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.

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 installed the SSD and did a fresh install of Mac OS X.

UPDATE – January 2017

I’ve updated the links in this post to the most up to date versions of the SSD and RAM I used. For example, the M500 480GB is surpassed by the MX300 525GB.

I’ve also updated my Macbook Pro to macOS X Sierra 10.12.3 and FCP 7 still runs! But please not that for some reason the FCS3 version of Motion is not compatible with Sierra and won’t run at all.

You can buy a new copy of Motion (V5) for £48.99/$49.99.

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 (8GB DDR3-1066).

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.

Buy Final Cut Studio 3 / FCP7 on | Buy on 

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:

  1. Back up drive
  2. Small Phillips screwdriver
  3. Small Hex screwdriver
  4. Solid State Drive
  5. Bootable 8GB USB Installer
  6. 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.

UPDATE You need to Enable TRIM!

After you install your SSD you will need to make sure that TRIM is enabled on the drive to get the best performance from it and to ensure the longevity of the drive.

Apparently on Windows this happens automatically, after recently moving to Sierra, I noticed a real performance hit and double checking TRIM, discovered it wasn’t enabled.

This post from CNET will give you step by step instructions, but it’s relatively simple:

To check if TRIM is enabled go to: Apple > About This Mac > System Report > Hardware > SATA/SATA Express > Scroll down to TRIM Support: Yes/No.

If it says, Yes you’re fine and it’s already enabled. If it says No you need to enable it with the following Terminal command.

Open up the Terminal app and type:

sudo trimforce enable, press Enter.

After the data warning, type Y. After the reboot warning, type Y to reboot. (Give it a minute to do it, itself)

Go back and ensure that TRIM is now enabled, as in step 1.

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.


  • Video works great off the external drive so I know it’s not the video card. Streaming 1080p from GoPro videos works a sinch, not sure why there’s a skip frame of .5 – 5 secs of delay

  • Hello,

    I have one question. I have a 15″ MBP 2012. The thing is the hard drive basically took a crash course and stopped functioning. It wouldn’t even load all the way before having to automatically shut down. This is the first time I’ve experienced this as well. On another note, I’ve gotten the prohibited sign as well.

    So I opted to get an SSD since the write speed is on a different level.
    The question is, how do you clone the OS from the old HD to this new SSD?

    I tried to boot up the laptop utilities via command + R.

    Should I just download the OS from another buddy MacBook onto the SSD and install the new SSD onto the old MacBook?

      • Hi Christopher

        From what I can tell you want to start fresh from a newly installed SSD drive as your boot drive and scrap your old HHD.
        You need to download the OS from Apple onto a thumb drive (or other) and install from that onto your new SSD, like I do in the post.

        This will leave you with an entirely clean install of your machine, and none of your previous data (which is on that old dead HHD by the sounds of it.)

        The info in this post might help?

        • Hey Jonny,

          I will give you my results later on tonight. Need this upgrade since the HDD is literally 5 years old

          • So I got it to work but somewhat it’s not running as fast as it should be…

            My specs are :
            MacBook Pro 13in mid 2012
            2.5 GHz i5
            Running 8 gb of ram 1333 MHz ddr3
            Intel HD graphics 4k 1024 MB
            OS X Yosemite
            Samsung V-NAND SSD 850 evo

            The reason why I said it’s not up to par is it lags throughout simple task. From safari to the App Store and such. And this never happen on the hard drive prior to the SSD upgrade.

            I’m in this pinch of not knowing what to do. I’ve searched of why this is happening but couldn’t find a solution yet.

            I’m currently using the lowest setting in games and it’s like the SSD can’t keep up with low setting… The original hard drive was performing way better with barely no storage while the SSD has tons of storage but performing horribly

  • Hey thanks for posting this and especially for link to Pro Apps Update 2010-02 and the 2017 update… “I’ve also updated my Macbook Pro to macOS X Sierra 10.12.3 and FCP 7 still runs!”

    Any chance you were able to use Motion 4.0.3 on Sierra? I just reinstalled FC Studio on a mid 2010 Mac Book Pro with Sierra and Motion doesn’t seem to be compatible. Maybe I missed something.


    • Hey Arik, no I also found that too. I’ll update the post to clarify that it seems like that’s the only app that was no longer compatible.

    • Hi Gary

      Thanks for checking out the blog and taking the time to comment.

      It kind of all depends! RAM will help you process computationally heavy tasks whilst an SSD will help you access and process your files faster.

      So it depends on what you’re doing. I would argue for doing both if you can!

  • On a side note your post mentions OS X 10.8.6 however OS X 10.8.4 is the last update available to users, the 10.8.5 update is due in the next couple of weeks and possibly the last update to Mountain Lion before OS X Mavericks 10.9 is introduced.

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