Making an old MacBook Pro work for a single purpose
February 23, 2016 9:16 AM   Subscribe

I have a pretty old MacBook pro (probably 7-8 years old) that's very sluggish and glitchy. I'd like to relegate it for the single purpose of running Logic Pro. It currently runs Logic but very slowly and crashes often. Can I like wipe the whole thing somehow and make it do nothing but run Logic well?

That's pretty much it. The start-up disk is more or less full, and the computer is pretty slow. There's a bunch of other crap on it. I don't need anything on it but Logic and maybe a web browser. I'm wondering if:

1) Somehow clearing the hard drive of everything but Logic would make Logic run more or less seamlessly.

2) If doing this would work, what is the best way to go about it? Just delete everything but Logic? Clear the whole hard drive and reinstall the OS and reinstall Logic? I'm not even positive I have the start-up disk thing but I can look.

posted by Lutoslawski to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wiped and reinstalled the OS on my 2008 MacBook pro to clean it up last year, took a few hours but worked like a charm. There are how-to's online to follow to do it. If you've got everything you wanted to keep though, the wiping process literally wipes everything off it.

I don't think I even needed a startup disk.
posted by lizbunny at 9:25 AM on February 23, 2016

Best answer: If you have the system disks that came with it, you could reinstall OS X from scratch. It's not a bad idea, and may improve things a bit. But modern OS and filesystems actually do a pretty good job of not deteriorating in performance over time the way, say, Windows XP used to.

If you want to make your macbook pro run faster, there are two things you can do, and you should do both: max out it's RAM capacity, and replace the drive with an SSD. The bonus of the second one is that you'll have to do an OS install anyway to get that new drive going. But the performance gain from moving from an old magnetic drive to a fancy new SSD will blow your everloving mind.
posted by dis_integration at 9:33 AM on February 23, 2016

Best answer: You can make your MacBook Pro perform like a new machine if you max out the RAM, put in an SSD, and install the latest OS. I guess the battery might be on it's last legs, but there are probably third party shops that will replace that relatively cheaply, too.

Saying this as the owner of a 2009 MacBook Pro that I use every day. Once you do those upgrades, the only thing you're really missing compared to a current-gen MacBook Pro is the high DPI screen.
posted by ryanrs at 9:41 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Came here to also say "max out the RAM".

Can you go under your Apple menu to "About This Mac" and give a little more info about the machine for this Ask thread? It is also possible that what Logic requires for processing power has, at this point, grown beyond the capabilities of your machine.

I don't know if you have a backup regime in place for this machine. If not, get an external drive and run Time Machine to get a backup. If so, then good for you.

After maxing out your RAM, start with a complete system wipe and restore from your backup. If that doesn't improve performance (it might), then try to find your system disks and start from a fresh OS install (which may involve layers of updates, so allot some time).

Installing an SSD will improve performance both from the program loading side and from the disk cache side (which will be required less if you max out your RAM).
posted by hippybear at 10:04 AM on February 23, 2016

If you have the scratch, I'd also put an SSD in there. Nothing will speed up your machine quite like an SSD, and prices have fallen quite a bit. A 250GB SSD will run you about $75 on Amazon.
posted by SansPoint at 10:09 AM on February 23, 2016

Some MacBooks can take more than the official maximum RAM quantity. With this upgrade, and a cheap SSD, you'll have a solid machine. Just don't use it for heavy processing.
posted by scruss at 10:18 AM on February 23, 2016

Response by poster: Here's the info from the mac:

Model Name: MacBook Pro
Model Identifier: MacBookPro5,5
Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
Processor Speed: 2.26 GHz
Number Of Processors: 1
Total Number Of Cores: 2
L2 Cache: 3 MB
Memory: 2 GB
Bus Speed: 1.07 GHz
Boot ROM Version: MBP55.00AC.B03
SMC Version (system): 1.47f2
Sudden Motion Sensor:
State: Enabled

What is the best way to max out my RAM?

And yeah, I have an external hard drive that I back-up to.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:45 AM on February 23, 2016

Seconding / thirding the SSD drive. That was the single most effective update I performed on my 2009 Macbook.
posted by monospace at 10:50 AM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So I think this is your Mac.

It supports up to 8gb of RAM. So you should buy 2 4GB ram sticks, I think that this kit will work, but, uh, my statements are not intended to treat or cure any disease, etc.

You have to open it up from the bottom and install the RAM, which is not the easiest thing, but easier with a 2009 MBP than any modern one. Look on iFixit for instructions.
posted by dis_integration at 10:51 AM on February 23, 2016

Best answer: Upgrading Ram (from Apple)
posted by hippybear at 10:53 AM on February 23, 2016

Best answer: If you are in doubt about what kind of memory your Macbook takes, you can always go into your System Information app inside your Utilities folder and click on "Memory" to the left and get information about your system's memory on the right, or even open it up and take a look.
posted by hippybear at 11:29 AM on February 23, 2016

Memory: 2 GB

Holy crap, 8 gigs is going to make such a big difference.
posted by ryanrs at 11:44 AM on February 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, you have a unibody Macbook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2009) based on your model identifier. This should run Logic pretty well with a bit of finessing. I run Logic Express on a not-too-dissimilar machine and Pro/Express have shared the same audio engine for most of their lives.

What version of Logic Pro are you using? The current version (Logic Pro X) comes through the Mac App Store which would make reinstalling that single app after a format/restore extremely easy. That being the case I'd recommend a nuke-and-pave e.g. format/restore. See "Format/Restore" below. I'm with you, this is the best option if possible. Clean start.

If you're running an older Logic Pro you might double-check you have the installer discs around before nuking or paving anything. With those you can obviously reinstall after a format/restore, but If those are gone I'd take a different tack. See "Tuning Up" below.

Format/Restore: OK just check your backups first, right? Even if you think you don't need them etc, it's just so much better to be covered. Who knows. Disconnect your backup before continuing so you don't accidentally erase your backup instead of your internal drive like some kind of giant idiot, don't ask.
OK so assuming you're running OS 10.7 or better, you can do this with no discs. You can check your OS version from About This Mac in the  menu, or alternately Get Info / Command-[i] on your hard drive and look next to "Version". So 10.7 or better, you'll boot to the recovery partition by rebooting and holding Command-[r] from the chime, continuing to hold it until you're looking at something along these lines.
Choose "Disk Utility". Choose your hard drive (prob. Macintosh HD) on the left, choose Erase on the right, make sure it's Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and named the way you want, and click Erase. Should just take a minute.
Then quit Disk Utility to get back to the recovery menu. Choose Reinstall Mac OS X and follow the prompts. Probably 15 mins or more.
Once you're reinstalled, set up your user account, etc, enter your Apple ID when prompted, and go to the App Store ( menu has it, and it's in Applications too) and find Logic Pro X under Purchased to redownload it.

Tuning Up: If you can't format/restore then there's some stuff you can do that'll make a bit of difference. Again, be crazy obsessive about your backup before you do anything to muck around.
Your OS wants 10% free space on the HD so it can do its stuff. Some people say 10GB but I think 10%+ is your safest bet. So dumping the stuff you don't need is one step.
If you've been running at full HD capacity (seen many Startup Disk Is Almost Full errors?) then it's a safe bet you have some directory issues as well, which unfortunately do not magically self-heal when you clear off space. In extreme cases a bad directory can lead to overlapped files and data loss, but in most cases it just means more chugging for general tasks. Disk Utility has some directory repair tools / filesystem checks it can run if you use the First Aid tab, but a tool like DiskWarrior is what will really get you squared away. TechTool Pro has a decent volume repair option as well. Fix the directory after you've cleared the free space, not before.
Finally you probably have a lot of app/background process cruft accumulated from years of use like most of us. Simplest way to get rid of the biggest background tasks is to go to System Preferences (yet again under the  menu, I'm getting a lot of mileage out of that unicode glyph today) and the section most likely labeled "Users and Groups" with the icon of two creepy shadow people on it. Hit that, choose your user account, and look at the Login Items tab. Is there a bunch of garbage there you don't need? Select what you don't want opening at startup and hit the minus [ - ] button to stop it from doing that.

Upgrading your Hardware: If you're handy with a screwdriver and know about ESD safety, this machine can be upgraded typically without killing yourself on accident. This is not the case with some (newer) Apple hardware so count yourself lucky I guess. As others have said, you have 2 big-ass bottlenecks, or, like, small-ass bottlenecks if we're keeping with the bottle neck metaphor here, I dunno, basically you want to do 2 things: get on an SSD and put in more RAM. These will both be ULTRA cost effective at current prices & with your machine.
SSD: You might have an SSD already (!) but probably not since it would've been hell of extra money when you first bought he machine assuming you bought it new in 2009. The info you pasted here doesn't include HD size, but you can get it from Command-i (Get Info) on your hard drive icon on the desktop and seeing the capacity. Your machine would have shipped with 128 or 256 GB if it was an SSD, or 160, 250, 320, or 500 GB if it was a non-SSD. Again, it's probably not. So you should get one and put it in there. I like Crucial for Mac SSDs and if you don't need more space than 240gb then I'd buy this one for $65.
RAM: Your RAM has to be matched to the processor which is why RAM has that little tooth gap on the side where you stick it in. Your particular machine takes PC3-8500 1066MHz SODIMMs which are standard as fuck for older Mac hardware. Here's your Crucial option, and here's your cheaper option (if you're okay with a RAM brand that sounds like a Kraftwerk song)
Actually installing either/both of these is a bit more than I have space to go into here, so if you go this route a couple tips to keep in mind:
- Keep your screws straight, sometimes similar-looking screws don't go back in the same spot
- Disconnect the internal battery before touching/removing/breaking anything in there
- Replacing the drive means you'll need to get the OS onto the new drive somehow -- the Recovery Partition goes out with the old drive when you take it out. One popular option seems to be using a dingus like this to clone your drive to the SSD before you start which is not too crazy I guess.
- Youtube instructors fixing computers on their kitchen tables do not always know what they're talking about so I guess, like, trust but verify? Probably ifixit has instructions you can use and they've been relatively reputable though no promises on anything.

Hey, wait, are you still in Portland? This stuff is my job & I'd be happy to do any/all of this for you some afternoon for a beer. I'm in southeast.
posted by churl at 2:40 PM on February 23, 2016

If you're cloning the drive to SSD, I recommend an enclosure, and not just a USB to SATA cable. I went with this one. After you install the SSD, you can put the old, spinning drive in the enclosure and use it as a backup using the same cloning software.
posted by SansPoint at 7:58 PM on February 23, 2016

Is there any point in doing similar upgrades to an original 2008 Macbook Air? It's currently painfully slow. I've already replaced the battery - as it literally exploded and puffed up, curving the keyboard and frame up. When I replaced the battery the frame and kb actually came back to their original shape. It just doesn't feel like it's a machine worth a $200+ SSD upgrade, and I don't think I can upgrade the RAM past its 2GB.
posted by mcascone at 8:30 AM on February 25, 2016

...can you upgrade a 2008 MacBook Air?

You're probably better off just replacing it with one of the models that has an SSD stock.
posted by SansPoint at 9:03 AM on February 25, 2016

"Is there any point in doing similar upgrades to an original 2008 Macbook Air"

Yes. Original macbook airs use a standard 1.8" hard drive. Upgrading that to an SSD will make a huge difference. It's a lot more fiddly than on a regular macbook because the connectors are smaller and more delicate, and everything is packed in tightly, so don't try it if you are not handy with taking apart delicate electronics. But any competent mac repair shop can do it for you for an hour's labour, plus the cost of the SSD, which will cost more than a standard SSD because the mini sized ones aren't as common.

The RAM can't be upgraded, though, so you're stuck with 2 GB. Which should be fine for basic word processing, web surfing, and music/video playing.
posted by Glaurung at 6:08 AM on March 3, 2016

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