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Upgrading the mid-2012 MacBook Pro

Is upgrading the mid-2012 MacBook Pro Worth It?

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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!

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.

2019 Update: Read my thoughts on whether upgrading a MacBook Pro in 2019 is 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
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Ninth-generation 6-Core Intel Core i7 Processor; Stunning 16-inch Retina Display with True Tone technology
$2,399.00 −$114.00 $2,285.00

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?

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 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.

Upgrading the mid-2012 MacBook Pro

To upgrade the original HDD to an SSD

Update November 2019: The 1TB and 2TB SSDs have significantly dropped in price, so you may want to consider buying the largest possible drive you can afford!

To upgrade the RAM

To replace the optical (Super Drive) with an SSD

Tools

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.

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 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 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:

Sale
Samsung SSD 860 EVO 2TB 2.5 Inch SATA III Internal...
Buy 1 SSD and leave your optical drive

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 $225.

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.

Timetec 16GB KIT(2x8GB) Compatible for Apple DDR3L...
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Samsung SSD 860 EVO 2TB 2.5 Inch SATA III Internal...
System RAM type: DDR SDRAM
$399.99 −$110.04 $289.95

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 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.

Upgrading the mid-2012 MacBook Pro
The spinning wheel of death is now a 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!

Enjoy My Teaching Style?

Now that you have a blazing-fast 2012 MBP, maybe you’re interested in taking your tech skills to the next level! Learn Robotics has a growing collection of robotics courses where you can build projects alongside me while learning coding, electronics, and mechatronics skills.

If you enjoy my teaching style, and how I explain things, you’ll love my courses! The best part, is you don’t even need to be technical to start building robots! Click here to learn more about Learn Robotics Courses.

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.

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169 comments

  1. Hi Liz! Thanks for this article. I am definitely not a computer Geek and would be afraid to do this upgrade on my own. Can you suggest who I might have do this upgrade as you’ve laid out in this article. I have a Geek Squad Tech Support membership, so I guess I could ask them, but I don’t know if they are authorized to do this type of upgrade. If not, who might I search out to do something like this? Thank you!

    1. Liz Miller

      Hi Pam! Thanks for the comment. You can certainly ask Geek Squad if this is something they’ll do. You could also try UBreakiFix (if there’s one near you). And while I’m not in the computer repair biz, if neither of these options works, and you’re located in the US, feel free to give us a call (239-74-ROBOT), and I can arrange to do the upgrade for you. Good Luck! ~Liz from Learn Robotics

  2. Elisabeth

    Thank you for this article. I am new to MacBooks and recently bought a mid 2012 15”. I have not had this MacBook upgraded yet but have a quick question. If I upgrade as you have done, would I be able to run these Adobe programs…Lightroom, photoshop and InDesign? I look forward to hearing back from you on this. Thank you!

    1. Liz Miller

      Hi Elisabeth, I can’t speak to the Adobe programs you mentioned, so I’m not sure. You’d have to check Adobe’s spec. However, I can speak to any intensive graphics rendering (aka 4K video editing and rendering) the mid-2012 starts to show its age when working with 4K video. For most tasks, it’s a noticable upgrade in speed. Good luck ~Liz from Learn Robotics

  3. Chris W

    Thanks for this walk through ! I am aged to do everything except set up the raid (I did install a second SSD) but on the os install in disk utility , there was no option for RAID at all.. so googled a few other walk through to do it through terminal… but no luck .. just got error -69848 can’t create a raid set. Not sure why ! Mac OS Catalina 10.15.7 too … the RAM upgrade feels good though ..

    1. Liz Miller

      Hi Chris, RAID has been available or unavailable intermittently in some versions of macOS for this. I had this happen when I was upgrading, and never got around to setting up RAID. Let us know if you get it working! ~Liz from Learn Robotics

  4. VernesA

    Hey Liz,
    Thanks a lot for sharing this with us. I’m a graphic designer and could you answer what would help the most my macbook to run smoothly. Till now everything was fine but recently premiere pro is not performimg that well! Thanks in advance!

    1. Liz Miller

      VernesA, I’d recommend upgrading your Mac. A lot of graphics-intensive work becomes problematic — especially 4K rendering on a 2012 MBP. That’s half the reason why I upgraded to a 2019 MBP. You can read more about my decision here. Good luck ~Liz from Learn Robotics

  5. Hugo Mendoza

    Hi Liz,
    I also have a MBP 2012 15″, and I was wondering if it is possible to replace one or two of the thunderbolt ports for usbc ports ?
    In case the answer is not, I haven’t found any adapter from ubbc male to thunderbolt female, any other options you can suggest?
    Thanks
    Hugo

    1. Liz Miller

      Not that I’m aware of, Hugo.

  6. HI Liz,

    I am looking to upgrade my mid-2021 macbook pro thanks to you. Just wanted to ask, after backing everything up and erasing it completely, I don’t plan on using the laptop for much aside from running a trading platform on my laptop. I do want to have a setup with about 3-4 additional display monitors. Aside from changing the RAM to 16GB, changing to a 500GB SSD (undecided if I should change the SuperDrive as well like you did), do you think I should upgrade the graphics card? If so, is it possible? Also, which would you recommend for staying on a budget?

    Thank you for your help!

    1. Liz Miller

      Hi Ariel, I didn’t upgrade the graphics card on my 2012 MBP. I’d err on the side of no, but you’d have to do more research. Keep me posted on what you decide! ~Liz from Learn Robotics

  7. Hi Liz,

    I’m thinking about upgrading my MBP 2012 by installing two 8 gb ram only without changing the hard disk. Will it help speeding it up ?

    1. Liz Miller

      Hi Ayi, Depends on what you’re using the computer for. If you’re multi-tasking then yes, you should see an improvement to 16 GB RAM. Programs definitely run better on an SSD. Good luck ~Liz from Learn Robotics

  8. Kyle Woods

    On the RAM, Noticed the price difference between OWC and the one you listed here. Any real difference in performance? Price is almost $30 cheaper on amazon

    1. Liz Miller

      Hey Kyle, I can only speak to the RAM I purchased and used, which I listed above. If cost is a factor, you could try the OWC and let us know how it goes. Happy New Year ~Liz from Learn Robotics

  9. Great article! Hey I’m trying to find Catalina but it seems it has been replaced by Big Sur in the App Store – can a mid 2012 MBP with these upgrades above handle Big Sur? Thank you!!

    1. Liz Miller

      Hey Sam, doesn’t look like the mid-2012 will support Big Sur according to Apple. Here’s the macOS direct download page. Good luck! ~Liz from Learn Robotics

      1. Thanks for the link! I’ve tried several times to DL Catalina and create a bootable drive but neither Disk Drill or Diskmaker X have been successful in creating a usable USB drive – both programs suggest that the downloaded installer is not usable. Going to just go ahead and go with Mojave, if possible. Thanks again

  10. Edward Stroh

    I’m really considering the upgrade but my mid-2012 MBP has a 2.5GHz Dual-Core i5, as opposed to the specs of the MBP in this article. I currently only have 4GBs of RAM and one 500GB SATA. Will the upgrade help regardless? Thank you!

    1. Liz Miller

      Hi Edward, thanks for the coffee and for the question! Even with the i5 processor, if you plan on using your 2012 MBP for a while, then I’d definitely recommend the RAM upgrade for your laptop. Switching out the mechanical drive to an SSD will also help with performance. Good luck and let me know what you decide! ~Liz from Learn Robotics

      1. Ed Stroh

        Thanks Liz! So, here’s where I’m at…spend the better part of this evening trying to create a bootable OS Catalina drive, and it is literally nowhere to be found on my hardrive, not in the Applications, nowhere (that I can find). I’ve even tried using both Disk Drill (like the tutorial here) and MacDaddy Install Disk Creator and neither of those can find the installer either. Fortunately, I haven’t started the physical upgrade yet, because I figured, ya know, having a OS boot drive should be first. Thoughts? I installed a Catalina upgrade but it didn’t give me an installer? Thanks in advance.

        1. Liz Miller

          Hi Ed, Take a look at this Apple Downloads page. You can find macOS Catalina .dmg on that page. By default, it’ll save to your Downloads folder. Maybe try the One-Click Method outlined in the article once the OS is downloaded. Good luck! ~Liz from Learn Robotics

      2. Edward Stroh

        Hi Liz, thank you for the awesome advice! I spend the better part of my evening with the upgrade. The actual install for 16GB memory and 1TB Samsung SSD took literally like 15 minutes, super easy. What took a while- literally several hours- to do was getting the install disk set up. I tried using Disk Drill, and a MacDaddy app to do the work, but neither could find the OSX installer anywhere (nor could I.) So, I ended up using something called MAC OS Patcher http://dosdude1.com/catalina/ to create an install drive on a thumb drive. I was a little nervous, but, bam- it worked. And now my mid2012 MBP is faster than I ever remember it being, it’s like a brand new device. I opted not to swap out the optical drive, and instead just added the 1TB drive in place of the factory installed 500GB SATA. Thanks again 🙂

        1. Liz Miller

          Boom!⚡️ Enjoy the lightning speeds on your 2012 MBP, Ed! Thanks for sharing your upgrade! ~Liz from Learn Robotics 🤖

    2. Like Liz, I made the upgrade to my Mid-2012 MacPro. 16Ram and 500SSD. Running macOS Catalina 10.15.7 without issue. She runs SMOOTH and FAST. Plus I still have all of the peripherals such as CD/DVD drive, USB ports, ethernet jack (which I use all the time), etc. OWC sold me the goods and I very happy. Now if we could only upgrade the display, but hey, for a 2012 machine, it still looks fantastic.

  11. Hi Liz,

    Thanks for this as I’m also looking to do a DIY upgrade on my MBP Mid-2012.

    I notice you used an unknown brand for RAM (Timetec Hynix IC Apple 16GB Kit (2x8GB) DDR3L 1600MHz). How is it holding up? I’m deciding between this or the more popular Crucial brand.

    Would appreciate your response!

    1. Liz Miller

      Hi Greta, the Timetec RAM works great. Highly recommend it! I listed the exact model I used in the article above. Good luck ~Liz from Learn Robotics

  12. The TORX screwdriver set by Jakemy that you linked to does not have the Phillips #00 head required to open the case…which I found out after having parts delivered and sitting down to fix the computer. Not sure what I’m missing or why you linked to that product.

    1. Liz Miller

      Hi Kiran! Thanks for the comment! Looks like the Jakemy set might have changed since this article was written. You might be able to use the Flat 1.0 or Flat 1.5 head with that set. I tested a Flat 1.2 head on my 2012 MBP, and it works. We’ll be updating the article with this other screwdriver set in case you need another option. Thanks for letting us know, and good luck with your upgrade! ~Liz from Learn Robotics

  13. I can only agree whole heartedly and tell you that my mid 2012 unibody outperforms my newer MacBook pro every time… I highly recommend this rather than buying new

    1. Liz Miller

      Totally agree, Arian. I’m a huge fan of the Mid-2012 MBP! Thanks for dropping by!

  14. I upgraded 2 years ago independtly and I also was very pleased with the improvements. I am running MacOs 10.15.7 on the 2 TB Samsung Evo and Linux Mint on the 1TB Samsung Evo. 16G of mem.

    ➜ ~ screenfetch -n
    [email protected]
    OS: 64bit Mac OS X 10.15.7 19H2
    Kernel: x86_64 Darwin 19.6.0
    Uptime: 45m
    Packages: 142
    Shell: zsh 5.7.1
    Resolution: 1280×800
    DE: Aqua
    WM: Quartz Compositor
    WM Theme: Blue (Dark)
    Font: Monaco 12
    Disk: 11G / 2.0T (1%)
    CPU: Intel Core i7-3520M @ 2.90GHz
    GPU: Intel HD Graphics 4000
    RAM: 3424MiB / 16384MiB
    ➜ ~

  15. Juan Carlos Dunick

    Brilliant thread thank you.

    I have my 16gb in and Raiding later this week with two ssd drives.

    My question is – is it worth to change the logic board from my current 2,5ghz to the 2,9ghz. I have found a MacBook with damaged screen selling resanably cheap. 350€ ono.

    I just do not know if the upgrade is worth it.

    I do some video editing, I run two 23″ apple cinema displays plus the laptop open, multiple programs always open, my mac gets hot after a few hours.

    Would love your feedback.

    1. Liz Miller

      Thanks Juan for the kind words. I haven’t tried the logic board replacement, so I can’t speak to that. It’d be up to you to decide if spending the money would be valuable to you. If you’re doing a lot of video editing, then the mid-2012 MBP isn’t the best option – especially if you’re running 4K video. Might want to check out this article on my upgrade to the 2019 MBP. Good luck! ~Liz from Learn Robotics

  16. Stephane

    Hello Liz,

    Thanks for this great article, I have questions about adding a hard drive instead of the super drive.

    My configuration is:
    15 “MacBook Pro Mid 2012
    2.6Ghz Intel Core i7
    16GB of 1600MHz DDR3 memory
    500GB ssd original Apple hard drive
    SuperDrive
    macOS Catalina 10.15.6

    Clarification: I don’t speak English, and I use google translate to write and read to you 🙂

    If I understood correctly, the RAID0 is used to accelerate the speed of the two SSDs that you have installed, but Catalina can refuse to do the RAID0?

    If I install a second Samsung 860 EVO 500GB SSD instead of the super drive with my original Apple SSD without doing RAID0, will the MacBook Pro work bug-free?

    If we do not do RAID0, what type of volume should we assign to each SSD drive?

    Thank you for your answers 🙂

    1. Liz Miller

      Hi Stephane, RAID0 is for redundancy. You can install a second SSD in place of the optical drive. It’ll work as a back-up internal hard drive. You don’t need to assign any volume to either SSD unless you’re partitioning it for another OS – Linux, Windows, etc. Hope that helps! ~ Liz from Learn Robotics

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