The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

Summary: After research and geek talk with a fellow geek, I removed the hard drive from my MacBook 13" and put her older hard drive into the MacBook 13". Then I powered up the 13" and hoped for the best.

SHARE:
47

In July 2011 I wrote about how the 11-inch MacBook Air was the best laptop I have ever owned. Surprisingly, that's still the case.

When I picked up the 11-inch, I put my 13" first generation aluminum MacBook aside and began using the 11-inch as my daily powerhouse. Well, my wife was still using my old white MacBook, and seeing my 13" MacBook sitting idle has been a thorn in my side since July.

Last week I was determined to remove that thorn so I started researching options for how I could give my wife a new-ish MacBook to use daily. The challenge was that I was determined to go through all of the data on the existing drive in my MacBook 13", back it up or delete it, and then give her a fresh install. The main thing she uses is the web browser, and also iPhoto, since we use her machine as the main photo machine for the house.

So, here were the options I had outlined as of last week:

  • Back up the 13" MacBook drive and blank it, reinstall Snow Leopard, upgrade to Lion, and move her iPhoto library over
  • Buy a new MacBook drive, take the old one out and put it into an external enclosure

As I was contemplating my options it occurred to me that perhaps I could get away with just swapping hard drives. Since she was happy with her older MacBook, including all of the software on it, if I could just swap the drives, maybe that would solve the problem. Of course, I would still have to go through my older hard drive at some point, but at least she would have the better MacBook to use daily.

So, I did what any other geek would do … I called another geek. :-) My Friend, Rob Bonner, was kind enough to brain storm with me, and after concluding that the aluminum MacBook was the first generation one, and the new chipset for the MacBook didn't come out until February 2011, in all likelihood I should be able to swap drives, with no ill effect.

With the above in mind, I tried to back up her old hard drive with Time Machine. Unfortunately it was going to take too long so I backed up just iPhoto to an external drive. Then I went about removing her hard drive. It had been a while since I removed a hard drive from a white MacBook so I googled Youtube and watched the video below:

Then I removed the hard drive from my MacBook 13" and put her older hard drive into the MacBook 13". Then I powered up the 13" and hoped for the best.

I was greeted with a white screen, which is normally not a good thing, so I resisted the urge to react and waited. About three minutes later I saw the happy Mac. It was the slowest boot in history but it eventually came up and asked for her password. The slow boot continued but then eventually it came up as if it was her old white MacBook--success!

What's funny about this upgrade is that I used to be able to do things like this in PCs long ago, when I built them. Nowadays you can't even begin a process like this since so much changes from one motherboard to another.

Since the upgrade I haven't experienced any issues. I did force a System Update, just in case, but nothing out of the ordinary has occurred. If only all hardware upgrades were this easy. Of course, if the chipset had changed, all bets would be off, though I'd like to try that at some point, too, to see if maybe System Update just catches the changes? Anyone want to give it a shot? ;-)

Next up is turning the white MacBook into a media server. With AppleTV and AirPlay, this should be pretty seamless, too.

Topics: Laptops, Apple, Hardware, Mobility

Joel Evans

About Joel Evans

With more than 15 years of mobile, Internet and wireless experience, Joel specializes in taking existing brands and technologies into the mobile and wireless space. Joel is currently the VP of Strategy Integration for Mobiquity, an enterprise-class mobile solutions provider.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

47 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

    Let me get this straight, you claim that spending 6 times as much for a crappy little MACbook is great. I can get a much more powerful 17" Dell for under $400, rather than paying $2,500 for a 13" MACbook,. On top of paying 6 times as much for inferior hardware, you still have to buy a retail copy of Windows to get it to work. . Is the silly little fruit logo really worth that much?
    Stephen-B
    • But Rick_Kl, you used to love all things Apple

      @Rick_Kl
      So sad to see that you hate Apple now. You must have experienced a really horrible experience in an Apple store to make you change so drastically. What happened?
      toddybottom_z
      • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

        toddybottom_z (Rick_Kl) I never have used those crappy products. I have always been a Windows guy. I will never use a fruity computer,or their junk phones. You seem enamored with the fruity junk, are you trying to pass yourself off as someone else? I know you seem to be calling me your former screen name, my only question is why?


        Edit:What did you to get yourself banned?
        Stephen-B
    • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

      @Stephen-B
      lol.... that like saying... I can find a cargo jet that is faster and cheaper than a smaller private jet... so why would I buy the smaller private jet? They are different in more ways than speed and price.
      doh123
      • Don't feed the reverse troll

        @doh123
        He is Rick_Kl, an Apple loving, MS hating reverse troll.
        toddybottom_z
      • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

        Rick_Kl/toddybottom_z what did you do to get yourself banned the last time? Did you bother innocent people and make silly accusations?
        Stephen-B
      • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

        doh123 that would depend on the price If you could get something the size of a 767, for 1/6th the price of a Gulfstream, you would be wise to snap it up. Overspending for a label is never a smart decision. Just ask Rick_Kl/toddybottom-z how well it's worked out for them?
        Stephen-B
    • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

      @Stephen-B --Come her often, Mr. Troll?
      goldcoastjon
    • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

      @Stephen-B <--Ahh another lost ball in tall weeds
      ItsTheBottomLine
      • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

        @ItsTheBottomLine
        [i]"Ahh another lost ball in tall weeds"[/i] is putting it mildly.
        His maniacal fanaticism makes Ballmer look like an Apple fan, and would make any sane person think twice about buying any Microsoft product from such a total nutjob. He must be a dispossessed Tea Partier!
        rahbm
    • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

      @Stephen-B <--Ahh another lost ball in tall weeds
      ItsTheBottomLine
    • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

      @Stephen-B Since when do you pay 2500$ for a 13" MBP? Never mind, the only crap I suffered had always a Microsoft or Windows logo on it. PC = Rubbish, a GPS with a windows system? It lands you in the deep Ocean if you can get it going in the first place. Windows on your mobile? Good Luck.

      I truly understand that Windows must have driven you completely nuts to a point where you inflate prices with 220% or more or deflate them when it is windows. Oh yes great prices too those retail versions of Windows.
      rhon1
      • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

        @rhon@... so what do the cost? You aren't seriously going to compare specs/price? You will lose that fight, every time. I also believe that if Microsoft is forced to offer a ballot screen for browsers, (Cr)Apple should have to offer one for the OS They have a 100% monopoly on computers with fruity logos.

        Edit: there is also no technical reason to tie their OS to their own hardware. They are effectively forcing the sale of an overpriced computer to get their OS. I believe they are abusing their self made monopoly.
        Stephen-B
    • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

      @Stephen-B

      The problem with your argument is the Dell runs Windows and not OS X.
      gribittmep
    • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

      @Stephen-B I'm a PC guy myself but, to imply that a 400 dollar Dell has even close to to equal build quality is the goofiest thing I've heard all week. A 400 dollar PC is low quality fit and finish and doesn't compare to a Macbook. I do agree you can get a better PC for similar money. But a 400 dollar Dell is a piece of junk. You're just talking fan boy crap.
      j-mccurdy
      • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

        @j-mccurdy@...
        You say that because you've never had a $400 Dell. All my families laptops are Dells and function perfectly well. We couldn't have touched a Mac Book Air (1300 BAse price) Pro (2000+ range) so don't say the prices are overinflated. Most people are overpaying just to surf the web on a Mac. You can argue, but you know you'd be wrong.
        chethammer
      • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

        @ chethammer
        You say that because you've never had a Mac. I HAVE had Dells. Many of them. And compared to EVERY Mac I have ever owned, they have universally been total pieces of crap. Build quality has to do with a LOT more than functioning pretty well.
        But please, feel free to post a specific model you think has comparable specs to a $900 macbook, and be prepared to be schooled on specs. Specs such as slot-loadind optical drives vs. tray-loading drives, LCD gamut, Trackpad sensitivity, accuracy, and resolution, etc., etc..
        And none of that even takes into account software bundles, build quality, or resale value, all of which makes Macs CHEAPER than comparable PCs.
        You can argue, but you don't even know enough to know that you would be wrong.
        .DeusExMachina.
      • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

        @j-mccurdy@...
        Exactly my thought. I've seen more junk with the Dell logo on it than junk cars with a bowtie. I've been buying, building and fixing pc's since my son was three. He's now 30. I'm on my 7th Thinkpad; never had one quit working. In fact I've given away or sold every thinkpad I've owned over the years; and can't remember any not running for 2-3 years after I was done with them. I hear the same thing all the time, why a thinkpad you can get a Dell, HP.....or whatever for $300 to $400. When I get into my car and turn the key; I usually have somewhere to go. When I use my laptop I don't need the hard drive to fry or the screen to go out in the middle of a project or trip. I've NEVER owned an Apple product, but I can recongnize their build quality when I see one.
        redwood49931
    • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

      @Stephen-B

      BULL. Time to put your money where your mouth is. Please list a specific model that you claim is equivalent in specs to the MacBook. You will soon find out how little you know about Macs (let alone your complete LACK of knowledge about PC specs).
      But just to start, there is NO $2500 MacBook. Nor was there ever. In fact, there is not even any MacBook at all for sale from Apple. But when there WERE MacBooks, they started at $899.
      Here'e a clue for you: $899 is NOT 6*$400.
      Truly taking specs into account, Macs are very competitively priced, as evidenced by the PC market's attempt with UltraBooks.
      And that is not even taking into account software bundles, built quality, or resale value. Taking those into account, especially the latter, Macs, in general are SIGNIFICANTLY CHEAPER than supposedly equivalent PCs. This included BYO.

      But go ahead. Come on, lets see those specific models.
      .DeusExMachina.
    • RE: The easiest MacBook upgrade in history

      @Stephen-B <br>No, its the fact that the dell feels like a Fisher Price toy in my hands. Yeah, you get what you pay for alight. REAL metal exterior that doesn't creek like a 60yr old house every time you press it. I've been tempted to dip one too many dell laptops in a bucket of oil just to quiet down the 5001 plastic pieces. The cheapest Porsche is far slower than a Corvette yet more expensive yet people still buy the Porsche. It's called craftsmanship. I used to go through almost 1 keyboard a year ( I type a lot). Keys start losing their letters, keys get squeaky, etc. I bought an Apple keyboard for my PC 3 YEARS ago and this thing is running like a champ. Again...craftsmanship. I use my PC for gaming and my Mac for everyday junk. I'm not an Apple fan boy but my god, if you can't see the quality that gets put into an Apple product, please stop putting them down.
      Flybye