Reviving 2012 MacBook Pro with Hardware Upgrade

Reviving 2012 MacBook Pro with Hardware Upgrade

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Welcome back, tech enthusiasts! Today, I’m continuing to revisit specific parts of my tech journey, sharing a follow up from a previous blog post that detailed the rejuvenation of a 2012 MacBook Pro. This time I’m zeroing in on the hardware upgrade aspect, uncovering the steps taken to transform this aging laptop into a powerful experimental machine. From the installation of a speedy solid state drive (SSD) to upgrading the RAM and even fitting in a fresh battery, this venture breathed new life into the MacBook for just $89.71. So, join me as we delve into the intricacies of upgrading vintage hardware, exploring the challenges faced and the ultimate triumphs achieved in reviving this tech relic!

My first Mac

In 2013 I started a job at a digital agency and was issued a 2012 MacBook Pro which I used for several years before getting upgraded to a newer MacBook Pro. At that time I was able to purchase the older MacBook from my company for a couple of hundred dollars. My wife used it throughout her three years of seminary, and we finally retired it from daily use in the summer of 2019. Since then, it’s pretty much just gathered dust in the closet and at some point made its way to the garage. I never got around to wiping the data off of it and donating it.

A 2012 MacBook Pro with MacOS sitting on a white shelf
2012 MacBook Pro with 8GB RAM and 500GB 5400 RPM HDD

How to upgrade to a solid state drive and 16GB RAM

At first, I just opened the back and used compressed air to clean out the vent fan which resulted in a noticeable increase in performance. Seriously! Removing 11 years of dust on the vent fan makes a difference. That boost in performance just made me want more so I decided to install a solid state drive (SSD), 16 GB of RAM, and a new battery for good measure to make it into a better experimental laptop. For $89.71 with shipping, this MacBook was about to get a new lease on life.

1 – Buy the parts

512GB SATA III Internal Solid State Drive

SP 512GB SSD 3D NAND A55 SLC Cache Performance Boost SATA III 2.5" 7mm (0.28") Internal Solid State Drive (SP512GBSS3A55S25)

16GB KIT (2x8GB) DDR3L/DDR3 1600MHz (DDR3L-1600) RAM

Timetec 16GB KIT(2x8GB) DDR3L/DDR3 1600MHz(DDR3L-1600) PC3L-12800 Non-ECC Unbuffered 1.35V/1.5V CL11 2Rx8 Dual Rank 204 Pin SODIMM Laptop Notebook RAM

Replacement battery for 2009-2012 MacBook Pro

Puredick A1322 A1278 Battery Replacement Battery A1278 for MacBook Pro 13 inch [2009 2010 2011 2012 Version] - High-Performance and Longevity [10.95V 65.7Wh]


2 – Install the parts 

A video is more helpful to walk you through these steps and this NerdyNeighbor video walks you through all the upgrades I performed. 

2012 MacBook Pro with the bottom plate detached with a solid state drive, 16BG of RAM, and a new laptop battery laid out on my desk.

I did run into a snag I’d never encountered before. The original hard drive has four small screws that are used to hold the drive in place. They have a special star-shaped head on them that takes a T6 screwdriver to remove. My dilemma: I didn’t have such a driver.

Old hard drive has stubs on four corners that use the T6 star-shaped driver. I'm unable to remove them with the tools I have.

3 – Buy a T6 screwdriver

Off to buy cheap tools!

A picture from the outside of Harbor Freight Tools where I go to purchase a T6 driver

Success! Less than $9 later, I’m the proud owner of this little screwdriver set.

Score! Driver set for $8 that includes a T6 driver.

Note: Here is an equivalent screwdriver set from Amazon with some additional tools specifically for computer repair.

4 – Finish SSD install

T6 screws were easily removed.

Using my T6 driver to remove the studs from old hard drive

Using a small Phillip’s head screwdriver, I put the last screw in to secure the new SSD.

Putting the last screw in to secure my new 512GB solid state drive in my 2012 MacBook Pro

At this point, I had all the new parts installed and had to install the operating system again. Since I had already played with Pop!_OS for three weeks, I chose to install the Fedora operating system, a Linux distribution sponsored by Red Hat. Due to my inexperience and desire to use a new flash drive tool called Ventoy, this process was cumbersome and took way longer than it should have. On the bright side, I learned a TON by trying new things and then troubleshooting issues when I ran into obstacles. That’s a story worthy of a separate blog post.

Note: If you prefer to keep macOS, you can install macOS from macOS Recovery.

At the end of this particular upgrade journey, my shiny new (very old) MacBook Pro had new components and was running quite well on Fedora 38 Beta. After installing my favorite applications and doing a few desktop customizations, this is what my desktop looked like.

Fedora 38 Beta desktop screen showing brightly colored geometric shapes. My most used apps are pinned to the software doc across the bottom of the screen.

Before and After Performance Snapshots

Original hardware – 512 GB 5400 RPM Hard Drive and 8 GB RAM

The CPU was pretty much maxed out and I wasn’t even running any applications, except possibly a browser.

Original hard drive and memory performance is displayed in a graph showing that the hard drive is struggling at max capacity.

New hardware – 512 GB SSD and 16 GB RAM

Now the CPU barely registers a blip indicating it’s ready to take on some multitasking!

New solid state drive and 16GB of RAM show very little churn in the performance monitoring graph.

Battery Performance

The image about the wifi not being connected shows the original battery with a 91% charge having 2 hours and 44 minutes left. The new battery shows slightly more than 6 hours when fully charged, about a 100% increase in battery life compared to the original battery! 

Are you convinced?

Tinkering with old computers can be a fun and rewarding experience. With a little bit of knowledge and patience, you can breathe new life into an old device that might have otherwise been forgotten. In this case, the 2012 MacBook Pro was given a new lease on life with the installation of Pop!_OS, a Linux operating system, and a few simple fixes to get everything up and running smoothly. Hopefully, this post will inspire you to take on similar projects and discover the joys of upcycling old computers, expanding your knowledge of Linux, and stretching your comfort zone a little to learn a new skill.

Leave a comment below to let me know what dusty old computer is waiting to be rehabilitated.


1 thought on “Reviving 2012 MacBook Pro with Hardware Upgrade”

  1. Impressive article on reviving a 2012 MacBook Pro with hardware upgrades! Great tips for extending device lifespan. For Dubai shoppers, comparing Macbook Pro price in Dubai and exploring iPhone service center Dubai options complements this well. Valuable insights!

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