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How to upgrade your MacBook Pro Retina to a 1TB PCIe SSD

Lucas Mearian | April 18, 2016
For an extra US$50, OWC includes an upgrade kit with a PCIe adapter so you can continue using your factory-installed SSD as an external drive.

Using BlackMagic disk benchmarking software, I tested the Aura PCIe SSD once it had been installed. It revealed a maximum read/write speed of 700MBps and 423MBps, respectively. In other words, the OWC SSD had slightly slower performance than my factory installed SSD, but the difference was not noticeable.

How to perform the SSD upgrade

First things first. Upgrade the to the latest version of OS X -- in this case it would be El Capitan v10.11.4.

Next, because you're not likely to simply swap out the OWC SSD for the factory drive without migrating data over, you'll want to perform a Time Machine backup to an external drive. This will safeguard your data in case something goes wrong.

MacBook Pro Retina 
You'll first need to remove the 10 pentelope screws securing the rear cover of your MacBook Pro. Credit: Lucas Mearian

Swapping out your flash drive, whether it's a 2.5-in. SSD or a PCIe card, is about the simplest upgrade you can attempt. It'll take about 10 minutes, not including the data migration.

While I've swapped out dozens of SSDs without one, you should consider purchasing an anti-static mat on which you'll perform the upgrade; they're about $12 to $15 online, and when you consider you just spent up to $649 on an SSD, it's a small price to pay to avoid damaging the NAND flash chips.

MacBook Pro Retina 
The factory-installed Samsung PCIe SSD is in the upper right hand corner. Credit: Lucas Mearian

The first step to changing over your SSD is to remove the 10 screws on the back cover of your MacBook Pro using a Pentalobe P5 screw driver.

Next, you'll need to unscrew the one Pentalobe screw holding the PCIe SSD in place.

MacBook Pro Retina 
Remove the SSD retaining screw using a Torx T5 screw driver. Credit: Lucas Mearian

Then you simply pull the SSD from its socket, insert the OWC SSD and secure it with the screw. That's it.

The only thing you need to do is to replace the MacBook Pro's rear cover and either download a fresh version of OS X onto your new SSD, or migrate the OS and your data from the old drive.

MacBook Pro Retina 
After gently pulling the factory-installed SSD from its PCIe socket, insert the OWC Aura PCIe SSD and re-attach the Torx retaining screw. Credit: Lucas Mearian

Creating a bootable El Capitan (OS X 10.11) installer

There are couple of ways to install OS X El Capitan onto your new OWC PCIe SSD...or at least there should be. You should be able to install it using the external adapter. But once I uploaded El Capitan, my MacBook's native drive refused to recognize the external drive.


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