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.

Windows 8 on a Macbook

I installed the Microsoft Windows 8 Release Preview (x64) on my Apple Macbook (Late 2006). Over the years I’ve upgraded my Macbook’s hardware – it now has 3 GB RAM, a 120 GB OCZ Agility 3 SSD and a 320 GB Western Digital WD3200BEKT hard disk. I use rEFIt as the boot manager for the two main operating systems that I use, Windows 7 and OS X Lion.

I ran the Windows 8 setup program from an external DVD drive while booted to Windows 7 and the installation took about 25 minutes. Everything worked pretty well except the audio. I could see by the red glow coming from the audio jack that it had to defaulted to the SPDIF (digital) output. I installed the Bootcamp 4.0 IDT Sigmatel audio drivers and the analog sound output started working.

Thanks to Paul Thurrott for the instructions on setting up Windows Media Center, I was able to get the TV tuner working after I installed the Silicon Dust HDHomeRun TV tuner Windows drivers.

Once I got the dual monitor setup working and installed Google Chrome, I realized that Windows 8 is pretty much like Windows 7, except for the Metro interface. It seems that Microsoft’s goal with Windows 8 is to simplify Windows with Metro. The side effect of this is hiding everything that is of use to the power user – which made the learning curve going from Windows 7 to 8 slightly steeper. Fortunately, switching between Metro and the desktop interface is simple. The main problem with the Metro interface for me (besides that you can only see one running app at a time) is that I would never use the apps that are tiled on the main screen.

When I realized it would take me a week to install everything else to get to the equivalent of the working system I had on Windows 7, I did an image restore back to Windows 7.

I’m not so down on Windows 8 now that I’ve used it for a while. Microsoft has made improvements in Windows 8 that are helpful to the power user – Windows Explorer – now called File Explorer – is much more robust, for example. Windows 8 even runs fairly quickly on my 5.5 year old hardware and it only took about 30 seconds to boot. So while it looks like Windows 8 will run well on this legacy system, unfortunately Apple won’t be supporting my MacBook (Late 2006) with it’s next OS, Mountain Lion.

Macbook + OCZ Agility 3 SSD

OCZ Agility 3 SSD Packaging

On my nearly five year old Macbook (Late 2006), I’ve upgraded the RAM to 3GB and replaced the original 120 GB 5400 rpm hard drive with a WD Scorpio Black 320 GB 7200 rpm hard drive. When I managed to break the internal DVD drive, I decided to put in a SSD, the last performance upgrade for a computer that should be near the end of its useful life. The main reason that I decided to do a $225 upgrade was that it doesn’t feel like the computer has slowed down that much over the years, so I’m able to squeeze some more time out of it.

The SandForce controllers are starting to mature – the OCZ Agility 3 I bought on Amazon uses a second generation SandForce controller and falls more in the budget/midrange performance SSD category. Considering that my Macbook uses an Intel ICH7-M ACHI controller that is SATA revision 1.0 (SATA 1.5 Gbit/s) – the Agility 3’s SATA 6 Gbit/s throughput capability is way beyond this old Macbook. Maybe I can use it in my next computer too, he rationalized.

I bought a $99 (USD) MCE Technologies Optibay, a caddy that replaces the DVD and will hold a 2.5″ drive. Had I done more pre-purchase research, I might have purchased a $15 (USD) version on eBay. MCE Tech did include a case for my damaged DVD drive so it can be used externally connected by USB. And their tech support did promptly answer a question when I phoned them about the DVD interface using PATA – so my former SATA boot drive was now going to be using a PATA interface.

Macbook (Late 2006) with OCZ Agility 3 SSD

I dual boot into OS X and Windows 7 using rEFIT as a boot manager. With a new SSD as a boot drive, I wanted to do clean installs of OS X and Windows 7. The latter was a major hurdle. I could boot Snow Leopard from the external DVD drive or USB flash drive to install OS X, but I couldn’t find a way to boot the Windows 7 install DVD from the external DVD or a USB flash drive. I found some convoluted solutions that involved making a Windows VM but it was way too much work.

Instead, I took the computer apart and put the DVD drive back in the internal bay and booted the Windows 7 disk from the DVD drive. I had to try this a couple of times and ended up breaking the flex cable from the DVD to the motherboard. An eBay purchased fortunately solved that problem, though in frustration, several times I thought Ice-T’s Mac repair method would have been way more satisfying. If you’ve been able to boot your Macbook with a Windows 7 install DVD in an external DVD or flash drive please let me know how you did it.

The only other question I haven’t solved with this setup is the second hard drive (non boot drive) needs the Windows bootmgr file or Windows 7 on the SSD will not boot. Disk Manager sees the SSD as Disk 0. The NTFS partition on the second hard drive is marked Active, Primary Partition and I get the feeling that has something to do with it. Figuring out this problem is a back burner operation right now.

The end result was worth it. I managed to pare down my applications so I can have all of them installed on the SSD in both operating systems. Movies, music, photos and virtual machines are on the 320 GB hard drive.

I’ve since installed OS X Lion (Lion problems in a future post) and the computer boots to the iOS-like linen login screen in about 25 seconds. In OS X, Chrome and Firefox launch with less than one bounce in the dock. Windows 7 boots in about 45 seconds and applications are similarly snappy compared to the rotating media.