Replacing the Hard Drive of Macbook Pro Mid 2010

One of the bad purchase decisions that I ever made was to buy an Apple product without following its release schedule. Just two months after buying the Macbook Pro late 2010, Apple released the Macbook Pro 2011. The reason why it was a big deal is because the 2011's is so much different with its predecessor. One of the huge difference is that the 2011's supports SATA 3.0 while the 2010's only supports SATA 2.0. This means that if you would enjoy the full speed of SSD 6Gb/s when installing an SSD SATA III 6Gb/s, while installing in the 2010's would result in the negotiated speed of 3Gb/s, given that you install the compatible SSD product.

After searching around in the Google, I finally came to a summarized fact that Macbook Pros before 2011 came with a buggy graphic card - NVidia MCP89 AHCI. Many people reported that they only got the negotiated speed of 1.5 Gb/s (same speed as a SATA drive with 7200 rpm, which makes the SSD upgrade looks like a joke) when they installed an SSD with SandForce controller. Apparently buggy graphic card plus buggy SSD controller means speed cut in half. Many SSDs in fact, use SandForce as the controller, so you would want to be careful in choosing the correct SSD. For example, Crucial BX200 240GB SATA 2.5" 7mm (with 9.5mm adapter) Internal SSD and other variants, are guaranteed to be compatible with MacBook Pro Mid 2010. A lot of people fancy the Samsung SSD 850 EVO, but I just wouldn't risk an incompatible part.

 Replacing the hard drive is very simple, just unscrew the back body of the Macbook Pro, and then locate the hard drive, and unscrew 4 screws that hold the hard drive together (as shown in the picture), pull out the old drive and detach the cable. You might need to use the extension from 7mm to 9.5 mm that came with the SSD if it's a 9mm drive since the slot here is for 9.5mm drive.

Regarding the content of the drive (OS and data), I saw 3 options here:

  1. Copy the image of the entire old hard drive to the new hard drive using `dd` and a SATA to SSD cable. If the size of the old hard drive is smaller with new drive, you might need to create drive partitions on the new drive, for example: 128GB for the content of the old drive, and 128GB empty partition. 
  2. Use the migration software that usually comes with the SSD, here you would also need a SATA to SSD cable. 
  3. Create a Mac OS bootable drive, then install new OS from scratch on the new hard drive. Migrate just the data through an external hard drive. 
Since I don't own a SATA to SSD cable, so I just did the last option, which is not too bad because a fresh install might speed up the system too.

To create a Mac OS bootable drive, prepare an empty pen drive with capacity of more than 8GB that is formatted with (Journaled) HFS+. Then open the App Store and install "OS X El Capitan", which will take a long time because it will download around 6GB of data. Once it's done, open the terminal and run this command:
/Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\

It is also possible to do an Internet recovery and directly install Mac OS online without having to create a bootable pen drive.