Macbook Pro Retina 2012 Wi-Fi Upgrade

MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2012) System Board. The Broadcom BCM94360CS Wi-Fi/Bluetooth adapter with 802.11ac is at the lower left, next to the fan

The Apple Macbook Pro is generally thought of as not too upgradeable but since my MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2012) is past its 8th birthday, I’ve had to do a few mods and repairs to keep it going. I bought the computer new in 2012, with the 2.3 GHz Core i7 (i7-3615QM) and 8 GB of RAM.

Though it is showing its age, it’s still adequately snappy. Currently, I have three partitions on the SSD with Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 20241, macOS Catalina 10.15.7 (19H2) and (the unsupported) macOS Big Sur 11.0 developer beta 10 (20A5395g). My 2012 Macbook Pro Retina Geekbench 5 (MC): 2588 score is only marginally lower than the 2020 Apple MacBook Air “Core i7” 1.2 Geekbench 5 (MC): 2944.

Because I use a Windows Boot Camp partition, I am hoping that Apple will release one more 16″ Macbook Pro with a Comet Lake i9-10980HK before the switch to Apple Silicon Arm Macs.

Over the years, I’ve upgraded the SSD from 256GB to 1TB, replaced the keyboard after a coffee spill, realigned the lid after dropping the computer, replaced the battery and today (and hopefully last), I changed the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth adapter to a Broadcom BCM94360CS so I could get 802.11ac speeds.

Speedtest with Macbook Pro (Retina 2012) BCM94360CS Wi-Fi adapter, the same speed I get with the Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter

With my mesh network anchored with an Asus RT-AX92U (#ad), I was only able to get <30-60 Mbps downloads on Wi-Fi with the stock BCM94331CSAX adapter (802.11n) compared to >200 Mbps with the Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter (#ad). In late 2012/early 2013, Apple added 802.11ac capability to the Airport/Bluetooth board which is a simple drop-in replacement for the 2012 802.11a/b/g/n board. The part number for the board is BCM94360CS or similarly, BCM94360CSAX. I bought mine on eBay.

System Image Error 0x81000036

Using Backup and Restore (Windows 7), I had been unable to “Create a system image” using Windows Insider Program builds going as far back as build 18850. I am currently running Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 18963 (20H1) on a Boot Camp partition on a MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2012).

Attempting to Create a system Image would bring up the dialog box, “Where do you want to save the backup” and it would fail with another dialog box with the text:

Windows could not find backup devices on this computer. The following information might explain why this problem occurred:

(0x81000036)

Close Windows Backup and try again.

Windows 10 Insider Preview Create a system image error 0x81000036

I searched the Windows Insider Feedback Hub, googled the web and Microsoft forums and I didn’t find a solution until a few days ago. On the Feedback Hub, in a post with the title, “Cannot create System Image in build 18956 FIX IT!“, CJH suggested disabling Windows Sandbox and virtual machine. (This link opens the Windows 10 Feedback Hub)

After disabling Windows Sandbox (Control Panel/Programs/Turn Windows features on or off/Windows Sandbox) I was able to create a system image again. I initially disabled Hyper-V Manager but after re-enabling it, system image still worked.

MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2012) SSD Upgrade

MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2012) SSD Upgrade

In 2012, the MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2012) with a 256GB SSD sold for $2399. A speed bump to a 2.6 GHz Core i7 and a larger 512 GB SSD was $3099. That’s $700 for a modest CPU speed bump and an extra 256 GB of storage. I was always constrained for disk space on my MacBook Pro’s 256GB SSD because I use Boot Camp and rEFInd to run macOS betas and Windows 10 Insider Previews.

I knew that my MacBook Pro Retina (Mid 2012) used a proprietary storage drive connector, but until recently, I didn’t know that a standard mSATA drive could be used in it with an adapter.

I bought this SHINESTAR mSATA to A1398 Adapter and this Samsung SSD 860 EVO 1TB mSATA for about $180 and I had 1 TB of internal storage.

If you want to use the SSD drive you just removed from your Macbook as a backup drive or other external storage, the easiest solution is to just buy the $59 OWC Envoy Pro case for your SSD.

iFixit has a guide to replacing the SSD in the MacBook Pro 15″ Retina (Mid 2012). It’s a simple five minute process.

Why did I upgrade a seven year old MacBook Pro? My MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2012) was one of the first MacBook Pros with a Retina display. I bought it because of the Retina display and the quad core Core i7 (I7-3615QM), The third generation Intel Core processor, “Ivy Bridge,” has a 6MB cache on the CPU.

The Geekbench 4 (MC) score on the Everymac.com page for this computer is 10578. That Geekbench score is 30% faster than the latest 2018 MacBook Air – 7379. Even up to the Apple MacBook Pro “Core i7″ 2.8 15” Touch/Mid-2017, the Geekbench score was less than 14% faster (12069) the 2012 MBPr.

It wasn’t until the the 6 core processors debuted in the Macbook Pros Apple MacBook Pro “Core i7″ 2.2 15” Touch/2018 did the Geekbench (MC) score double – 21111.

Macbook Keyboard Rivets

Removing a broken MacBook keyboard

TLDR: can’t remove rivets; glue the new keyboard in with a medium thickness cyanoacrylate

The spilled coffee on my MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2012) disabled only one key on the keyboard. Unfortunately, it was the power button. I confirmed that my MacBook Pro wasn’t completely dead by shorting the pads on the system board that I found on insidemylaptop.com.

The top case (which includes the keyboard and trackpad) of the MacBook Pro can be replaced, with new parts on eBay that cost about $100. I also found that the just the keyboard can be purchased on eBay for about $20.

I used iFixit’s MacBook Pro 15″ Retina Display Mid 2012 Upper Case Assembly Replacement guide to disassemble the computer, then found some YouTube videos detailing ripping out the old keyboard.

MacBook Pro Retina keyboard rivets

The problem for me was when I pulled the old keyboard away from the top case, the rivets remained in the case. I later thought that pulling on the keyboard very sharply when I removed it would have pulled the rivets out too.

There were screws included with my replacement keyboard but the now the problem was how to remove the rivets from the top case. I found various solutions that included drilling them out, using a screwdriver and hammer to pry them out and removing the rivets by pulling them out with diagonal flush side cutters. The latter seemed like the best solution, except that I didn’t have that tool.

It then occurred to me that Apple reparability scores were always very low because they glued everything together. So, I decided to glue the keyboard in using a medium cyanoacrylate glue.

Working from one side of the keyboard to the other, I used less than a drop of glue on top of each of the protruding rivets. The glue (use a medium thickness cyanoacrylate) ran down around the rivet and under the keyboard mounting plate, fastening it to the top case. I pressed down on the keyboard for a few seconds to hold it flush with the top case until the glue set.

When I put the computer back together, I felt that gluing the keyboard in worked as well as the screws. Typing on the new keyboard felt completely solid and I saved a lot of effort in not having to remove the rivets.