Make an Older MacBook Pro New Again

My trusty old MacBook Pro (13-inch mid-2010) recently became not-so-trusty. No complaints – it was getting long in the tooth – but it was no longer reliable; slowing down, plagued with frequent beachballing, apps were crashing, and the USB ports were intermittent.

Back in 2010, the MacBook Pro cost $1500 – worth every penny. It was the heart and soul of my professional work – editing videos, producing music, and designing websites. I was always super-vigilant when it came to security so I knew my MacBook’s woes weren’t the result of a malware infestation.

Apple MacBook Pro from 2010

I attributed the gradual performance slowdown to accumulated bloat – from the scores of apps I had installed to test (and subsequently uninstalled). I also assumed that the newest build of OSX was just a bit more resource intensive that older versions.

On one hand I figured, “It’s an eight year old laptop – time to upgrade.” On the other hand I didn’t have $2000 for a new MacBook Pro.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this … the fix is a colossal pain in the ass. It’s time consuming, and there’s the risk that you might lose some important stuff – like those seven year old emails that you never got around to reading, or the five thousand pictures of your cat.

So, how do you fix slow performance and intermittent hardware issues on a mid-2010 MacBook Pro?

Before I answer that, here are all things I tried that didn’t work:

  • Upgrading to the most recent compatible version of OSX (High Sierra)
  • Doing a format/clean installation and restoring from Time Machine backup
  • Killing all non-essential processes
  • Uninstalling all unnecessary apps
  • Resetting PRAM
  • Resetting SMC
  • Running maintenance scripts and deleting system caches
  • Repairing disk permissions

As you can see, one-by-one, I had exhausted most of the troubleshooting possibilities. But that was the problem … I was doing it one-by-one, assuming that I would find the problem through the process of elimination. But the solution was neither one nor all of the above. Here’s what to do:

Backup, backup, backup: Backup everything you want to keep. Don’t use Time-Machine as your backup – it has to be done manually because Time Machine has inherited all the same problems that are plaguing your sick MacBook. Prepare a checklist of what you need to save so nothing gets overlooked, because this fix will completely wipe out everything on your MacBook. Ideally, everything you want to keep is already synced in the cloud (iCloud Drive, Google Drive, DropBox etc). If not, you need to backup your Documents, Music, Photos, and Videos to an external USB drive. This is as simple dragging and dropping those folder icons in the Finder side-bar to the USB drive. Also backup your browser bookmarks and passwords. Lastly, don’t forget to backup your email. In short, take a few days and backup everything you can think of – including any dmg files you might need for re-installing apps that you can’t live without. It would be wise to make a hard copy (paper, that is) of all your login/passwords, especially your email, WiFi and social media accounts.

Doing that backup was so much fun – said nobody, ever. Moving on ..

1) Start Fully Charged: Make sure your battery is at 100%. You must be plugged in and see a green light on your MagSafe connector.

2) Reset your SMC (System Management Controller): Shut down you MacBook. With the MacBook turned off, hold down Shift-Control-Option – at the bottom left of the keyboard. While holding them down, press and hold the Power button – upper right corner – until the green light on the MagSafe connector turns orange and back to green. You’ve just reset the SMC. You can take your fingers off the buttons.

3) Erase your MacBook’s hard drive. With your MacBook still turned off, hold down Command-R and turn your MacBook on. Keep holding Command-R until you hear the apple chime (dooong!). Release the keys and wait for the MacOS Utilities window to appear, then choose Disk Utility.

Boot in Recovery Mode by holding Command-R, then choose Disk Utility.

From the left side-panel, highlight the “Macintosh HD” drive, then choose Erase from the top menu. You’ll have to fill in some info to complete the erasure: Give it a Name (whatever you want, but I suggest “MacIntosh HD”), the Format must be “Mac OS Extended – Journalled”, and the Scheme is “GUID Partition Map”. THIS IS NOW THE POINT OF NO RETURN … Click “Erase”.

Erase your boot disk. When done, close the Disk Utility window to return to the main macOS Utilities window.

After erasing the disk, close the Disk Utility window and return to the main macOS Utilities screen. Select Reinstall macOS and Continue.

Next, choose Reinstall macOS and Continue.

NOTE: Even though the latest version of Mac OSX is 10.14 (Mojave), the mid-2010 MacBook Pro can only handle 10.13 (High Sierra).

Click on the MacIntosh HD icon, then Install.

When it finishes, the first thing you’ll need to do is re-connect to your WiFi network (you wrote down your passphrase, right?). From there it’s just a matter of restoring everything from your various backups, re-stalling your apps, and signing back in to your various services like email and social media accounts.

Hopefully your mid-2010 MacBook Pro is now running fast and reliable. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or contact me. If you think your connections would benefit from this post, please share! And don’t forget to subscribe. Thanks!

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