Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Trick to Properly Fixing the Rubber Feet of a MacBook Pro

A black foot of my trusty old MacBook Pro finally broke off, and I didn't like how it made the laptop wobbly.  A fix was needed, and quick!

First I bought some replacement feet, the kind that just stick on.   These feet are nice because there is no need open up the machine to fix a broken foot.  They're very inexpensive, and the ones I bought have adhesive tape already applied - just peal and stick.  I bought feet like the ones found here. 

I have read many complaints about how the adhesive doesn't stick, but I think that's because people don't know the two tricks required to get the new feet to stick properly.

New Feet to replace a lost Foot

Important Trick 1: I made sure to fully remove the old foot.  My factory-installed foot was attached both mechanically and with adhesive, but the old foot sheared off, leaving some black plastic bits of the old foot stuck in the hole.  Those plastic bits would have prevented the new foot from seating properly.  I used tweezers to carefully break up and extract the remnants of the old foot.  Of course, never dig too deep - there are sensitive electronics under there!

Photo 1: Be sure to fully remove the old foot.

Important Trick 2: I used some solvent to soften and release the old clear adhesive tape.  I didn't even know that this adhesive tape was there until I managed to loosen it up with some nail polish remover.  The tape is in the shape of a small transparent disk, and will prevent the new adhesive from working well unless the disk and all the old transparent adhesive is removed.  Of course, never let anything get into the hole.  That could do some damage.

Clean the recess very well

Whoa!  A little transparent piece of old adhesive tape appears!  Tweezers help me pull it away

Remove the old tape, and finish cleaning out the old adhesive from the recess

Once the recess was completely clean and dry, I properly aligned the new foot and stuck it in place.

Now my MacBook Pro is steady on its feet and ready for more years of computing bliss.  

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Not the End of an Era: the continuing life of a 2009 MacBook Pro

The 2009 MacBook Pro's days are numbered.  As you likely know by now, the 2009 MacBook Pro will not be supported by Mac OS Sierra.  I have one of these beasts, and it is a wonderful machine despite 7+ years of heavy use.

But that doesn't mean my 2009 MacBook Pro is dead or will become immediately useless.  Quite to the contrary, I expect to use my MBP securely for several more years.

Mac OS X El Capitan will continued to be supported by Apple with security patches for some amount of time.  How long?  My research shows that Apple supports a deprecated operating system for at least two years after the release of its subsequent operating system. 

So if Sierra is released on October 1st, 2016, El Capitan will be supported by Apple until at least October 1st, 2018.

Then what?  Well, by rights, most people should no longer use El Capitan as it becomes security-obsolete.  But some more technically-minded people might have some options:
  • Hack Sierra onto the machine.  This may extend the security of the machine until Sierra is obsolete, perhaps around October 1st, 2019.  No one can promise that Sierra will continue to operate properly on a 2009 MBP, but it could.
  • Manually patch El Capitan.  This may be reasonably possible depending on the security vulnerabilities revealed after obsolescence.  For example, there is an NTP security patch that can be manually built and applied to the obsolete Lion.
  • Install another operating system onto the machine, such as Linux or Windows.
  • Use the machine in an off-line way.  For example, the machine could potentially be used securely if it never shares data with the outside world.
So see?  It isn't all that bad.  After all, a notebook computer with a 9+ year active lifespan has done well.  Even if El Capitan gets all obsolete in the 2018 - 2019 time frame, my  machine will continue to be able to provide good service for years to come.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Maxing out your White 2009 2010 MacBook for Performance and Longevity

Even in the later half of 2016, the 2009 & 2010 white MacBook can be a fantastic laptop if upgraded with modern parts.   Here's the deal.

I am responsible for maintaining a small fleet of these MacBooks, and have found that it is very easy to upgrade these MacBooks to perform in a manner competitive with a new, $1000+ laptop.

2009-2010 "A1342" white MacBook

The upgrades I typically perform on these MacBooks are Memory, Storage, and Battery.  Depending on your needs, this can typically cost from $25 to $125 if you buy and install the parts yourself.   This is a great way to get another 3 or more years out of your MacBook.

Let me be clear:  I am talking about the white plastic unibody polycarbonate MacBook from 2009 and 2010, as exactly pictured above.  Check out "About this Mac" under the Apple menu of your Mac to verify that you have a "Late 2009" or "Mid-2010" MacBook.

Here are the details of the upgrade parts I usually use:

Memory Upgrade: Typically about $35 ($25 - $35 depending on your budget)
  • 8 GB RAM - $35 (Recommended)
  • 4 GB RAM - $25 (Cheaper option, for those on a budget)
The MacBook was typically delivered with 2 GB of memory.  Today, 2 GB of memory is below the minimum amount of memory recommended for the smooth operation of modern Mac software.  I recommend upgrading the MacBook's memory to 8 GB of memory.  If your budget is tight, I recommend upgrading to 4 GB of memory, at a cost of about $25.

The MacBook only likes specific memory chips, namely PC3-8500 DDR3 SO-DIMMs.  That sounds complicated, so I'll make it easy:  I have had excellent results with RAM from Amazon, such as these: 8 GB Memory Kit, 4 GB Memory Kit.

SSD Solid State Drive Upgrade: Typically $70 ($45 - $125, depending on your needs and budget)
  • 250 GB SSD - $70 (Recommend for most)
  • 500 GB SSD - $120 (Recommend for those low on space)
The MacBook was typically delivered with a 250 GB hard disk drive.  Today, laptop hard disk drives are near-obsolete.  Instead, modern laptops are delivered with much faster "solid state disk" (SSD).  I advise upgrading the MacBook's hard disk drive with a 250 GB SSD, at a cost of about $65.

If you are using more than 200 GB of hard drive space now, you may want to upgrade to a 500 GB SSD.

I have had good experiences with most (but not all) SSDs.  I have had issues with the very cheapest SSD, so I recommend staying away from the "bottom of the bargain bin".  I have been very happy with the SanDisk II SSDs, which has good price, performance, and reliability.

New fast 240 GB SSD (top) versus old, slow 250 GB Hard Drive (bottom)

Battery Upgrade: Typically $35 (only if your Mac's current battery bothers you)

Many MacBooks have a 5+ year old battery.  If your battery is OK, or if you always use your MacBook plugged in, then I wouldn't replace the battery.  If your battery is no longer holding a reasonable charge AND you use the MacBook while disconnected from the wall, then I would replace the battery. 

Make sure you get the right battery, such as this one for the White MacBook 2009-2010

Tools and stuff

When upgrading the memory and hard drive, one needs some tools to do the work.  In particular I  use the following tools, which can be found for under $2 each:
  • Phillips "00" (small) head screwdriver - for removing the back of the computer and the hard drive
  • Torx "T6" head screwdriver - for removing the hard drive mounting pins
  • Tri-wing screw driver - for removing the battery.  This is often included with the purchase of a new battery.