Posted by: Vala Shahabi | December 10, 2013

$200 Later, it’s Like a Brand New Laptop!

They say once a laptop is 3-4 years old it is basically considered obsolete. I disagree with that statement. Manufactures may want to awe you with new features so they can sell more laptops but I don’t think the laptop has made any significant technological advancement in the last 3-4 years the way smartphones and tablets have. The only thing that has changed in the last 3 years is we access more applications through web browsers than before so the processing power has shifted from the PC to the “cloud” and thus our browsers have become memory hungry and less processor dependent. In this blog I will show you how to add new life to your 3-5 year old laptops instead of shelling out hundreds or thousands of dollars for a new one.

I purchased my 13” MacBook Pro on September 2009. It is now over 4 years old but I love this laptop. It still runs great and does everything I need it to do.  This laptop is equipped as follows:

CPU: 2.53 Ghz Inter Core 2 Duo
Memory: 4 GB 1067 Mhz DDR3
Hard Drive: 250 GB

Macbook Pro 13 - 2009

Macbook Pro 13 – 2009

The only two complaints I have is that I am running out of hard drive space and I sometimes see the “beach ball” due to memory intensive applications. The newest MacBook Pros are offered with a 2.5 Ghz Intel i5 CPU with 4GB of 1600 Mhz memory and 500 GB hard drive for $1,200. They offer slightly faster CPU and memory, but no significant changes from my laptop. It’s a fact the slowest component of a computer is the hard drive. Reading and writing to disk is much slower than memory or CPU.  In the last couple of years the pricing of Solid State Drives (SSD) have decreased significantly however they are still considerably more expensive than traditional drives.  Swapping out your traditional drive with an SSD will improve the performance of your computer noticeably. As a result you will experience faster boot times, faster loading of applications, searching for emails, content, etc.  Also, increasing your memory from 4GB to 8GB is a must these days when we simultaneously have multiple applications, browsers, tabs, and windows open.

I wanted to increase my storage to 1 TB so I can have all my photos, music, and (some) video on my laptop and not rely on my external storage.   While SSD is available in 960GB, it is very expensive ($500) and to me it’s not worth dumping that much money into a 4-year-old laptop. Instead, Seagate makes a hybrid drive that is part SSD and part disk. At $100 for a TB this is the better choice. Secondly, I purchased 8 GB of memory from Crucial and used their system scanner to make sure I’m buying the correct part for my computer.

P1000970

Installing these parts is very easy and there are a lot of DIY guides on the internet showing you step by step instructions. I highly recommend while you have your laptop open to clean out any dust that has built up over the years, especially around the CPU and the fans. This will help keep your system cool and improve battery life. Also, if you battery life is shot because of the old battery than this would be a good time to replace your battery. Also, spend some time cleaning your laptop, the keys, screen, and outer case. It’s not gonna feel new if the keys are still sticky :)

I used a program called Carbon Copy Cloner to clone my old hard drive to the new Seagate drive by placing it in this USB enclosure I bought on Amazon for $9.

P1000968 P1000969

After the upgrade my specs are as follows:

CPU: 2.53 Ghz Inter Core 2 Duo
Memory: 8 GB 1067 Mhz DDR3
Hard Drive: 1000 GB

Conclusion:
This was the best $200 spent. My computer now feels like new. It boots much faster than before, applications load faster, and I’m able to keep lots of applications open at the same time. I now have 750 GB of space free so I’m worried about running out of space anytime soon.  I can easily keep this laptop around for another 3-4 years.

Bonus:
If you’re on a Mac, you can upgrade to OSX Maverick for free which has made my computer faster all around.

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Responses

  1. Great article, This is what I really want to do with my MacBook Pro!

  2. Double Bonus: So what do I do with the 4GB Ram I just pulled out? I realized my 2009 Mac Mini uses the same exact memory so I was able to use the 4GB from my Pro and upgrade my Mini from 2GB to 4GB! I also can use my old 250GB drive in the enclosure as a travel external drive.


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