If I can’t hack it I can’t buy it

For the last few months I have been debating a laptop purchase. I’m running a four year old MacBook Pro 2.33, with a 120 gig hard drive and 2 gigs of RAM. It was time.

Unfortunately, I’ve also found the need for a more portable device, something I can type away on when out of the office, but with minimal added bulk (Editor’s note: MG is bulky enough on his own). I debated the iPhone 4 (with accessories) as well as the iPad, but knew I would have to swallow hard with a new laptop AND one of those.

I did the research, analyzed the cost benefits of several options and combinations of options, then wound up taking an entirely divergent route. I applied screwdrivers to the MacBook Pro and did some upgrading myself.

MacBook Pro 2.33

This is not to say I won’t wind up with a more portable device, but I had one serious problem with the Apple products – they are just not hackable. The biggest point: I can’t put whatever software I want on the iStuff – I’ve got to go through the iSwoons Store. Secondarily, I can’t switch batteries on a new MacBook Pro – another deal killer. The finest new machine is running at around 2.66 Ghz, so mine really isn’t that far behind. Further, I’m prone to thinking that solid state drive prices are going to plummet in the next few years – the feeling is we’re not far from seeing SSD prices that are similar to the mechanical drive prices of today. SSD will add to battery life too. The end result of my analysis was buying just a little more time.

For $75 I wound up quadrupling the storage capacity on this old aluminum slab – a new Hitachi 500 GB went in, and it runs at 7200 rpm too. Another $35 got an extra gig of RAM. Yea, I’m stuck with the old 3GB limit, but so what – that’s a 50% increase over what I’ve got today.

Will $110 buy me another 24 months on this machine? I’ve already made the bet – what do you think?

MG signing off (to relish in new found speed and storage capacity)


Marshall Cutchin says:

Instead of plunking down the bag of gold for a snazzy Apple laptop that ages, well, as fast as cheese, I buy a new Windows laptop for $700 every 2-3 years and donate the old one to a local charity. Have I been doing it all wrong?

Mike says:

How difficult was the upgrade? I’m also contemplating a hard drive update but from what I’ve seen on the web, it looks like a LOT of screws and other stuff have to come out of the Mac before the new hard drive goes in. Just wondering if it’s as difficult as it looks.

@MC – I think you’re doing just fine there. If you ever want to extend life though, just wipe the hard drive clean and install Linux!

@Mike – Couldn’t be much easier; took me about 30 minutes from start to finish, excluding backup and restore. It’s around 18 screws total, and all you need are a precision phillips and a #6 torx. I did a full backup with TimeMachine (first time using it), and restored with the same. A few quirks on first boot, but fully operational otherwise. Email me, I’ll respond with a phone number, and we can talk through it in five. Otherwise, the interwebspheres are loaded with directions too. The memory requires no explanation.

I think you should come help me do the same thing to my Macbook Pro! My Lightroom catalogue is pushing 100gb and it’s killing me.

Xtian says:

It will buy you another 24 months!
I upgraded my Mac Mini 18 months ago with 4GB RAM and a 160GB Intel SSD Hard drive. Same old processor (encoding a DVD still takes 1 hour), but apps start in 2-3 seconds instead of 10-30.

Glad to hear this project has a positive ROI. BTW…it has been performing beautifully, although I did have to tweak the drive’s power management settings using hdapm after the fact.