In addition to our tutorial “More performance for notebooks: how to safely upgrade to SSD“, today we will show you how to replace a MacBook’s HDD with a SSD (Solid State Disk or Solid State Drive). For the tutorial we used a “late 2008” MacBook Pro (15 inch, 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 DUO, 250GB 5400 rpm HDD, Mac OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard). The procedure applies to all MacBook Pro models (in the Unibody models, however, you have to remove the entire lower case, not just the small panel).
The following MacBook Pro models are upgradeable with a 2.5-inch SATA SSD
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The main difference to upgrading a Windows system is that the Samsung 850 PRO SSD (256GB) we chose comes with Windows migration software that guides the user through the cloning process (copying the Windows system plus the data to the new SSD). Mac users will need to download similar cloning software – we chose the shareware tool SuperDuper! and describe the cloning process in more detail using this tool.
Table of contents:
- Workbench check – the tools you need
- Formatting the SSD
- Cloning your system using SuperDuper!
- Installing the SSD
- Starting the system
1. Workbench check – the tools you need
The preparations and tools required for replacing a MacBook (Pro) drive are identical to those necessary for any other system (see our general upgrading tutorial for notebooks): you need to work on a clean, electrostatic-free surface.
We recommend you use antistatic tools for installing the SSD; wearing an antistatic wrist strap will enhance safety.
In addition, you need a SATA to USB drive adapter in order to transfer the data from your present HDD to the new SSD.
2. Formatting the SSD
Use the drive adapter to plug the SSD into the USB port of your MacBook (Pro). Next, start the Disk Utility application from the Utilities folder (see the screenshot), and select the SSD from the list on the left.
Select the Mac OS Extended (Journaled) format, enter a name for the SSD (in the screenshot “MacBookProSSD”) and click “Erase”.
At the end of the erase process, you are asked whether you wish to use the SSD to create a Time Machine backup. As you are not going to use the flash drive as a backup medium, select “Don’t use”.
3. Cloning your system with SuperDuper!
Download and install the cloning tool SuperDuper! to your MacBook. The unregistered edition allows you to easily clone your MacBook’s HDD to the SSD (you do not need to buy the $27.95 registered edition).
Next, launch SuperDuper! and select the Macintosh HD that you wish to copy onto the freshly formatted (erased) SSD – in our screenshots the “MacBookProSSD” drive.
Click “Copy Now” and confirm that you wish to proceed
Cloning the Macintosh HD will take a while – in our example it took over 3 hours. SuperDuper! is doing the work for you, so go ahead and do something else in the meantime.
After SuperDuper! has successfully cloned your Macintosh HD, click”OK” to finish the process.
4. Installing the SSD
The hardware part will vary depending on your MacBook Pro model. For our late 2008 MacBook Pro, use a Phillips screwdriver to open the small cover on the rear that protects your HDD. For Unibody MacBook Pros (mid 2009 and later), remove the entire lower case.
Remove the Phillips screw(s). Lift the HDD using the plastic tab and pull it out of the casing.
Remove the screw(s) securing the HDD retaining bracket using a Torx 6 screwdriver.
Insert the new SSD into the retaining bracket and tighten it.
Fasten the retaining bracket to the SSD (caution: the bracket is not symmetrical). Insert the SSD into your MacBook (Pro) casing.
Tighten the screw and close the casing.
5. Starting the system
The first system start after the upgrade can take a few moments longer as the system may not immediately recognize the new SSD and search for the previously installed HDD. For new system starts to proceed faster, we recommend you select the new SSD as “Start Volume” in the System Preferences and click “New start”.
Read the “RAM upgrade and/or a SSD drive” blog post to find out what performance boost our ageing MacBook Pro gained through the new SSD.
For detailed information about the lifespan of an SSD and how and if it is possible to have an impact, please read our blog entry “The life span of an SSD – how long does it last and what can be done to take care?”.
(Update May 12, 2020) For an overview of all Mac models that can be upgraded with a 2.5-inch SATA SSD, see “Which SSD for my Mac?”