How I Pimped (aka Upgraded) my MacBook Pro

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: January 7, 2013

Category: General

Hey Folks,

How’s it going?

Today we’re talking upgrades and backing up.

Those of you who connect with me on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Google+) may have seen lately that I’ve had some upgrades added to my MacBook Pro.

I had quite a few comments from people asking exactly what I had done so I thought I’d share that with you here.

Before I say what I’ve had done its probably worth saying why I had it done in the first place…

The Problem
Now I generally replace my computers (MacBook Pro, iMac) every 3 years and generally max them out when I buy them from Apple (RAM, HD etc). My current MacBook Pro is a couple of years old so will be looking to replace that later this year however I was sorely tempted to replace it sooner because it seemed to be struggling somewhat lately i.e. slowed down.

My MacBook Pro generally is only used when I’m in the studio for tethered shooting and when teaching workshops. I used to use it all the time for day to day tasks when travelling but that kind of stuff I can do on my iPad now…which is considerably smaller and lighter to carry around.

Looking at what I’d be spending on a new MacBook I’d be looking at spending just under £3400 which is obviously quite an expense so the question was…do I buy it now or wait until, as usual, it reaches 3 years old?

The Solution
When I was out in Florida last year to record the classes for Kelby Training, I met up with friend and fellow Brit David Rogers and somehow we got onto the subject of backing up files. Now, like most photographers I’m paranoid about backing up so when travelling with my MacBook I always have an external HD with copies of files I’ll be using as well as having them stored on a Cloud and a USB drive…just in case.

But what if you’re Hard Drive doesn’t boot up?
Ah right…now you got me! David suggested, rather than upgrading early…

Replace the Hard Drive with an SSD, take out the CD/DVD drive (which I can’t remember the last time I used) and in it’s place put the original Hard Drive….with me so far? Ok so then the SSD is used as the main drive and the old drive is wiped clean and then used as a backup i.e. each day the entire system, files etc is mirrored / copied onto it using a great piece of software called SuperDuper. Obviously the way SuperDuper works is that it would copy over only files that were new each day as opposed to doing the whole thing each time…if that makes sense.

The Result
Well long story short, a good friend of mine, Chris Fields of CHNO Technology Limited did exactly this as well as give the MacBook Pro a health check, maxing out the RAM and all other good stuff.

The result is phenomenal! I seriously couldn’t be happier. I now have a machine that’s runs like a dream PLUS knowing I have a portable system that’s backing itself up each and every day is a real confidence booster…especially with all the travel coming up this year.

Of course backing up and how you organise it is very much down to personal preference. My main workhorse, the iMac has Thunderbolt drives attached to it for storage and backing up, plus there’s all the other backups I do as well (i.e. cloud etc).

Oh and yeah I still have the files I need for workshops with me each time on a USB drive and available in the Cloud but like I said, knowing I have literally two machines in one as I can boot from identical drives definitely calms the paranoia.

Quick Story
I’m guessing the Gremlins were at work here but when I was teaching at Photoshop World in Washington last March, the night before my class for some odd reason my MacBook Pro decided to play up. Everything had been fine before leaving the UK but weirdly, having arrived in the US it decided to throw a hissy fit eg opening a 150kb file in Photoshop would take up to a minute or longer.

Other problem was that sometimes it did this, sometimes it didn’t. As I’m sure you can imagine this caused a little, ermmm let’s call it concern (to say the least), but thankfully having all the files I needed available elsewhere meant I was able to add them onto a friends MacBook Pro…just in case.

Huge thanks to friends Calvin Hollywood and Alan Hess who sat poised like curled springs in the front row with their own MacBooks, ready to jump up and give me to use…should the need arise…which thankfully it didn’t.

Fingers crossed this never happens again, but should it, I’ll have a second Hard Drive I can boot from to keep me going. Oh and when it does come time to upgrade later in the year I’ll be looking to have a similar spec, however possible, in the new machine.

So what about you? What backup method do you use when travelling? Do you have a second bootable drive…just in case or do you, like I used to, just keep a copy of the files you need?

Oh one more thing…I do use Apple Time Machine with my MacBook Pro too but that’s with an attached external HD…see…told you I was paranoid about backing up 🙂

Thanks for stopping by,
Catch you tomorrow,

•You can connect with Chris at CHNO Technology Ltd here:

CHNO Technology Limited

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  1. Stewart Wood

    My machine is very slow now as well. I cant use smart objects at all as it slows down too much. Guess its time for a new computer as its already maxed out 🙁

    • Glyn

      Stewart…Sounds like you could be right mate :/

  2. David Kelly

    I remember that jaw dropping moment in PSW DC too well. Thankfully you couldn’t have had a better support network around at the time who all rallied into action 🙂

    • Glyn

      @David…That wasn’t all that dropped 🙂 lol

  3. Rajesh Taylor

    I am actually looking to upgrade what spec’s I can on my (my old Macbook Pro). It only runs on 4GB of RAM. I’ve read on the forums that my mid 2010 model will only take upto 8GB of RAM – not 16GB… something about the chipset limitations. The SSD is something I will definitely look into this week as its getting painfully slow to open up files. I opened up a 16 bit file yesterday in Photoshop (no other application running) and it didn’t want to know. I couldn’t even change tools for some reason.

    • Glyn

      Rajesh…The SSD on the MacBook Pro makes a HUGE difference mate; well worth considering.

  4. Dustin Levine

    Thank you for your thoughts and advice as always Mr. Dewis.

    I too am a bit paranoid about my back up. While I has 3 copies of all my files, I do NOT have a back up of my bootable drive.

    I am very interested in doing this. This program ”Superduper” seems great, but only for Apple. I am using Windows 7, do you have any suggestions, or know someone who does, on what software is out there to achieve the same result?

    If my HDD fails, I can just pop this new one in, and be up and running quickly?

    I appreciate your help as always. Dustin

    • Glyn

      Totally with you mate…can never have enough backups…but then…what about backups of the backups of the backups? lol 🙂

  5. Simon Fleming

    I did precisely the same thing about a month ago with my 2011 MacBook Pro – it wasn’t going along too shabbily but since adding the SSD and swapping the existing HDD to the optical drive bay it has become an absolute mean machine. I have kept only system and application files on the SSD and moved everything else onto the factory HDD which seems to give it a little extra oomph as well, and still use an external as my backup.

    • Glyn

      Simon…I’m so happy with the way this has changed the computer; running like it’s a brand new machine 🙂

  6. Bradley Batt

    What about offsite backups? If someone breaks into your house and steals your laptop they are probably taking your external drive too … or your house could burn down, same problem because both are destroyed.

    I use Arq for offsite backups — it backs up to Amazon S3 —

    You might also consider using SmugMug since you are into photos/video … they are very reasonable and you can store unlimited photos there as a backup — plus do a whole lot more.


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