turn-of-the-century mantra assured us that our newly purchased Mac would
be our constant companion until the end of time. State-of-the-art processors
coupled with high-speed memory gave us the ability to chew through Photoshop
filters, render high definition video and mix multi-track audio while
surfing the Net and checking our email.
years of neglect and “bit rot” have robbed these once-powerful machines
of their performance. While many of us still employ these rugged old
machines as servers, scanning stations and even production workhorses,
most have been relegated to storage room fodder.
chucking it into the recycling bin, consider overhauling your old Mac.
A minimal amount of time and energy can revitalize your old Mac to her
former glory. It’s eco-friendly and much easier than you think—and the
payoff is a good-as-new Mac without the new Mac price!
and foremost, you need to know which Mac
you’re working with. Many Apple devices appear similar on the outside,
but the specifications of internal components and the layout of circuits
can be radically different between models. The easiest method to determine
which Mac you have is to decode its serial number.
older Macs, the serial number can be found by clicking on the Apple
menu, selecting About This Mac then clicking
the More Info… button. Your Mac’s serial number will
appear in the Hardware Overview section. On newer Macs,
number appears on the About This Mac screen. Now, enter
the serial number into EveryMac.com’s
Ultimate Mac Lookup tool.
your specific model has been determined, click on the Complete
[Model name] Specs link to view a detailed description about
your Mac. Bookmark this page, as you may want to refer back to it in
with the Old…
are four key elements to assess when upgrading your Mac:
referred to as RAM, or Random Access Memory—is a set of circuits that
act as short-term storage for the documents and apps you are actively
working with. Increasing your Mac’s memory will allow it to work with
a great number of programs and files simultaneously.
internal disk drive is a device that stores your files when you aren’t
working with them. It also functions as a temporary “cache” when your
Mac’s memory is full. The process of moving data between memory and
the disk drive's cache is time intensive, and usually results in the
appearance of the “spinning wheel,” also know as the Beach Ball of Death.
Mac’s operating system, called OS X (pronounced “oh ess ten”), is a
large collection of software that controls how the computer behaves.
It also acts as a mediator when the computer's internal components are
competing for resources (such as space in memory or in the disk cache).
The “OS” also provides significant features such as file searching,
protection from malware and backup services.
or “apps,” are the software packages you use to interact with your computer.
Examples of apps include iTunes, Photoshop and Firefox. App developers
periodically modify their software, which they release as an update.
Depending on the OS your Mac is running, you may not be able to install
an update. We’ll discuss this in greater detail momentarily.
in with the New
most beneficial upgrade to any computer is the installation of additional
memory. It’s not a catch-all improvement, but you will see an immediate
increase in your Mac’s ability to switch between open apps and documents.
There are a variety of RAM types, so it’s imperative that you refer
back to the specifications on your specific model to ensure you purchase
the correct modules. For example, a 2004 PowerBook G4 requires small
outline PC-2700 memory modules (also known as an SO-DIMM) and supports
a maximum of 2 gigabytes of RAM. Alternately, a 2017 Mac Pro requires
full-size PC3-15000 memory modules and supports a maximum of 128 gigabytes
of RAM. The two memory types are not interchangeable. Here we see, from
left to right, a low-profile module, a full-size module and a small
in concert with your Mac’s memory is the internal disk drive. Traditionally,
Macs use a hard disk drive. An “HDD” uses a rigid magnetized platter
to store your files, apps, songs and photos. The platter rotates on
a spindle, much like a vinyl record spins on a turntable. The HDD's
performance is based upon how fast it can spin. To conserve energy,
your Mac most likely shipped with a drive that rotates at an anemic
5400 RPM (Revolutions Per Minute). HDD upgrades are available at a far
more energetic 7200 RPM. Here we see the internal components of a hard
7200 RPM hard disk drive offers the best value per gigabyte of storage
but also consumes more energy and generates a great deal of heat. They
are a fantastic option for the iMac and Mac Pro as these devices have
large cooling fans and aren’t powered by rechargeable batteries. For
laptops—or, if your budget allows—there’s an even better internal storage
option: the solid state drive. An “SSD” behaves just like a hard disk
drive only it has no moving parts. Instead, an SSD stores your files
and apps on circuits similar to the kind used in your Mac’s memory.
Because of this, it is much faster at saving and retrieving your files.
An SSD is the crème de la crème of upgrades.
why don’t all computers use solid state drives? Simply put: they’re
2.5-inch, 7200 RPM hard disk drive with 1,000 gigabytes (1 terabyte)
of storage can be purchased for less than $70 at a local computer store.
The price for an entry-level 1 terabyte SSD is $400. While on the surface
the price may seem outrageous, what your Mac gains is at least a 55%
increase in performance when opening and saving documents. If you work
with multiple documents and apps at the same time, the time savings
alone could more than justify the price difference. And if the SSD is
paired with a memory upgrade, your old Mac will perform as fast as a
brand new Mac.
1999, Apple introduced its newest operating system called Mac OS X.
It established an entirely new methodology for managing memory and disk
caching along with new features that emphasized the security and integrity
of the data stored on the Mac’s internal drive. It is a masterpiece
of software engineering. Over time, however, more and more features
have been added—some beneficial, others not. In the years since OS X’s
birth, it has become “bloated” with widgets, third-party extensions
and a host of other social media-related features that many users neither
need nor want. These components can rob essential apps and services
of the resources they require to run efficiently. Turning off these
components is possible in some cases but requires the use of complex
commands typed into Apple’s not-for-novices Terminal app.
make matters even more complicated, Mac OS X is no longer distributed
on a CD or DVD. It is, instead, available through Apple’s App Store.
However, only the most recent version of the OS is available for immediate
download. If you prefer to use—or if your Mac can only run—an older,
more efficient version, you must obtain it from someone who has a previously
purchased copy in their App Store history.
which version of OS X will work best for your Mac is dependent upon
your expectations. If your Mac is being used in a production environment,
an older, less feature-rich OS is ideal—as long as it supports your
must-have apps. If you need social media integration for your marketing
endeavors, the latest OS is an absolute necessity. If Apple has categorized
your Mac as “vintage” or “obsolete,” your most advantageous option is
to run the most up-to-date version possible.
Apple releases a new version of OS X, it often times removes or replaces
certain software components contained within the OS. In the recent past,
older but heavily relied upon technologies have been deprecated or substituted.
This has rendered crucial apps unusable and older peripherals—such as
printers and scanners—unable to function.
upgrading, contact the developers of your must-have apps and verify
that they co-operate with the new OS. If you rely on a particular printer
or other workflow-related tool, check with its manufacturer to determine
if updated drivers are available.
you determine that an app or peripheral will not work, do not
upgrade your operating system! There is no easy or straight-forward
method for “downgrading” or restoring your previous OS. If you want
to experiment with a new OS before fully committing to it, create (and
verify the functionality of) a bootable clone of your existing OS and
War on Entropy
of the greatest features of our older Macs is the ability to upgrade
their hardware. Moving parts—such as hard disk drives, fans and DVD
drives—will eventually wear out and the cost of a do-it-yourself repair
is far less that a trip to the Genius Bar. Above and beyond the personal
financial impact of a repair or upgrade is its effect on the environment.
Keeping a fully-functional computer and its toxic components out of
landfills prevents air and water pollution and contributes to the positive
global health of humans, wildlife and the resources we share.
this, you may be surprised to discover that major computer manufacturers
do not offer their customers the option to upgrade older devices. The
simple act of installing a new, higher-capacity hard drive is not a
service that Apple offers. They will only replace a defective part with
an identical component through warranty service or an AppleCare support
agreement. Furthermore, Apple will not repair any component on a device
that is older than five years (with the exceptions of Kentucky and California
whose consumer protection laws require manufactures to repair devices
for seven years). So, how do we go about upgrading or repairing our
and members of the Fixer
Movement have created a curated database of step-by-step guides
outlining the repair of virtually any device or appliance you can imagine.
Their goal is provide everyone with the knowledge, tools and components
to enable us to repair our own devices. If Apple won’t upgrade our hard
drives, then we’ll just do it ourselves!
embarking upon your Mac upgrade, visit iFixIt’s Repair
Guides page to view easy-to-follow instructions on taking apart
your specific Mac.
Get Ready to Rumble
purchasing your new upgrade components, reviewing the take-apart guide
for your Mac and backing up your data (which you’re already doing, aren’t
you?), set up a comfortable and roomy workspace on a solid wood or tiled
floor. Your Mac’s circuitry is extremely sensitive to static electricity,
which can be generated by walking on rugs and carpet. If you do not
have a suitable location, consider purchasing an anti-static work mat.
By connecting it to the grounding screw in a wall socket and connecting
yourself to the mat with the included wrist strap, you are safe to work
near your computer’s circuits.
most Macs, installing a memory upgrade is as simple as removing the
old RAM and inserting the new modules. MacBooks, PowerBooks and iMacs
hide the memory slots behind an easy-to-remove access panel. Memory
modules for Mac Pro towers are inserted into a detachable circuit board
called “daughter card” and require the modules to be installed in a
specific sequence. The original Mac mini is the exception to the rule
by requiring the complete disassembly of the computer to access the
memory modules. If your upgrade requires such a comprehensive take-apart,
consider replacing the internal drive and any other non-functional components
while the machine is dissected.
the internal drive can be a more invasive procedure. The MacBook’s drive
is hidden behind an easily removable bracket inside the battery bay.
MacBook Pros and PowerBooks require dismantling the “top case,” which
is the component that includes the keyboard, trackpad and palm rests.
The Mac Pro has, by far, the easiest drive installation of any Mac:
simply remove the drive bracket, attach the new drive and slide it into
place. The Mac mini? Well…
external drive adapter will be needed to transfer your data from the
existing internal drive to the new upgrade drive. These can be found
inexpensively on Amazon or at your local computer store. Optionally,
you can purchase an external drive enclosure which transforms your existing
drive into an external storage device. After installing a fresh copy
of OS X on your new drive, connect the existing drive to your Mac and
you will be prompted to “migrate” your data to the new drive.
tip: keep track of the screws you remove using an ice cube tray. Use
the molds to organize them according to the procedure you are performing.
It is perfectly safe to use magnetized screwdrivers when working on
your machine. When reinstalling a screw, do not over-tighten it. Use
only enough force to gently secure the screw. Also, make sure to replace
the correct screw in the proper fixture. A long screw in a shallow hole
could damage the fitting, the screw or the component being secured.
There’s a huge sense of accomplishment the first time you press the
power button after upgrading your Mac. The glorious chords of the boot
chime tell us that everything is working and our endeavor has been a
success. If you don’t hear the boot chime, don’t panic—simply retrace
your steps and ensure that your memory modules are fully inserted, cables
are completely connected and the power cord is plugged in. The culprit
is usually a simple oversight that can be corrected with ease.
your Mac to besiege you with prompts for passwords and opt-in notifications
the first time it boots. These requests are part of the operating system
and are perfectly normal (albeit annoying). Once Finder has launched
and you can see your desktop, expect a temporary decrease in your Mac’s
performance while Spotlight indexes your new hard drive. If possible,
give your Mac a few hours to finish its housekeeping chores before asking
it to do any demanding tasks.
not immediately dispose of your old components. In the rare event of
a “lemon” component, you may need to reinstall one of the old memory
modules while its replacement is being shipped. If you decide not to
use your original hard drive as an external storage device, consider
putting it in a safe place as a backup should a catastrophe occur—such
as a theft or fire.
only thing left to do now is kick back and enjoy the power of your “new”