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Late 2008 aluminum Macbook: upgrade from Leopard to ... ?

669 Views 12 Replies Latest reply: Feb 27, 2013 2:51 PM by Disgorge RSS
notuno Calculating status...
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Feb 18, 2013 2:27 PM

I have a late-2008 Macbook 13-inch aluminum unibody, Intel Core 2 Duo 2GHz, 2GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M. I never updated from Leopard as I never felt the need, but now there are a few applications that won't install and I'm considering an upgrade. Also, I use this Macbook all day long and it's starting to get sluggish.


I have two questions:


- Which version of OS X should I install? Snow Leopard is still available on the Mac store. Mountain Lion seems overkill with such an old machine.


- Is the upgrade painless? I mean, will all my apps work or will I have to reinstall a bunch of them?




  • Disgorge Calculating status...

    Hello, I have almost the same model.  This really is a great machine.  Mine is currently running 10.8.2 and I couldn't be happier.  I did the firmware update to allow this model to use 8 gb of ram.  Just put the 8 gb in yesterday.  Even before the ram upgrade it still felt really snappy and of course, even more so after.  My next step is adding a solid state drive and removing the Superdrive.  To directly answer your questions Mountain Lion is a great choice.  The upgrade is painless but since you are running Leopard (I assume) you might still have your own fair share of older Power PC written apps.  After Snow Leopard support for Power PC written apps was discontinued.  You might want to check to make sure but updating with the times is never a bad idea.  Hold on to your Macbook and give it a few little upgrades and it will continue to last you for a long time.

  • Ralph Landry1 Level 7 Level 7 (28,815 points)

    The 2008 Aluminum can go as high as Mountain Lion, but you will first need to buy and install Snow Leopard...that is at the Apple on-line store or by calling 1-800-MY-APPLE, for $20.  The ML upgrade is by the Mac App Store for $20, also.


    SL and ML say they will run with 2 GB ram but they run significantly better with 4 GB.  You can check how your system is doing with applications open by going to Applications, Utilities, Activity Monitor and see what the memory usage is...if you see a lot of page in and out going on that means the memory isn't enough and the OS is using swaping to the hard drive as a substitute.


    Get SL and more memory and try that for a while and see how you feel...just keep in mind that if you want iCloud access you need Lion, 10.7.2 or higher.

  • Disgorge Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

    Yes he is right, Snow Leopard is your first step.  Once you have that you can upgrade directly to Mountain Lion if memory serves me correct.  Some people were saying that Lion was a little sluggish with the aluminum MacBook but that Mountain Lion was great.  Personally I had Lion on it also and didn't think it ran badly.  10.6 was still with Rosetta (the program that ran power pc apps) but this is dropped on 10.7 and up.  Up until just the other day I still had the stock 2 gb of ram.  The firmware update happens with Snow Leopard and up so it should come up as a software update.  If not, it can be done manually as well.  The ram I purchased was 60 bucks for the 8 gb.  For Lion and Mountain Lion I have to agree with the above reply, that it would run alot better with at least 4 gb.  If you run that many apps at once then you are going to want as much ram as you can get.  If you add a solid state drive you will be amazed at the difference it will make too.

  • Ralph Landry1 Level 7 Level 7 (28,815 points)

    Adding one more piece to what Disgorge and I have been saying, if you upgrade the memory, and we both highly recommend doing that, make sure you buy the ram from a good, Mac specialist source such as OWC or Crucial.  The people coming on here after buying ram from eBay and other such, have had nightmares getting it to work.  Be sure to avoid ram such as Kingston Value seldom works.

  • Disgorge Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

    Normally I always use crucial and have had nothing but great experiences with them and their product. However this time I went with OWC because it does not list a 8 gb option for this model. In fact with their scan my computer it didn't even pick up the right model. It only listed the 2.0 ghz version and only had the 4gb as the highest. OWC on the other hand had the exact model as well as lots of information on the 8gb upgrade.

  • Ralph Landry1 Level 7 Level 7 (28,815 points)

    I have used both over the years but the past two years have been going with OWC for memory and external hard drives...their Mercury Elite Pro 2 TB quad interface is great and at a great price for what you get.

  • Disgorge Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

    The OWC ram has been great so far and it makes me want to try out them for the ssd.  It was between them and the crucial m4.  I do like their data doubler kit and will be getting that either way.  Disc drive has got to go.

  • Ralph Landry1 Level 7 Level 7 (28,815 points)

    Sounds good, best of luck and hope it all works well...SSD can make a huge increase in speed, especially at startup.

  • Ralph Landry1 Level 7 Level 7 (28,815 points)

    More memory will use a little more power but not enough for you yo see or worry about.  The SSD will use less power than a hard drive and should not add much heat, if any...but will be at least 4-5 times faster access.  Of course a battery that is five years old will be showing its age, aren't we all :-)


    You really cannot go wrong with OWC and their service and support.


    Good luck and hope this works out for you.

  • Disgorge Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

    On a side note about the battery, I just had to replace mine.  But before I did I calibrated the battery and it brought back quite a bit of health.  While this is not a long term solution it can make a difference if you need to wait to get a new battery.  I would guess that after all the upgrades there will not be much of a difference with battery life.  As pointed out above the ssd draws less power and the memory a little more.  There could be a little bit of difference with the second hard drive replacing the disc drive but I wouldn't think it would be anything significant. 


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