My MacBook is dying, do I replace or go desktop?
April 14, 2013 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Hi there, I have a mid-2009 MacBook Pro, which is getting noticeably slower, the battery needs replacing and the fan is extremely noisy. All this has lead me to believe that this laptop is coming to the end of its "natural" lifespan and I will soon be due an upgrade (however I accept I may be wrong here). Coupled with this, I am about to move into a new place, meaning I will have a lot less need for a portable laptop, since I will be working from home most days. With this in mind, I was thinking about getting a desktop iMac as my "main" computer and using my old MacBook as and when I needed to. So my question is, should I... A) Attempt to prolong my MacBooks life by having it serviced / refurbished, and buy a desktop monitor to plug it into when I work from home. B) Buy a new MacBook Pro, and a desktop monitor (because this would be cheaper than the third option, which is to...) C) Buy a desktop iMac, and continue to use my old MacBook as a spare / portable option. Thanks.
posted by FuckingAwesome to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I can't imagine why anyone would want a desktop any more. I have mine hooked up to a keyboard and mouse and 22" external monitor, but when I want to work in bed, or at a cafe, or in another city, I unplug.
posted by musofire at 1:54 PM on April 14, 2013

Option c. Get a 27 inch iMac. Those things are sooo nice!

In a year or two, when your MacBook goes kaput, replace it with a macbook air.
posted by roboton666 at 2:01 PM on April 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm about to enact roboton666's advice myself. Also a 2009 MBP. I want an iMac for the screen and bigger drive and maybe be able to play some games.
posted by cabingirl at 2:07 PM on April 14, 2013

First, figure out what's up with the MacBook. Batteries do go bad after a number of cycles, but you should be able to get this battery replaced for around $120 or so. As for getting slow - do you ever perform any maintenance on it, such as using Onyx (it's free) to do maintenance and cleaning? The fan may just be louder because the processor is working harder. For the record, I'm typing this on a 2006 first generation MacBook, so there's no real issue with any lifespan on the computers.

For a replacement - I just got a 27" iMac at work, and while it is pricy, it is freakin' fantastic.
posted by azpenguin at 2:11 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Add 8gb of RAM and upgrade to lion. If you want to get fancy add a second hard drive to replace the old optical drive, make it an SSD or hybrid and boot from it. Buy a new battery. Whole job is doable for about $500, less if you skip the new drive ((and the rest is easy to do yourself).

Then buy a nice big monitor to use with your good as new laptop.
posted by spitbull at 2:40 PM on April 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, the RAM will run 50-75 bucks and make the biggest difference. You can order it online and install yourself in minutes.

OEM battery for a 2009 MBP is about $100 new, also dead simple to install.
posted by spitbull at 2:43 PM on April 14, 2013

Take off the bottom panel, blow out all the dust, and upgrade to 8 GB RAM. Downgrade to Snow Leopard and replace the battery. Upgrade to a 7200 RPM hard drive. Better yet, upgrade to an SSD.

You just bought yourself a brand new laptop.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:35 PM on April 14, 2013

You don't need 7200rpm. SSD or HYBRID, just as a boot drive, will give you much more noticeable speed bump. I find lion runs more efficiently than Snow Leopard fwiw on a 2010 MBP with 8gb
posted by spitbull at 3:42 PM on April 14, 2013

Unless you are running cutting edge applications, your 2009 mac should be fine with a little TLC. Get a new computer, make sure the fans are cleaned out, and reload the operating system (maybe get a new boot drive). Your computer should run just fine after that.
posted by markblasco at 4:34 PM on April 14, 2013

I have a late 2008 MBP I was convinced I'd have to replace. A battery, 8GB RAM and an SSD later it's like having a new computer and it only cost me a few hundred dollars.

If your fan is actually running more than usual, see if it's clogged with dust back there. Otherwise, you're probably becoming overly sensitive to it. The new MBP fan style is definitely less annoying and it's not an upgrade you can make to your existing.
posted by michaelh at 5:33 PM on April 14, 2013

That machine is relatively easy to strip and refurb. I likewise just redid my 2006 Macbook to almost new spec. Yours should be much easier.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:07 PM on April 14, 2013

A couple of things which might help drag some more life out of your laptop:
  • I agree with 1adam12 - apart from a few more screws than older models, it's ridiculously easy to replace the battery & fan in the mid-2009 model.
  • OS X really likes a good 15~20 gig of free disk space - if you've got 10 gig or less free, that alone will be causing a considerable performance hit.
  • You'll often see it said that OS X's HFS filesystem doesn't need defragmenting. That's sorta true - but it sure can make a difference, particularly if you've been running with low disk space for a while. Either wipe and reinstall from a full backup*, or run a defragmenter**.

* Unless the OS is toasted to the extent of failing to boot or run properly, I've never encountered a case where a full clean install from scratch was necessary. A full backup, wipe, and reinstall from the backup is all that's needed.

**Unfortunately there are very few utilities for defragmenting HFS disks, and because none of them are free (afaik) they're all pretty much overpriced for the amount you'll use them.

posted by Pinback at 12:12 AM on April 15, 2013

I'd go with A, for sure.

I gave my mid 2010 MacBook Pro an SSD and a RAM upgrade last year and it was seriously like buying a new machine. What a fantastic investment that was. I took the time to reinstall stuff from scratch, though as Pinback points out, that generally isn't necessary -- but for me, with less room on my boot drive, I took the time to reorganise all my stuff and reassess my embarrassing app addiction. It should keep me happy for a couple more years yet.
posted by raena at 4:27 AM on April 15, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Two questions then...

1) Where can I buy a replacement battery for a mid-2009 13-inch macbook pro? Preferably in the UK?

2) Which SSD is going to be my best bet / easiest to install without complications? Thanks.
posted by FuckingAwesome at 2:06 AM on April 16, 2013

If you have an Apple Store nearby you can have a Genius install a new battery for £99. That price includes the battery and the install.
posted by raena at 7:29 PM on April 16, 2013

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