So your MacBookPro is getting old…

As the saying goes, "Once you go Mac, you never go back."  All new Mac owners go through that initial phase of excitement when they discover the OS environment, the ease of installation, the never-crashing system, and all of these great leaps forward help them forget their wallet took a hit.  While I still believe Macs are the best value for money, their nominal fee remains high.

Unfortunately, after the honeymoon phase, which typically lasts a few years, the PC (personal computer) starts slowing down, and the high performance you're used to starts getting sluggish.  When this happens, you have to question whether or not you'll buy a new Mac, or go for a cheaper windows PC, but there's another way that can save you big.  Here's how I saved $1,600 by upgrading my 2009 Unibody MacBookPro 13" through software and hardware upgrades.

 SOFTWARE PURCHASES
  • CleanMyMac: Developed by MacPaw, this utility will restore a lot of memory to your hard drive on its first run by helping you remove language settings you’ll never use, logs, cache files, and other system junk.   You can also uninstall applications with CleanMyMac.  If you stream a lot of movies, your cache file will probably accumulate a lot.  It should clean itself when you restart your machine, but you never know.  I also travel extensively, so I copy my DVDs to my computer and delete the copy version once I’ve grown tired of it.  Thus far, 99GB have been wiped from my hard drive (most of these were cache and recycle bin files).  I run this app once every other week.  Cost in May 2012 is $14.95
  • DaisyDiskDaisyDisk - Software Ambience Corp.: DaisyDisk helps you visualize where you store your files and what’s taking up all of your space.  It goes one step beyond CleanMyMac by helping you zero-in on those high volume files and folder you wouldn’t see otherwise unless you went through the finder and ran “Get Info” on each finder.  You can also delete documents and apps from within this app, which makes it even friendlier.  Thanks to DaisyDisk, I recovered 30GB of space by being able to see folder sizes at a glance and deleting files and folders by the hundreds.  Highly recommend it.  It is currently on sale at $9.95
These software will run you a total of $25, but can save you a lot of money for the next steps.

HARDWARE

To extend the life of your Mac, you’ll probably need a combination of hard drive and RAM updates. You’ll need to know a few things about your computer before making any purchases. We’ll start from the About This Mac menu that can be found by clicking on the Apple Logo on the top left corner of your computer and then clicking on “About This Mac”. DO NOT SKIP THESE STEPS. My results will be in green.
  • How much RAM does my MacBookPro accept? Apple put together a great page here: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1270. 8GB
  • How much RAM do I currently have? About This Mac / More Info button / Memory Tab: This will tell you how much memory you’re running, and also the types of RAM you can use. If you do not check this, you will probably buy the wrong RAM. 2 X 2 GB installed, 2 memory slots accepting a 1067 MHz DDR3 memory module
  • What HD can I buy? If performance is an issue, you might as well go for an SSD drive. They are pricier, but my experience with my upgrade has blown me away. Go to About This Mac / More Info / System Report / Serial – ATA: the link speed will tell you if you’re running Sata I, II, or III. If your link speed is 3GB, you’re running Sata II. If it is 6GB, then you are running Sata III. Link Speed of 3GB negotiated at 2GB (means that my hard drive was slower than capacity).

Here are the items I purchased and that have worked for me. They may or may not work on your system, so do your homework, and when it doubt, take it to the Apple Store:
  • RAM Purchase: I purchased the Kingston Apple 8GB Kit (2x4GB Modules) that was adapted to my computer ($48).
  • Hard Drive Purchase: My existing hard drive was 256GB and almost maxed out of space, but after running DaisyDisk, I realized that I could still have a 256GB drive, so I opted for the OCZ Vertex 4 256GB SSD. ($318)

RESULT

I went from a MacBookPro 13″ unibody 2009 with 4GB RAM and 256GB Serial Drive running Leopard to a MacBookPro 13″ 8GB Ram 256GB SSD running Lion, and running it smoothly. The total upgrade cost was Software ($25) + Hardware ($366) = $391.

On Apple.com, the cheapest MacBookPro 13″ starts at $1,200 and has 4GB Ram and a 500GB Serial drive. The cost of upgrading the RAM to match my MacBookPro would be $200, and switching to an SSD of 256GB is an additional $600. Upgrading the factory settings to match my new settings would run you $800.

I did it for less than half of that. A new Mac with these setting costs $2,000. That’s a lot of cash. Save yourself $1,600 and do your homework.

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