Late 2011 model, A1278 / 2.4 GHz i5 or 2.8 GHz i7 processor.

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Improve performance - Upgrade RAM or install Solid State Drive

MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2011)

  • 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7
  • 4 GB 1333 MHz DDR3

My laptop has become almost unusable. It takes forever to boot up. After I'm working on it for a while (not ever 1/2 hr), I start getting the 'twirling ball' consistently whether trying to open a website or simply opening or creating a file. The battery gets extremely hot and the power starts going down rapidly. I'd like to try to salvage it.

Would it be better to upgrade the RAM from two 2GB cards to two 4GB cards. Or would it make more of an impact to replace the original hard drive with a solid state drive.

I would probably install a 500GB drive, although I don't think I'm having a problem with storage (500GB out of 750GB). Should I do both?

Any thoughts?

Thanks very much.

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Here's the full specs for your system: MacBook Pro 13" 2.8GHz i7 (Late 2011)


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2 Answers

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as first ill try to clean system out of the all usual junk / or even better install clean copy of OS X and migrate your stuff from old hdd to ssd - performance should improve significantly.

finally, ram upgrade will speed up the system even more, so you should do both :)



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This is really the accepted answer? A move from the sublime to the mundane.


honestly, whats wrong with the answer? question have been answered and no special requirements for any guide was needed.


@Kris - Your answer sadly doesn't address the root failure. Yes, a drive that is fragmented and as well, very full will bog down.

But, the big clue here is the battery getting hot. This is the reaction of heavy CPU & Drive interaction not slow access.

The issue here is the amount of retries the drive is going though to gain the needed data or to write it.

Think of it this way you're trying to talk to a deaf man who can't hear you, you keep repeating as each time he says: What? Wouldn't you get heated up with frustration, as you can't get the poor man to understand you? Now think about this with two deaf people both would be getting heated up. as neither could get the other to understand. This is the classic case of drive and drive cable failure.


I'm not sure I meant this to be the chosen solution but I don't see it as mundane. It's pretty much the route I'm taking - added to that, replacing the cable (I'm using the hammer approach). The other answer (see below) was technically the more robust...good info to have. And it pretty much addresses all of the technical issues.


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Most Helpful Answer

I suspect you're really having a HD issue here. Your symptoms are classic of a failed cable and drive. This series has a known issue with the HD SATA cable breaking down. So you'll need to replace both here.

Here's the IFIXIT guide you'll need to follow to replace the cable & drive: MacBook Pro 13" Unibody Late 2011 Hard Drive Cable Replacement.

As to what drive to put in you could go with either a SSHD (hybrid) or a SSD. A SSD is still quite expensive, a SSHD drive will be cheaper and offers the benefits of being larger. Remember you want to leave 1/3 to 1/4 of the drive free for Virtual RAM & Paging.

Depending on what you are doing 4 GB of RAM should be OK, I might go up to 8 GB (two 4 GB memory modules). I would recommend you do one task at a time to make sure your system is working before doing the next upgrade (HD Vs RAM).

Given the fact your system is already in trouble you should get an external SATA to USB adapter like this one: USB 3.0 to 2.5” SATA III Hard Drive Adapter Cable. It will allow you to run your internal drive externally. If you find the system is more responsive with the drive connected this way (it still will be slow but you shouldn't see the beach ball as long if ever). That will give you a clue your drive is still workable (only need to replace the cable). You should reformat the drive (after backing it up) before putting it back in your system if you decide to stick with the drive.

So why did the cable die? The construction of the cable did not protect it enough from the sharp edges of the sheet metal of the frame when you bang the system down. If you look at the case in the mid plane you'll see two black plastic frames the tabs on the bottom cover meet up with. Often I find one or both of the plastic frames broken. I move the good one over to the HD side to help protect the cable I also add some Kapton tape as well around the frame to give it a bit more protection. The other factor here is Apple put into this system originally a SATA II (3.0 Gb/s) drive the cable was only rated for SATA II. Later people would put in a better drive: SATA III (6.0 Gb/s) to discover the lower rated cable would create problems!

You should make sure you get this cable: MacBook Pro 13" Unibody (Mid 2012) Hard Drive Cable - Apple P/N 923-0104.

The last thing here is also making sure the systems firmware is updated (see your other Q for the details). You might want to find a friend with a Mac to help you create a bootable USB thumb drive and download the OS installer from the App Store onto it so you can reformat and re-install the OS, or if you end up replacing the drive prep it up as needed.

MacBook Pro 13" Unibody (Mid 2012) Hard Drive Cable Image


MacBook Pro 13" Unibody (Mid 2012) Hard Drive Cable


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would you explain how possibly HD cable can get damaged in closed case?

also, recommending hybrid drive is a bit outdated, personally wouldn't go for it as improvement in system performance is next to nothing.

Also, whats about Virtual RAM and paging as not really understand why you've mentioned it for simply reason: 8GB of RAM should sort any system clutter.




- Why did the cable get damaged was answered (reread my answer 6th para.)

- No, Hybrid drives is not out dated, While SSD's are the latest tech, HD's & SSHD's still out sell SSD's 3 to 1 as the same sized SSD is still very expensive! We still install them as they are cheaper but better than a straight HD.

- You'll need to do some reading on Virtual RAM and Paging. Modern OS's & Apps use it quite heavily now. The amount of RAM a system has will reduce its reliance of the drives storage but not remove it. 8 GB is still lean for many apps but it all depends on what you are running and doing. As an example: Our system baseline is now 16 GB but our users are using some heavy CAD & Graphics apps.


thanks for the answers and all the comments. having come from an IT background I'm familiar with fragmentation, paging, and I/O issues. But I'm not particularly PC/MAC knowledgable and I wasn't sure I could apply the same tuning methodology to them as to a UNIX/Mainframe (oh, dear!) architecture. After getting all of this feedback I guess I've learned that a computer is just a computer. So, since we're not talking about big servers, my plan is to do it all - first 500gb SSD plus new cable (with tape! - I would never have known about the cable issue). All of that going well, I'll upgrade to 8gb RAM (not running much in the way of CPU-intensive apps and maybe just over-kill, but...). And hope for the best. It certainly can't be any worse.

Thanks again for everyone's input.


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