To buy or not to buy...
January 2, 2013 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Do I purchase a 2007 MacBook or not?

My Dell laptop from 2009 is on its last legs, and I'm in the market for an inexpensive computer to use for basic word processing, Internet exploration, and the storage of smallish amounts of data (music, photos, etc.). A friend of mine recently upgraded to the newest Macbook, leaving her 2007(she thinks this is the year, anyway...) Mac gathering dust. In the past year, I have obtained the most recent iteration of the iPad and an iPhone 4, so this MacBook would make it easy to sync everything together.

Here are some basic stats:
OS X 10.5.8
2 GB memory
Intel Core 2 duo processor
2.4 Ghz
Battery is only six months old

Asking price of $250.

Should I go for it?
posted by singinginmychains to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That's not a terrible computer (especially if you spend the $60 to upgrade the RAM to 4GB and toss a copy of OS X 10.6 on there), but I'd offer $150... $200 max.
posted by Oktober at 10:41 AM on January 2, 2013

I would not pay money for a five year old mac.

The only way I would take the laptop would be for free, if my current laptop was unusable and I had absolutely no money to replace it with.
posted by Sara C. at 10:42 AM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

We're up to OS X 10.8 these days. I know your needs are minimal, but that's a lot of software you'll be unable to run - for that matter, I'm not even sure the versions of iTunes available to you on that machine will continue to sync up the iPad and iPhone into the future.

My own rule of thumb is that I'll use a system until it's no longer suiting my needs, even if that means it's "too old," but I'll never buy a 'new' system that can't run the latest OS.

If you do it, yeah, definitely upgrade the RAM and get 10.6. But expect to also need to replace the hard drive soon (5 years is at the "ancient" end of the spectrum for hard drives) and start saving up to replace it, too, soon.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:43 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well I'll tell you that you will probably have to upgrade the OS - it can probably support Lion (10.7). I have a 2008 MacBook and I'm actually heading into the Genius bar today to talk to them about upgrading, because I have 10.5.8 and Chrome no longer supports this OS (and Safari beach balls like crazy). I would also recommend upgrading the RAM as Sara C. said. So add that to the price your friend is asking, and you're talking about one-third to one-half of the original price of the computer...not worth it.
posted by radioamy at 10:46 AM on January 2, 2013

I recently stopped using my 2007 MacBook Pro because it's just too damn clunky these days (keys not working, barely any storage space, slow as hell, optical drive completely verklempt). Right now, its sole use is my 9-year-old searching eBay for Pokemon cards, and he only does that every two weeks when he gets his allowance, and even then, I have to help him get something working nearly every session.

Mine probably sustained more damage overall than your friend's, but I'd still rather spend $400 on a low-end new Dell than $200 on an old Mac.
posted by Etrigan at 10:49 AM on January 2, 2013

I have this Mac, now upgraded to 4GB (but I think 2.2GHz). Even with the upgrade, it is just baaaarely fast enough - the fans run all. the. time. when watching Youtube and Netflix.

I'd use it for really light work, but I'd go for something from 2009 or newer if I had a choice.
posted by zippy at 10:52 AM on January 2, 2013

I recently bought an iMac mid2007 (Intel) and upgraded it from original spec by adding 2MB and upgrading through Mountain Lion.

I took the machine to the Apple Store Genius Bar and the resident genius upgraded from a disk image right up to the point where I needed to buy Mountain Lion. I got the memory from a third-party supplier for a very good price at his recommendation as well. I bought an external 1TB drive for backups / Time Machine.

At the end of the day I feel I've got a very capable machine - not state of the art, but worth the money for the upgrades and the cost of the original machine. Now, if I could get the kids off it long enough to noodle around.

I'm very pleased with the service from the Apple Store and would recommend this if you're considering buying the MacBook, assuming all these upgrades are within the capability of the chipset, etc.
posted by sagwalla at 11:16 AM on January 2, 2013

In terms of it being "good enough" I think it'll be a decent computer for less than another year.

I have the same computer. Last year the screen went so I had the computer repaired under Apple's $300 flat-rate repair service. They replaced the screen, logic board and optical drive. My RAM is maxed to 4 gigs and I also put in a solid state drive recently, which made an immense difference. This machine is my main computer, and I use it for the stuff you mention as well as running Adobe CS5 apps and light software development for work. It's up-to-date with Mountain Lion and fast enough for what I need, but does lag under heavy load. The fan does come on, but only for Flash content. Basically, I feel like I'm at the end of its capability limits, but it's a tank that has survived as a mobile computer for a while.

Short answer: To squeeze the most performance outta that machine, you'll need to upgrade RAM and, preferably, get a solid state drive. Figure that into the cost you're willing to pay.
posted by homesickness at 11:20 AM on January 2, 2013

Its running system 10.5.8. In order to upgrade to 10.7 or 10.8 (though it can probably only be upgraded to 10.7) you need 10.6 installed. Naturally 10.6 is no longer available, except on Ebay, from $20-$50 bucks.

Don't want to upgrade? You may have to if you want to seek the iPad and iPhone 4 with it. The latter requires Mac OS 10.6.8 at least.

Download the Crucial Memory tool and let it scan your Mac. It'll tell you exactly what Mac you have and how much it costs to upgrade the RAM, which you should absolutely do. It'll probably cost around $60.

You're already in for another about $100 just to get the darn thing more usable.

Could you use it as is? Maybe, if you don't seek the iDevices to it., but it's hard to say for how long and how well. Since it's a friend, ask if you can take it home for a couple of days or spend an afternoon at their house testing it out. If it works for you on those terms, go for it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:32 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm still using a 2007 MacBook with a slightly slower processor than that, 2 GB RAM, running 10.6.8. The fact that this one's got a new battery is a selling point, but be sure to check the condition of the power adapter as that was also a bit of a weak spot (likely to short out -- and a new adapter's about $80).

I bought an SSD, new battery, and power adapter for mine last year-- the latter two because they were necessary, and the SSD because it made it feel like a whole new computer. It's perfectly serviceable, but I would try to talk your friend down on the price given comparable eBay listings and that you'd be paying in cash immediately.
posted by asperity at 11:44 AM on January 2, 2013

As asperity mentioned, the power adapter should definitely be checked out. Note that there was an issue with the adapters, and many machines from that vintage are supported for a free replacement. I took my adapter to the apple store, mentioning that it was getting hot at the point where it connects to the computer. They gave me a brand new one, no questions asked.
posted by homesickness at 11:54 AM on January 2, 2013

For $250, it is worth it. But it will be slow. I have a 2008 MacBook and a 2012 one. The 2012 wipes the floor with the the 2008, but for the money, it is worth it.
posted by fifilaru at 11:55 AM on January 2, 2013

No. That was a great computer for its time, and it still is a fine computer for what you are wanting to do. But for $250 you can buy almost a brand new computer now, which will certainly be faster and very likely remain more useful for a longer time.

If you can get them down in price any, it becomes a better deal.

Computers are like cars- you aren't buying for what it was, or for what it once was worth. You are buying X months of future service. If you wouldn't put $250 into fixing your current computer, then you shouldn't buy a two year older computer for that price either.
posted by gjc at 12:09 PM on January 2, 2013

My wife has a 2008 Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro. It is quite usable and useful, due to the fact that I stuffed 6GB of RAM and an SSD in it. We also have a first generation 2GB MacBook air with a slow SSD that is reasonably for lightweight use.

I think the model you are considering is limited to 3GB of RAM. With some upgrades It might be an acceptable machine for your uses, provided you don't keep many browser tabs open (browsers use a lot of RAM these days), but if it were me, I'd have a hard time justifying paying $250 into it and then another $100-150 in upgrades (perhaps if it were actually a model capable of 6GB RAM...)

The biggest issue though is that it is ~5 years old. Even if the battery is new, there is still plenty of chance that it will just up and die.
posted by Good Brain at 12:09 PM on January 2, 2013

Here is an idea that would be reasonable fair to both you and your friend, pay for it in installments of $20/month, up to your agreed upon price, as long as it is still working. If it dies, you stop paying.
posted by Good Brain at 12:15 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Its running system 10.5.8. In order to upgrade to 10.7 or 10.8 (though it can probably only be upgraded to 10.7) you need 10.6 installed. Naturally 10.6 is no longer available, except on Ebay, from $20-$50 bucks.

You can still order 10.6 from the online Apple Store for $20.

posted by lamp at 12:25 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just gave my 2006 Macbook Pro to my dad. In most ways it was a wonderful laptop, but its battery life was truly abysmal. The 2007 may have improved this aspect, but it is worth checking first.
posted by Marit at 12:47 PM on January 2, 2013

I'd do it, personally - But i'd also check out the graphics card. I remember MacBook Pros from this era shipped with a defect that would result in a higher than usual rate of failure. Once it fails, you're looking at either some serious McGuyver repairs or 300-400 dollar repair bill.

Oh, and FWIW - there's very little copy protection on OSX. So if a friend has 10.6 on a USB drive, that alone may be enough to get you up to where you want to be, if you buy 10.8/10.9
posted by Vhanudux at 12:57 PM on January 2, 2013

You could do better for the money. A *new* mac mini is $500-ish, and circa-2010 macbooks / airs are fairly cheap.

Not to repeat what everyone said, but you'll need to spend significantly to "bring it up to speed", including:
- New Battery
- Bigger/Better SSD HD.

That's money that would be much better spent on a "newer" mac or a "new" pc (depending on your needs).
posted by NYC-BB at 1:41 PM on January 2, 2013

I love macs, but you can get a much better nearly brand new windows laptop or a chromebook for that price. You'd probably be better off buying a used ipad, tbh.
posted by empath at 2:00 PM on January 2, 2013

I am typing on a 2007 MacBook right now and I'd second homesickness's post. It is easy to replace the hard drive and memory on the model I have. I recently got an SSD for ~$70, knocked the boot time down to under 30 seconds.

My girlfriend's work computer is the next generation Macbook with 2GB ram and regular hard drive. It is sealed in such a way that it isn't easy to upgrade. It is a disaster. So frustratingly slow, with random beach ball breaks. Arrrg! I hate even thinking about it.

So I think that's the possible spectrum of satisfaction: works ok after $150 being the best possible outcome or immense frustration being the worst.
posted by samsm at 3:00 PM on January 2, 2013

MacBook or MacBook Pro? The '07 MB can't run 10.8, while the MBP can. I use an 07 MBP (4. RAM + 640 gb HDD) as my work computer, it runs fine and still does everything I need it to do, but if I had the chance to upgrade it to something newer I would jump at it. You could do fine with the system, but it will be left behind by the next OS release if it hasn't already. You won't likely find a newer Mac for the money. Consider that the asking price is 1/4th the cost of a brand new entry-level Air...
posted by caution live frogs at 9:33 PM on January 2, 2013

Thanks, everyone. I think at this point, I am going to pass and figure out other options.
posted by singinginmychains at 9:38 PM on January 2, 2013

Re: 10.5 upgrades to 10.6 ... Apple is handing out free 10.6 disks like candy to people who got new iPhone 5 and other devices for Christmas. Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 2 GB RAM will get you into 10.6. 2 more GB of RAM and $19 gets you straight to 10.8 via App Store (skip 10.7). To get the free disks, call Apple tech support - doesn't matter if AppleCare is expired. Tell them you are upgrading and they will waive that. Ask for 10.6 disks shipped to you for "customer satisfaction" to get your new, expensive iOS device to sync. Gripe, if need be (w/o insulting the Advisor). They can do it and Apple would rather have a happy customer not return their new iOS device than lose $20 on an OS today.

Another AppleCare tip: tell them you are looking at buying an App (e.g. Pages) and need to get your current problem identified before you sink any more money into your out-of-support machine. Advisors can create "exceptions" to support rules for pre-sales cases, hardware issues, and several other things. Most are eager to. Support reps make NO MONEY off selling AppleCare or ASL agreements. Be nice, ask, and give them a reason.
posted by skypieces at 9:59 PM on January 2, 2013

I got handed a 2008 Macbook for FREE today. The person who I vaguely know who is upgrading couldn't find anyone to pay actual money for it. And it's newer than the one you are considering. I think $250 is way too high a price.
posted by lollusc at 10:54 PM on January 2, 2013

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