15″ MacBook Pro 7200rpm Drive Upgrade

Posted by: on Apr 28, 2007 | One Comment

After reading this report at Xlr8YourMac, I decided to try the same for myself. That guy had a brilliant idea — buy a portable case with a 7200rpm Seagate Momentus already in it, which saves you a few bucks and gives you a home for your stock 5400rpm drive after the upgrade is complete. (Instant portable backup!)

I can’t emphasize the importance of faster drives. It’d opt for more memory and faster drives over a few hundred MHz any time I bought a new machine. This MBP upgrade is well worth it, just as a RAID for your Mac Pro really makes it a Pro machine.

The installation took less than 30 minutes. I have a few caveats:

  • Carbon Copy clone your stock drive onto the new drive before beginning
  • Clear off a table — give yourself plenty of workspace. Lay down a towel to protect your precious Book, and protect your Book from yourself and static electricity
  • Create a way to organize the screws you remove. I labeled a few ramekins from the kitchen.
  • Watch the OWC install vids as recommended. This is key and only takes 15 minutes.
  • Make sure the little plastic notches in the front above your optical drive don’t pop out when removing the keyboard mechanism. I heard something jiggling around inside my case after I had nearly closed it all up. So I re-opened the whole thing fearing it was a screw that could short something out only to find the little plastic piece floating around between the motherboard and keyboard.
  • Make sure you have the right screwdrivers: a Phillips Head #0 and #6 Torx. Need a PC set? This $15 set from RadioShack should suffice.
  • The Seagate runs a bit hotter, and these machines run hot anyway. Give smcFanControl a shot. I keep both fans around 4000rpm and the drive is still a bit warm under my left arm.

Direct from Apple you can only get 7200rpm drives with the 17″ models. Those Books are just too large and impossible to use in anything but first class on a plane, which is why the 15.4″ers are my sweet spot. It’s a damn shame because the faster drives make all the difference in the world. My Core 2 Duo MBP “felt” slower than my previous last-gen PowerBook (which had a 7200rpm drive) until I gave it this vital organ transplant.

And no, I’m not going to post a bunch of Xbench results. It’s all about how it feels to you. If your machine feels “fast enough” for you today, then don’t waste the money.

1 Comment

  1. Paul
    July 31, 2007

    Wish I had seen your post earlier! I did nearly the same as you, just last week on my 1st gen MBP 15″ Core Duo. Procedure was sllightly different; I used Disk Utility to ‘restore’ (clone) the internal to the external, after re-partitioning to GUID/HFS+ journaled, but same effect.
    Booted from the new drive externally as a test; no problems, swapped drives, no problems (those case latches at the front are tricky, as are those two little screws holding it inside the battery compartment.)
    Funny; I couldn’t find an MBP 15″ take-apart, had to use an MBP 17″ instructions. NBD
    Did you notice the nice metal heatsink the new Mercury On-The-Go portables now use? That should help with heat; I have an older drive similarly swapped out to an older M_O-T-G case, and if heavily used, it gets wonky from heat. On the new drive plastic case I put the stick-on plastic feet on the bottom side, so the heat sink is on the top. Will also Dremel some air inlet slots on the case bottom to introduce cool air to the HD, which is an 80 GB Seagate (Momentus?) 5400.
    Also noted on OWC web site that their warranty is voided by doing the swap. Still, it saved at least $40 vs. the separate pieces.
    I’m tempted to run XBench just to quantify what I feel, but it would be compared to the original drive via FW400. Also maxed out memory at 2 GB, up from 1.5 GB. Rarely if ever do I see page swap outs. Feels like a desktop machine, and for whatever reason, so far it’s been immune to Airport/OS 10.4.10 or other issues.
    Considering what I paid for the MBP – $1349 from CDW in 2/2007, it’s super.


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