Upgrading my Laptop

When I first bought this laptop three years ago, I really wanted to buy it with a one terabyte Solid State Drive (SSD). It was replacing a laptop with a nearly full 500 GB hard drive. I was buying it in a hurry, because the old laptop died, and I thought long and hard about ordering one with a larger SSD. I finally decided I couldn’t wait to order one custom-built, and I couldn’t afford the nearly $3000 price tag at that time. I’d been out of work for a couple of months in the summer, and it was nearly Christmas. I decided I’d go with a 500GB SSD.

As it turned out, when I migrated my data, I picked up about 50 GB of space, probably from deleting unneeded logs. Still, my photo collection continued to grow, and I offloaded my iTunes library to an external hard drive. This helped for a while, but once again space was getting tight. I’d already removed everything I easily could.

I did a little looking, and found that I could swap out my factory 500 GB SSD for a one terabyte model. I ordered the OWC Aura Pro X Complete SSD from MacSales. There was a video showing the upgrade procedure and it looked straightforward and something I could handle. The kit came with the special pentalobe and  Torx screwdrivers needed to open the laptop case and remove the old SSD, and an enclosure to put the factory SSD into, to make it easy to transfer over my data.

The physical upgrade was the easy part. You have to use the five-pointed pentalobe screwdriver to remove the 10 tiny little screws holding the bottom of the computer in place. Then the battery has to be disconnected, the old SSD removed, and the new one slid into place and screwed down. While I had the computer open, I noticed a thick layer of dust clinging to the fans, and blew them out with some canned air.

The next step was to put the original SSD in the enclosure that came with the kit, so that it could be used as an external drive. Easy-peasy.

Getting the computer back up and running was the hard part. I plugged in the now-external hard drive and started it up, and nothing happened. Fortunately, I had the iPad, and was able to do a re-read the data transfer instructions. The next step was to try to start the computer in Recovery Mode, by starting up while holding down Command (⌘)-R. It connected to the internet, downloaded what it needed, and then showed the OS X Utilities. Unfortunately, neither the new internal SSD or the old external SSD showed up in the disk list. Fortunately, I tried reinstalling the OS, and when it did, it became clear: Recovery Mode was set up for Yosemite, and both SSDs were formatted in the new APFS (Apple File System) format, which Yosemite doesn’t recognize.

Back to the web. I had to figure out how to get the High Sierra version of Recovery Mode. Fortunately I found this support document on Apple’s site. With a computer like mine, that’s been upgraded, macOS Recovery will recover different versions of macOS depending on which keys you hold down when starting up. When you hold down Command (⌘)-R, as I’d done before, you get the version that originally came with the computer. This is why I’d gotten the Yosemite installer. What I wanted was Option-Command-R, which upgrades the computer to the most recent version of the OS available for the computer.

Once I did that, I got the High Sierra version of the macOS Utilities, which recognized both SSDs. I reformatted the new SSD, installed High Sierra on it, and checked permissions. Then I rebooted the computer and ran Migration Assistant on it to transfer the data from the old SSD to the new one. It was interesting to see how much faster Migration Assistant ran this time, copying data between two SSDs rather the Time Capsule and an SSD. When it first started up, it said it would take about an hour and a half to transfer the data, but the estimates quickly dropped. I’m not sure exactly how long it took because I had to go out and get the ice off the driveway.

So far, so good. The process was bumpier than I anticipated, but once I got to the High Sierra installer, I was pretty much able to run through the steps MacSales outlined on their website. It seems to have copied everything successfully, including my Keychain with my stored passwords, and now I don’t need to worry about filling up the computer when I import pictures.

For now.

Resurrected Mac

Last December, I wrote about how my Early 2011 MacBook Pro died, and how I’d replaced it with a new machine. The video fritzed out while working in Photoshop, and things deteriorated until by the end of the week, it either froze at the grey screen, or progressed to a blue screen. Apparently a lot of that generation of MacBook Pros had problems with the video generation chip, and in the original post, I linked to three separate pages detailing the problems, and how, at that point, Apple hadn’t addressed the problem.

On February 20, Apple announced the MacBook Pro Repair Extension Program for Video Issues saying,

Apple has determined that a small percentage of MacBook Pro systems may exhibit distorted video, no video, or unexpected system restarts. These MacBook Pro systems were sold between February 2011 and December 2013.

Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider will repair affected MacBook Pro systems, free of charge.

I took the computer in to the Chestnut Hill Apple store, where a very helpful Apple Tech by the name of Dan verified the issue, and ordered the necessary replacement main logic board. When the part came in, I brought the laptop back in, and it went off for service for a few days. It came back last Wednesday, and I picked it up Friday night. It appears to be running properly, and they even replaced the battery in it, along with the main logic board, all for the price of $0.00.

I would have preferred this program had been in place last December, but I’m glad that they finally recognized the problem, and I wanted to let people know about the solution.

So what am I going to do with it?  At this point, I’m not sure. Its hard drive is still overly full, which means it’s still slow. I do like having the ability to use Mavericks again (and the Snow Leopard installation I have squirrelled away on a hard drive), but the new machine is faster, and I love its sharper screen. At the very least, I’ve gone from having a doorstop with valuable data on it that I couldn’t remove, to having a working machine that I can erase my data from, and resell.

One thing that I immediately noticed was the full title bar in Safari on Mavericks. It’s the one thing that really irritates me the most about Yosemite — you have to think and aim to find a place to drag the window around by. I don’t find the extra 50 px or so of content area to be so helpful as to outweigh the irritation of not having a proper title bar to drag the window around by.

New Mac

I picked up a new MacBook Pro last night. The old one, an Early 2011 Macbook Pro started crashing on me earlier this week, and by the end of the week, wouldn’t start at all. Apparently, there’s a lot of that going around. In my case, it started pretty suddenly – I was editing a scan in Photoshop, when suddenly the screen scrambled, and then the system crashed. I rebooted, verified the disk with Disk Utility and went to bed. I was just drifting off  when the computer restarted itself, by itself. Not good. Over the next few days, I saw the start up screen shifted over by a third, and another time, I saw vertical bars. By the time Thursday night rolled around, I couldn’t get past the gray startup screen, and had seen a Blue Screen of Death a couple of times. In hindsight, the fact that I couldn’t preview my TIFF scans could have been a clue too, though I put it down to an incompatibility with Mavericks.

Anyrate, after reading up about the situation, it seems like the cure would have been a motherboard replacement; this for a computer which was nearly four years old, and had been running slowly anyway. I would not have chosen right now to replace the computer– Christmas is coming up and I just spent about $1000 replacing my front brakes, but I didn’t see much choice, so I started looking at the Apple Online store, trying to choose between my options. Continue reading

Creating a Bootable Snow Leopard External Hard Drive

I am reluctantly getting ready to upgrade my laptop to OS X 10.7  Lion. (The “reluctantly” part is a subject for another post). Because I have some PowerPC apps, including a couple of favorite games that I still use, I decided to pick up an external hard drive, and install Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped.

Continue reading