Blog | Kilburnlad Upgrading my 2009 MacBook Pro to SSD


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Upgrading my 2009 MacBook Pro to SSD

I have a 2009 MacBook Pro that’s a standby should my iMac play up, which I accept is probably unlikely. It gets little use these days as the iPad serves me well when travelling. The other problem is that it is extremely slow, especially at start up and when launching some applications. I decided, therefore, to replace the HDD with an SSD, having read that it is the best upgrade for a MacBook of that age. Also, as my new iMac has an SSD I’m now well aware of the difference this technology can make.

The MacBook has a Bootcamp partition with Windows 10 installed. I have in the past griped about the pain of installing updates for Windows and to be honest other than doing this I never use Windows. It’s a matter of it being there 'if I ever need it’. This being the case I wasn’t too worried if Windows made the transition to the SSD, but I thought I would try to get it across.

I have a Version 4 copy of Winclone, which is now up to Version 6, but I didn’t want to spend money on the Windows’ transition so I decided to make a Winclone copy of the Bootcamp partition with what I had. This is where I think I made my first mistake, because I elected to shrink the copy, a process that saves all the files but not the spare space on the partition. I then got a bit confused over whether having shrunk the partition to make the copy, I needed to re-expand it on the computer. I thought it was best to do so and on the face of it the partition was returned to normal. Then I made the second mistake by restoring the newly created shrunk copy back to the partition to prove it worked in readiness for doing the same thing on the SSD. This seemed to be working until the end of the restore, when an error appeared saying that the partition table could not be updated. I later came across a Winclone article explaining how you should disable System Integrity Protection (SIP) on OS X versions later than 10.11 to avoid this error. Too late!

Having now overwritten the actual Bootcamp partition there wasn’t much I could do. I guessed that there may be problems ahead when the Disk Utility showed the partition almost full even though only 40 odd GB of files had been transferred to a 75GB partition. When launched from the existing HDD Windows at first returned an error screen but after a couple of reboots it did launch, although I wasn’t very confident about its integrity.

I backed up the Mac partition to Time Machine, a piece of cake after the Windows’ experience and set about installing a new Samsung 850 EVO SSD. This was really easy. The base of the MacBook is removed by unscrewing the tiny cross-head screws around the edges, three of which are longer than the rest. Then remove four small cross-head screws that are retaining the HDD and pull off the SATA connection. Using a Torx 6 screwdriver remove the four screws from the HDD and replace in the SDD. These are effectively pins that locate in grooves to position the drive. Connect the SATA cable and install the drive, replacing the retaining screws and then replace base cover - done.

Samsung EVO 850 SSDSSD - USB adaptor with old HDD connected

And so to the rebuilding of the OS. Using a USB-SATA cable I connected the old HDD to the MacBook and booted from the HDD drive into Recovery. In Recovery, using Disk Utility, I formatted the new SSD and partitioned it for Windows. This again was straightforward. Still in Recovery I restored the Mac partition using the Time Machine backup. Again, this was straightforward although my Time Machine is on an encrypted USB disk and the password includes a ‘£’ sign. In Recovery the default keyboard is US, so when I typed in what I thought was a £ I unknowingly got a #. A moment’s panic until I realised the problem. I then removed the old HDD and rebooted into the newly built SSD. Everything seemed fine.

Now Windows. You’ve guessed it, not as simple. At first I got confused over whether I could just restore the Winclone copy to the partition I had created, or whether I needed to use Bootcamp Assistant to create a Bootcamp partition. With Winclone 4 the only option is is in fact to firs create a partition, as I had done, but it seems with Winclone 6 you can restore an .iso image using Bootcamp Assistant and create a partition at that stage. Anyway, in the confusion I ended up removing the partition I had created and tried to recreate it using the Bootcamp Assistant, only to find that this approach required me to insert a Windows disc, which I didn’t have. Well, I had a Windows 7 disc, but had upgraded free to Windows 10. A bit more research and I found a step by step guide on the Winclone site. This involved reattaching the old HDD and copying the Bootcamp partition across to the new SSD via the Winclone application. This involved creating a partition again using Disk utility - back to square one! The transfer looked like it was working, but at the end of the copying the same partition table error appeared. However, when I restarted this time using the Option key to select a partition, Windows didn’t appear. Reboots made no difference and despite a few suggestions in the forums, I couldn’t access Windows.

I considered doing a new restore after disabling SIP (see above). Then the next problem revealed itself. I couldn’t boot into Rescue. Neither Command-R nor the Option startup screen worked. The process started but just stalled part way along the time bar. A bit more research and I found that if you go the the App Store you can re-download any app, including in my case El Capitan. Now completely disenchanted with Winclone and Windows I decided to remove the Bootcamp partition and reinstall El Capitan. This rebuilt the OS and I now have an accessible Rescue partition and a fast 250GB SSD dedicated entirely to El Capitan. And I think that’s how things are going to stay. Goodbye Windows!

The final part of the process was to install Trim Enabler from cindori, which I’m told will optimise the use of the SSD.

In conclusion, the hardware upgrade is simple; the Windows’ complications I could have done without, especially as I ended up without Windows; and the problem with Recovery is a bit of a mystery. I did note that the Recovery partition was showing 10.11.3 when it wouldn’t open, whereas after I reinstalled El Capitan it was 10.11.6, in line with the OS version. So perhaps this problem would have manifested itself even without the Windows’ issues. And I needed to reactivate Office for Mac 2011, but fortunately this went through without a hitch.

After all that, the improvement in usability is amazing. Boot up is much much faster and applications open far faster as well. Certainly a new lease of life for my 2009 MacBook Pro.

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