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  • Getting More From a 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro

    January 17th, 2017

    As many of you know, I prefer large displays on my computers. I’m in my element with a 27-inch iMac, but Mac notebooks are far more limiting for all sorts of practical reasons. Up until 2011, Apple offered the MacBook Pro in a 17-inch version; I got mine the previous year, and the year-to-year improvements were minor.

    I’m still using it.

    Now there are sensible reasons for me to hang onto it. One is that I was battered and bruised by the 2007 recession, which hasn’t ended to this day for some people. I acquired the computer as a trade-out for advertising on The Tech Night Owl LIVE, so there was no out-of-pocket expense, and I picked up some cash selling my old notebook.

    Such is business.

    Aside from the cost of a new computer, there’s another reason to keep what I have, and that’s the display size. When Apple went to a Retina display in 2012, the screens topped out at 15 inches. No doubt the cost of the high resolution displays was one key factor. Another the fact that the larger MacBook Pro was not a terribly good seller, so why not just kill it off?

    Even if I was willing to make the sacrifice, and there is an advantage to saving a few pounds when lugging one of those things in a case across an airport terminal, I’m content with what I have. But I had to make modifications to keep it going, and get decent performance.

    One thing that always bothered me with older Apple’s notebooks was the glacial drive performance. Using a tiny hard drive had its shortcomings, and that hurt even if those machines otherwise had sufficient processing power. So when I had a chance to review of 500GB SSD from Other World Computing, I jumped at the opportunity.

    As you know, Apple has since switched entirely to SSDs for Mac portables. It made a world of a difference.

    But Apple really didn’t want you, even then, to upgrade those machines. It wasn’t just the choice to seal the case with tiny pentalobe screws. It’s not that you can’t find the screwdrivers, and some SSD vendors supply them for you for no additional charge. But you have to be real careful during the disassembly process. They’re easy to lose, as I discovered the first time I tried. But OWC took pity on me and sent me a few replacements. I should have put them in a cup; or use an ash tray if you have one around.

    The installation process of the new drive took maybe 15 or 20 minutes. I didn’t run the stopwatch, but it was no big deal to remove the case,. extract the drive, and plugin the replacement. I received an external case for the MacBook Pro’s original hard drive. It made it easy to restore my stuff when the time came.

    I’ll be brief: The MacBook Pro is much faster, since the drive-based slowdowns are history. I later doubled RAM to 8GB, but the performance improvement was marginal. As I reported earlier this month, my efforts to install macOS Sierra were curiously troublesome. At first the installer displayed a message that I needed to update Apple’s server software first, even though I wasn’t running OS X Server. Installing via the Internet Recovery feature worked fine, and performance is still quite good.

    Over the holidays, my son spent a couple of weeks here on a visit from his apartment in Madrid. He traveled light, meaning his 13-inch MacBook Air, circa 2015, stayed home. So he adopted my notebook, and we both realized the battery was on its last legs. It would usually crap out after two or three hours, and the MagSafe adaptor no longer displayed a full charge indicator. After nearly seven years, even with light use, it was time to make what I hope will be the last change or fix to this device. When I do sell it — and maybe that’ll happen late this year if all goes well — I’d like to command the best price.

    So I got ahold of OWC again to see what they were offering. While batteries for those older MacBook Pros are readily available — quite unlike some newer models where replacing anything may be difficult or impossible — I was urged to be careful by a few friendly power users. Some of the reviews at Amazon were also discouraging, as the really cheap batteries may not deliver performance that’s comparable to Apple’s original equipment spec of 8-9 hours.

    In contrast, OWC promises up to 8% greater performance for its replacement battery. So I asked if they’d be wiling to send me one for review; I will decide later whether to actually buy it, go cheap, or save my money. It’s on the way, and should be here in another day or two.

    When I’m ready to buy a new MacBook Pro, I will obviously have to settle for a 15-inch maximum display size. There are some Windows notebooks still available with 17-inch displays, but most models top out at nearly same size as Apple — 15.6-inches compared to Apple’s choice of 15.4-inches. In the meantime, I’m anxious to put that new battery to the test to see how much I can eke out of that old box.



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    5 Responses to “Getting More From a 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro”

    1. Weide Marvin says:

      This may be one of the reason’s for the decline in Mac sales, as a long time user starting with the Apple11E I have purchased new Macs almost every year. As a Grandfather I pass down the computers I replace to one of my kids.
      Interesting that some of the iMacs using OS X 10.5.8 are still in use.

      • Don’t forget that Mac sales may have actually improved over the December quarter. That Apple hasn’t had much in the way of new Macs out, until the Late 2016 MacBook Pros arrived, may also have hurt. But I agree that more and more people have decided to just hang on to their computers for longer and longer periods.

        Peace,
        Gene

    2. BJ Bolender says:

      I am on my third iMac because as a photographer, the best monitor makes life easier. Always bought used in order to get the largest monitor and added more memory. My only problem is that with the 2005, 2007 and 2009 iMacs, all have succumbed to the motherboard overheating problem. My latest Mac I got from a local vendor who buys in bulk from colleges, wipes them and sets up with important programs. But this morning, after only three months I got my first Apple white screen of death. Lucky it started up again fine after a half hour of stress! I read your articles often because I want to be aware of whatever options are possible in the future, less the option of buying a new Mac which is out of the ballpark.

    3. DM says:

      I also need to update my 2010 MacBook Pro 17 inch battery. I received similar feedback on battery replacements from trusted Mac service people locally and online. They refuse to warranty their service on any 3rd party battery. To make things even more confusing if I do it myself, the battery power specs from OWC, Amazon and others are all over the map.

      I need to update to a newer MacBook Pro, but I am disappointed in the late 2016 model. I would prefer to wait until the next machine releases in late 2017/early 2018, but that may not be possible.

      I look forward to your review.

      • gene says:

        Just to let you know. I got the battery. But I ran into a hangup in changing it. The right-most pentalobe screw on the battery is stripped, a consequence of bad assembly. So I’m testing a few solutions to remove that screw. Once that’s done, it should be fairly simple to replace the battery. I understand this problem is not uncommon.

        Peace,
        Gene

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