Saturday, June 10, 2017

Hotroddin' my MacBookies

These days I'm using as my main computer, a headless 2011 MacBookPro 8,1 tricked out with 16 GB memory & a Seagate hybrid drive (smokin'!), with an old 23" Apple monitor that has a decidedly lavender cast. (It was free.)

My friend Margretta gave her MacBookPro a little drinky-poo, a very generous glass of chardonnay. But the MacBookPro was far too young to drink. Apple carded it, said it needed a motherboard and possibly a video card as well. Toast points were mentioned.

So I inherited her MacBookPro for parts. It took some doing to get it up and running. Mostly burping and patting, using all manner of mashed keyboard patterns, until it turned on. Surprisingly, the battery took a charge. It needed memory and a hard drive. I don't turn it off very often, for fear it won't restart. The screen really is burnt toast. Or it's still suffering from an alcoholic blackout. Maybe it needs to join AA.

I cleaned what dried chardonnay I could see on the motherboard but was told that it will eventually short out as the acid from the wine will continue to corrode the connections. A good thing it wasn't zinfandel or a good chianti. Sliss. I always meant to give it a water bath, but I was too chickenshit to immerse it. So far, so good. I'll cross that bridge....

What I've learned is that the best way to revamp and breathe new life into elderMacs is with some OWC memory (some models can take twice, or even quadruple the memory than Apple recommends), and OWC's reasonably priced Seagate solid state hybrid drives (SSHD), if you can't afford the real
Solid State Drives.

You can never be too rich, too thin, have enough memory or a fast enough hard drive. Buy the maximum memory your Mac will support, and a solid state drive. You won't regret it. A word of caution: if you plan to go above and beyond those Apple specs, get your memory sticks from Other World Computing (aka as they're guaranteed to work. Other brands don't play well together.

With these two simple upgrades, the MacBookPro, and kin, fairly flies through its paces. Try buying a souped-up 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5 MacBookPro 2011 (8,1) for a couple of C-notes and chump change. Unsouped it goes for $650-800 according to OK, so, well, maybe not, as it is a headless horseman, ergo, it's permanently tethered to my big LCD screen....

My previous rescue Mac project, and old headless souped up 2007 MacBookPro 3,1 is now the flatscreen TV's very own Mac. The MBP was some skateboarder's thrashed pet MacOllie project, I got it for a C-note off Craigslist. I put another couple of C-notes into it (it needed a battery too), and a $17 BookEndz Docking Station took care of most of the thrashed ports.

It was a real hassle to work around having no screen (bad inverter) when the hard drive went south. I had to reformat it on another Mac. It also had a bad DVD drive, wonky audio ports, no microphone or speakers to speak of. (I bought it for the 64-bit Intel Core 2 Duo processor so I could run TurboTax—probably the only reason why I upgrade my Macs, to pay my taxes, yetch. I need a drink). I persevered with myriad odd workarounds, and got several fabulous years' worth of hotroddy use out of it.

I couldn't turn it off very often either, as the off-on switch is grotty. So, a new battery was a must. I added a Seagate solid state hybrid drive, and doubled the maximum proscribed memory, and the old MBP thought it was a rocket.

My current Mac rescue rebuild project: a 2.26 GHz MacBook Late 2009 Unibody, for Neil, and for me, a 2010 MacBook (swappable polycarbonate case, screen, trackpad, keyboard, memory & batteries). An added bonus—it has a working screen. A real laptop I can take with me when I teach. Or run TurboTax.

I did my homework, it took several months of searching Craigslist to find the MacBook model I wanted (at 2.4GHz, the mid-2010 MacBook shares parts with the late 2009 MacBook, and the 2009-2010 MacBookPro). Processor speed and compatibility are important. They all swap spit, as it were. But even more significant, it would support 16 GB of memory, critical to run the latest Mac OS.

The 2010 MacBook was positively crippled with 4 GB memory, which, according to Apple, was the maximum amount of memory it could support, but I found it was barely functional with double that, at 8 GB of memory. Hard to believe it shipped with only 2 GB of memory. No wonder the woman was selling it. Spinning beachballs drive me mad. What was Apple thinking? But with 16 GBs of OWC memory it's now a blazingly fast machine. It has a new lease on life.

Also, I was told that the MacBook couldn't access the full 16 GB memory under Snow Leopard (I'd only get 8 GB), that the tweaked memory hack only worked under Mountain Lion or later. Not true. I have full 16 GB of memory, so much memory, Snow Leopard hardly knows what to do with itself.

Cost for the 2010 MacBook via Craigslist was a C-note, I already had the SSHD from my 2009 MB, I swapped it. Memory was $130, so a souped up 2010 seldom-used MacBook (almost-Pro) for $230, (or $330, counting the SSHD), isn't bad at all, considering that lesser dysfunctional MacBooks were going for much more on Craigslist.

The 2009 MacBook I got for free (bad trackpad and bulging battery, replete with the slow OEM Apple hard drive, and 2 GBs of basic memory meant it was dysfunctional). A new battery, 8 GB of memory (Apple said that 4 GB was maximum supported memory), and a SSHD drive set me back nearly $300, but I got 3-and-a-half years' worth of trouble-free computing from it. Time to pass it onto Neil who's kvetching up a storm on the limitations of the old Macbook 1,1.

It was a little weird taking the bulging battery out of the unibody case. But OWC provided the odd tri-flange screwdriver and clear instructions with the battery. I had it swapped out in no time. Apple never mean for us lackeys to ever change those batteries. Non-user entropy or something. You can look undah mah hood but no touching!

Alas, I discovered the original OEM Apple 5400 RPM hard drive that came with the 2010 MacBook was painfully SLOW! Reformatting did not help. By contrast, the Seagate hybrid drive is a miracle worker. Having that solid state NAND flash chip for basic repetitive functions really speeds processes up. Never underestimate the speed of a hard drive on basic OS functions.

(A note: the combo of the solid state drive and maxed out memory meant the 2009 MacBook ran hot, and the skidproof silicone backing on its bottom partially peeled off, making it a sticky duct tape debris dream in droopy diapers. Not a pretty sight. A plastic outer case kept its drawers in place. When I switched to the Seagate hybrid drive, the MacBook ran cooler, and I was able to clean it up and massage its bottom back onto the aluminum case.

Actually I was looking for a junked 2009 case so I could fix the bottom on mine, and the trackpad too when I stumbled upon the 2010 MacBook. And one thing led to another.)

Souped up, these two models are basically throttled MacBookPros in white polycarbonate bodies and fewer ports. (Not having the flash memory card port is a minus). The large hybrid drives are replete with multiple OS systems so I can swap systems on the go if I want to. Plus, with all that added memory, the MacBooks can handle High Sierra...

I will probably stick with El Capitan, though. (Bottleneck OS speed is an issue with Sierra). But truth be known, I prefer the surprisingly stable, and might I add, zippy (with maxed out memory and SSHD) Snow Leopard. So, I'm straddling the OS decades and hedging my bets.

It's like pulling teeth, weaning Neil off from my old 2006 warhorse MacBook 1,1 which is alive and well, but Snow Leopard is the end of the OS line for the first 32-bit Intel Core Macs. (I tried running Mountain Lion on it. Mistake. I had to pull the hard drive to get it out of white screen.) The old MacBook 1,1 is a souped up (2GB memory (it came with 512 GB memory), plus a real SSD solid state drive) but the trackpad's clicker broke. Try finding a replacement. Yeah. Too old. Time to retire it.

The MacBook 1,1 was the only Macbook I paid "full used market price" for and that was under $1000 as I got it used from Apple Refurb. It promptly blew its 1.0 build motherboard when we were in Scotland, and was replaced with a better one (1.1) for free, thanks to AppleCare. And eleven years later, it's still kicking. Talk about solidly built.

He's resisting the migration to the newer 2009 MacBook I fixed for him—even with the royal blue cover and keypad skin. So I'm refusing to fix the old one. Time to move up, but I still can't get Neil off Snow Leopard—even though I have Mt. Lion and Mavericks systems on all the newer MacBooks. I can't even get him to use an iPod, or an iPad, let alone, an iPhone, or an Android smartphone.

I haven't the heart to tell him that the newest Macs will be more like the iPhone/iPad  iOS, and that the wave of the future is already here. Beasties of different colors in sleekit iOs coats are milling at the gate.

See also:
Macury Retrograde Or what could go wrong with my flies upgrading to Snow Leopard?
On iClouds & Motherships
Lloyd Reynolds' Calligraphic Legacy

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