More MacBook Questions
November 11, 2009 8:14 PM   Subscribe

I now own a MacBook Pro 17". And now I have some questions relating to MacOS and Windows 7, hardware upgrades and getting Applecare-on-the-cheap.

And those questions are...

1. I've installed Windows 7 on the machine, and that's pretty much all I ever intend to run on it. Can I delete the MacOS partition to get some space back? Or is it vitally important that I keep it around?

2. Perhaps related to question 1, Apple has said they intend to properly support Windows 7 with an updated Bootcamp later this year. When this is released, will I just be able to download this from Apple via the Apple Software Update program in Windows, or will I need to go into MacOS first?

3. I really, really, really want to upgrade the hard drive. I've found a 750GB 2.5" drive I could buy, but the description on the store's website says that it's 12.5mm thick. Is that too big for a MacBook Pro 17", or will it fit?

4. I'm also interested in upgrading the CPU. Not necessarily now but someday. Is this possible? The salesperson I spoke to said no but he didn't seem positive.

5. My MacBook Pro is supposed to have two video cards, namely an NVIDIA GeForce 9400M and a 9600M GT. How do I switch between the two video cards in Windows 7? I can't figure this out.

6. In my last AskMe question, it was suggested that rather than buying AppleCare from Apple, I should buy it from eBay. I checked out eBay and there were some really good prices for Applecare on there. But my question is, how did these eBayers get these AppleCare products? I had always been told that whatever Apple charged for one of its products was what Apple charged, no discounts entered into. Are the eBay Applecare’s legit, or did they fall of the back of a truck or something?

7. Finally, I'm running the computer in its native res of 1920 x 1200. While surfing the net, images on the net seem blurry somehow. It's the same for Firefox as it is for IE8 and the latest drivers are installed. Photos saved on my hard drive don't seem to be affected. Any idea what might be causing this?

Thanks in advance for your help everyone!
posted by Effigy2000 to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: What I can answer off the top of my head:

1. Your Mac OS partition is not necessary for the running of the machine. That said, I'd probably keep it around, because there are some firmware updaters and such that can only be run from the Mac OS. If you need to, you can boot from the Mac OS X install DVD and resize your OS X partition so that it only has a few GB of free space, then grow the Windows partition.

2. Driver updates for Windows should be pushed to you through Apple Software Update for Windows. Even if that's not the case, I can't see why you'd need to boot into OS X.

4. No. The CPU is permanently attached to the logic board.

5. Dynamic GPU switching isn't supported under Windows (in the current Boot Camp Drivers). Your computer will use only the 9600M GT.

6. I'm not sure why they have it, but I'd be suspicious. AppleCare is a good investment, and you should just buy it from Apple unless you're certain you're getting the real thing.
posted by aaronbeekay at 8:31 PM on November 11, 2009

And, a quick bit of research seems to point toward "yes, you can" on 3), provided that you have a 17" Unibody (non-removable battery). You may want to double-check this, though.
posted by aaronbeekay at 8:34 PM on November 11, 2009

1. I suppose you could, but I wouldn't. An empty Snow Leopard install isn't *that* big, and you'll find that if you ever have an issue that requires a call to AppleCare, they won't be willing or able to go too far troubleshooting a hardware issue if you can't boot into OS X.

2. Improved support for Windows 7 via bootcamp would probably come via new drivers for the graphics card, the isight, the multi-touch trackpad, etc. These may or may not arrive via Apple software update or Win7's built-in driver updater (it's got one of those, right?). To be safe, keep OS X available.

3. Dunno.

4. For all practical purposes this is impossible for a end user. The chip is soldered by machine onto the mainboard, so you'd have to remove the existing chip very carefully and attach the new one with a couple hundred very very small solder points. Assuming you can find a newer chip that would work, and not start a fire. If there are *any* consumer portable computers being made today with user upgradable CPUs, I am not aware of them.

5. A new driver, presumably provided by Apple or maybe nvidia, could enable this.

6. The most likely reason that someone is selling an applecare box at way below retail price on eBay is that they've already called AC and pinned that Applecare registration number to a different Mac, rendering it useless to you. If you don't want to pay full retail from apple, I'd try to see if you can swing a discount through your employer or any educational institution you're associated with, or just take whatever small discount an Authorized Reseller sells it at.

7. Dunno, but what happens if you save one of said blurry images to your desktop and view it through another application?
posted by kid_dynamite at 8:43 PM on November 11, 2009

I bought an AppleCare from Amazon for a little bit cheaper than the Apple price and registered it without a problem - it is totally legit (I did this over the phone and the rep didn't have a problem with the fact that I got it on amazon).

You can wait until the end of your year warranty to buy AppleCare, if you want to save a little bit of money right now...just don't forget to get the AppleCare in a year.

Could it be that your browser is stretching low resolution images to fit in the window?
posted by kenliu at 8:57 PM on November 11, 2009

6. My understanding is that retailers get wholesale pricing on Applecare, and that the definition of "retailer" is rather lax. Check out this article for some more detail.
posted by niles at 8:58 PM on November 11, 2009

If you buy applecare from a 3rd party, you'll get a little box with a diagnostic CD and a card with a number stamped on it. You need to call Apple and give them the serial number of your macbook and the number from the applecare box so they can extend your warranty. This must be done before your primary warranty lapses.

I doubt Apple will service it if it doesn't have MacOS on there at all. You should be able to modify the partition size so that MacOS only uses 20GB or so.

I believe if you upgrade the hard drive, you should just install the MacOS on the new hard drive, then run bootcamp to partition and reinstall 7.

As for the tiny text and stuff in the browser, there are options in Firefox to set default fonts and zoom levels (and zoom increments in about:config)
posted by ijoyner at 9:05 PM on November 11, 2009

I bought Applecare for a 15" MBP from Ebay with no problems whatsoever about 3 months ago. Paid $150 using Ebay's "Buy It Now", Apple charges $350 if you buy it direct. I got it from ebay user ameenterprises. They don't seem to be selling any longer, but they had a few thousand transactions with 100% positive feedback. Just look for someone with similar good ratings and you should be fine.
posted by bengarland at 9:31 PM on November 11, 2009

Buying a 17" Macbook Pro to exclusively run Windows seems like a waste of money to me, and I'm writing as a person that just bought a 17" MacbookPro5,2 one month ago. That said, yes you can fit a 12.5mm height laptop SATA HDD into the 17" unibody.
posted by thewalrus at 11:14 PM on November 11, 2009

Best answer: On 3: From what I read 12.5 mm will fit in the latest Macbook Pros.

On 6: Be careful with the really cheap AppleCare offers on eBay. Unless the seller guarantees you to send the packaging with the additional serial number and not only the AppleCare code, you could end up losing warranty due to fake codes generated with a key generator. They will register, the Apple support site will said you're covered, but if someone buys a retail box with that code and registers it your coverage will be gone and Apple won't do anything about it unless you have the original box the code came in.

Buying these codes off eBay was extremely popular on a large German mac forum I read, recently more and more trouble came out of it though.
posted by starzero at 11:32 PM on November 11, 2009

Best answer: Dirt-cheap AppleCare on eBay is, more often than is worth the gamble, a scam that you don't discover until you try to exercise the coverage. At which point, it's discovered the number is a fake or has been tied to another machine already. Over at the Something Awful forums, there's been plenty of discussion about it, and the consensus is don't risk it.
posted by secret about box at 11:59 PM on November 11, 2009

Re: Question 6) If you're a student or an educator you can get applecare at a substantial discount (Low 200's vs $350 for your MBP) but even if you can't get the discount you need to get it. A few weeks ago I was at dinner with some friends and we got on the subject of Apple laptop reliability (or lack thereof). This was a few weeks after the logic board on my MBP went. (Unfortunately this happened a couple months after my Apple care expired.) Every person at the table who owned a mac had to send it in for major service at least once after the one year mark (when applecare kicks in). Major stuff too-Logic Boards, Displays, stuff where if you were to pay for it (at upwards of $1000 for a logicboard), you'd just as soon bin it and buy another laptop. My MBP was on its second Logic Board, and my previous mac (a powerbook G4 17") was so problematic Apple took it back (after 2 years and 5 major services) and gave me the MBP. So, just go ahead and spend that money and get applecare. And 2 or so years from now seriously consider selling your MBP while it still has some time left on Applecare. I unfortunately have come to conclusion that while OSX is the best operating system available the hardware isn't (at least from a reliability and longevity standpoint.) Good Luck.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 5:38 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you buy a new HDD nothing stops you from cloning the first drive onto the second, then swapping in the original when and if the machine needs (non-software related) service. It's dead easy to change the drives on the new unibody systems - one lever and four screws, unlike the 40 bazillion screws I need to pull on my MBP if I want to change drives...
posted by caution live frogs at 7:59 AM on November 12, 2009

Response by poster: OK, follow up question.

After reading this, I'm getting the impression that I could stick a SSD into my MacBook pro, while keeping a bigger 2.5" drive in there as well. Is that possible, or am I reading this wrong?

Also, thanks again for your help everyone. I'll work out best answers soon.
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:37 PM on November 12, 2009

Best answer: Matt's post is about a Mac Pro workstation, not a notebook. The only way to fit another drive into the Macbook would be replacing the optical drive with something like this.
posted by starzero at 9:14 AM on November 13, 2009

Response by poster: Ah, thanks for clearing that up, starzero.

OK, looks like I'm going to buy the 750GB 12mm thick drive, and an Applecare from a legit store, to be safe. Everything else has pretty much also been answered at this point, so thanks to everyone who helped me out here.
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:08 PM on November 13, 2009

Now some of you have me worried. As I said previously, I purchased my Applecare on Ebay. It registered fine on Apple's site and I even received an electronic AppleCare Protection Plan Certificate directly from Apple. Is there really a chance that this might not be legitimate?
posted by bengarland at 9:13 PM on November 13, 2009

Best answer: As bengarland asked - I hope it's ok to post some more information on the AppleCare issue in your question Effigy2000, it might be interesting for others who stumble over this thread through Google or Mefi-Search.

The problem with the ridiculously low priced Apple Care & Protection Plans (ACPP) from eBay is, that most of these codes have been either generated with a key generator or were purchased with fraudulent credit cards.

A retail ACPP comes with the code to register on the website and a box, which has an additional serial number (which usually is also printed on the invoice) and serves as a proof of purchase. On eBay you usually just get the code. These fake codes (not really fake, just not legit) will work fine to register the plan, you'll get the certificate from Apple (this is an automated process), and you even can have your Mac repaired with them without any issues, if you're lucky.

There's several scenarios where you can run into trouble though:
- Someone buys a retail box with the same code as yours and tries to register it.
- Apple revokes non-legit codes bought with fraudulent credit cards (they do that every few months), your code is one of them.

If your code has been revoked you can then try to call them and re-register it but you'll have to provide either the box with the serial or the invoice with the serial - which you don't have.
Also Apple or an Apple repair partner sometimes asks you to provide proof of purchase of the ACPP if you try to get your Mac repaired (doesn't happen too often, but it happens).

There's also another flavor of the scam, where sellers buy legit ACPPs, open the box and sell you the code. A few months later they'll apply for a refund from Apple for the remaining months of warranty. As they still have the box with the serial they'll get the money back, you'll lose your coverage.

But one can safely buy from eBay sellers with tons of positive feedback, right? Not so much. As the codes register without problems after purchase you'll hardly run into any seller who has negative feedback, people will get the code via email and be happy, then leave positive feedback for the seller. If they run into trouble a few months later the seller will long be gone with the money and continue with another account.

So, what about that PayPal buyer protection, will be easy to get your money back from them then, won't it? Well, there's a catch and many people do not know that: PayPal only covers physical products, but your code, that came via email? Virtual. PayPal protection also only applies up to 6 weeks (iirc) after purchase. Similar issue with the amazon marketplace protection.

Next problem: even if the seller sends you a box, you're not 100% safe, there's fake boxes with bogus serial numbers printed on them, the codes will work, the serials won't. Chinese sellers are notorious for that.

Another thing to think about: if you sell your Mac with the extended warranty and your buyer runs into trouble in the future he/she might come back and get you into trouble as you sold something you didn't actually have - legit extended coverage.

So, how to save a few $ and be on the safe side?
1. Never buy ACPPs when the seller refuses to send you the original, sealed! retail packaging
2. After purchase register the code online, then call Apple and let them verify the serial number of the box to make sure it is legit.

Some might say: "hey there's hundreds of happy buyers in forums all over the internet, it can't be that bad, right?"
Well, it's quite hard to tell. I'm a regular poster at, Germany's biggest Apple forum. The ACPPs from eBay thing started about 3 years ago and the thread has 140 pages now. Many, many happy buyers who claimed everything was fine, but quite a few ran into trouble later. As people usually purchase the ACPP either directly after getting a new Mac or shortly before the original 12 months warranty run out, they won't have to deal with repairs for a while. As most problems arise after 1,5-2 years, when you actually might need your coverage. There's also quite a few threads on the issue on Macrumors.
The question you'll have to answer for yourself: is it worth the risk of losing coverage on your $1500 Mac when you try to have it repaired under warranty after a year or two, because you tried to safe $100 earlier? It's a gamble and the chances of losing a lot of money are high.

Disclaimer: written in a hangover state, proofread twice, but you'll never know. I apologize for potential spelling / grammar mistakes
posted by starzero at 4:58 AM on November 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the info. In my opinion, the blame for this should be on Apple. I can't believe they would allow registration of fraudulent AppleCare numbers, or take away legitimate AppleCare registrations from the people who registered it just because the unscrupulous seller requested a refund. It seems like they should check with whomever actually registered the AppleCare before it is revoked, no matter who (the Ebay seller) actually bought it.
posted by bengarland at 7:49 AM on November 14, 2009

I called Apple to verify that my AppleCare is legit. They confirmed that I have coverage. I wrote down the date and time of the phone call to save for future reference just in case.
posted by bengarland at 8:43 AM on November 15, 2009

« Older Legal name change in TX not relating to...   |   I TBD You Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.