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Installing SSD (Solid State Drive) in your MacBook Pro 13" or 15" unibody

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Picture of Installing SSD (Solid State Drive) in your MacBook Pro 13
These days more and more people are switching to using SSD or Solid State Drives in their laptops and you might be thinking about joining them and following the trend. SSD drives have a number advantages over conventional spinning hard drives, the main being their input/output speed. They also don't contain any moving parts and hence are less prone to failures due to vibration. Some people will also convince you that they are more stable, fail less and consume less power, but all those statements are yet to be verified and supported by some actual data.

You can use this same instructable to replace your hard drive with another hard drive, on the outside they are completely identical.

And by the way, I did this at TechShop (www.techshop.ws) as they have a whole bunch of really convenient large tables in the common area with some great lighting and you'll always find some available.
 
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Step 1: Acquire SSD (or conventional HD) for replacement.

Picture of Acquire SSD (or conventional HD) for replacement.
Though still expensive, SSDs became much more affordable lately, so you may consider buying one to speed up your computer's I/O operations dramatically. I have installed a few high speed SSD from macsales.com so far and I'm very happy with them, but if you prefer any other brand, go for it, this instructable is going to be the same for all.

For this procedure all you need in terms of parts is the replacement SSD only. I will talk about tools in the following slides.

Step 2: Prepare your workspace.

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Having a large space to work on is very convenient and enjoyable experience. For best result and safety I'd recommend using one of those anti-static mats and laying it on one of those big tables (or any other table you can find).

Step 3: Connect the ground.

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Connect the ground wire of your anti-static mat to ground prong of any electric plug.

Step 4: Ground yourself with anti-static wristband.

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This step is important. When working with electronics, have yourself well grounded with a wristband. Very little static electricity can send electronics of your computer into knock-out.

When wearing the wristband, make sure it's not too tight. Wear it entire time while you're working on internals of your computer. Even though you're well grounded, I would recommend not touching any electronic parts with your hands, as you're leaving natural oil behind. Washing hands before this job is highly recommended.

Step 5: Make sure you have all necessary tools.

Picture of Make sure you have all necessary tools.
Experienced repair engineer could do this job in under 10 minutes using only one phillips screwdriver. And most likely he'd be fine, but we need to be much safer than that. We could also learn some interesting tips and tricks with other tools.

You are going to need:
1. Phillips 0 size screwdriver;
2. Torx T6 size screwdriver;
3. Pry Stick Opening Tool;
4. Head light (having the area you're working on well lit makes any job much more enjoyable);
5. Piece of cardboard;
6. Double-sided tape;
7. Compressed air;
8. Rubbing alcohol;
9. Microfiber cloth;
10. Thread locker.

I'll explain how to use these tools along the way.

Step 6: Get a good quality screwdriver.

Picture of Get a good quality screwdriver.
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Choosing the right screwdriver is essential for this job. It has to feet snugly inside of the screw grooves, not have much wiggle room and just feel right in there. Not all Phillips screwdrivers are equal, some manufacturers make them slightly different shaped, so just choosing corresponding size may not be enough. With Torx things are a bit more straightforward, but, please, don't use cheap chinese ones.

For this job you need Phillips size 0 or PH0 and Torx T6. Wrong size and you'll end up with stripped screw heads, which is not cool at all.

In this guide I'm using high quality German made Wiha screwdrivers. If you like good tools, I strongly recommend checking out their inventory. Not the best website out there, but tools are certainly some the best.

If you happened to strip the screws on your Mac, or damaged any other part, check out ifixit.com for replacements.

Step 7: Prepare sticky tape for small screws.

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A few years back I came up with this simple technique of laying out screws in a similar pattern to their original placement on electronic device. With complex devices like digital cameras you may need a lot of tape and real estate, but for this project you will only need a small, 4" piece of double-sided tape.

Peel one side of it and apply it to the cardboard. And then expose the other side. Now you have a small sticky area to secure your screws.

Step 8: Keep cover screws organized.

Make sure you shutdown your computer before you work on it. If you're not using anti-static mat, lay it on some soft surface "upside down" or "belly up", whichever you like better. Make sure your screwdriver is fitting snugly and start with any screw. It seems to not matter where to start.

Once you have a screw in your hand, stick it on the double-sided tape. Work them one by one laying them out in the same pattern as on the back of the computer. See pictures for details.

Notice, that some of the screws tips are different -- there are some cone shaped while others are flat. I don't know what purpose that serves, but it's safer to just keep them in their respective places.

Step 9: Lifting the cover.

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Once you're done with all screws and get the prying tool and stick it in the gap between the cover and the computer body. Slowly and carefully work your way around the perimeter and then lift one corner and pick it up with your hands. Cover should come off with no excessive effort. If it feels like applying force, then stop and double-check everything.

Step 10: Cleaning dust (optional step).

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If you like to clean, then it's time to pickup that microfiber cloth and collect some dust, which tends to deposit inside your computer especially around the fan exhaust area. If you have a pet, you'll see a lot of hair in there too, don't be surprised. You can safely clean the aluminum cover and small flat areas of the computer, like the battery or the hard drive, but leave the electronics alone and don't touch them with your cloth.

After taking the cover off, don't stack it on top of the exposed parts of the computer, find another clean spot for it on the table.

Step 11: Remove hard drive mounting bracket

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In MacBook Pros hard drive is held in place by a plastic bracket with some rubber bumpers. Screws that hold it in place are not coming out of the bracket completely, so don't try to take them out of it. Just unscrew enough that bracket comes loose and take it out.

Step 12: Remove the Hard Drive

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Very carefully (!) start lifting the hard drive. It's connected to the computer with a ribbon cable, which is very fragile, so make sure to not apply any force to it, otherwise you'll be soon consulting my other instructable on where to get and how to replace that cable.

Gently start removing the connector from the side of the HD, while keeping it parallel to HD side. Don't just remove one side and then another.

Step 13: Torx T6 screwdriver

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You've probably already guessed, but I love my tools, so I'm going to stress it again how important it is to have the right tools to do the job right and enjoy it along the way. To remove screws, that held your old hard drive suspended in place, you'll need a Torx screwdriver size T6. I use german made Wiha screwdrivers for delicate jobs like this.

Torx sizes are easy to confuse -- most of the time one size smaller screwdriver will still feel like it's gripping right, but will soon strip the screw. Appropriate sized Torx screwdriver will fit the screw tightly with virtually no wiggle at all.

Step 14: Remove mounting screws from old HD

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Remove all four screws sticking out from the sides of the old Hard Drive. You can stick them on the same tape, but this time there is no need to layout any pattern with them as they are all the same.

Step 15: Writing on the double-sided tape

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Another cool trick I came up with is to write on the tape when you have groups of screws belonging to different parts. It comes in very handy when you're dealing with some complex stuff like digital cameras, you'll find yourself writing lots of comments on and around that tape :)

Step 16: Put the screws in on the sides of your new SSD (or Hard Drive)

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Using the same Torx T6 screwdriver put those screws back in on the sides of the new SSD. Be sure to not cross thread, as usual -- very little force.

Step 17: Insert SATA ribbon cable connector

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Connect the ribbon cable connector to the corresponding terminals on the hard drive. Don't twist the cable, rather flip the hard drive to match the cable position. Make sure connector is inserted all the way.

Step 18: Install the new SSD in it's position.

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Insert it one side first, then gently lay the other side down, while making sure that ribbon cable underneath the SSD is not being stressed in any way.

Step 19: Install top half of the HD bracket.

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Make sure to check the orientation first, then install the Hard Drive suspension bracket back and fasten the two screws with Phillips PH0 screwdriver. And result should look like the  second photo on in this step.

Step 20: Checking your work before you assemble the computer

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At this stage I recommend to do something unusual -- boot your computer to check that it accepted the new SSD and doesn't report any errors. In order to do that, very carefully lift it, open the lid and set it on the side. Don't lay it down on the open bottom.

When the chime sounds in the very beginning of the boot process, it means that the hardware test has passed and that's all you want to confirm. At this point your new SSD most likely doesn't have any operating system installed on it (unless it came from another computer) and the computer won't boot anyway, showing you a folder with a question mark on a gray background.

If you hear a sound of a broken glass right after you press the power button, then something went wrong. If that happens, meticulously examine everything you touched inside the laptop. In worst case scenario you may have to install the old drive back in and boot with it to confirm, that you didn't damage anything inside of the computer.

Step 21: Set the bottom cover in place.

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After testing it, lay the computer back on it's display lid in the same orientation you had it before so that you're not confusing placement of the screws. Very carefully place the aluminum cover without touching on any internal parts -- hinge side goes first. It has to just easily snap into place. If it feels like pushing on something then stop immediately, open it up and make sure you didn't leave any objects behind -- no force is applied at any stage in this job.

Step 22: Prepare a drop of thread locker.

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If not used, over time you'll start loosing screws from the bottom of your computer. Thread locker can be purchased at any hardware store. Put a drop of it anywhere on the cardboard and dip the very tip of every screw before you put it in.

In this instructable I used Red Loctite, but for this application Blue is more appropriate. Red is way to strong for these small screws, go with the Blue version.

Step 23: Insert the screws.

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After dipping them in thread locker, install the screws one by one, but tighten them up just yet, especially if your computer has been dropped and deformed any parts. You'll finally tighten the screws after all of them are in their respective places and lid is in proper position.

Everyone seems to have a different technique when it comes to putting in small screws. I usually use my pointing finger of my left hand to press the screw against the screwdriver.

Step 24: Tighten the screws and DONE!

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Once you have all screws in their places, make examine the position of the aluminum cover and tighten the screws and some moderate amount of force and you're DONE. At this point you may start your computer and migrate data from your old Hard Drive (instructable on that coming soon!) or install a fresh copy of operating system on it, but that's a topic for another instructable. Cheers!
YunesI2 months ago

Why didn't you disconnect the battery connector from the mother board before installing or removing drives?

Doctor Jazz (author)  YunesI2 months ago
If computer is properly shutdown and you're being careful, then it's an unnecessary step. You're welcome to disconnect the battery, but be gentle with the connector and you'll need to reconnect it before testing for hardware errors when powering up the computer with the bottom cover open.
en2oh9 months ago

your idea of using adheasive tape as a means of organizing hardware is great!

Thanks for the instructable

Nitrous

Doctor Jazz (author)  en2oh3 months ago

Thanks! I came up with it when disassembling a canon camera -- there were about 70 screws, so I fairly quickly realized that there is no way to remember their position. In case of canon camera I put whole parts on a adhesive board with screws next to their respective holes. Wish I'd made a pic of that first experiment ,)

On step 20 I'm a bit confused. Do you turn on the computer? Also, will this work on current MacBook Pro models?
Doctor Jazz (author)  humberto.guitron.93 months ago

Yes, you turn the computer on briefly to verify that it's not throwing an error during boot. Generally, when a Mac sounds a chime at boot, that means that it passed the hardware test, so that's what you're looking for.

As per newer macs, they don't have this kind of hard drive in them, so this intsructable won't work with later generation MacBook Pros.

Stuart215 months ago

About to do it.

The heat shrink on the earth terminal is CRITICAL! If the terminal were to rotate in the plug, without the heat shrink, it could be TERMINAL!

Great instructions - mine required a T7 screwdriver on the hard drive screws though rather than a T6.

Alternate title: How to Void AppleCare.

Incorrect. Replacing your hard drive and memory are pretty much the only two things that you CAN do as an end-user without voiding your AppleCare. Check your facts.

modern, good quality SSDs are not less reliable than conventional hard drives, which is especially true for laptops.

Laptop Drivers
JeppeOH2 years ago
Tip;

Boost your SSD to motherboard speed by 20 to 25% by shielding the thing cable from the SSD with a antistatic bag. .. I used one from a old HHD- purchase, cut it up to fit and placed it between the SSD and the cable.. all the way to the motherboard.

Boosted my login-time from 21 to 16 seconds.

The guy who gave me the advice had tested it with some technical stuff and rambled about magnetism and data-corruption.. I can just say it works :-)
Not sure about Macs but I assume you can clone the drives in a cloning dock (very inexpensive these days) just as you can with Windows and Linux.
Your suggestion to "migrate data from your old Hard Drive" sort of suggests (to me at least) that the old drive has to now be put in an external dock. I'm not sure how a Mac handles that but I expect you'd need to install all the OS/applications first.
Surely cloning would be easier?
Looking forward to your next Instructable.
WWC3 years ago
You are keeping your screws all wrong. They need to go on the bench with 300 other screws. Then you sort it all out the following week.
Doctor Jazz (author)  WWC3 years ago
That's exactly what happens most of the time, especially when working on car engines -- those greasy ones don't stick to a tape :)
Easy fix - use an old muffin tray and number the cups from 1.

Fill it up from number 1 and then when reassembling you work backwards to 1.
fatpat2683 years ago
Wow...

Don't take this the wrong way, but you went through A LOT of steps for something minor.

1. You don't need anti-static wrist band or mats, unless you have a penchant for touching bare circuit boards. Just make sure you're not dragging your feet on the carpet, and you're probably fine. I generally work on a hard floor surface (kitchen is usually perfect for this) and I don't move around a lot. You can ground yourself by touching a screw on a light socket.

2. There is absolutely no need for any loctite. I see you have good tools, but for anyone that has substandard screwdrivers (ie the wrong size), putting loctite on small screws like this (red or blue) will likely just cause them to strip the screws. I can't stress this enough.


Doctor Jazz (author)  fatpat2683 years ago
You are absolutely right, most of the steps seem to be optional and can be avoided. What I'm showing here is good work ethics, and your job is to skip steps you think are unnecessary. You sound like a person who knows all these tools and how to use them, but for some people this info can be useful.

With all due respect, I strongly disagree with your comment about NOT using loctite. In most cases it's not a good idea, but with these unibody macs -- absolutely necessary. I deal with hundreds of these guys due to the nature of my job, and I see these machines with loose/lost screws all the time. I'm not sure what's wrong with them in the first place, but after some time of normal use these screws start to loosen up. I even developed a habit of checking the tightness of these screws every time I get one of these in my hands, and you'll be surprised.

Another argument in support of loctite use is that they actually use it when assembling these computers. That little blue spot on the side of the threads you see every time you take a screw out of MacBook pro -- that's the originally applied loctite. Though I'm not trying to convince anyone, just sharing my experience. Good luck and thanks for the comment!
Save some money - a smear of cheap superglue / Cyanoacrylate (sp?) works just as well. And you can pick it up at the dollar store for way less than loctite.

Our local nut and screw wholesaler recommends superglue, but theirs is 12x the cost.
f5mando3 years ago
Wonderful instructable, Doctor Jazz. Clear, concise, and great photography.
Thank you very glad!
valveman3 years ago
I see you are using Red Loctite. I think you should use Blue because Red is too strong. Usually requires heat to loosen screws from Red Loctite.
Doctor Jazz (author)  valveman3 years ago
That is totally true, I shouldn't be using or recommending others to use the Red Loctite, I just ran out of the blue -- my bad. Lemme put that correction in that step before others get into trouble.

Thanks for pointing that out!
I would suggest using no Loctite. Of all the computers I have disassembled/reassembled I have never used it, and never had a problem. Especially on the body since thtere is a chance you might want to get back inside there sometime in the future...
WolfTohsaka3 years ago
That's exactly what I did a few weeks ago to replace a dying hard drive in a white Late 2007 Macbook !

SSD's are the best when it comes to daily use.

Fast boot, fast access to apps, silent computer, the only drawback being the space offered, which varies depending on your budget !

I did use a 60 Gigs SSD, which cost me 60 Euros, for all the "not-so-often" data, they are on a NAS :)

Good Instructable, very nice and clean :)

account3r23 years ago
Wait, wait, wait... (I have already thought about this a few months ago when I was thinking about getting an SSD) If an SSD is flash memory, isn't it almost like a very large flash drive with a ATA connection? And doesn't that mean after a (very large) number of read/writes it will eventually fail? I was also thinking about getting a flash drive for an (Linux!!!) OS, but I thought it would be safer to get a small external HDD instead so it doesn't fail as quickly. So the main point and my question for this comment is:

Doesn't flash memory (eventually) fail after a number of read/writes?
Doctor Jazz (author)  account3r23 years ago
That is true, that flash memory eventually fails after certain number for re-writes, but that number of writes it fairly large and there are various algorithms inside the hardware, that make sure that "writes" ave evenly distributed across the entire available space.

And by the way, the question that you raised is also true for spinning hard drives. They also fail, and there are also algorithms/code in the hardware that takes care of marking bad blocks and moving them somewhere else.

So you may be using your hard drive or SSD and on the surface there would be no indication of any lost cells, but in reality they die (like our brain cells) continuously, until that deterioration reaches some sort of breaking point. That was the long winded version of the answer, sorry about that.

Short answer is this: modern, good quality SSDs are not less reliable than conventional hard drives, which is especially true for laptops.
this is awesome for an os drive, quick boots etc. but its better if there is another hdd that does all the hard work, but its a right pain making sure all the new software installs on the conventional hdd, and not the boot hd.
Doctor Jazz (author)  donhudson3 years ago
Actually that kinda defeats the purpose. Application launch is also an important factor in overall speed perception. In configuration you're proposing, I would rather install all applications and system related stuff on the SSD, but load tons of not-so-often-accessed files (photos, movies, etc) to the secondary drive, basically putting my whole home folder there, except for the library -- you want it to stay on SSD.
also do not do defrags on these it shortens the life of them.
Good point. :)