In a previous post (Apple MacBook Pro Memory Upgrade) I detailed the reasoning behind choosing to perform some upgrades on the Pros in my family instead of buying new ones. In this post I will go over the process needed to the hard drives to give us a little more room to move for the next couple of years and hopefully some improvements as well.

As you can see in the System Profiler window below, the MBP has the stock Hitachi 120GB hard drive still installed. This particular model has an 8MB buffer and a 5400RPM spindle speed.

macbook pro system details pre hard drive upgrade

The first step was to clone the old hard drive so that I could restore my Snow Leopard install, applications and data to exactly the same state on the new hard drive. For this I used SuperDuper!

I looked around for a 1TB drive to upgrade too, however right at this moment, the largest hard drive in the 2.5″ form factor is still just 500GB. In the end I purchased 2 Seagate drives (1 for each MBP) from TigerDirect. These drives are 500GB, 16MB buffer and a spindle speed of 7200RPM.

Be warned that while the process of replacing the hard drive is not overly complicated, it definitely requires a steady hand, some patience and a willingness to void the warranty on your laptop. In all honesty, if circuit boards and ribbon cables are not within your comfort zone, then this process might not be for you.

In the end it really is a matter of removing the battery, undoing a couple of screws on the bottom, some screws from the sides and back and then prying the keyboard up and off the laptop, at which point you will be looking at something like this:

inside of a macbook pro

The hard drive is the rectangle at the bottom/front left of the laptop and the big hole in the middle is where the battery would sit when installed. There are a couple more screws to remove and a cable to disconnect to remove the old drive.

Then it is just a matter of doing everything in reverse to install the new hard drive.

The best detailed step by step instructions I found and followed were one from ExtremeTech and a video based one from MacSales.

After restoring my drive contents using SuperDuper!, the System Profiler window correctly shows the Seagate drive now being present.

system profiler after hard drive upgrade

By a very big margin the cloning of the old hard drive and the restoration of the data onto the new drive were the longest parts of the process (4 hours and 3 hours respectively). The actual work took less than 45 minutes.

Now for the all important performance benchmark numbers.

The overall Disk Test score went from 35.21 up to 54.67, which is a 55% increase. Some of the tests that made up this increase include:

  • Sequential write (4k blocks). up from 28.11 to 84.56, an increase of 200%
  • Sequential write (256k blocks), up from 26.45 to 79.42, an increase of 200%
  • Sequential read (245k blocks), up form 27.48 to 91.36, an increase of 232%
  • Random write (4k blocks), up from 1.05 to 1.3, an increase of 24%
  • Random write (256k blocks), up from 15.49 to 37.72, an increase of 144%
  • Random read (4k blocks), up from 0.46 to 0.58, an increase of 26%
  • Random read (256k blocks), up from 14.68 to 26.14, an increase of 78%

So, with the extra storage room and a noticeable improvement in general performance, we should be able to stretch the life of these laptops out another couple of years.

What upgrades are you doing to your gadgets to make them last longer these days?