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Is upgrading the mid-2012 MacBook Pro Worth It?

Upgrading the mid-2012 MacBook Pro

A couple weeks ago, Apple announced the launch of the 2018 MacBook Pro. This had me thinking, hey, maybe I want to get a new Mac!

Back in college, I bought a mid-2012 MacBook pro after a series of Windows computers were dying on me consistently for years. I went through about three computers in high school and the beginning of college purely because they were cheap. I still have this computer today (it’s turning 6 in September!), and I just upgraded it.

In this article, I want to provide some insight about the process to upgrade a mid-2012 MacBook pro. And, I also want to give you my thoughts on whether upgrading the mid-2012 MacBook Pro was worth it.

The original tech specs

I bought the better of the two 13″ mid-2012 MacBook Pro’s offered at the time. Here’s a list of the key technical specifications my MacBook Pro had before the upgrades.

  • 2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz) with 4MB L3 cache
  • 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3 memory
  • 750GB 5400-rpm hard drive
  • 8x SuperDrive
  • macOS High Sierra

Why I chose to upgrade

You might wonder why I didn’t just buy a new Mac. And the answer is quite simple.

The 2018 MacBook pro that I wanted was about $2500. And to top it all off, I LIKED using my mid-2012 Mac. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it, and I enjoyed it. I didn’t have a good reason to replace it, other than it was running a little slow and laggy. Finally, after doing some research on upgrading the mid-2012 model, I found out that it’s actually a pretty easy upgrade!

Should you upgrade your mid-2012 MacBook Pro?

Upgrading the mid-2012 MacBook Pro

If you’re trying to decide whether or not to replace or upgrade your mid-2012 MacBook Pro, I recommend considering the following points:

  • Do you have the budget to buy a brand new MacBook Pro or would you rather pay a fraction on upgraded components?
  • Are you capable of and comfortable performing the DIY installation?
  • Can you follow instructions to install a fresh copy of macOS on your new SSD’s?
  • Are you ready to have a your computer wiped with a fresh copy of macOS? AKA is your data backed up?

To perform any technical upgrade, you’ll have to be comfortable opening up your MacBook Pro, taking apart subassemblies, and reassembling the aftermarket components.

With this upgrade, you’ll also be removing your original hard drive, which means you’ll be starting over with a fresh system. If you have important documents or programs, you’ll want to back these up before continuing.

If this makes your stomach churn, then you’re probably better off buying a new Mac. On the flip side, if this doesn’t phase you, you can save quite a bit of money replacing a couple of components.

Components I upgraded

If you made it this far, you’re probably wondering what parts I updated on my mid-2012 MacBook Pro.

First off, I replaced the original 750GB mechanical hard drive (HDD) with a 500GB Solid State Drive (SSD). Then, I opted to remove the optical drive, and replace it with a second 500GB SSD. The original plan was to create a RAID 0 drive with the two 500GB SSD’s. But, that didn’t happen. I’ll explain more about that later. Lastly, I upgraded the 8GB of RAM to 16GB.

Prepare for the upgrade

I recommend setting up your Time Machine and backing up your existing files and programs. Take note of the programs you most commonly use. You’ll have to reinstall these applications once the existing hard drive is replaced.

Create a Bootable Flash Drive

Then, you’ll need to create a bootable flash drive with macOS. I recommend using at least an 8GB flash drive that’s new or empty, as it will be completely reformatted prior to installing macOS.

Here are a couple a videos that’ll walk you through the process.

Using Terminal Commands

Using One-Click Method

 

Now, that you have a bootable drive, you can gather the components needed for the upgrade.

List of Parts

Here’s a full list of parts and tools that I used to upgrade my Mac.

If you want to perform this upgrade, feel free to use the same list of materials! The Items with an asterisk (*) are optional.

Upgrading the mid-2012 MacBook Pro

To upgrade the original HDD to a SSD

To upgrade the RAM

To replace the optical (Super Drive) with a SSD

Tools

Perform the Installation

Once you have you’re parts, you’re ready to do the upgrade. Here’s the video that I used to complete the installation.

DISCLAIMER: Proceed with Caution. I’m not liable for any damage you do to your computer. Do this at your own risk.

If you have some handyman skills, this should be pretty straight forward. Just be careful when working inside your computer.  Some of the cables (FaceTime Camera, WiFi module cords) are very delicate. If you break them, the repair is more complex than this upgrade.

Also, remember to unplug the battery before working on your computer!

My thoughts on the Installation

In the 6 years that I’ve owned my computer, I’ve never taken off the back cover or upgraded any of the components. If I had known this upgrade was so simple, I probably would have done this a long time ago!

It probably took me about 30-40 minutes to fully replace the RAM, the original HDD and the optical drive. The easier replacements were the RAM and the original SSD. The optical drive replacement was a little trickier, but definitely doable.

Optional Extras

I also opted to get an External HDD Enclosure so that I could use my original HDD as a backup drive. Also, if you chose to replace the optical drive with an SSD, you may want to pick up a USB Super Drive. My computer runs noticeably faster without the internal superdrive taking up communication bandwidth. Therefore, I’m ok with having an external DVD drive because I prefer speed over occasional entertainment.

Software Configuration

Congrats for making it this far. I hope your installation went smoothly. Now that the hardware upgrades are finished, we can move on to installing the software.

Format Your New SSD’s and Install macOS

Once you install the new components, you’ll need to format and install a copy of macOS. I opted for macOS High Sierra, which is the latest version of macOS. One thing I wasn’t aware of is that you cannot install High Sierra on drives formatted as Striped RAID 0. So unfortunately, I just installed macOS on one hard drive, and the other hard drive is recognized as an internal SSD. The install video above shows you how to do this.

RAID 0 isn’t supported on High Sierra (yet)

There have been a lot of comments about this on Apple Forums, so hopefully with the new macOS release, this problem will be fixed. If you’re planning on using the Striped RAID 0 format in the future, you will need two SSD’s of the same size. That’s why I bought two 500GB SSD’s rather than one 500 GB SSD and one 250 GB SSD to save money. So, while this wasn’t accomplished with the upgrade, it could be an addition I see in the near future.

Enable TRIM once the OS is installed

Lastly, you can enable TRIM on your Samsung SSD’s.

Open up a terminal and type in the command, sudo trimforce enable

You’ll be prompted for your login password, then hit enter. Your system will reboot to enable TRIM support. You can verify this worked by going to the Apple logo (top left) and pressing alt/option > System Information > SATA/SATA Express. Finally choose your SSD, and look for “Trim Support: Yes”

Upgrading the mid-2012 MacBook Pro

To read more about the benefits of TRIM, click here.

Is upgrading the mid-2012 MacBook Pro worth it?

All-in-all the total cost to perform the upgrade was $363.25.

UPDATE JANUARY 2019 

The replacement parts are less expensive now. If you were to do this upgrade now, it’d cost you $267 with the tools. Not too bad, considering a 32gb iPad costs $279!

Here’s the new specification of my mac.

  • 2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz) with 4MB L3 cache
  • 8GB 16GB of 1600MHz DDR3 memory
  • 750GB 5400-rpm 2X 500GB SSD
  • 8x SuperDrive
  • macOS High Sierra

Compared to the new model, 2018 MacBook Pro, the savings are 100% worth it. I wasn’t ready to pull the trigger on a new computer because mine was in really good shape. If you have taken really well care of your Mac, and it’s just a little slow now, then I’d highly recommend upgrading the components. I can’t recommend it enough.

Upgrading the mid-2012 MacBook Pro
The spinning wheel of death is now a past memory.

My computer used to take anywhere from 5-10 minutes to restart or boot up. Now, my computer boots in less than a minute. I can also have many memory-hogging programs (Adobe Photoshop, iMovie, etc.), and my computer is very responsive. I used to see the spinning wheel of death while working within graphics or modeling programs. Now, this is just a distant memory! 😉

I had to share this upgrade with you because I was skeptical of even doing the upgrade in the first place. But if your computer is in really good physical condition, and you have a bit of patience and handyman skills, I would say go for it!

If you have any questions about this upgrade, or need help, feel free to comment below!

Did you like this post?

Liz Miller
administrator
Liz has her degree in Robotics Engineering. With a wealth of experience in Controls & Automation for Manufacturing, Liz brings her creativity and passion for tech to the Learn Robotics blog. Learn Robotics is here to help high-performing individuals gain skills in robotics, electronics, and programming.

Comments

  • Bob Bohemian
    07/14/2019

    Thanks for helping me downgrade to upgrade. My 2018 MacBook Pro died because of a RAM failure. I wanted to quit Apple because of their existential, imposed obsolescence, but this guide helped me stick with Apple.

    • Liz Miller
      07/14/2019

      Bob, you’re welcome! I am glad you found this article. Sorry about your 2018 – those are pretty sleek machines, but definitely harder to upgrade.

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