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Winter Project: Beefing Up My Early 2011 MBP


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Winter Project: Beefing Up My Early 2011 MBP
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drewprops
Bastard
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2013-10-29, 21:50

In about 4 months my MBP will turn 3 years old and I'm considering a bit of retooling to make it go at least another 3 years.

I realize that all of the whiz kids did this 2 or 3 years ago already, but I'd love your advice now since you've had time to reflect upon your mods.

Ideas I'm considering:

1) maximizing the RAM - OWC 16GB package (dual 8GB sticks) - $197.50
2) replacing the hard drive with an SSD - Intel 240GB drive - $249.99
3) replacing the optical drive with an additional hard drive or SSD - OWC Data Doubler - $37.99

Questions:

A) the drive in the optical disc location simply acts as a storage volume, right?
B) meaning that the drive in the original HD location simply holds the boot volume, n'est pas?
C) what have I not considered? (buying a new machine isn't in the cards right now)

...

Steve Jobs ate my cat's watermelon.
Captain Drew on Twitter
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psmith2.0
Mr. Katan
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2013-10-29, 22:37

I think you have it right.

I assume you can choose either drive to be the boot volume, based on where you install it. But if I were doing it, I'd put the OS and apps all on the SSD and then all my stuff on the other (assuming I had 240+ GB...I have 1/3 that, so a single 240GB drive is all I'd need).

I think between the 16GB RAM and the SSD, your machine will fly!

Talking to my dad about doing something similar with his MacBook Pro (mid-2010). It's a 2.53GHz i5 with the dual graphics. For someone mostly writing, surfing and PowerPoint, I don't think he needs to drop four figures on a totally new machine. Those specs/performance are still solid. But doubling his RAM, getting a snappy SSD and stepping up to Mavericks (he's still on Snow Leopard) would feel like a totally new machine.

If I had a MacBook Pro less than four years old, I'd do exactly what you're talking about. Max out the RAM and get a SSD.
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drewprops
Bastard
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2013-10-29, 22:45

I currently have a 500GB drive in this machine.

As of now I only have 72GB free space, so I think converting the optical drive would be necessary.

Of course I'd have to make 2 different backups I expect.



...

Steve Jobs ate my cat's watermelon.
Captain Drew on Twitter
  quote
Dorian Gray
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Join Date: May 2005
Location: Paris, France
 
2013-10-30, 05:26

Is it worth spending $500 on a three-year-old computer that is out of warranty or will be out of warranty in four months? It might be, but entire Apple notebooks are available for about twice that on the refurbished store.

You ought to consider whether you’re realistically likely to stick with your machine for another three years. USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, a quad-core CPU, and an IPS Retina display might seem pretty necessary for someone like you before then (which isn’t to say someone else wouldn’t still happily use your 2010 Mac – and they’ll pay you nicely for it on eBay).

Although SSDs are very fast, they’re not without their problems. I’ve heard of many problems with aftermarket SSDs. Theoretically they should be super-reliable and problem-free, but for some reason they’re not. (OEM models are much better.) On the other hand, your suggestion of an Intel SSD might minimise the risks.

But then you mention you’re nearly filling a 500 GB hard disk. I’d treat that as another disincentive to switching to SSD.

If I were you I might get the RAM (though it’s surprisingly pricey!), leave the hard disk alone (or spend $85 on a 1 TB Hitachi TravelStar 7K1000, which would give you some speed and capacity now, and would act as a nice scratch disk or backup disk for your next Mac), and get a new Mac sooner rather than later. Any expensive upgrades you make to your 2010 MacBook Pro will add little to its secondhand value.



Edit: sorry, I didn’t notice/absorb the “Early 2011” in your thread title. This changes things a bit, because you have Thunderbolt and possibly a quad-core CPU. Still no Retina or USB 3.0, of course. By the way, is it a 17-inch model? That might be worth heavily upgrading if you like it, since the era of 17-inch notebooks appears to be over – at least for now.

Last edited by Dorian Gray : 2013-10-30 at 05:36. Reason: as noted above.
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drewprops
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2013-10-30, 07:59

Yep, it's a 15 inch 2011 model (where's you get 2010?), and I've been to the Apple Store to price out a new machine and to the web to estimate how much I could get for mine. It just doesn't work for me right now, so upgrading is my best option.

I'd like speed for the OS (SSD) and at least 500GB in local storage too (HD). I don't work in a color critical workflow, so the retina display is a delight for later down the road.

External drives are small, so I might just do a great backup and a clean install of Mavericks and call it a day.

I do confess to disliking the idea of removing the optical drive. It's like removing an organ from the computer.


...
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Dave
Ninja Editor
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Bay Area, CA
 
2013-10-30, 09:43

I replaced the optical drive with an SSD in my laptop. It got way faster, and I can't really say I miss the optical drive. I still need to have one somewhere for when a friend gives me a CD or something, but my desktop still has an optical drive and external USB ones are cheap enough.

When I was a kid, people who did wrong were punished, restricted, and forbidden. Now, when someone does wrong, all of the rest of us are punished, restricted, and forbidden... and the one who did the wrong is counselled and "understood" and fed ice cream.
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Dorian Gray
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Join Date: May 2005
Location: Paris, France
 
2013-10-30, 10:25

Quote:
Originally Posted by drewprops View Post
Yep, it's a 15 inch 2011 model (where's you get 2010?) …
You said it was nearly three years old; I subtracted three from the current calendar year. I missed the model year in your thread title.

Upgrading to 16 GB of RAM may change everything or be a nice waste of $200, depending on how much RAM you have now and whether you’re often thrashing the disk. You know this, of course.

People love what SSDs do to their systems, but I’m more circumspect. Who really cares how fast Photoshop launches? I open Photoshop at most a few times a day. It takes 10–15 seconds from cold. I daydream for longer than that every few minutes.

In favour of upgrading: this is perhaps the last time you’ll own a notebook capable of being internally upgraded. Make the most of it!
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drewprops
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2013-10-30, 10:35

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dorian Gray View Post
In favour of upgrading: this is perhaps the last time you’ll own a notebook capable of being internally upgraded. Make the most of it!


Quite true.

I perpetually have around 15 apps open, including most of the "standard" Adobe DTP apps, so launch speed isn't as important to me as reducing "hang time".

The machine is still sprightly most of the time, and I suspect that doubling the RAM (I currently have 8GB) will provide a more robust experience.

I'm in Final Cut several times each quarter, so doing video is a light part of my workflow.

...

Steve Jobs ate my cat's watermelon.
Captain Drew on Twitter
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Dorian Gray
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Join Date: May 2005
Location: Paris, France
 
2013-10-30, 12:27

Yeah, I suspect 16 GB of memory, even at the near-$200 price, would be worthwhile for that kind of intense usage (15 open apps, many of them by Adobe? ). That’s quite expensive though. Maybe shop around? Crucial?

I think upgrading a computer that can be upgraded is a very sensible thing to do, but I feel that Retina IPS displays and USB 3.0 are fairly significant upgrades that may limit the useful lifetime of your current computer, since you’re a ‘power user’. You’ve said IPS/Retina isn’t important for you right now, but if you’re like me your mind can change in three months, much less three years.

But even $500 is probably decent value if you really do get another two or three years of happy computing out of it.

But but but this would be my big worry about sinking a lot of money in it.

I realise I’m not saying anything useful here, so I’ll leave you alone now. Pscates2.0: put the man’s mind at ease, would you?
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Majost
monkey with a tiny cymbal
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Lost
 
2013-10-30, 12:39

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dorian Gray View Post
But even $500 is probably decent value if you really do get another two or three years of happy computing out of it.
Yup, and I'd bet you could. I have a mid-2010 15" MBP with 8GB ram and an SSD (with the OEM mechanical drive in the optical slot). Even with $1000 of university money burning a hole in my pocket, I'm finding it tough to justify getting a new computer. The thing performs so very nicely. It's amazing how well it has held up.
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psmith2.0
Mr. Katan
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2013-10-30, 20:26

Hey, if I can use a 6-7 year old machine every single day (and do everything I need), then I don't want to hear any shit about a three-year-old MacBook Pro somehow not being up for the task.

Go through with your upgrades, drew. You have your reasons, and you know your plans/budget better than any of ever could.

The way I see it, USB 3.0 and Retina aren't, in and of themselves, two "deal sealers" for me.

When you do finally make a proper upgrade in a few years, guess what? They'll be there waiting for you (possibly even USB 4.0?, and the Retina Displays will most likely be even better and more affordable). You're not going to miss that train. You're merely holding off on catching it for another few years.

You can't, or don't want to, spend the money now for a full-on replacement? That's totally understandable. These MacBook Pros are the most easily upgradable of all Macs (minus the towers). You can't do the RAM in the smaller iMacs anymore, you can't do the hard drive in either (and haven't been able to in quite some time). The mini only allows easy RAM access and the Air is, for the most part, welded shut even tighter than the current iMacs.

So if you have something like a 2011 MacBook where the RAM and hard drive are incredibly easy to swap out (and the manuals even walk you through it and show you how, so you know it's not "major surgery"), and that $400-500 is within your means and give you the boost you're looking for, then go for it!

As Dorian says, be sure to look around...that RAM sounds very high (I haven't been keeping up; did RAM shoot back up recently?). But other than that, you're doing what I'd do.

Hey, if I could easily throw a 256GB SSD into this iMac, I'd do it tomorrow and keep using the damn thing for another 2-3 years! I'd enjoy a decent boost for $200-300 vs. laying out $1,500+ for something I may not even need at this point (or take full advantage of).
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chucker
 
Join Date: May 2004
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2013-10-31, 01:37

SSD vs. more RAM is a tough one. Do you currently have 8 GB RAM? If you only have 4, that's definitely worth an upgrade.

Here's the things you can watch out for in your Activity Monitor to find bottlenecks (this is assuming Mavericks, which you should upgrade to since its handling of memory is vastly improved):
  • in the Memory tab, check the MEMORY PRESSURE (Apple likes to SHOUT at you!) graph. If that starts climbing into yellow or red territory a lot, you want more RAM. (I'm not entirely sure what the colors indicate other than "bad". My guess is that one of the two means it needs to swap.)
  • Likewise, "Swap used" should ideally never be more than 0 bytes. Depending on your work/config, that may be a pipe dream, but it's indicative of "theoretically, your machine would have been faster if you had had more RAM in this situation".
  • in the Disk tab, check the Reads in & Writes out/sec and Data read & written/sec numbers. A laptop hard drive will do three figures of reads and writes in a second, and transfer maybe, on a good day, 150 MBs in a second. An average SSD can do thousands or tens of thousands of reads and writes in a second, and in your case be bound by whether your MBP has SATA II (about 250 MBs per second) or SATA III (about 500 MBs per second). The latter obviously makes a difference in sustained transfer operations, but the former is really the big gain with SSDs in everyday use; it's what people notice when they do those infamous "let's launch tons of random apps and see how fast that is with an SSD" videos — there's tons of files scattered around the disk, and the SSD can handle that with grace.

Having said all that, just combine your items two and three and get the 840 EVO for $180 and put your existing HDD in the Data Doubler.

That's assuming, anyway, that you already have 8 Gigs of RAM. Upgrading to 8 is dirt cheap and a must-have.
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DMBand0026
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Chicago
 
2013-11-04, 18:14

I did the max RAM and SSD in place of ODD in my 15" MBP about a year ago and I regret nothing about spending the money. I did it when the MBP was close to 2 years old. I got an external enclosure for the ODD if by chance I ever needed it. For what it's worth, I've only used it to rip DVDs to my Mini since I removed it. I put the RAM and SSD in at the same time in order to minimize computer openings.

I installed Mountain Lion (at the time) on the SSD, and moved my home folder (minus iTunes and photos...way too much stuff for the size of the SSD) to the SSD. Applications open lighting quick, I never run out of RAM, and operations are sped up noticeably. The install was incredibly easy, the speed difference was night and day, the only thing I regret is not doing it sooner. Do both. Worth it.

Come waste your time with me
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2013-11-04, 20:17

I just noticed this thread thanks to DMBand0026. I'm running a pre-Thunderbolt 17" MBP. I've got a 160GB Intel SSD in the main drive slot and the OWC data doubler with a 500GB drive where the ODD was. My RAM is at 8GB which is maxed. I love this machine and the removal of the ODD was a must.

My boot volume is the SSD and storage goes on the HDD.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
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drewprops
Bastard
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2013-11-05, 19:24

These are some great endorsements for "going for it".

I'm wondering where YOU guys buy your RAM.


Edit: you know, for your MAC.



...
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Maciej
M AH - ch ain saw
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2013-11-05, 20:12

Last time I bought from MacSales, no problems.
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2013-11-05, 21:09

All the RAM prices end up the same. I buy from macsales.com or Amazon in most cases. Newegg too, just depends.
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psmith2.0
Mr. Katan
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2013-11-05, 23:19

My first 2-3 RAM purchases (way back in the mid-late 90's) were thechipmerchant.com (I'm not even sure if they exist anymore; they were in San Diego when I lived there, and I'd actually stop by their facility - in an office/industrial park a few miles north of Jack Murphy/Qualcomm stadium - and buy my RAM right there for same-day installation). It's the RAM that went into both my tangerine iMac DV and my iMac G4, plus a friend's Power Mac G3 (the blue/white tower).

But for the past 10+ years, I've only ever used Crucial. Prices seemed good, it's easy to figure out exactly what you need for your specific machine and I've never had any problems. I'm sure cheaper stuff exists, but why rock the boat at this point, fixing something that ain't broke?

If I have a bad experience with Crucial someday, maybe I'll look around at other options. But Crucial-bought RAM is in the various Macs of about 10-12 people I know (including mine), and all is well (and those 10-12 people actually represent about 18 or so Macs, old and new/past and present).
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Dorian Gray
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Join Date: May 2005
Location: Paris, France
 
2013-11-06, 16:02

Crucial here, too. Just easy to order, reliable shipping, reliable products.

Tim Cook reckons RAM prices will actually go up in the nearish future, so I suppose now’s the time to get it bought if you’re thinking of going ahead with the upgrade. I guess factories are getting ready to roll out DDR4 memory, constraining supplies of DDR3.
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DMBand0026
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Chicago
 
2013-11-06, 18:56

Another endorsement for Crucial. I haven't bought anything else since I upgraded the RAM in my G4 Cube many years ago. Always works, excellent customer service, decent prices, and most importantly, I trust them with my computers.

Come waste your time with me
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drewprops
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2013-11-06, 23:24

Okay, now I just need to order some RAM.

On the hard drive front I think that I may keep my internal drive, simply because there are many times when I need to burn an antiquated disc for some clients and I can't always assume that I'll have an external along with me... so I may just go with an SSD larger than 500GB.


...

Steve Jobs ate my cat's watermelon.
Captain Drew on Twitter
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psmith2.0
Mr. Katan
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2013-11-07, 09:35

$$$
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drewprops
Bastard
 
Join Date: May 2004
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2013-11-07, 16:35

Yah. I need to price out several scenarios.


...
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psmith2.0
Mr. Katan
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2013-11-08, 12:14

There's a 960GB Crucial SSD at OWC/MacSales for $565.

I have to admit, that's WAY lower than I ever imagined. Am I missing something here? All the others (128, 256, etc.) seem to be priced about $1/GB, give or take, so I was assuming anything over 500GB would be the same, with a 960GB SSD approaching $1,000.

I don't even want to imagine what Apple would charge for it, via BTO. About $18,000?
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Maciej
M AH - ch ain saw
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2013-11-08, 18:44

You can BTO 1 TB drives on the new rMBPs if you'd like an idea...
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thegeriatric
geri to my friends
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Heaven
 
2013-11-08, 19:24

I upgraded my mini from 4-8 using Crucial RAM, no problem.
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drewprops
Bastard
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2014-01-31, 12:30

Bumping this thread, hope you guys can respond.

I haven't done anything yet but I'm close to pulling the trigger.

Right now I'm looking at two options, which were discussed earlier and are listed below.

So many things get stored on the internal drive already (email, contacts, app-specific data) that I wonder if there are any "must have" advantages to moving my project files off to a 2nd drive (as outlined in Option #2).

Can you folks give me some final input? Thanks

OPTION #1
  • upgrade RAM
  • swap 500GB hard drive for 1TB SSD

OPTION #2
  • upgrade RAM
  • swap 500GB drive for SSD just to handle the operating system
  • swap internal CD drive for 1TB SSD for all documents



...

Steve Jobs ate my cat's watermelon.
Captain Drew on Twitter
  quote
PB PM
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Join Date: Oct 2005
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2014-01-31, 15:14

Option 1 seems like the simplest route, and surely less expensive.

Option 2, would be nice. If you do put two SSD's into the system, don't cheap out, at least get a 128GB SSD, they aren't that expensive.
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Bryson
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Whitby
 
2014-01-31, 15:17

I assume Option 2 should say SSD for OS, HD for documents? Otherwise I don't understand.
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drewprops
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Atlanta
 
2014-01-31, 18:33

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryson View Post
I assume Option 2 should say SSD for OS, HD for documents? Otherwise I don't understand.
Oh, I hadn't thought about that.

Wouldn't an SSD perform better than a traditional drive for the 1TB option?
I assumed I'd get a speed performance there as well.



...

Steve Jobs ate my cat's watermelon.
Captain Drew on Twitter
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