How to Replace Your MacBook Pro’s Hard Drive with an SSD

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Want to squeeze even more performance out of your MacBook Pro? As our resident Geek’s Geek would say, then get an SSD, you putz!  Adding an SSD will make your Mac boot faster, copy files in the blink of an eye, and make the system more responsive when multitasking.

For this how-to, we replaced the hard drive on a 15-inch MacBook Pro (non-Retina) from 2012 with a 480GB Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD from OWC, which costs $579. That works out to about $1.21 per GB. By comparison, if you bought the 512GB SSD from Apple’s site, that would run you $800, which is $1.56 per GB.

Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to replace the hard drive. Here’s how. 

What You’ll Need

  • SSD (obviously). 
  • mSATA enclosure or adapter. We used the Seagate Thunderbolt Adapter ($99), as it was the fastest connection, but you can also use the Seagate USB 3.0/2.0 Upgrade Cable, which costs just $19.99. There are also dozens of other SATA enclosures on the market. 
  • A small Phillips screwdriver
  • Torx T6 screwdriver – OWC provides one with the SSD, which we think is a nice touch.

Cloning Your Hard Drive

The first step is to clone your Mac’s hard drive onto the SSD. For this, you can use a utility such as Carbon Copy Cloner, but we’re going to show you how to do it with Apple’s own Disk Utility program. 

  1. Connect the SSD to the Mac using the mSATA enclosure or adapter.
  2. Open the Disk Utility in the Applications folder.
  3. Click on the SSD icon, and select the Partition tab. Under where it says Partition Layout, select “1 Partition.” At the bottom of the window is a box labeled “Options…” Click on that box, and in the window that opens, select “GUID Partition Table.”
  4. Click on the First Aid tab, and select Verify Disk Permissions. After that process has completed, select Repair Disk Permissions. Once that’s done, select Verify Disk, then Repair Disk. 
  5. Shutdown the Mac, and then restart it holding down the Option key. Select the option to boot into the Recovery Disk.
  6. Select the option to Reinstall Mac OS X. Select the SSD as the destination disk. This process can take upwards of 30 minutes.
  7. Copy your files from the original hard drive. After the OS has installed, the utility will ask you if you’d like to restore files from another disk. Select the original hard drive. Depending on how many files you have, this process could take some time, too.

Installing the SSD

Next, you’ve got to crack open your notebook. Now comes the fun part.

  1. Flip your Mac over, and locate the 10 screw holes.
  2. Remove the screws using the Phillips’ screwdriver. Note: We recommend placing the screws in a small bowl or something to that effect so the screws don’t go missing. Yeah, they’re scattered all over in this picture; do as we say, not as we do.
  3. Pry the bottom off of your MacBook Pro. It should come off fairly easily, without any undue force.
  4. Locate the hard drive.  It’s held in place by a little piece of plastic. Remove the screws holding the plastic piece in place.
  5. Next, gently lift the hard drive out of the chassis, and remove the ribbon connecting it to the notebook.
  6. On the four sides of the hard drive are four small metal posts (visible in the photo above). Unscrew the posts using the Torx screwdriver. Then, screw the posts into the SSD.
  7. Connect the mSATA ribbon to the SSD, and place it back in the notebook. Reattach the plastic piece holding the drive in place, and then screw the bottom back on.
  8. Turn the notebook back on. Open System Preferences, then Startup Disk. Select the SSD (it should be the only one listed), and restart your notebook. You’re all done! 
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  1. Miguel Says:

    Many thanks. It’s a wonderful guide :-)

    Perhaps you explain what the mSATA enclosure or adapter is/are for, and that they’re not really a must. I had to ask in order to find out what they were about. All in all, a great guide. Thanks!

  2. Hugh Says:

    Thanks for the great guide. Does anyone know approximately how long it would take to clone a 500 MB HD to an SSD using USB 2.0 on a Mid-2010 MacBook Pro?

  3. Cyrus Says:

    Nice video. So I have a dual partition. I am running windows 7 and Mac OS 10.8.3. When you clone the HD does it copy the windows partition as well? I know windows is pretty picky when you change parts. Will the windows partition boot on the new drive with out any issues?
    Macbook pro 2013 w/cd
    GT 650m

  4. M03E5 Says:

    Why not just clone it skipping all this partitioning stuff…? Acronis does good job and saves time.

  5. msd360 Says:

    Beware OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.2+). You may need to replace the firmware on your SSD, which may be difficult through the USB adapter. I had to install the empty SSD into the MacBook Pro, then update the firmware, then use the old drive with the USB adapter to copy OS X + my files to the SSD.

    Your original article was very helpful with hardware pictures and general procedures.

  6. quench Says:

    I have ordered a new macbooki7 pro quad core with a 128GB SSD, does anyone know if i can upgrade this later to a 256GBSSD? or will i have to buy another 256GB SSD ??
    Cheers

  7. Theis Rasmussen Says:

    Hi, thanx for the guide, def. going to use it once i get my SSD! one question though, i’ve got windows installed via bootcamp, what’s going to happen to that? I wonder if im going to loose all data (game progress, files etc), when i reboot from the SSD.
    Thanx again.

  8. Ravi Says:

    Thanks! Very helpful video!

  9. nexar Says:

    Hi ! i have an Powerbook 17″, and I am replacing hd of 500gb by hd of 1TB, but the new hd 1 TB not showing in hard disk utility on the boot system (at moment of install the system from install dvd)!! The conection is ok. Help please. what review now?

  10. Salvatore Scolaro Says:

    Thank you for the simple procedure to replace the 500 GB HDD to 1 TB HDD.

  11. Mike Says:

    when copying the files to the ssd, does it remove the files from the original hard drive?

  12. Eilfurz Says:

    Hi, you mentioned that this “probably voids the warranty” – as replacing the hard drive is even explained in the mpb’s user manual, i don’t think this to be the case.

  13. wesley Says:

    why would you want too install a 480 gb harddrive when it comes with a 500 gb harddrive .

  14. Sonthidet Srimanut Says:

    I have a problem after finishing step no.4. I shutdown my mac and restart it holding the option key and then nothing happened to my mac. Just a white screen shows up with nothing. I have to pull out my thunderbolt cable to restart my mac and then I cannot find my new ssd hard disk after I put back the thunderbolt cable. I don’t know what I should do now. Can anybody help me?

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