Upgrading Macbook Pro 15-inch Mid 2009 unibody HDD to SSD

Recently I went through the process of replacing the hard disk drive (HDD) with a Solid State Drive (SSD) in my laptop (MacBook Pro 2009). And to say that the laptop performance has increased will be an understatement. It has nitro boosted for a 5 year old laptop (which still runs on SATA II). Booting time has reduced from 120+ seconds to under 30 seconds. Applications such as iTunes, iPhoto, Eclipse open in less than 3 seconds. Check the read/write speed of the drive in the screenshot below (remember on SATA II, the maximum transfer cannot exceed 300MB/s).

Read and Write speed test for a Samsung 840 series SSD (250GB)
Read and Write speed test for a Samsung 840 series SSD (250GB)

There is already enough literature about SSD vs HDD and why you should or shouldn’t upgrade. So I won’t go down that path. I will just document the steps that I followed for the upgrade process.

  1. Choose an SSD that fits your needs (size, cost etc). I went with Samsung 840 Series SSD 250GB SSD available at Flipkart. There is lot of debate about TLC vs MLC based SSD and how TLC SSDs have a shorter life span. However I figured that based on my usage (approximately 15-20GB read/writes per day), the SSD will still last at least 3-4 years.
  2. You will need a SATA to USB converter to copy data from your existing HDD to SSD. I already had one thanks to my Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1TB portable HDD.
  3. A copy of SuperDuper. The free version is good enough to mirror your existing disk to the new one.
  4. A T6 Torx Screwdriver. You can buy one from eBay or your local electronics store. I have a 31-in-1 pocket screwdriver set which had a T6 head as well.

Before you begin the process make sure to clean your existing HDD of all the files that you no longer need. SSD life increases significantly if it is used with 40-50% free space. I used two tools to clean unnecessary and duplicate files from my MacBook Pro. MonoLingual and CleanGenius. Both are either Free or offer a fully functional free trial.

Disable Time Machine Backup (if you have it enabled). This significantly reduces the disk usage because Mac keeps shadow copies of edited and deleted files. This is done to speed up the process during backup restore. In my case disabling Time Machine freed up almost 20GB space.

The actual process is fairly simple and it took me less than 4 hours (including data migration) to complete it.

  1. Connect the SSD to your computer via USB cable (SATA to USB adapter cable comes in handy).
  2. Format the SSD drive using Disk Utility and Mount it to the OS.
  3. Launch SuperDuper and mirror your existing HDD to SSD. This process can take few hours depending on the data size. SuperDuper will create a mirror image of the HDD on the SSD and even make it bootable.
  4. Eject the SSD and shutdown the computer.
  5. Replace the HDD with the SSD. It is similar to replacing the HDD with another HDD. For details check this iFixit article on Macbook Pro HDD replacement.
  6. Start the computer (you should see a noticeable difference in boot time).
  7. Enable Trim. For details check Trim Enabler.

That’s it! Feel free to leave a comment with your questions or feedback about the SSD upgrade process.

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