Musings Archive

Giving new life to your older MacBook Pro

With rare exception, current generation Apple laptops can’t be upgraded – or even repaired after accidental damage – in any meaningful or easy way after purchase. That’s the tradeoff we’ve made for wanting our Macs to be thinner, lighter and sleeker. To accomplish that, displays are fused to the glass, proprietary Solid State Drives (SSDs) store all our files, RAM (memory chips) is soldered directly to the logic board and even the batteries are glued to the case. This trend started with the original MacBook Air and through the introduction of the MacBook Pro with Retina Display and it’s now the rule, rather than the exception.

And yet, as recently as the 2009 Macworld Expo, Steve Jobs himself said, “Our pro customers want accessibility: […] to add memory, to add cards, to add drives.” He was introducing the “Unibody” MacBook Pro that day. And he was right!

If you still have one of those Unibody MacBook Pros, made between Early-2009 and Mid-2012 (or an older 2006-2008 Aluminum model), you’re probably struggling to keep up with the demands of newer operating systems and newer technologies on the web, etc. Your computer is slow. Just watching a YouTube video can be a chore. The machine drags, the fans start racing, your super-fast Internet connection feels wasted because the video may download fast, but the playback is still choppy and the audio stutters. But you have a distinct advantage over owners of newer MacBook Pros because you can install a few hardware upgrades and make your 6/7/8 year old Mac perform almost as well as a new one, for only a fraction of the cost.

mbp-upgradesUpgrading your RAM to the maximum it will support (8GB-16GB, depending on the exact model) will cost you an average of $75-$150 for the RAM itself. It’s not even difficult to install on your own and the tools you’ll need to pop the bottom case off for installation aren’t expensive either. But the real life-changer will be replacing your internal storage (which is probably a 5400RPM platter-based hard drive) with an SSD/Flash drive. For under $500 you upgrade up to a 1TB SSD that will really make your Mac fly. While replacing your hard drive is almost as simple as installing RAM, I’d still recommend professional installation since there’s a bit more to it than just popping the old drive out and the new one in. There are more screws and more steps and more things that can go wrong. Although you’ll pay an average of $150-$200 to have a professional take care of this for you, it’s worth it for the peace of mind. And the end result is that for about $800, tops, you can have your older MacBook Pro performing almost as well as a new $2500 model. Both the battery and the Superdrive can also be replaced if you’ve got a few more $$ to spend.

Here’s a direct quote from an email I received from a client of mine last month, after I maxed out his RAM at 8GB and installed a new 1TB SSD running Mac OS X 10.10.x Yosemite into his Late-2008 MacBook Pro 15″ (a 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo – a machine that Apple now officially classifies as “Vintage.”)

Laurie, you are the best! My Mac runs like a Ferrari now! I want to see if I can get it to run for ten more years!

He is a real “car guy” so he recognizes appreciates vintage beauty paired with fast speeds and smooth performance.

If you’re interested in hearing about what upgrade options are available for your own “vintage” Mac, get in touch and we’ll prepare a complimentary no-obligation quote for you.

Rebooting

rebootMacSamurai Consulting will celebrate its 15th anniversary soon and this website hadn’t been “rebooted” in almost that long. This week I finally got motivated to change that. If you already know me, you know that brevity is not my strong point, but I’ve tried to keep this new site lean and clean. All the basic info that one typically expects to find on the website of a service provider is accounted for, I think, and I’ll try to remember to “brain dump” things I think are worth sharing. Moving forward, I’ll make a concerted effort to keep the info current and occasionally engaging.

I’m still tweaking a few things here and there, but today felt like a good day to rip off the bandaid. If you stumble across anything that’s broken, please let me know!

Help us help you

Skills aside, communication is the real key to providing great tech support. It’s also the real key to getting great tech support. No matter how good we are at our job, we still can’t read your minds and – contrary to popular belief – we’re not really wizards.

keep-calm-and-help-me-help-you-3

With some plagiarizing from an old, but very relevant Lifehacker post, here are some tips for getting the best from us, which helps us give our best to you.

The more specific, reliable, and reproducible details you can provide the better.

When communicating tech problems, words like “thing”, “crazy”, “weird”, “problem” and “broken” aren’t actually very helpful. It’s ok if you don’t know the right words to use. That’s why you’re looking for help after all. We get that. Still, it’s better to say “I was tapping away on my Mac and suddenly everything on my screen got huge and I can’t work like this. What’s up with that?” instead of “My computer is doing this weird thing and the screen is all crazy. Help!”

Surprisingly, the word “help” is also not very helpful. Asking “Can you help me with a printing problem?” leaves a pretty broad range of responses for us to consider. You know that you need help, specifically, with printing a PDF that crashes every time you try to print it, for example. So tell us that instead of leaving us hanging. Because we’re going to reply back with “Yes, I probably can help, but can you elaborate a bit more on the nature of the problem?” instead of “Sorry you’re having trouble. Can you try printing a different PDF as well as a Word file and tell me if those also crash? Then I can advise further and/or resolve it for you.” The point is: the more specifics we have up front, the faster we can get to the part where we actually help.

When sending an email, PLEASE include a meaningful Subject. Do you know how many messages we have accumulated over the years that have the subject of “Help” or “Hi Laurie” or “Question” or “Problem?” Even worse are the thousands that contain no subject at all. The subject line of an email is a really useful tool. It summarizes the content of the email for the recipient. Sure, we’re going to read the entire email anyway, but that subject line helps us prioritize. It also helps us locate important reference info in the future when you (or someone else) emails us with the same or similar problem. Think of our email archives as a filing cabinet, and all the email we receive as individual file folders. Now imagine that every single folder in the file cabinet is labeled with the word “Documents.” Now go ahead and try to find the one folder that contains your child’s birth certificate. See what I mean?

Always provide more details than you think you need to in your email or voicemail. Background info and context such as: specific make and model (ex: iMac, MacBook Air, iPhone 5s, iPad mini, Epson Workforce 845, etc), specific OS version (ex: iOS 9.0.2, OS X 10.10.5), browser used (ex: Safari, Firefox, Chrome) other relevant software version (ex: Word 2008, Keynote ’09), connectivity type (ex: WiFi at home/hotel/cafe/Jetpack/Hotspot, cellular 3G/4G/LTE, hard-wired/Ethernet) are really important details for us. Don’t be stingy with them!

Show and tell isn’t just for grade school. A picture is worth a thousand keystrokes. If you can show us your actual screen when you’re experiencing a problem, it’s extremely helpful. Since we’re not always available to jump on your system with LogMeIn at the very minute you’re having that problem, an emailed screenshot is the next best thing. Here’s how to take a screenshot. If you’re not able to take a screenshot on your Mac or not able to send email from your Mac, taking a picture of your Mac’s screen with your iPhone or iPad is a good option. Just be sure that you choose “medium” or “large” for the size on the photo on your iPhone or iPad when you’re attaching it to the email. Sending a “small” picture from your phone usually won’t allow us to see the important details in the image.

SMS texts and iMessages are really convenient for chatting with friends and family and for transient info and questions like “I’ll be there in 5 minutes” or “Are you on your way?” or “I’m at Starbucks, can I get you anything?” But it’s a really inefficient way to give or receive tech support. We don’t speak for others, but for us, email is the best and fastest choice for communicating support-related matters.

The above points are just a few examples of how you can help us to help you, but they’re a great start – for us both.

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