How to speed up your old, tired Mac

Has your Mac gone from feeling super speedy to super sluggish? Have boot times gone from seconds to minutes? Are you starting to think that it might be time to buy a new Mac? Not so fast! Here's how you can give your old Mac a new lease of life.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Has your Mac gone from feeling super speedy to super sluggish? If so, and it is fitted with a regular hard drive, then the quickest, simplest, and most cost-effective way to speed it up is by fitting a fast SSD and installing more RAM.

And the good news is that it's not hard to do!

Must read: iPhone, iPad, and Mac buyer's guide: July 2019 edition

The first thing to do is to get yourself an SSD and a RAM kit. You can buy these from a variety of vendors, but my favorite is OWC.com. There you will find upgrades available for the Mac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, and even Mac Pro.

Mac SSD and RAM upgrade

I'm going to be carrying out this upgrade on a 17-inch late 2011 MacBook Pro (model A1297), with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. Ready to go into it I have a 1TB OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD, and a 16GB RAM kit.

Also ready to help with the operation is my iFixit Manta driver kit, which is ideal to tackle the tiny screws holding the MacBook Pro together. Using the right tools dramatically reduces the risk of chewing up the fastener, especially when it comes to tiny fasteners.

NOTE: Before you carry out this upgrade, make sure you have a backup of the data on your Mac. I recommend using Time Machine because this makes for a smoother recovery, but other methods exist. Choose what you are comfortable with and familiar with.

RAM and SSD kits

Getting into this MacBook Pro isn't tricky as I only need to deal with two types of fasteners: a Phillips size 00 and a Torx T6.

Phillips size 00 and Torx T6 bits

There are ten screws in all (you'll find there are two different lengths, so keep a note of where they go -- although you can't go wrong).

Remove the fasteners

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You might notice some blue stuff on the fasteners. This is a thread locking compound that prevents the screws from working their way loose over time. Don't wipe it off because it will help keep the fasteners in place for you again when you put the laptop back together.

Thread locking compound

Once all the fasteners are out gently pried off the back cover of the laptop (it might be a bit stuck in place, so work it slowly and carefully). But once the cover is off, you're in!

Inside the MacBook!

The RAM is held in place by plastic clips at either end of the modules. Pull the clips apart (away from the RAM modules) and the modules will pop up. Once the module has popped up, pull it out towards you to remove the first one.

Removing the RAM

You'll notice that to free the second module you need to pull the clips to the side once again for it to pop up completely. Once it has done that, pull it out as you did with the first one.

Removing the RAM

Start the replacement process by replacing the bottom RAM module (the one you removed last) first. Slot it into the holder at an angle and then push it down to engage against the clips.

Refitting the RAM

Replace the next module in the same way. Slot it in and push it down into place.

Refitting the RAM

And that's the RAM upgrade done!

Now onto the storage.

Next, we move onto replacing the hard drive with the high-performance OWC SSD. The old drive is held in place with four Phillips 00 fasteners.

Removing the hard drive

To remove the hard drive, carefully pull the plastic tab.

Removing the hard drive

Carefully remove the power/data connector. Pull on the plastic connector and not the ribbon cable (the cable is delicate, and you don't want to break it!).

Disconnect the power/data connector

Look at the edges of the hard drive you just removed and you'll notice four mounting pegs that you need to transfer over to the SSD. You unscrew them from the hard drive using the Torx T6 bit and fit them onto the SSD. No need to screw them too tight. Go easy! Finger tight is more than enough.

Refitting the mounting pegs

With that done. it's time to slide the SSD into place, making sure the pegs go into the appropriate slot. Once the SSD is in the mounting cradle, you can do up the four mounting screws.

Fitting the SSD

You're almost done! Now it's time to refit the back cover and screw in the fasteners. Remember not to go crazy on these tiny fasteners. A gentle finger tight is ample because they are easily damaged.

Refitting the back cover

Finally, follow Apple's documentation for how to use the macOS recovery tool to get your Mac up and running and recover the data using Time Machine. If you're not using Time Machine, you'll first need to reinstall macOS and recover from within the operating system.

Recover your data from your backup

And you're done! Enjoy your faster, more responsive Mac!

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Do you have an old mac that needs a performance boost? Have you done this upgrade already? If so, feel free to share your thoughts below.

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