How to install an SSD drive in a MacBook Pro with a clean install of Mac OS X

Upgrading your edit suite – How to install an SSD & clean install of Mountain Lion

how to grade ssd on macbook pro

I’ve decided to upgrade my Macbook Pro with a brand new SSD drive, along with a fresh install and upgrade of Mac OS X 10.8.4 (previously I was still on Snow Leopard, but the latest wave of Apps are rarely supporting that far back.) My laptop has been a very faithful workhorse these past few years, but its time for a spring clean and a new lease of life with some affordable upgrades. Here is an in-depth how to guide on how I did it.

Questions I had before Upgrading My MBP

There were a few things I wanted to know before I upgraded such as 1. Which SSD should I buy? 2. Will FCP 7 install and run on Mountain Lion? 3. Will I be able to get the updates to FCP 7.0.3 from Apple? 4. How do I transfer over all of my data and applications when upgrading OSX with a brand new hard drive?

Some quick answers!

Which SSD drive should I buy?

1. I bought the M500 480GB drive from Crucial, who also recently released a 960GB drive.* A DoP friend Adam Roberts also recommended the SanDisk Extreme, but as my RAM had worked out so well and you can’t really beat their prices, I went with Crucial.

Best SSD for film editors MacBook Pro 2010

Buy on | Buy on

*Remember that you won’t actually get 480GB of space due to the difference between the way people sell GB’s and the way the computer reads them. 1024 bytes per kilobyte means that the 480GB will actually shake out to around 447GB.

Buy RAM, It’s Cheap – As a quick aside I recently also maxed out the RAM I could have in my 2010 Macbook Pro (8GB) if you have a 2011 MBP I believe you can go to 16GB. It’s either a clever marketing ploy, or a computer truth, that you need matching RAM sets (4GB/4GB or 8GB/8GB) and that’s how most RAM comes packaged. I bought mine from Crucial, who have a very spiffy System Scanner that will tell you exactly what you need. Here’s what I bought.

Will Final Cut Pro 7 run & update on Mountain Lion?

Final Cut Studio on Mountain LionHaving installed and updated FCS3, yes, Final Cut Pro will install and run on Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8.4) and you can indeed still get hold of the latest update to Final Cut Studio 3. In fact here is the direct download link, although the updates should appear in your Software Update.

If you want to install both Final Cut Studio 3 and FCP-X on your system, install FCS3 first and then when you install FCP-X it will move those apps to a folder in your Applications directory. One snag I did come across was not having QuickTime 7 Pro anymore. Originally when you installed FCS3 it automatically unlocked those features. I tried a few tricks to make it work, hopefully they will work for you too.

How to replace HDD with an SSD in 17″ Macbook Pro

Having done this myself, it really is quite easy, and doesn’t take that long to do. One hiccup I encountered was that I forgot that the SSD doesn’t come with any partitions on it. So when you first boot up (via the USB) the system won’t be able to see it because you first need to run disk utility to format the SSD and then you can install Mountain Lion. This is all very straight forward from the install screen that loads from the USB.

To replace your internal hard drive with a Solid State Drive you will need;

0. Back up drive 1. Small Phillips screwdriver 2. Small Hex screwdriver 3. Solid State Drive. 4. Bootable 8GB USB Installer. 5. Plenty of time.

TIPS: You’ll need the small hex screwdriver to undo the mounting screws that hold the drive in place. Also when you undo the back plate put your screws around the edge of the laptop near the hole they came out of as they are different lengths.

Other SSD’s might need a firmware update, but according to Crucial’s site the M500 doesn’t right now and there isn’t one available anyway.

How to do a clean Mac OS X install the right way

Just a quick note on upgrading philosophy: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Don’t upgrade in the middle of a project. (Although you could be waiting quite some time if you’re busy) and make sure you have a back up plan if it all goes wrong. For me I had a gap in the schedule, a pressing need to upgrade to Mountain Lion for some specific apps and I could have always slotted my old hard drive right back in if things hadn’t gone well.

Order of operations

1. Back up your drive with Time machine or free Carbon Copy Cloner

2. Download Mountain Lion and make a bootable USB installer on an 8GB stick. Here is a great step by step tutorial on how to create a bootable USB installer for Mountain Lion. Be aware that the installer is about 4GB so it will take a while to download!

Bootable USB Installer

3. Collect your settings and de-authorise apps. I forgot just how many settings I needed to take with me – Compressor presets, FCP keyboard settings, Wacom settings, dropbox contents, fonts and other things besides.  Anything that lives in an app will be hard to get to on a fresh install.

De-authorise Itunes (you will later re-authorise it) and deactivate Avid Media Composer before you upgrade your OSX. Also if you have Adobe apps you might need to do the same.

4. Swap out your HD for your SDD (see above)

5. Boot from USB (hold down option key when you power up), partition your new SSD and install Mountain Lion. This could take up to an hour, but I’m sure it took a lot less.

6. Load up your clean install and begin the long process of installing all your software.

7. Open up your Timemachine back up and drag over the files that you need. You can move your Itunes music collection simply by replacing the Itunes folder on the new install. Fonts are also a drag and drop copy to the Font folder.

I don’t have time for all this! What’s the fastest way to upgrade?

You could just upgrade over the top, upgrading your OSX via the App store, especially if you’re doing something similar to me but not upgrading your hard drive. This works just fine and is much faster, but be sure to back up your files first, just in case. You’re doing that day-to-day any way right?

You could also use Timemachine to restore your new hard drive to the same state as your old one, rather than doing a totally clean install. You are presented with this option when you install Mountain Lion or can do it from the Migration Assistant.

But as I was going for as ‘box fresh’ an approach as possible, I decided to manually install everything just like I did when I bought the laptop in the first place. In an attempt to de-clutter and de-crud.

How to make Mountain Lion less annoying

OSX Mountain Lion

As a long time user of Snow Leopard there are a few improvements to ML that I find very annoying. This quick list is worth working through to set things back to the way they were.

Personally I changed; the direction of scrolling, tap to click and right clicking, always displaying scroll bars, security settings for only installing apps from the App Store, layout of side bar, removed ‘All My Files’ icon, turned on the Library folder and a few other things!

Making Mountain Lion more like Snow Leopard

Was it worth it? The benefits of upgrading to an SSD

To finish, I have to say it was definitely worth upgrading to an SSD. My Macbook Pro is far more responsive, far faster to boot up and load programs and somehow I’ve managed to lose a bit of system fat along the way. Hopefully this will set me up for a good while longer before I really do have to cash in for whole new laptop. Also I can now download and install Adobe Creative Cloud, which refused to work on Snow Leopard, also Avid Media Composer was technically unsupported on 10.6 as well.

A few downsides are that some older programs no longer function. For example I used to use Mac The Ripper for ripping client DVDs, which was a superb and free app. Fortunately RipIt isn’t much and does an equally decent job. So nothing major but worth thinking about if you rely on some older programs consistently.


Leave a Comment