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An Ambitious Project?

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So I was just running ideas around in my head, after coming to the conclusion that my 2.53 late '08 Macbook pros performance isn't too great anymore. What do you guys think about this heart transplant? The logic boards aren't physically that different. Think I'm in over my head? Should I just sell my late '08 and hope I get some decent money for it? It is still under applecare until july.




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in a past life my job was to report on the speed of computers based on benchmarks that I created. the things I measured included boot time, scrolling speed through a 200 page document, and how long Radial Blur set to 800 took to render. there was always a difference between older and newer. processor speed does that. and timing it proves that it's faster. but what I found was that a person couldn't tell or rather perceive the differences between them. in fact, if you fake labeled an old machine as the new one the person would always report that it was the faster box (even though it was not). when asked the person would report, "this one just feels faster."


in day to day use we found that a new box had to have be at least 50-70% faster to justify the cost of replacement. and it was when the speed difference was this large that a person could really notice a difference not just think they did. this is one reason why you find 2006 MacBooks in use today. 2.6GHz isn't significantly faster compared to 2.2GHz. opening a file, typing and saving should be about the same on either new or old because of mechanical factors. the big differences of course are from the new processors. the i5 and i7 offer a significant improvement in performance. for example a Quad i7 running at 2.0GHz will run circles around a 2.1GHz Core2Duo in both benchmarks and perception.


from a service point of view your 2008 MacBook Pro is at the end of it's life. you've said AppleCare is about to expire. the hard drive should be replaced at the very least because it's reached the point where it WILL statistically fail. if the optical media is still working it's a wonder. in my office none of the Macs that are over three years old have a reliably working DVD and our solution was to just use an external burner for the odd disc that needs to be burned.


replacing the motherboard might be a way to make a better Mac. but at what cost? lets say that you found a 2 year newer board for $600. it should fit as long as the ports are exactly the same (the newest Thunderbolt will make it NOT work). and the SD slot moved something something else. (note: the 2008 MBP was the last of them to have a Express Card slot. after that it was replaced by an SD card slot. this makes the upgrade nearly impossible unless you want to make serious mods because the through holes in the case won't match.)


but lets get back to that $600 number. that could be a budget to totally trick out this old Mac.


1) RAM. if you don't have 4G (or 6G if you can find it) of RAM this is the first place to upgrade. a quick check finds 4G (2 x 2G) is around $30.


2) replace the hard drive with an SSD. a 128G SSD can been found for around $100-150. testing has proven significant performance increases from boot time to general use. the consensus around my friends that have made this upgrade is, "why did we wait? this is the best upgrade ever!"


3) remove the optical drive and replace it with a big hard drive. we already know that the old hard drive is 3+ years old. do yourself a favor by preemptively replacing it. you'll need a sled like this one. the sled is cheap and a new 750G to 1T 2.5" hard drive is hovering around $150.



all told you'll spend way less on parts compared to replacing a motherboard. and you'll have measurably better performance because you'll be replacing bottlenecks not keeping them.


care and feeding of this drive configuration will take some getting used to. you don't want all your everything on the SSD. and you'll have to configure Time Machine or whatever backup tool you use to manage both drives. it's worth the extra effort.


if you are thinking about selling NOW is the time. once the next MacBook comes out the one you have will be worth hundreds less.

Edited by johnfoster

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so I had to look this up. I was curious to see just how close the ports match up between the 2008 and 2009/2010 MacBook Pro. and it's no surprise that they don't match at all. the image above shows the difference with the 2009/2010 on top of the 2008. it's almost like the designers swapped it all around so that a motherboard swap was unpossible. I guess if you were really ambitious you could mill out the entire section of ports in the case then replace it with a plug made on your 3D printer. but that seems extreme. this also assumes that every other connection inside the MBP stays the same. given the way that parts DON'T change it's a safe bet that they would match and connect in relatively the same place. there are pictures of all the motherboards on iFixit.com if you're curious.


here are the links to the Apple reference library for your own reference.










Edited by johnfoster

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