Making an early-2011 13-inch Macbook Pro feel brand new

After seeing my battery starting to die on my early-2011 13-Inch Macbook Pro, I figured it’s time to do a little hardware house-keeping. Since it’s 4 years old, technology has changed and let’s be honest the operating systems have gotten a little more disk intensive. Unfortunately, the early-2011 Macbook Pro has a 5400 RPM harddrive, which isn’t exactly speedy. I figured it’s time to speed up the drive while replacing the battery!

After researching my options for batteries, I decided to go with Other World Computing for purchase. They have the NewerTech NuPower 65 Watt-hour battery for my laptop, which has ratings that are quite high! Not to mention having a higher watt-hour rating than stock, which can be very helpful. At this time it is going for $99.

The market for 2.5″ laptop harddrives aren’t exactly for speed demons, so I figured I’d be best going for solid-state (SSD). Lately, the prices have dropped for the tech and the block protective measures have gotten to the point that TRIM isn’t necessary. This is a good thing for me! I shopped around and found that Other World Computing also has some nice technology in the SSD disk market, as well. Their “Mercury Electra 6G” SSD (for consumers) has 7% over-provisioning of space, which allows error-correction to occur without any issues while running. Since I’m only getting this thing one time, I figure I’d go for this one in 1 TB size. The price currently, $478.

I purchased them both at the same time but due to back order I received the battery first. Installing it was simple: unscrew the 10 screws from the back (and store them in order), lift off the back and unscrew the 2 screws on the battery. Lift the battery connection on the logic board, and pull the battery out. Slide the new battery in & put the connector onto the logic board. Screw the 2 screws into the same holes in the battery, and put the back plate on. Screw the screws into the same holes they came out of (carefully, to avoid stripping them). Bam, done. The battery comes with about 50% charge, and since it’s lithium-ion there isn’t a real need to “break in” the battery in the same as the other type. The best way to handle it is to run the battery for the first time until it reaches charging time (roughly 5-10%), then turn it off and charge non-stop until complete then unplug. While doing normal office-y stuff I usually get about 5-7 hours from the battery now, and when doing highly graphics related stuff (i.e. gaming haha) it lasts about 2 hours unplugged.
Just a plug for an app I used, coconutbattery is a great downloadable application available on the ‘net for seeing the status and some data on it as well. Being free also helps.

A couple of days later I received the SSD drive, and I have to say this was the first time I’ve held one. I was actually in awe, since it’s super light and basically like a plastic armored circuit board. I have a SATA to USB connector that I used to access the drive on my laptop, at first. I did it in a backwards way, using a secondary 1 TB portable harddisk and installing OSX Lion onto it.
This is done by right-clicking on the Lion Installer (that you can get yourself somehow, I saved mine from back when I installed it) and select “show package content”. Then go to “Contents” then “Shared Support”, where you’ll see InstallESD.dmg. Open Disk Utilities, and drag-n-drop InstallESD.dmg to the left-hand sidebar. Select InstallESD.dmg, then click open in the toolbar. A mount will appear named “Mac OS X Install ESD”. Click on that name, then click “Restore” in the toolbar. Then, drag Mac OS X Install ESD to the source line if it’s not empty. Drag the USB drive it’s going to be installed on to the destination. Then, click ‘restore’ up above (you might be prompted for the admin password), and wait for it to be done. Poof, a bootable disk. After that, reboot the machine and on boot hold “option” until something happens. Select the disk, and boot/install onto the same drive as prompted.
Once the OS was installed and I was booted onto the external usb disk I just installed it to (NOT the SSD), I copied the installer for OSX Yosemite to the same disk. I ran that installer, and selected the SSD disk I wanted to install it on.

After that was done, I powered everything down, ripped the laptop back off again, unscrewed the 4 screws bracing the harddisk, and lifted the drive out as I removed the SATA connector from the drive. I then unscrewed the side braces from the drive and screwed them into the SSD, put the SATA connector into the SSD, laid the SSD drive down into the braces and put the screws back in the same order before fastening them. That easy! Then, I put the back plate on, and fastened the screws into place once more.

The rest is depending on the user but I use time machine for my backups. It’s something to think about since it’ll preserve a snapshot you can revert to for times like this.

Now, the laptop boots in less than 10 seconds from power button press to desktop usability, and visualization is lightning fast as well. There is absolutely no sound from where the harddrive used to be nor heat and you never hear any rattle of the disk under high I/O when lots of files are moving.
Before, my early-2011 Macbook Pro was slower to use then my late-2010 Macbook Air. Now the two are almost identical in speed, with the Pro having far more horsepower to process properly now without being bottlenecked by the harddrive.

After using it in my Macbook Pro for a little while, I definitely need this for my iMac desktop. This is amazing.

EDIT 02/09/2015:

I wanted to add a benchmark for something I’ve been doing daily.  Since one of my games are Windows-based, I use Parallels virtualization software to run Windows 7.  Parallels integrates the Windows start button as a folder in the taskbar at the bottom of OSX, so I can click on a game, and automatically it starts Parallels, Windows 7, Steam, and the game immediately after everything’s up.  To start all 4 of those, 27 seconds of time from the button press to the game screen being usable.  Astounding time.


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