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How would you upgrade my MacBook Pro 15" to maximize performance?  No dollar limit.

8894 Views 16 Replies Latest reply: Nov 24, 2012 5:05 AM by HenryMatSmith RSS
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Jul 19, 2012 9:06 AM

I love my MCB, but am not technical.


Spend my money, theoretically -- If you had an unlimited budget to upgrade this system to make it fast and more efficient, what would you buy or do to it?


I'm deciding if I should scrap it and get a new MacBook Pro 13" instead.  I like my MCB 15", but it seems to be getting hung up alot with the spinning rainbow, everyday apps freezing or crashing, and just slow when I have multiple windows open in Safari and Firefox at same time.  I realize that the sites I browse to are more graphic intensive than they were when I got the MCB in 2008, but I'm wondering if it would be worthwhile to spend some $$$ to upgrade whatever I can and save my pennies for a newer Mac in a year or two.  Safari and Mail crash or get hung a lot, Photo Booth folder is mysteriously empty, 


So should I expect to be able to get substantial performance improvement (speed, multi-tasking) if I upgrade whatever is upgradable? 

I surf using multiple browsers and open many tabs and mail with numerous accounts and magicjack, ocassionally use iweb, pages, text, calendar, low intensity games.


Thanks for any advice and recommendations and thoughts.  I'd probably get the Genius Bar to install upgrades.



MacBook Pro 15"

      2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo

     2 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM

     L2 Cache 3 MB

     Bus Speed 800 MHZ


OSX 10.5.8

HD 186 GB (137 used)

I back up Time Machine to WD My Passport 1TB


GeForce 8600M GT:


  Chipset Model:          GeForce 8600M GT

  Type:          Display

  Bus:          PCIe

  PCIe Lane Width:          x4

  VRAM (Total):          256 MB

  Vendor:          NVIDIA (0x10de)

  Device ID:          0x0407

  Revision ID:          0x00a1

  ROM Revision:          3212


Intel ICH8-M AHCI:


  Vendor:          Intel

  Product:          ICH8-M AHCI

  Speed:          1.5 Gigabit

  Description:          AHCI Version 1.10 Supported


USB Bus:


  Host Controller Location:          Built In USB

  Host Controller Driver:          AppleUSBUHCI

  PCI Device ID:          0x2834

  PCI Revision ID:          0x0003

  PCI Vendor ID:          0x8086

  Bus Number:          0x1a


BRCM2046 Hub:


  Product ID:          0x4500

  Vendor ID:          0x0a5c  (Broadcom Corp.)

  Version:          1.00

  Speed:          Up to 12 Mb/sec

  Manufacturer:          Apple Inc.

  Location ID:          0x1a100000

  Current Available (mA):          500

  Current Required (mA):          0




Also -- it had a couple of soft drops to floor and one medium intensity drop, always on carpet.  so the case (not unibody) is dented on the sides with ports.  All "seem" to work fine except right side USB; looks pushed in and angled, and the plastic trim that fills in space connecting flat top of typing surface to bottom cover has a 4" piece cracked off (kind of looks like where grout would go).  Devices work but if you move the wire it's power filckers off and on.  Have never used firewire or thunderbolt ports on this. 


I would like more USB port options (maybe a high grade extendor???) for Logitech laptop cooler, external HD, VOIP device, wired mouse, wired keyboard (I prefer wired).


Thanks again.

MacBook Pro, Mac OS X (10.5.8)
  • Neville Hillyer Level 4 Level 4 (1,845 points)

    Before the install

    Ensure your data (at least all Home folders) is backed up before you install. Hard disks can fail at any time so it is important to regularly backup to an external disk with Time Machine or a third party alternative. Inexperienced users should follow Apple's install advice but experienced users may prefer to do a clean install.


    OS numbers and names

    OS X 10.4.x - Tiger

    OS X 10.5.x - Leopard

    OS X 10.6.x - Snow Leopard

    OS X 10.7.x - Lion

    OS X 10.8.x - Mountain Lion


    More about Macs

    The Apple History site has specifications for every Mac ever produced:


    Upgrade to Leopard

    Those wishing to upgrade to Leopard should be aware that install disks can be expensive unless you contact Apple. Details: Standard Leopard installers impose several hardware limitations including speed and RAM size but all these restrictions can be overcome. Google for details. Leopard works well at 500 MHz with 1 GB of RAM and many happy users have less than this.


    Upgrade beyond Leopard

    OSs beyond OS X 10.5.8 require an Intel processor. If in doubt check this: Click the apple at the top left of your screen and select 'About this Mac'. This will give you your OS number. Then click 'More Info' to see which processor you have. If it says PowerPC you cannot upgrade to Snow Leopard and above. If you have an Intel Mac it is well worth upgrading to Snow Leopard now and then considering other options after that. You can buy Snow Leopard here:


    Upgrade beyond Snow Leopard

    Information about upgrading Snow Leopard to Lion or Mountain Lion:



    Check that your Mac complies with any requirements. If you are not in the US you should use the Change Country link at the bottom of Apple pages.

  • BDAqua Level 10 Level 10 (114,705 points)

    Upgrading the RAM to 6GB will help the Most, installing an SSD in place of the Hard Drive would be next, I doubt an Apple Store would do either, but likely an AASP would.




    Of course the latest MBP will be about 3 times faster out the door to start with.

  • BDAqua Level 10 Level 10 (114,705 points)

    Every upgrade of the OS will require twice the resources, & I haven't found any of them faster, just bigger, loss of useful things, addition of more useless functions for me, & even more gray things.


    If you wan't an iPad or other future iDevices you'll want 10.6 +, 10.7+ for full iCloud functionality.


    I'd say the RAM upgrade alone will feel like your MBP is twice as fast or more than it does now, an SSD will make things load & save way faster, & nearly eliminaate the lags where even 6 GB is not enough Memory.


    You can't upgrade the graphics/video HW at all. It shouldn't affect photo viewing, but would if you could, help with video.


    I'd forget iPhoto for dealing with pics, my best SW investment ever was...


    GraphicConverter has a powerful Browse Folder function, & many tools for manipulation, & you can keep your Pics wherever you want...


  • Neville Hillyer Level 4 Level 4 (1,845 points)

    Every upgrade of the OS will require twice the resources, & I haven't found any of them faster, just bigger, loss of useful things, addition of more useless functions for me, & even more gray things.


    As Snow Leopard is Intel only I would have thought it would be smaller and faster than Leopard.


    Am I mistaken?

  • BDAqua Level 10 Level 10 (114,705 points)

    Well, 10.6 is smaller if you did a Universal Install of 10.5 that can run on PPC & Intel, on a few things 10.6 is faster, on many it is slower as there's even more going on behind the scenes, & then if you add up all the updated Apps like Safari, etc., which are all bigger than the originally installed versions, add the App Store in 10.6.6 & up, and by the time you get to 10.6.8 & all the updates, add in 64 bit which uses more space for everything & mostly isn't needed, then my experience would say it's slower overall than 10.5.8 on the same Mac.


    Also, I think they saved 1/3 of the space by cutting it to the 2/3rds that was Intel Code, added in some decompression of code on the fly, & a few other tricks, that look good on paper, but...

  • Neville Hillyer Level 4 Level 4 (1,845 points)

    Thanks for the explanation.


    64 bit should be faster as long as all the electronics fully support it but not unless memory is doubled at the same time - most forget this.


    There is some evidence that Apple try not to use the double layer DVDs they used for the early Leopard disks - one, or even two, single layer DVDs are cheaper.


    For those who have the option I would not advise moving to Safari 5.1.x until most of the many bugs have been fixed - see Safari forum.


    I am now retired and no longer plan to purchase any software. Leopard will probably be my last OS X. I have been using Ubuntu for a few years and am happy with it.

  • Neville Hillyer Level 4 Level 4 (1,845 points)

    I am surprised at your low USB speed. I thought you should have USB 2 but your stated speeds are only USB 1.1. The following is from:



    Version 1.1 of the USB specification supports two bus speeds:

    • Low speed (1.5 Mbps)
    • Full speed (12 Mbps)

    Version 2.0 of the specification adds another bus speed to this list:

    • High speed (480 Mbps)


    It is not easy to find the current consumption of WD USB powered drives but their minimum separate power supply appears to be 1,500 mA ie three times the current available from Mac USB sockets.


    I do not think these small USB powered portable drives are particularly good. A physically larger mains powered device would probably be faster, more reliable and last longer.

  • BDAqua Level 10 Level 10 (114,705 points)

    As Neville points out, Bus powered drives are a no-no, especially on Macs.


    While WD makes great Hard Drives, their cases & the chipsets/firmware they use is on my no buy list.


    USB3 on board is out of the question, would require a new Logic Board with it, which isn't going to happen.


    If you're using a powered USB Hub for the drive now, could the Hub be USB1.1 instead of USB2?


    Good luck!

  • BDAqua Level 10 Level 10 (114,705 points)

    Wonderful to hear, my guess is it won't be long before you're helping out here!

  • Neville Hillyer Level 4 Level 4 (1,845 points)

    Something is wrong - you posted:


    BRCM2046 Hub:


      Product ID:          0x4500

      Vendor ID:          0x0a5c  (Broadcom Corp.)

      Version:          1.00

      Speed:          Up to 12 Mb/sec

      Manufacturer:          Apple Inc.



    This not only says version 1 but also shows USB 1 speed ie 12 Mb/sec


    How did you check to discover USB 2?


    My G4 with USB 1.1 is shown below for comparison:



    Picture 16.png

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