Pimp my aging Macbook Pro!
July 10, 2009 5:47 AM   Subscribe

My trusty old first-generation Macbook Pro is nearing the end of its 3-year warranty, and I'm debating whether to splurge on one of the sexy new machines or to see what I can do to put a little bit

more oomph into it. It's already at the maximum 2 GB of RAM, so no luck there, and I could swear that it's running significantly slower lately, despite liberal application of Onyx and other 'performance tuners.'
I've looked envyingly at friends with SSD-based Apple laptops, and was thinking that something like that might be worth trying, but would the speed gains I'd get on an older machine be worth the hassle? And is this something I should wait until Snow Leopard for?

While I'm at it: these first-generation Macbook Pros, they're pretty hot. Like, uncomfortable to have on the lap. I'm using smcfancontrol and have that sucker cranked all the way up to 6000 RPM, and my core temperature still never gets below about 55 degrees centigrade. I seem to recall reading something about part of the problem being improperly applied thermal paste, but there endeth my knowledge of the matter. Is this something I could see about dealing with myself, or would I be tempting fate a bit too much?
posted by bokane to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: get an iLap—they run about $50 and elevate it so air can circulate underneath and help keep it cooler. they also make it more comfortable to type! i love mine and highly recommend it to everyone i know.
posted by lia at 6:20 AM on July 10, 2009

What are you using your computer for? That should be the driver of your decision, not simple gadget lust.

these first-generation Macbook Pros, they're pretty hot. Like, uncomfortable to have on the lap.

A few years ago, manufacturers started calling them "portable computers" instead of "laptops" for this reason. They're all hot. Your best bet is to get a pad, as lia recommends. I use a Lapinator.
posted by mkultra at 7:06 AM on July 10, 2009

Some of the early MBP will actually address 3GB. It might be worth trying.
posted by now i'm piste at 7:06 AM on July 10, 2009

Best answer: As the owner of a first gen MacBook that just exited warranty in June, I can sympathize. I also experience some of the same issues - its noticeably slower lately, I'm at 2GB as well, etc. I'll hold out as long as I can, at least until SL.

I've also thought about an SSD, the key being that I can pull it out of my old MB and put it in a 13" MBP later this year. Beware some SSDs have compatibility issues with Macs.

If you buy a 15" MBP now, you cant go wrong. They're really nice - 7 hr battery, fast CPU, 4GB of RAM and not out-of-line prices. I'm trying to wait until a possible November refresh - if they stick with the Core 2 Duo chips I hope the 9400M gets revised. Otherwise they'll go to nehalem-based chips and then who knows what the graphics capabilities will be (due to licensing and the architecture, it might not be possible to keep an Nvidia graphics northbridge, and Apple may have to revert to poor Intel graphics).

If you open it and reapply thermal paste, use some stuff like Arctic Silver.
posted by SirOmega at 7:13 AM on July 10, 2009

Best answer: Don't do it. You don't need a faster computer. You just don't. Don't come up with rationalizations. What are you doing, rendering video on the go? Come on.

Wait another 2 or 3 years, and then when you leapfrog over a couple of generations, you'll get some actual new capabilities. There is almost nothing that new Macs can do that the very first Intel Macs couldn't do.
posted by yesno at 7:35 AM on July 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ah, the age-old "Upgrade vs. Buy New" question that's asked over and over and over and over...

1) Other than the "slowness" of your MacBook, how is the rest of it? Are there any cosmetic issues? Has the plastic been cracking or discoloring like I've seen on so many of these. Would that significantly affect the resale value of this MacBook should you decide to sell it? Are there any other issues like dead pixels on the screen or an optical drive that is starting to wonk out?

2) You say that you've used Onyx and other "system enhancers" to optimize your system, but have you really? Have you used XSlimmer to trim down your Universal applications to be Intel-only? Have you removed unnecessary and unused fonts from the system (that load at startup and Application startups)? When was the last time you actually re-installed the operating system? I've found that, occasionally, a clean install of the OS (followed by careful manual migration of my user profile back to the new OS) can do wonders for a slower Mac. Have you looked to see what's actually running on your system that might be making it slow? Check your LoginItems, LaunchDaemons and StartupItems. You might be surprised to find out what's actually running on your system.

3) If upgrading, the most cost-effective way (outside of maxxing RAM which you've already done) to get a speed boost is to put in a faster RPM HD. I suspect that you probably have a slower 5400RPM drive in your MacBook. Price out a faster HD (like a 7200 rpm). Lab tests have shown that you do actually get better performance from a faster spinning HD. Another option are the SSDs you've already looked at. My experience, so far, with SSDs is that yes, they are faster, but not so much faster that it's going to knock your socks off. The main benefit to a SSD is that they have a much lower power draw and so can really help in situations where you need to extend your hours-of-operation while running from battery.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 7:51 AM on July 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Unless you are gaming or dual booting you really have to think about whether a newer/faster computer is what you really need. is your friend! Not only can you find parts at reasonable prices, but there is also a real wealth of information in the forums for optimizing your computer. If you have one of the earlier intel processors, you may not be able to max out at 4 gigs of ram, but you could, as stated above, go up to 3 gigs. However, to optimize this, you will have to buy 2 sticks of 2 gigs and just consider the other gig a loss as the processor can't handle all 4 gigs.
posted by TheBones at 9:08 AM on July 10, 2009

Before buying one of the new Mac laptops, be sure to try out the multi-touch trackpad and see if you can live with it. Some people I know love them, and some want to throw their new computers out the window.
posted by LadyOscar at 4:47 PM on July 10, 2009

The only huge things you would be getting with a new model are:



double battery life (on the new-line MBP's)

anything else is simply incremental upgrades (more ram, faster drive, 10% faster cpu clock) that in my opinion don't warrant an upgrade without a bigger reason.

Personally i'd wait until you really need a new computer. +1 to all of mrbarrett.com's comments above.
posted by mezamashii at 1:20 AM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

You might try and a find a good local authorized Apple Service and Support provider. I’ve used Computer DNA in Cincinnati a few times and I’m very pleased.

For example, they charged me just $25 to install RAM in a Mac Mini with no appointment necessary. I think it took 15 minutes.

I also plan on keeping my MBP, even if it costs me a little money each year to keep it going.
posted by vkxmai at 6:50 PM on July 12, 2009

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