The monster is back and wants my MacBook

Not long ago I wrote about how I had created a monster with my youngest child, the soon to be 13 year old and very computer savvy little girl that would like me to get her a Mac. With my primary Windows machine on the way out she began to pounce. Like a shark smelling blood in the water, she knew that some funds were being freed up and that this was a good time to push for her getting a MacBook for her birthday next month.

"Daddy, you keep telling me how great your Macs are but I have to use this old Dell. Are you trying to torture me?"

"So Daddy, can I get your MacBook if you get a new MacBook Pro?"

"You know Daddy, if I get a MacBook I'll stop bothering you"

She can reel these off, one after the other, barely pausing to take a breath. Forget water-boarding as a means to extract information from people, just point a pre-teen girl at them and ask her to start with the questions. Still, other than the nagging she is a really great kid. She gets excellent grades and is a very responsible young lady—I couldn't be more proud of her. I also love that fact that she is into computers so I think it's time I came through for her and gave her my MacBook and picked up a MacBook Pro for myself.

I'm even going to pretend it was my idea and not hers.

Looking at the MacBook Pro
If I had to pick one thing that I would change on my MacBook it would be the size of the display. While it's fine for most things I really would like to be able to do my development work on it more easily and a higher resolution would help tremendously. For now I use Spaces and Exposé though ideally I want three windows open and visible at the same time: TextMate, Terminal and Firefox. Viewing the source code in a reasonably sized text editor, running my web application in Firefox and watching the results from the console at the same time are often important.

When I was at the Apple store earlier in the week I tried out both the 15" and 17" MacBook Pros. The 17" MacBook Pro is gorgeous, though it's a bit large for what I need. Since I already have a Mac Pro as my primary desktop the MacBook is really a travel machine. The 15" version seemed like the right compromise between size and screen resolution.

Of the two available I will be going with the 2.4GHz version - I can't justify the money for the 2.5GHz version. With the details out of the way I'm going to pull the trigger as soon as the funds come in from the sale of the Windows XP machine, maybe as soon as this weekend. I don't know who's more excited, me or my daughter.

On to the Questions
Since many of the folks that read this blog are much more knowledgeable than I on Macs I could use a little help. First off I would like to move the 320GB hard drive from the MacBook to the MacBook Pro. Can I literally just swap them out or does it require a full reinstall of OS X on each machine for it to work properly? My gut feel is to just reformat / reinstall OS X and my applications, then restore my data from backups.

Replacing the hard drive on a MacBook is incredibly simple. Is the same true on a 15" MacBook Pro?

I bumped the memory in the MacBook up to 4GB. Can I swap the memory between the MacBook and MacBook Pro? Do they use the same RAM?

Anything else I should know or be concerned with before getting the MacBook Pro? I really appreciate any advice offered here folks. Thanks in advance!

PS - My daughter thanks you too.


Anonymous said…
You should be able to just swap out the hard drives. Once I cloned a drive from an iBook and put it into an old powermac and it worked like a charm.

Of course, ymmv :)
Winckle said…
Hey David, I've been following your blog for a while now, and I have a 15" MBP.

Unfortunately it is very difficulty, and moreover warranty voiding to change the HDD on a MBP.

On the positive side, you can just use your time machine backup during the set up process to transfer everything over with no problems whatsoever.

Here's someone who did something similar, but did so on the same computer, but the nature of OS X means you should have no problem doing it between machines.
Unknown said…
Don't get the 15" screen. You're getting older and will want the extra real estate that the 17" offers--even if it is just an "extra" machine.
Dean said…
Swapping the drives is a bit more involved on a Pro. You need a Torx #6 and a Phillips #00, but it only takes about 15 minutes or so. Instructions (and the tools you need) can be found at

It's debatable whether that actually voids the warranty if you don't do any damage during the swap. In any case, I just keep my original OEM drive with a fresh OS install and no data on it. If my MBP needs warranty work I'll just swap it back again before taking it in.
Anonymous said…
Like the above said, it is much harder than the macbook. I've swapped out both the main SATA drive and replaced my optical drive for another hard disk. MCE makes a kit and has directions for opening up the MBP.

Currently in my MBP 17" I have one 200GB 7200rp SATA and one 250GB 5400rpm IDE where the superdrive can get tedious using a USB DVD burner...but I'm used to it and very seldom need it. The main drive is all for OSX, the IDE runs iTunes and my VMWare Fusion virtual machines.

Is it worth voiding the warranty? Well, for me it has been...almost 6 months now on this config. So far, so good.
David Alison said…
@All: Thanks for the feedback so far - very helpful. I'd love to find out conclusively if it voids the warranty since I'm a big fan of AppleCare and had planned on purchasing it with the machine.
Chris Howard said…
Dave, man, you don't realise how good you've got it!

Your daughter has given you the perfect justification for getting the MBP! Without her, there's a fair chance you'd keep using the the MB a bit longer.


Regards the HDD thing... Wow - you haven't lived until you've experienced how easy it is to switch drives on Macs.

You just do it and it boots up fine.

BTW what this means is, if you use SuperDuper! or the like and clone your system drive to an external HDD, you can boot any Mac from that external clone. (altho only Intel's can boot from a GUID partition table if I'm not mistaken)

When my PowerBook's HDD crashed a couple of years back, coz I had a clone, I could keep working from it plugged into my kid's iMac or wife's iBook. Sensational!

You can also boot one Mac from another by setting the host to target disk mode and connecting the two with a Firewire cable.

Booting Macs from other HDD's is so easy it hurts! Coming from a Windows world myself (5 years ago), I couldn't believe how easy it was. I had to pinch myself.

As someone else said, you can just restore your new MBP from the MB's Time Machine backup. You boot first from the MBP's system restore DVD.

Regards the warranty, I'd be surprised if it voids it. I thought voiding your warranty by changing user-changeable parts went out with the dinosaurs. You'll probably find it even tells you how to change the HDD in the MBP's manual.

Look forward to hearing your excited blog entry about how easy it was.
Bernardo Pina said…
David, when you go to an Apple Store, bring your old HD with you and ask them to change the new macbook pro hd for your old one. You can do it on the GeniusBar.
Chris Howard said…
BTW I changed the HDD on that PB of mine myself, and then six months later sent the PB in to get its screen replaced under warranty. No probs.

I'd reckon the only risk is you might void the warranty on the HDD only.
Joel Esler said…
Why don't you just use Migration Manager? That's what Apple invented it for.

RAM is cheap, buy more. I don't know if it's compatible between the hardware, but I've had some interesting RAM experience in the past.

The 17" screen is awesome, but it doesn't fit in every briefcase. I use a 15" as my primary machine 100% of the time.
Anonymous said…
Swapping the drive should be easy if you have built your own machines before, just takes a little time.

I have had mine repaired with an aftermarket drive in it with no hassle at all.

Take your time and lookup on iFixit and you should have no problem doing the swap yourself.
Anonymous said…
David, (OWC) has great resources for figuring out which parts will work in which Mac models. I used their RAM selection wizard to figure out if my wife's MacBook could use the discarded RAM from my MacBook Pro when I upgraded (and vice versa when my RAM got zapped by static electricity in an airport X-Ray machine).

They also have kits and instructional videos for swapping HDDs on most Mac models going back to the WallStreet Powerbook G3.
g7whatever said…
I agree with Joel. Use migration assistant. I have done this several times as I have updated my MPB and handed down my other ones. Here is apples page on it.

I would get a bigger drive that is 7200 rpms, you will notice the speed difference, especially as you get more into editing video, manipulating photos and the like. Also the new MBP have multi-touch track pads. So you can resize, rotate and do some other cool things with it.

As for the screen the 17" is the only one with an LED but that is one large computer to lug around. So that is why I have stayed with the 15". Don't forget that on MBP you have the option of glossy or matte for the screens. Glossy is what you have on your MB - you should check out matte if the reflection ever bugs you. Yeah the glossy gives you that deeper color look, but if the MBP is going to be real your travel computer you might find yourself next to windows where you will be looking at a holographic image of your mug staring back at you while you work.

Right now could be a good time to buy sense they are mid product cycle.

But with intel's roadmap for chip release many people thought they might come out with a new computer soon. So take that into consideration. Or if you want to save some money you can do what you did with your tower and get a refurb. The downfall of that is you will not be able to customize it and order the larger hard drive.

I did call Apple when I ran our of space and wanted to upgrade my harddrive and they said it would void the warranty. Unfortunate, so i did pay $75 to have it done in case something major went wrong like a logic board failure and I need to ship it in for repairs. So be cautious about that.

The real estate difference is huge. I can have Adium on the left with upper part contacts window, below that any chats, then I have email, browser windows the middle, skype upper right, a todo list below that. That is my productivity screen. Than I use spaces and go full screen for my graphics and video work. I keep the same set up when I use a second monitor and the graphics and video go on my 22" screen. Also for me I put the dock on the right side of the screen. I Iike having more vertical space to work with. If you want, I can send you a screen shot.
Unknown said…
From what I've seen, it only voids warranty to change a drive if you break something in the process. After the change the warranty doesn't cover the new drive, obviously as apple didn't supply it. Same with the RAM, if you go with non apple supplied RAM they will only void your warranty if you break it as a resuly, and wont cover the new RAM.

What I upgraded to a macbook from a G4 I just used a firewire cable and migration assistant to move all my data and settings, then just deleted my profile on the mini. Very painless.
Anonymous said…
Swapping the drive is the hard option (and also as stated - may bring the machines out of warranty REALLY fast).

You have two options. The migration assistant (which will walk you through step by step if you choose it on MBP boot up) or Timemachine.

I used Migration assistance to go from a MBP to a 2.8 gHz iMac. Nearly flawless installation. A few odds and ends to stitch up after words but nothing earth shattering.


I recently recovered from a hard drive death on a 2.8 gHz iMac with Timemachine with minimal effort. Plug time machine drive in, 2 1/2 hrs later I had very minimal cleanup (two registration keys to enter and a reinstall of Parallels) to get completely back up and running.
Anonymous said…
A compromise

The MacBook Pro 17" is a beautiful machine but it's huge. The MacBook is small and portable.

The compromise that I recommend to my clients is to keep the MacBook and add an external monitor. What most people don't know is that all Mac notebooks work very well with external monitors.

Leave the MacBook open and you have a notebook with second monitor. Optionally, close up the MacBook, tuck it away and add an external keyboard and mouse. The result is an experience indistinguishable from a desktop. Either way, disconnect the monitor and walk away and you have a small portable notebook again with all your stuff.

This is the best of both worlds.
Dean said…
@commenters on Migration Assistant, etc.

I don't think you all get the point. David doesn't want to swap drives just to get his data moved. He wants to swap it to keep the big 320 GB drive he put in the MacBook.

I don't think the warranty question is that big a deal if you keep the OEM drive handy to put back in before taking it to Apple. The Genius Bar even replaced a keyboard on my MBP when I had a aftermarket drive in it. I have purchased AppleCare and am not concerned.

It is not correct that only the 17" has a LED screen. In fact, the 15" MBP had it before the 17" did.
Anonymous said…
Talk about doing things the hard way!

Really, why swap drives? Odds are the MBP will have a larger drive to start with. Why bother with a physical swap when the Migration Assistant can move everything into the MBP and have it looking and acting just like the old MB, only faster?

One thing almost nobody has mentioned here so far: Apple states very clearly that you should not install any version of OS X older than what comes on the computer originally. While in your case this should mean Leopard-to-Leopard, if your older Mac started with Tiger, you might run into some compatibility issues using Tiger on the new machine.

As Macfoo said, Time Machine is a great way to bring your machine up to date quickly, but may not be necessary in your case. A simple firewire connection between the two machines and following the instructions for Migration Assistant is all you need.
Anonymous said…
Loved reading your migration story all these months!

Re: RAM. Yes, you can use the RAM from your MacBook to your MB Pro. I've done so myself and if you check the Apple site, you'll see both the notebook use identical RAM, so... no problems!

Re: HDD swap. Yes, bring it to the Apple Store. They're usually quite good about helping you swap the HDD, especially if you bring your MB in as well.

Caveat: the part about using the latest OS version is true. So you might have to install the latest version for your MBP, but you don't have to wipe the HDD first.

Again, the Apple Store should be able to help you, especially if you go in on a weekday ;-)

And... your monster... er... daughter is gonna be sooooo happy!
David, before you buy a 15 inch Mac Pro, you might want to consider reading the ComputerWorld review on the 17 inch Mac Pro.

The link is here:
Unknown said…

Regardless of what you decide to do for your daughter, here are some points to consider:

1) When getting the new machine, use Migration Assistant after the OS is up and running using an admin account to get your old data onto the new machine. Moving drives or copying images using something like SuperDuper is a bad idea as the OS install is just different on different hardware. Migration Assistant is excellent. Very fast, nice clean way to do it.

2) So, for you, what I would do is use SuperDuper (my favorite, CarbonCopyCloner also works) to create a .dmg (you temporarily save it on your MacPro and then use that as the mount point for the rest of this). Then install the 320GB drive in the MacBook Pro (see #3), re-format the 320 and install the OS, and then use Migration Assistant by mounting the .dmg you created when the drive was in the MacBook. It's a cleaner, more reliable way to do it.

3) Looks like the memory is swapable. If you need to buy new (I have no affiliation), I like getting Samsung Memory from OWC -

4) Hard drive on a MacBook Pro is really tough to get to. Sure, you can do it, but I suggest having a pro do it. It's hard to get the case back together with the same fit and finish as the factory. It's worth the $100 or less for the pro labor.

Tell us what you do.

David Alison said…
@All: again, thanks for all of the great feedback. A couple of things to clarify: the largest HD I can get on a MacBook Pro directly from Apple is 250GB (5400RPM). I can go with a 200GB / 7200RPM drive but that costs a bit more.

I upgraded the drive in the MacBook not long after I bought it to a 320GB model so it is considerably larger than anything I can get in a new MacBook Pro. For perspective my MacBook's 320GB hard drive has 204GB used right now, mostly in my digital photo collection and only part of my music collection.

I still have the 120GB drive that came with the MacBook so I may just pop that back in so that it's closer to the original state - my daughter doesn't have the disk space requirements I do. Yet.

@Paul Russo: Thanks for the tip on the external monitor—I do have some free—though the issue is I need the screen real estate when I travel and I don't have access to an external monitor.

@Joel: You sir are correct, RAM is cheap. I'll let my daughter just keep the 4GB in the MacBook and buy new for the MacBook Pro. Much easier.

Again everyone, I really appreciate the feedback! And yes, my daughter will be quite happy.
David Alison said…
@Greg: I'm a died in the wool do-it-yourselfer but after reading the steps required to replace the drive in a MacBook Pro I may just take your advice and let the Genius bar do it.

I think the steps you outlined match perfectly to what I need to do - thanks!

As with everything else on my Mac, I'll write about it here as I go.
Anonymous said…
Migration Assistant is the way to go. I migrated a 12inch PowerBook to an Intel MacBook without a hitch. It will also migrate your applications!!!! Everything in your user account. I've used it several times on other Macs and it's worked every time.
Anonymous said…
I always wanted to see how was a Macbook pro?
Can you take some shots with backlit keyboard when arrived please :)

Anonymous said…
When I was thirteen, my parents got my a ZX Spectrum with all its 8-bit 48KB glory.
Anonymous said…
When you guy your new MBP bring your other daughter (she's in college right?). Right now Apple is running an education discount which is good for $200 off the MBP and $110 off APP (that is good all the time). They also have a promotion right now that gets up a free 8 GB iPod Touch, after rebate, which normally costs $299. Need student ID and state ID to get discounts. AMAZING DEAL!
Anonymous said…
Hi Dave
I would suggest : BTO with the larger HD available + Migration Assistant (Form a DIFFERENT account than yours !)
My Mac dealer sometimes suggest getting the mac with a standart-not-expensive HD together with an external HD (Bigger) and just swap the two disk (with no extra charge ...)

Then you would get a MPB with a big disk + an external one for bakup or else (consider FW400 at least)

g7whatever said…
One thing to think about is using an airport extreme to create a somewhat NAS device to put your music and photos on. That way you can access them from both your tower and your laptop. You daughter would be able to access it as well, and your wife if she got a mac some day. There is a USB port on there just for that. Or you can network from the tower I am sure as well.
Anonymous said…
Hi David,

same problem here with my two kids... :-O ;-)

As for the MBP - get it with a 7200 rpm drive with at least 200 GB and make it your primary machine.
Your Mac Pro is probably a waste of money for what i know you're doing with.
I switched to my MBP as my "real" primary machine about a year ago and i don't look back.
When i return home i sync my changes just for backup reasons to my imac using chronosync and that's it.
The MBP (i have the current "small" one with 2.4GHz C2D and 4GB of ram) is fast enough for any development work you and i do.
David Alison said…
@Ast: When I was 13 my parents bought my brother and I a Pong console from Sears. My kids have it made. Makes me wonder what they'll be buying their kids when they are 13.

@Anon: Yes, my daughter is still in college, though my wife is a high school teacher so I (she) can get the academic pricing. I wouldn't mind a free iPod... hmmm... thanks man!

@g7whatever: I'm actually sharing my music library over my internal network now, being hosted from the Mac Pro with all it's disk space. My son and wife both use their Windows XP machines to access it - works great.

I put a subset of my music library—mostly the newer stuff I buy from iTunes—on my laptop so I have something to listen to just in case.

@Christian: Yep, my Mac Pro is a little bit of overkill, especially for RoR development. My theory of personal computing is there is no such thing as too much processing power, video performance, memory or disk space. I do dabble in other things outside of development - especially when I think about the hundreds of hours of home video I have of my kids and family that's still sitting on a combination of VHS tapes, 8mm analog, 8mm digital and now my hard drive. Some day I'll find the time to actually do something about that elephant in the room and I have a sense that the performance of the Mac Pro will come in really handy then.

I am rethinking the hard drive situation though. The 320GB drive I have that's targeted for the MacBook Pro is a performance bottleneck that is slightly noticeable. Maybe going with the 200GB/7200RPM drive is the answer.

So much to consider!
Dean said…

Western Digital now has just introduced their line of Scorpio Black laptop drives. These are 7200 RPM drives up to 320 GB in capacity. Hitachi also has announced a 320GB 7200 RPM drive (7K320). I'm using the WD Scorpio 320, but plan to swap to one of the faster 320 GB drives.

The WD Scorpio Black is available to order from the WD store, at least it was when I looked earlier this week.
Unknown said…
Hi David,

Here's a place that will save you enough to buy RAM for the new machine. I'm not connected with it in any way but have bought AppleCare for three Macs through them.

Apple wants $350 for MacBook Pro AppleCare, Mac-Pro will set you back $235.

Anonymous said…

I have verified through calling Apple and at the retail store that replacing the hard drive yourself does void the warrantee. I did ask the Apple store at Fair Oaks Mall would they replace the hard drive and they said "Np". My MAC Book Pro has the 200 gig hard drive at 5400 rpm and I was giving as a gift a 200 gig 7200 rpm. I am in a pickle about what to do about replacing the drive in the Pro. The link below is a good step-by-step instruction on replacing the drive. It is totally different from the 13 in MACBooks.

Good luck. If you find a way to replace the hard drive and keep the warrantee please let me know. I would love the replace mine and keep it in warrantee.
David Alison said…
@Maxpug: Thanks for that. When you asked if they could replace the HD for you and keep the warranty did they say "Np" as in "No problem" or was that "No" misspelled?
Anonymous said…
Sorry a typo. They said "No". I bought mine refurbished so I could not upgrade the hard drive to 7200 rpm. It is killing me having one and not putting it in. With the whole warrantee voiding I am afraid the change it. I am still trying to figure out why they did not make it as easy as the 13in MACBook.

I work in the Windows world as a Microsoft Exchange Administrator and still having an issue with fully switching to MAC. I may need to use Boot Camp in conjunction with Fusion to do everything I need to do. But I am enjoying the challenge to get it right for me.

My main issue is we use Citrix Metaframe for remote access to my work network and the Citrix MAC client with Firefox does not work as well as the Windows client. My company does not have it setup to use Safari and Java, even though we have a few people with MAC’s.
Darkglobe1977 said…
Hi David
I am in the market to for a new MBP
but with the high price tag am thinking of waiting for the next revision of the line as it may have a blu-ray drive, better processor etc, I just want to get more bang for my buck. What are your thoughts?
David Alison said…
@Zen Lunatic: That's the age old tech question; buy now or wait for the next generation. This is an even more challenging problem with Apple products because they don't reveal their plans until just prior to release.

My philosophy on tech purchasing has always been buy what you need when you need it. Computers are not investments that return cash by themselves; they depreciate pretty quickly. You get the value out of computers by using them. If it can make you more productive or just plain happier because it does cool things then you are sacrificing that productivity or joy to save money by waiting.

It's very hard to quantify productivity or joy so there really isn't a formula that makes this an easy answer. I do know this though: as I've gotten older I've really started to appreciate that time is my most precious and limited resource. I can always make more money but I can't make more time - I get what I get.

The question for you is how much time do you want to burn not having that MacBook Pro so that you can optimize that money?

Hope this helps man...
D said…
Good to see someone agrees with my principle too; when I need it I'll buy it but until then I can wait :D
Thanks for posting the post Dav, I've got a MBP 2.4GHz from 07 with a 160GB HDD but with my 60GB of music, huge digital camera photo collection and windows partition it's getting... cramped :P so I'm looking into getting a new HDD but am not sure what to get yet... 320GB's cost alot for someone on a University student budget... I'm still trying to decided external or internal... Thanks for all the info everyone though :)
Anonymous said…
One thing that no one has mentioned is just adding an external drive to your MacBook Pro.

Understanding you don't want to "waste" the 320 hd - it seems to me that for the time and trouble, you'd be better off going to a 2nd hard drive.

But I also think you're going to want to identify a "primary" machine - probably our MacPro to hold your picture library, music etc.

Doing that - you may find that your MacBook Pro won't have near the storage requirements you think.
David Alison said…
@Anon: I am leaning more towards going with the faster/smaller 7200RPM/200GB drive and just sticking with that. Unfortunately I think my friend is backing out of buying my Windows machine so this may throw a wrench in the purchase. Keeping my fingers crossed on that one.
Welles said…

Just an FYI. Hitachi is releasing the Travelstar 7K320, a 7200 320GB laptop drive which has amazing specs including a power consumption approximately the same as the current 200GB models. OWC will have it in a week or two.
David Alison said…
@Welles: Very cool man - thanks for the heads up.
Hendrik said…
@zen: This page is for you
The chance of a major upgrade for the Macbook pro in the near future is pretty low.

It is really unfortunate that they made changing the hard drive so difficult in the MBP.
Anonymous said…
If I'm not mistaken, dont the current pros have the multi-touch trackpad like the air now? If that is the case, swapping the drive into the pro would leave you without that functionality.
David Alison said…
@Adam: yep, the MacBook Pro has the multi-touch support. I've decided not to swap out the hard drive—more on that shortly.

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