macbook pro

A love-hate relationship with my 6-year-old macbook pro

I’ll be honest: I’ve been an Apple fangirl since high school. After growing up on PCs, the first computer I purchased for myself was a used Powerbook G4 off of eBay. The second was a Macbook in 2009. The third was the late 2011 MacBook I’m typing this on. The one that’s now, you know, trying to kick the bucket. And I’m determined to fix it.

An old friend

We’ve been through some important things together. I bought it while finishing my bachelor’s degree. Used it to type the short story for my grad school acceptance. Spent hours writing term papers, doing research, and drafting the first chapters to a novel for my senior thesis. A novel which I’m still writing and planning to publish. I started my freelance career with this laptop!

In other words, I have spent and do spend a lot of time on it. And besides being old and used a ridiculous amount, I have had no major issues with it. Which is why I’m so irritated right now.

It all goes down hill

The first thing that failed was the CD drive. Initially, it stopped burning DVDs. Then, it stopped reading discs. Was it a big deal? Nah. I very rarely need the disc drive. Not long ago, I even took it out and trashed it.


Next to go were the USB ports. It started with just the top one. I noticed that my phone charged while plugged in, but nothing transferred, and my mouse did not work. A few months later, neither port worked. The only bad thing? Using a Bluetooth mouth sucks. Oh well.

Then, I noticed my screen was wobbling. Adjusting its angle shows the connection is loose on the left side. It doesn’t impact the screen itself, so who knows? I guess as long as I’m careful, the electronic connections won’t break. I’m certainly too terrified to remove the screen and try to tighten the screws myself.

What’s next? Oh! My trackpad. I like to physically push and click. Now I have it set to tap because most of the time my trackpad will not click except in certain spots. This, combined with a crapy Bluetooth mouse connection, means gaming is an absolute chore.

No problem, right? I can live with all of that, even if it’s annoying.

One thing I can’t live with is a failing hard drive.

The final straw

It began with a sound.

Click, click, click. Click, click, click. Low, weird screeching. Click, click.

Rinse. Repeat. Until it drives me absolutely crazy.

See, I thought it was my DVD drive. It sounded like it was coming from that location, but when I took it out, it still happened.

hard driveThen, I thought it was the fan. Until my computer started locking up during the noise. Over and over again.

I backed up all my files to the desktop PC I bought for gaming just in case it finally crapped out. I deleted anything extra except for basic programs, and I’m only using it for work and surfing the internet.

It still makes that damned noise, which at times makes me want to throw it across the room. Perhaps it’s just hopeless.

They say if you love it, let it go

I just can’t though. Although I do love my desktop PC for gaming and working, I love my laptop for surfing the net and writing while the boyfriend watches TV.  And so I can work anywhere, anytime. I can’t afford a new MacBook Pro, and I don’t want a PC laptop. What can I say? I’m partial to my buddy here.

That’s why I’m going to attempt a rescue.

Updating and fixing a MacBook Pro

Luckily for me, in pre-2013 models, there are some things you can do to either update your MacBook’s performance or fix certain problems. (Newer models, however,  have fewer options, so hit the Google before you open yours up.) Some of it is easy, some more challenging.

For instance, I upgraded my laptop’s memory a couple of years ago. (see on Apple’s website MacBook Pro: How to remove or install memory). It was as simple as looking up the max memory for the model (for me, 16 GB), making a purchase, loosening some screws, and swapping it out. In my case, it made a nice difference in performance.

Got a bad disc drive or want to swap it out? Removing the optical drive is a bit more difficult because here are many connections and cables that run on or around the drive. This includes speaker and Airport/Bluetooth assemblies. If you don’t have the proper tools, like I didn’t, it’s not going to be easy. Make sure to have them on hand, and use a good guide to walk you through it.

I changed out a malfunctioning fan. Again, all it took was removing the case, unhooking the fan cable, unscrewing it, then hooking up the new one. iFixit has great guides for this.

I don’t yet have the nerve to mess with my screen, but if you’re having a problem similar to mine, iFixit’s display guide can help.  I’d be cautious if you’re not used to working with the guts of a computer.

There are many good sites and articles out there to help fix your particular Macbook problem. Don’t be afraid to check them out if you have some technical ability. But also don’t be afraid to go to the professionals if you don’t. 

Since I already completed a few changes and repairs, such as a couple of the above, the current job doesn’t seem too significant. Until you remember the problems I outlined previously.

think outside the box

Problem-solving: don’t be afraid to think outside the box

Let’s recap: my USB ports don’t work, I don’t have a CD drive, and my hard drive is crapping out. So how in the world will I install a new hard drive if I can’t hook it up to format it as Mac OS Extended? Install the operating system from a USB drive or a disc?

I could buy a new optical drive, but what’s the point when I’m only using it to set up a new hard drive?

I could buy an adapter to turn my Thunderbolt outlet into a USB plug, but would it even work without the OS X operating system installed?

It seems like there’s only one choice at this point.

If you haven’t heard, that old optical drive bay can be converted to a second hard drive bay. And that’s exactly what I plan to do:

  1. Buy a hard drive caddy made just for this
  2. Buy two new hard drives
  3. Insert one hard drive into the caddy
  4. Insert the caddy into the old CD drive slot
  5. Boot from my usual hard drive, then format the new one using Disk Utility
  6. Install OS X onto the new drive
  7. Replace the old drive with the new
  8. Set up the 2nd new hard drive
  9. Hope nothing else craps out in the process

I’m not saying it’s going to be fun. Heck, it may not even be worth it if something else important breaks. But I’m not going to let my temporary hate for this damned laptop make me do something rash when my problem is entirely fixable.

So stay tuned, dear reader, because in the next week or two, I’ll be taking you through the process with me.




Krista's a freelance proofreader and writer who spends most days eyeballing medical texts, others crafting stories for teen games. Sometimes she even makes a few bucks with photography. One thing's always true--she's got a hot geek streak for historical and scientific discovery.

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[…] of your good buddy the MacBook, something is bound to break as the years go by. For me, it’s many things: a bad optical drive, dead USB ports, a loose screen and a malfunctioning trackpad. It may sound […]