souping up

i’ve been a Mac guy for a while. we had an Apple IIe when i was in 5th grade or something, and i took a Mac Classic to college.

i remained a Mac guy even through years of working in the software industry, and worked with every system under the sun. for a while i maintained a cross platform porting farm for a database & middleware company, and worked with everything from Solaris and NT on Alpha chips to A/IX. every type of chip, and every platform, and still whichever mac i was on made me happiest.

it wasn’t so much about the fact that my Macs didn’t get viruses.
or that they were really fast. or incredibly stable (at least as of Mac OS X).

i’ve been a Mac guy for a while. even before it made sense. i bought them when they cost 2X as much as a PC and gave you only a marginally better experience. and then OS X happened, and the value of “the computer” started growing exponentially. now it was UNIX. whoa nelly.

i also used to be the guy that would take my Mac apart into it’s constituent components. yeah, no surprise there. so i’ve upgraded (almost always without dire consequences) every Mac i’ve had, even when the effort it took was decidedly un-user-friendly.

and i’ve bought Macs even when they weren’t more stylish than anything else.
i mean, come on. a beige box? ya, that’s better than a grey box.

but then came the Intel Macs.
wha? my Macs are now cheaper than the competition, configured similarly?
hm, and still generally a bit faster, as Apple designs well, controls they hardware quite well, and specs components near the top of the curve.

and ya, unix. no viruses. check.

and the design now? whoa nelly.
my MacBook is black. and it’s plastic. so it doesn’t get dented or have it’s paint scratched off. and have you SEEN that new MacBook Air? the damn thing’ll slide under a door. if you are into that sort of thing.

hmm, upgrades and peripherals?

Apple’s keeping a good fast connection into the machine, somehow, even if continuing to pare down what those thing are. and still evolving, adopting things like Xpress card slots for the Pros. i can live with firewire, usb 2, and a bunch of other stuff in my MacBook. that and an Apogee Duet and i’m laying down tracks with my Reverend guitars (

but man i need a lot of RAM. and i wouldn’t mind having a huge hard drive, either.

i have been running with 2gigs of RAM, on a 2.0 ghz MacBook. but i run VMWare or Parallels occasionally. sometimes i try to do signal processing work in one of those with 2gigs of ram on my Macbook. eh… not pleasant. Bootcamp is NICE though. Sure is amazing for all of us old geeks who ran VPC waaaaay back when, just to get access to some choice piece of software. that kinda ended with Mac OS X though; most software was soon available for the Mac.

back from the tanget. i needed more RAM, and a 120gb drive wasn’t cutting it (with 15 for Win XP, to do my signal processing). i kept finding myself with a few gigs of space left, and shuffling things to backup because of space (as opposed to prudent forethought) can be annoying after a few months.

so hmm.. how easy is it to upgrade to more RAM and a larger disk?
quick check on OWC’s website ( and a not painful $250 spent.

three days pass…

oh! it’s here!
now, i’ve done this thing before. you just have to move everything you have on a smaller disk, to a larger disk. the smaller disk is in the machine, and may as well be the only machine you have handy. hm.

easy as pie.
quick recipe for those of you who want to make this upgrade dish:

1. get a larger drive than you have (and with as large a cache as possible). get someone to help you (like OWC) if you don’t know which drive to choose, or don’t feel like googling for reviews on the different models (hint).
2. get more RAM. see above, re selection. OWC has a nice “upgrade finder” for you. just select your Mac and you get all the right choices laid out. then it’s just math.
3. get external enclosure that matches the internal drive (SATA in this case) that will give you USB or Firewire or both (your choice, it’s about math again).
4. download Carbon Copy Cloner. it’s free, but pay the guy, why don’t you?
5. put larger new drive into enclosure. clone little drive to big drive. it took me 5 hours.
6. turn MacBook over, remove battery. a coin works best.
7. remove a couple of phillips screws (size 0 – go to Radio Shack and get the right tools for $10, ya cheapskate).
8. flip level on any of the RAM slots you wanna change chips out of. change chips, seat firmly with thumbs once placed.
9. flip the white tab up and pull. drive comes out on sled, no wires. remove existing drive (meaning remove 4 little Torx #8 screws), and replace with bigger drive
10. put little drive in external enclosure you thoughtfully bought for it.
11. boot new system.
12. use Bootcamp assistant to setup a new partition for Windows, if you like
13. start the Windows install, and choose FAT32 as the filesystem type.
14. after the installer copies everything over, force power down when it tries to reboot (hold power key down)
15. option-Boot so you can choose which operating system to start up, and start Mac OS X.
16. open bootcamp partition, drag everything there into the trash. empty trash.
17. plug little drive (in it’s enclosure) into machine.
18. drag files from little drive’s bootcamp partition to the now empty bootcamp partition, in the following order: tldr, NTDETECT.COM, boot.ini, and PAGEFILE.SYS first, then everything else.
19. boot at will into either Mac OS X or Windows.

back to our narrative.

not much more to say except that the machine SCREAMS and i can do anything i want with it now. for those keeping score, it’s got 3GB of RAM now and 320GB drive (which is effectively 300, once translated from marketing speak). an extra 2gb chip, the drive, and an enclosure for a few dollars more’n two-fitty.

haven’t found anything in my optimal workflow that the machine stutters on. and that includes doing multi-channel signal processing and visual display on a 21.5 inch monitor plugged into it, while running ODE simulation software, all the time fetching mail, working on a Word doc, and surfing in both Safari and Firefox (firefox is set to use my university proxy, for and such). it’s now faster and more responsive than the MacBook Pro of similar (base) specs.

well, that was a bit of a rant. hope you liked it.

One Reply to “souping up”

  1. This post is now obsolete, as I’ve been working on a unibody aluminum MacBook Pro 15.3″, 2.8ghz C2D, with 4 gigs of RAM and a 320 gig drive, two NVIDIA cards, etc… It’s MUCH nicer, though I’m still surprised at how the 13″ black one performs with a clean copy of 10.5 on it.

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