/write speeds on the new disk.

I used an app called BlackMagic Disk Speed Test. Previously on the old hard drive, I registered read/write speeds ranging in the 30-45 MB/s range.

With the new SSD, it topped out at 265.5/207.8 MB/s read/write. That is about a six-fold increase!

Screenshot 2013-11-09 21.33.37

To say that I am very pleased with how this all went is an understatement. I cannot recommend it enough.

The cost of the upgrade is cheaper than it has ever been. The actual process is not as painless as you might think. Watch a bunch of video tutorials on Youtube and see for yourself. It will absolutely be worth your investment.

  • J. Ozuna

    Thanks for sharing this! I have a 2009 MBP that I’m hoping to perform this same procedure on during the upcoming holiday break. In fact, I was even looking at the exact same SSD that you used. (I’m hoping the price comes down a bit during the “Black Friday” rush and whatnot.)

    • http://loneplacebo.com/ Tony Hue

      Thanks for reading!

      I ultimately went with this model because of its affordability. Also, I figured that it would stretch out the life of my computer by at least a year.

      You should check out The Tracktor (http://thetracktor.com/) for looking up the price history of any item on Amazon. The M500 has averaged from $150-170. At its current $155 price, it’s a pretty good price.

      Also check out CamelCamelCamel (http://camelcamelcamel.com/) which notifies you when an item on your Amazon wishlist is discounted.

  • bzle

    Thanks for the article! I’ve been thinking about upgrading my Macbook Pro to an SSD but I hadn’t read anything about TRIM or disabling hibernation. Very good tips if I upgrade. Thanks!

  • http://spudart.org/ spudart

    Why wouldn’t Apple use all these settings to begin with?

    • http://loneplacebo.com/ Tony Hue

      In regards to TRIM, the SSDs that Apple ships with its latest MacBooks have that feature enabled by default. It’s only with an aftermarket SSD that you the user would have to enable that feature.

      The Sudden Motion sensor is only used by Macbooks without an SSD. More details: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1935

      I suspect that enabling/disabling the hibernation feature is a matter of personal choice. From a user experience perspective, having RAM write out the the hard drive is a good safety net if you tend to use your Mac without a power cable connected. On the other hand, if you fear that this process might degrade the performance quality of your SSD, you would want to disable it.

  • Lyell

    This was so helpful. Used it the other day, and did the exact same upgrade. Only guide I have seen that included every step and all the TRIM tweaks. Thanks!

    • http://loneplacebo.com/ Tony Hue

      Glad you found it helpful, Lyell! Thanks for reading.

  • Gabriele

    Thanks for your very good guide. Very helpful!

  • David Erato

    How’s the machine been working lately? I am interested in this same process with the same machine and SSD.

    Our machine has serious issues waking once the lid opens, I am wondering if any of these adjustments will help that.

    I read a lot about how the jury is still out on whether or not TRIM is useful on these newer drives.

    For doing a clean install of Mavericks, I am planning on hooking up the drive externally via SATA to USB, to install it before opening up the case to install the drive. Any thoughts or pitfalls to that?

    Great post, btw.

    • http://loneplacebo.com/ Tony Hue

      Hi David. My MBP’s been functioning great (knocks on wood). I’ve probably saved hours of my time because of this upgrade. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

      The slow to wake issue seems more prevalent amongst the latest MBAs and rMBPs. I’ve had the issue on rare occasions and to be honest, my only solution was the reattach the power adapter while punching random keys. It sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t.

      Support for enabling TRIM really depends on the specific model. The best way is to read about the experience from other’s who’ve made the upgrade. Since you said you got the same Crucial SSD, I did enable TRIM on my machine as mentioned in the article. Thus far, I haven’t experienced any issues (knocks on wood). Remember to always backup your data!

      In regards to the clean install of Mavericks, I’m assuming you have a SATA to USB hard drive enclosure? Yes, that is a common route. It’s probably a safer bet to make sure the new drive is properly set up before installation and reduces your downtime.

      Glad you found the post helpful. Thanks for stopping by!

  • LarryZ

    I upgraded my MacBook Pro 13″ Mid 2012 with the Crucial M500 1TB SSD yesterday. I followed your directions with no issues. Thanks for the information!!

    I’ve attached my screen capture of the Disk Speed Test.

    • http://loneplacebo.com/ Tony Hue

      Those read/write speeds are incredible! Thanks for sharing!

  • Lucian Moraru

    Great article indeed ! i have got the same m500 240 gb after reading your review. It seems the battery life has dropped a bit after the upgrade. How was your experience on this field ? (also a better m550 version is out now with faster write speeds and better power consumption )

    • http://loneplacebo.com/ Tony Hue

      I generally keep my MBP plugged to an outlet most of the time so I don’t really know how much the SSD has impacted my battery life. For what its worth, I watched at least five episodes of Parks and Recreation with my MBP plugged to my TV and still had at least 20% remaining afterwards. Yes, I also have a P&R addiction.

      Thanks for pointing out that a new model is out. Write a blog post if you decide to upgrade!

  • Jason Singer

    Thanks for the extremely clear instruction. Maybe you can help me…I have an MBPro which I upgraded to a 256 SSD (which I use for applications). I then swapped out my Optical Drive with a 1TB HDD (I have a lot of music). Now I need to upgrade my SSD drive because it’s almost full and I need to add Windows software via VMWare, so I just bought a 500GB Samsung EVO for that purpose. My questions are thus:
    1) Any processes that might be different when upgrading an SSD to another SSD?
    2) I’m really worried about permission issues which were a nightmare when I first did the split (I have no idea how I overcame them). Can I get you to go over any process that might mitigate the issue? Someone said Disk Utility has a repair for that built in, but I’m skeptical. I’ll buy you a beer!
    3) Your article was the first I’ve read about the Hibernate being unnecessary. Is that still true if I have a secondary HDD that isn’t an SSD?
    Thanks so much!! – jason

  • Ze

    I don’t know have you try to turn on the hibernate. I always forget to bring the power charger with me, so I am so need the hibernate function work when I just programming on the code and the power is off in a minute. I bought Samsung 840 Pro 500G with macbook late 2011. The installation process is same with you. Everything works find except for the hibernate. When the machine is power off by out of battery, it fails to recovery from the hibernate mode. Machine is wake up but progress bar is stuck at random position and freeze. Then I have to reboot the machine, the machine will restart normally.
    Have you ever got this problem before?

  • Weeds

    Tony – firstly, great instructions. I had actually found most of the resources that you referred to already in my search to see the best way to upgrade but I used your install as a reference guide and confidence booster – it’s worked like a dream, including the SSD tweeks. A great guide which I will share with my friends who want to do the same.

    I actually used the new crucial MX100 512GB which is even cheaper than the M500 and so it really is time to upgrade for anyone who is in two minds about the costs.

    As a final note, I love your writing style with a natural ability to ‘cut through the crap’ and written with great humour.

    Keep up the great work.

    Andy – UK

    • http://loneplacebo.com/ Tony Hue

      Glad to hear you found the guide useful. I wasn’t aware of the new Crucial SSD model. Thanks for the kind words. :)

  • Ricardo Buendía

    Im just ordered this ssd , I have a Mid 2010 macbook pro i7 2.66ghz, hope it works ! thks for this post