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MacBooks have a reputation for lasting years, but as time moves on and they are asked to cope with newer operating system updates and apps, they can over time go from super speedy to super sluggish. But before you reach for your credit card, it might be possible to squeeze a few years of service out of it.
How? By fitting a fast SSD and installing more RAM.
And the good news is that it's not hard to do!
Must read: Don't buy these Apple products: February 2020 edition
The recipient of this upgrade is a tired 17-inch late 2011 MacBook Pro (model A1297), with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
If there's a lot of dust in there then you might want to invest in a can of compressed air and give it a clean!
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.
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.
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.
Replace the next module in the same way. Slot it in and push it down into place.
And that's the RAM upgrade done!
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.
To remove the hard drive, carefully pull the plastic tab. It might be quite wedged in, so you might need to use firm pressure.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
And you're done! Enjoy your faster, more responsive Mac!