Upgrade My Mac’s Hard Drive

My 4.5 year-old MacBook is getting slower every day due to its age against the new OS and applications. To give it a new lease in life, I replaced its 500GB hard drive with a 120GB SSD from OWC. This post discusses the upgrade process.

Before the Upgrade

Unwind Applications

This step disconnects the applications from their services. For example, I de-authorized my iTunes account after one last sync with my iPhone. I also disconnected from Dropbox, quit Mail. I quitted all applications which connects to the internet to ensure their data not to change during the back up. I also took note of the Dropbox’s user name and password, along with the password to my 1Password data file. These information are crucial for bringing my system up after the upgrade.

Prepare Applications List

This step is crucial. I made a list of applications I installed on my MacBook. I also hunt down all the license keys to allow me to reinstall later. Since I store my license keys in 1Password, this step is relatively simple. I then prioritize my applications list: priority means I must have them. 1Password and Backblaze back up falls into this category. Priority 2 means I should have them for my every day tasks: Aperture, Path Finder, and Alfred are examples in this category. Applications that do not fall into these two categories will be installed only when absolutely needed.

Back up Data

Next, I disconnected my internet connection to ensure no data change during the back up. I then created a bootable clone of my hard drive using SuperDuper. This is the last snapshot of my old hard drive. This step also means that after upgrade, I will have two copies of my old hard drive. I will keep one of those copies in case I ever need any old data from it.

Upgrade and Post Upgrade

I will not discuss the actual replacement of the drives as there are several how-to videos showing this procedure–just search for them.

Install the Operating System and Updates

After installing the new drive, I installed the operating system from the disc. Then connect to the internet and run software update. This step might spans several minutes.

Restore Dropbox and 1Password

Since I stored my 1Password’s data in Dropbox, I connected to the internet, downloaded Dropbox, installed it, copied the Dropbox data from the old drive to the new, and brought Dropbox online. Next, I downloaded and installed 1Password. Amazingly, the first time I launched 1Password, the application found its data from the Dropbox folder and asked me if I want to use it. After saying yes, I got all my 1Password back as if the upgrade never occurred. I have the 1Password team to thank for that.

Restore Other Applications and Data

Most applications store their data in ~/Library/Application Support, so after re-installing the application and before the first launch, I copied the data from the old drive over to the new drive at the same location and applications will pick up where they left off. Many people suggested to use Apple’s application migrations, but I don’t want to use it because I need the absolute control of which application to move. Besides, I am more comfortable with this level of details. If you are not familiar with the file structure of Mac OS X, you should use application migration.

Lessons Learned

  • Backup, backup, backup. My drive were backed up by three means: The Backblaze online service, SuperDuper and Time Machine. Over the years, I had lost many valuable family photos and videos due to the lack of backing up. I made that mistake twice (yes, its dumb.) With the new SSD, I keep all three back up methods. The Backblaze backup is especially useful because it is offsite.
  • Preparation ensures smooth transition. By taking notes of the essential services’s user names and passwords, I was able to pick up quickly. By learning the data location of my applications, I avoided headaches of not having my data migrated.
  • Only installed application when absolutely necessary. This time around, I not install applications just because it is cool. This will save me from bloating my hard drive and operating system, slowing down my already-aging MacBook.
  • 1Password is a life-saver, especially for storing my applications’ license. Some applications, such as Hazel, store their keys in a file, which 1Password can also handle via the attachment feature. Go 1Password!

1 thought on “Upgrade My Mac’s Hard Drive

  1. Pingback: Your Questions About Xbox 360 4gb Upgrade Hard Drive | XBOX 360 & Stuff

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