A couple of weeks ago, Apple announced the launch of the 2018 MacBook Pro. This had me thinking, hey, maybe I want to get a new Mac![level1]
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 into 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 want is 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 a pretty easy upgrade!
Should you upgrade your 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 upgrade?
- Can you follow instructions to install a fresh copy of macOS on your new SSD’s?
- Are you ready to have 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.
You may also want to replace your mac battery while you’re upgrading everything else.
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 before installing macOS.
Here are a couple of 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.
To upgrade the original HDD to an SSD
To upgrade the RAM
To replace the optical (Super Drive) with an SSD
Perform the Installation
Once you have your parts, you’re ready to do the upgrade. Here’s the video that I used to complete the installation.
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 doable.
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.
Congrats on 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 installation 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 soon.
RAID 0 on Catalina is promising…
While I haven’t gotten around to using RAID 0 on my Mac, a few of you have mentioned your success with RAID 0 on Catalina. You can read about that experience, here.
If you’re looking to use two SSDs, make sure they’re both the same capacity, and buy the largest ones you can afford. (It doesn’t make sense going through this process only to run out of space in a few months.)
Here’s what I’d buy (as of April 2020) if I were to do this again:
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”
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
Was it worth it? Absolutely, yes.
Related: You may also enjoy reading about the Best Laptops to Buy in 2020.
Update November 2019
Yet another price drop for this project. Expect to spend about $225 with the tools. If you’re planning to use your computer for another few years, then upgrade the SSDs to the largest size you can afford. The 1TB and 2TB SSDs have significantly dropped in price, so if you plan to do a lot of video editing or photography, it might be worth the extra up-front investment.
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
8GB16GB of 1600MHz DDR3 memory 750GB 5400-rpm2X 500GB SSD 8x SuperDrive
- macOS High Sierra
Compared to the latest 2019 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 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.
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!
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Before You Comment or Ask a Question
Before posting your comment, please consider buying me a coffee. This article is free, and providing you with customized information does take a lot of my time. I’m happy to help, but I can no longer provide individualized advice pro bono. Thank you for understanding.
Thank you for this article, it is so helpful. I have a MacBook Pro Retina, Mid 2012 and primarily use it for photo processing on Lightroom, TurboTax, email, etc. I have macOS Catalina and can no longer update apps or use some apps, as they require an updated OS. I do not have the money right now to buy a new Mac and was hoping to upgrade mine, as you did. Can you please let me know if upgrading mine will allow me to install the latest OS and will solve my problems? Any updated recommendations from your post?
MacBook Pro (Retina, Mid 2012)
2.3GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7
16GB 1600 MHz DDR3 (2x8G)
Intel HD Graphics 4000 1536 MB
Apple SSD SM256E
Thanks so much for your help.
Hey Jackie – Unfortunately you’ve hit the last version of macOS that’s compatible with the 2012 MBP. Doing these updates won’t likely change the performance or compatibility of your device. For the $200-$300 you’d spend upgrading the parts, you’d be better off putting it towards a new device.
You can find some really great deals on Amazon. Here’s an example.
I’m currently running a 2019 MBP and it’s a considerable upgrade. You can read more about my thoughts here or my general computer recommendations here. Good luck! -Liz