Which OS X version is best for a MacBook Pro from 2009?
June 27, 2014 6:46 AM   Subscribe

I have a MacBook Pro from 2009, with a 3.06 GHz Core 2 Duo and 8 GB RAM. I am running Mavericks on it, but I find that it can be slow when it is accessing the disk a lot, and it runs hot. It meets the minimum spec for Mavericks but I am thinking that I am over-stretching it. I am planning to upgrade the 500GB HD to a 1TB hybrid. Would this be better able to run Mavericks or should I think of stepping back to something like Snow Leopard when I change the hard disk?
posted by Grinder to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've got the previous generation MBP, 2.6 Ghz, 8Gb RAM, Mavericks. I swapped the hard drive for a 1TB hybrid about a month ago and it's made a HUGE difference. No more spinning beach balls! Still runs hot though not as hot, but that's been the case since I upgraded the memory to 8Gb.
posted by Runes at 7:05 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

The hard drive is probably a 5400 or 4800 rpm disk from that era, slow by today's standards and definitely slow next to a hybrid disk.

You've got good specs on that machine, and a 3GHz machine's going to be on the hot side with any OS. Not sure when you last cleaned inside, but it'll've picked up a good bit of fluff and dust since 2009, so when you open it for the hard drive swap, you'll want to give it a cleaning, at least with some canned air or the like. Protip: when blowing dust off a fan, don't let the fan spin freely; it's not good for the fan, so hold it in place.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:11 AM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

You've correctly identified the system bottleneck and swapping in a hybrid drive should definitely help. I would normally suggest adding RAM but 8 GB is max for that model so you're as good as it's going to get in that regard. Stay with Mavericks, you'll be much happier with it once you have the hybrid drive installed.
posted by tommasz at 7:44 AM on June 27, 2014

Mavericks is happily running on my 2008 Core2 Duo 4 GB MacBook. It's had a 500 GB hybrid drive for a while. It's no speed demon, but it handles most things I can throw at it.
posted by scruss at 8:13 AM on June 27, 2014

Late 2008 here. You'll have no problem running Mavericks.
posted by michaelh at 8:45 AM on June 27, 2014

Hybrid drives are good, SSDs are good too. The slowest part of any computer of that era is the mechanical hard drive. Speed up the slowest part, and you've made the largest performance boost possible.

Mavericks plus a hybrid or SSD is where you want to be. Maybe get a replacement battery if you work away from AC often.
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:57 AM on June 27, 2014

Thanks for the answers so far. My understanding is that Mavericks needs more memory - what does it give me over Mountain Lion or older versions of the OS?
posted by Grinder at 9:25 AM on June 27, 2014

Mavericks should give you better battery life, and compatibility with the latest software versions and security fixes. Mountain Lion is a bit lighter weight, but it isn't getting security fixes, and it may have compatibility problems with newer software.
posted by wotsac at 10:07 AM on June 27, 2014

I didn't find Mountain Lion to be lightweight than Mavericks, and, in fact, my wife's RAM limited (6GB) MacBook Pro 2008 is much more responsive with Mavericks than Mountain Lion.

The biggest and fastest growing RAM/CPU hog that most people use is their web browser, not the OS. I doubt you'll want to roll back to a 5 year old version of Chrome/Safari/Mavericks
posted by Good Brain at 11:16 AM on June 27, 2014

Others have said it, but I will sum up: Mac OSes are not typically the cause of slow performance, and spinning disks typically are, assuming you have 8GB of RAM.

If it were me, I would put in as big an SSD as I could afford, with a clean OS install, and then put the existing drive in the optical bay. That way your OS and applications will be on the SSD, and you can put bulk storage like movies, etc. on the disk. My wife has a 2.25GHz MacBook Pro with an SSD, and it is much snappier than my 3GHz work machine. Typically the hybrid drives have only a small (8GB) SSD component so that's not enough room for everything that you would typically want available.
posted by wnissen at 1:21 PM on June 27, 2014

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