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October 20, 2008 7:35 PM   Subscribe

Help me pimp my Powerbook please.

Okay, so the hard drive died in my desktop computer and I've had to rely on my Powerbook to design on. Thing is? I was having to work on large Photoshop files (was designing a billboard) and my Powerbook seemed slooooow to me so due to frustration I feel like I've not been doing my best work. I've been cursing at it a lot. I keep thinking that although I'm working on huge files it's not an old enough laptop to be that slow.

I'm in the process of fixing my desktop computer, but since hard drives and memory are pretty cheap right now I want to see if there's anything I can do to upgrade my laptop as well. I'd like to be happy working on it when need be.

Here are some questions:

1. Years ago I would've run Norton Utilities on my computers -- does that still help? I don't mind buying it if it's worth the money. Is there anything else in particular I should be doing or keeping track of as maintenance to keep my Macs running in top shape at all times? What's the latest?

2. Here's the Hardware Profile of my machine. How much more RAM/Storage/whatever can I or should I put in to optimize and upgrade it? If it's easy I'm happy to install the stuff myself and order it online. (Suggestions on the best brands and webstores to get deals would be great too!)

• Model Name: MacBook Pro 15" (I hook it up to a bigger monitor)
• Model Identifier: MacBookPro2,2
• Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
• Processor Speed: 2.33 GHz
• Number Of Processors: 1
• Total Number Of Cores: 2
• L2 Cache (per processor): 4 MB
• Memory: 2 GB
• Bus Speed: 667 MHz
• Boot ROM Version: MBP22.00A5.B07
• SMC Version: 1.12f5

Thanks in advance!
posted by miss lynnster to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You can add a gig or two to your memory if you bought the computer between late 2006 and now. You'll need to buy some two 2-gigabyte memory cards, and even then you may only be adding one gig to your max memory (for some stupid reason, the MBP could only use three gigs for about a year. If your computer is from 2007, you might be able to use the full 4 gigs.

As far as software to help you out, try a program like Onyx to clear out some system cruft.
posted by tylermoody at 7:47 PM on October 20, 2008

This article says to put in a 7200 RPM hard drive if you don't have one.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:49 PM on October 20, 2008

"Years ago I would've run Norton Utilities on my computers -- does that still help?"

Emphatically no. Back in the day, Pete made a few decent utilities, but these days anything with his name on it is designed to destroy your computer. This goes double on the Apple side, where Symantec is not just incompetent but malicious. Stay away, it's bad news.

"whatever can I or should I put in to optimize and upgrade it?"

On a laptop? Storage is the main constraint. Not the SIZE of storage, but the hideous slowness of it. If you're sitting in one place, can you stand to spring for a FireWire external disk? You'll notice an immediate improvement in performance by not using the chuggy slow internal storage.
posted by majick at 8:01 PM on October 20, 2008

Response by poster: When I was doing the billboards, I was using a zillion gig external hard drive for scratch disk space and even though I had 7 gigs of available storage on my Powerbook it was still saying I was running out of space. Which... grrrrr.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:18 PM on October 20, 2008

Most important: Have an Intel-native version of Photoshop - CS3 is a million times faster than the previous versions on my similar MacBook Pro.
Have a lot of free space on the startup disk - at least several times the size of your document. That's another reason to have most of your stuff on external Firewire disks (NOT USB 2.0 disks!)
Quit any apps you're not actually using - they take up a surprising amount of virtual memory.
Use Onyx or similar to run the periodic maintenance scripts, especially "weekly". This is the housekeeping activity that you are looking for, not Norton Utilities! You can also run them from the command line, but Onyx is free and easy.
A daily reboot also perks things up if they're bogging down.
posted by nowonmai at 8:19 PM on October 20, 2008

CS3, 4GB Ram and a 7200rpm HD are all you can do.
posted by furtive at 8:21 PM on October 20, 2008

7 gigs is not enough; aim for at least 20. Move your iTunes library to an external disk if you need to, but you want as much space as possible free on the laptop drive for virtual memory. My MacBook pro grinds to a halt if get below about 5Gb free, and I'll bet my files are smaller.
posted by nowonmai at 8:23 PM on October 20, 2008

Slight revision to that: 6GB seems to work on recent models from the old line, though it's not officially supported.
posted by abcde at 8:25 PM on October 20, 2008

One thing I notice on my white MacBook: when my available hard drive space gets below about 5 or 6 gigs, it really seems to be more likely to start crawlllliiingggggg until I reboot. If you are getting low on HD space, maybe you can offload some old stuff until you finish this project.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 8:27 PM on October 20, 2008

To avoid any confusion, I meant it's possible to install 6GB of RAM, of course.
posted by abcde at 8:29 PM on October 20, 2008

In the past I have shopped at OWC. They have guides to identify your macbook and will have competitive prices on memory while still offering an assurance of compatibility. Max out your RAM, OS X eats RAM the way Windows eats CPU.

Other than that, nowonmai already gave great advice (external firewire drive, being sure you have CS3 and 10.5 installed, and keeping your system partition under 60% full).
posted by volition at 11:57 PM on October 20, 2008

There is, of course, the holy grail of upgrades, the solid state disc hard drive. A 64GB one like the ones used in the new Air notebooks means that you will get more speed and have to use less power (that and no moving parts means that there is less heat and 100 times the shock resistance). Will you want to spend four figures on that though? Probably not, but that would be some crazy pimpin'!!!!
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 1:03 AM on October 21, 2008

Based on your specs looks like you're limited to 3gb RAM. If you're going to spend money on an upgrade, adding 1 GB might help but dropping in a faster HDD might help more. Also, definitely look into the external FW disk.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:20 AM on October 21, 2008

Response by poster: Okey doke... soooo I installed Onyx and optimized my system and it already seems a smidgen faster. Then for under $150 I just ordered a 2gb RAM chip (anyone want to buy my now-extra 1gb chip? I'll sell it to ya!) and a 320GB 7200RPM internal hard drive. Sooooooooo, now I just have to get the stuff delivered and then figure out how to install and transfer everything easily. Pretty soon hopefully my Mac will be officially pimped! YAY! :)

Thanks for all of the advice! You guys rock.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:05 PM on October 21, 2008

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