Upgrading a MacBook (13” Aluminum, Late 2008) – Part 2 (HDD)

I love my MacBook. It was the first 13” aluminum unibody notebook from Apple and although it was launched as part of the MacBook range it has since migrated to the MacBook Pro range.

I run my MacBook through a 24” Samsung SyncMaster T240 and use the wired keyboard and wired mouse. This gives me a nice desktop setup and when I need to be mobile the 13” form factor is perfect.

Lately I have begun to feel the limits of the stock 2GB RAM and the 160GB HDD. So it is time for an upgrade. This post marks the completion of a 2 part project to upgrade both the RAM and the HDD of my MacBook.

No Space

Right clicking on Macintosh HD > Get Info showed that I had around 5GB of HDD space left on my MacBook. I bought the replacement drive for this little project over a year ago but had been putting off replacing my HDD – it was finally time …

Macintosh HD Info

HDD Specifications

I read a number of reviews and posts on various forums and blogs about what an ideal replacement drive would be. I looked at the prices between 320GB and 500GB HDDs (remember this is over a year ago) and finally settled on finding a HDD with a capacity of 500GB. My logic was that the bigger the drive was, the less likely I would have to do this again during my MacBook’s lifetime.

The next challenge was whether to get a 5400RPM or 7200RPM drive. Again there was heated debate in the forums and on blogs. The two contenders for me were:

I liked the fact that the drive in my MacBook was so quiet and wanted to maintain that experience. Western Digital advertised WhisperDrive technology on their Scorpio Blue drives which was meant to yield the quietest 2.5 inch drives on the market. This claim seemed to be held up in the forums and since I was not doing anything seriously IO intensive on the MacBook I decided to go with the 5400RPM Western Digital Scorpio Blue 500GB. I also ensured that the drive was no higher than 9.5mm due to ongoing debates on various forums.

Cloning the HDD

This is the part of the process that kept me from upgrading months ago. The contents of the existing HDD in the MacBook would have to be cloned to the new HDD. I had read a number of blog posts on using the SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner utilities and it all seemed simple enough – but I was still a little nervous. I finally settled on using Disk Utility which is bundled with Mac OS X and is all you really need for cloning your HDD. A simple and easy to understand post by Daryn Cox got me started.

I mounted my new 500GB HDD into an external USB enclosure. I fired up Disk Utility via Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility and selected the Restore tab. I dragged the icon of the existing Macintosh HD from the left pane into the Source box and the icon of the new external 500GB HDD from the left pane into the Destination box. Ensure that the Erase destination checkbox is checked. Double check that your existing HDD is the source and that the new HDD is the destination before proceeding.

Disk Utility > Restore

Click the Restore button.

Confirm Erase of Destination

Confirm the erasure of the destination drive by clicking on the Erase button.

Cloning ...

Then wait… My estimated time fluctuated between 3 and 6 hours initially but I left it running overnight so I’m not really sure how long it actually took. It is probably better if you don’t use your MacBook while this operation is taking place.

Verify Clone

Once the cloning process has completed you need to verify that the clone was successful. The easiest way to do this is to boot from your new HDD. There are two ways to do this in Mac OS X:

Option1: System Preferences > Startup Disk

Navigate to the Startup Disk section of System Preferences. Select the new external 500GB and click the Restart button.

Startup Disk

Confirm the restart by clicking on the Restart button.

Startup Disk - Restart

Option 2: Option Key at System Boot

Hold down the option key during system boot.

Mac - Option Key

Startup Disks

Select the new external 500GB.

Once I had confirmed that my drive had been correctly cloned, it was time to install the new HDD into the MacBook.

Installing the new HDD

Apple provide fairly detailed instructions via their support site on how to upgrade your HDD. See Chapter 3: Boost Your MacBook > Replacing the Hard Disk Drive of the manual for the MacBook 13" Aluminum (Late 2008). I had my cloned HDD, some decent precision screwdrivers this time around and was ready to begin.

Ready to begin

Opening up the MacBook

Turn the MacBook over and push down on the door latch to release the access door. Remove the access door and the battery. The battery has a handy tab on it to make lifting it out of the bay easier.

Remove access door and battery

Make sure to ground yourself before touching anything inside your MacBook.

Ground yourself

Removing the old HDD

The old HDD should be visible on the bottom left of the MacBook.

Old HDD

Remove the bracket holding the old HDD using a #00 Philips precision screwdriver. I finally found a decent #00 Philips and the experience removing my HDD was much better than when I upgraded my RAM… If the only advice you take away from this is to find a really decent precision screwdriver then you will be halfway there.

Lift the old HDD out of the bay using the clear tab and then gently wiggle the connector off the HDD. Remove the mounting screws using a Torx T6 precision screwdriver. Again I will say it – spend the cash and get a decent screwdriver.

Remove old HDD

Old HDD removed

Installing the new HDD

Remove the clear tab from the old HDD and attach to the new HDD. Screw the mounting screws into the new HDD using the Torx T6 screwdriver.

New HDD

Place the new HDD into the drive bay.

New HDD in drive bay

Replace the bracket using the #00 Philips screwdriver.

Replace bracket

Replace bracket

Closing up the MacBook

Place the battery back into the bay and then replace the access door. Press it down gently until the latch moves to the closed position.

Confirmation

Switch on the MacBook and make sure it boots. Right clicking on Macintosh HD > Get Info now shows my new 500GB HDD and plenty of free space.

Macintosh HD Info

Upgrading a MacBook (13” Aluminum, Late 2008) – Part 1 (RAM)

I love my MacBook. It was the first 13” aluminum unibody notebook from Apple and although it was launched as part of the MacBook range it has since migrated to the MacBook Pro range.

I run my MacBook through a 24” Samsung SyncMaster T240 and use the wired keyboard and wired mouse. This gives me a nice desktop setup and when I need to be mobile the 13” form factor is perfect.

Lately I have begun to feel the limits of the stock 2GB RAM and the 160GB HDD. So it is time for an upgrade. I will be embarking on a 2 part project to upgrade both the RAM and the HDD of my MacBook.

RAM Specifications

Clicking on Apple > About This Mac showed that 2GB of RAM was installed and clicking on More Info … > Hardware > Memory showed that each of the 2 available memory slots had 1GB DIMMs.

About This MacMemory Slot information

According to the memory specifications at Apple Support my MacBook can take a max of 4GB RAM with the following specifications:

  • Double Data Rate Small Outline Dual Inline Memory Module (DDR SO-DIMM) format
  • 30mm
  • 1 Gigabyte (GB) or 2 Gigabyte (GB)
  • 204-pin
  • PC3-8500 DDR3 1066 MHz Type RAM

After looking at the price of Apple RAM I decided to rather purchase 2 x 2GB modules from Kingston (KTA-MB1066/2G). These are reasonably priced and are compatible with my MacBook.

Upgrading the RAM

Apple provide detailed instructions via their support site on how to upgrade your RAM. I shut down my MacBook and disconnected it from the power adapter. I had my new RAM, some precision screwdrivers and was ready to begin.

DSC_0122

Opening up the MacBook

Turn the MacBook over and push down on the door latch to release the access door. Remove the access door and the battery. The battery has a handy tab on it to make lifting it out of the bay easier.

Remove access door and battery

Next remove the eight screws that secure the bottom case of the MacBook. The screws at the top of the picture have slightly larger heads than those at the bottom and are easier to get out. I used a 1.4mm flat screwdriver on the top screws. I tried a #00 philips precision screwdriver on the bottom screws but my precision screwdriver was obviously not good enough. I finally resorted to a 1.2mm flat screwdriver to get the bottom screws out. You may notice that I only have 7 out of the 8 screws out. I couldn’t manage to get the final screw out and eventually gave up after stripping the head.

Removing the screws

Thank goodness the screw I couldn’t get out was a corner screw. I carefully pivoted the bottom case open around the remaining screw. Finally ! I was in.

Making a plan ...

Removing the old RAM

Touch a metal surface inside the MacBook to discharge any static electricity from your body. Then push the ejection levers on the sides of the memory modules outwards to release the first memory module from the memory slot. The memory should pop up at an angle. The first image in the sequence below shows the first memory module popped up at an angle with the second memory module still clearly visible below it. Remove the memory module from the slot remembering to hold the module by its notches and not the gold connectors.

Repeat the steps to release the second memory module.

Removing the old RAM

Installing the new RAM

Touch a metal surface inside the MacBook to discharge any static electricity from your body.  Align the notch on the gold edge of the module with the notch in the lower memory slot. Tilt the memory module and push it into the bottom memory slot. Use two fingers and push down the memory module with firm even pressure until it is level. The first two images in the sequence below show the first memory module tilted and then pushed level under the second (top) memory module.

Repeat with the second memory module. The last two images in the sequence below show the second memory module tilted and then pushed level above the first (bottom) memory module.

Installing the new RAM

Closing up the MacBook

Reverse all the steps from Opening up the Macbook. Replace the bottom case making sure it is sitting flush. Then replace and tighten the screws. Place the battery back into the bay and then replace the access door. Press it down gently until the latch moves to the closed position.

Confirmation

Switch on the MacBook and make sure it boots. Clicking on Apple > About This Mac now shows that 4GB of RAM is installed and clicking on More Info … > Hardware > Memory shows that each of the 2 available memory slots has correctly installed 2GB DIMMs.

About This Mac Memory Slot information