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How to breathe life into an old Mac

Christopher Phin | Sept. 8, 2015
Here are a few things you can do before you put that old Mac out to pasture.

You can just clone your old hard disk to the SSD and things will still improve, but if you can bear the hassle of combining it with a clean install, you’ll get such a fast machine you won’t recognize it.

SSDs will also likely extend the battery life of a laptop.

Add more storage—and offload files

Computers perform badly when their main storage drive is full—an oft-cited rule is to leave at least 10 percent of your drive free—so consider adding more storage and offloading files you don’t need all the time to it. This might be external storage—just plug in a USB or FireWire hard disk—but don’t forget about internal options. You can replace the optical drive in some laptops and Mac minis with a second internal drive, or use something like a Nifty MiniDrive to add more flash storage to a laptop.

refresh an old mac add more storageand offload files 
Credit: Christopher Phin

Many tower Macs will support at least one additional internal drive, and in this case (or also if you install a second internal drive in a laptop at the expense of your optical drive), consider using a fast SSD as your boot drive and pairing it with a high capacity, cheap hard disk. You can even link them exactly like a Fusion Drive if you’re prepared to get your hands a little dirty in Terminal.

It might not be clear what files are taking up space on your hard disk, but apps such as DaisyDisk can help you identify them, and you can then either trash them or move them to an external drive. On very tight systems, running Monolingual can save you a decent chunk.

If you want to uninstall apps, check (including with a web search) to see if it has a proper uninstaller first. Don’t fall for “to uninstall an app on a Mac, you just have to drag it to the Trash”; search for the app’s name to find support files and caches lurking in ~/Library/Application Support and elsewhere, or—with caution!—use an app such as AppCleaner.

Upgrade your RAM

It’s hard to give absolute guidance—it depends on what you do with your Mac; check Activity Monitor as described above—but a decent rule of thumb is that 8GB RAM is pretty comfortable for most people (especially if you have an SSD), 4GB should be seen as a bare minimum, and anything under 4GB should definitely be upgraded if possible.

refresh an old mac upgrade your ram
Credit: Christopher Phin

About This Mac will tell you how much RAM you have, and then it’s easiest to check a memory configurator at, say, to ensure you get the right thing. Fitting RAM is one of the easiest jobs you can do so unless you’re really nervous, avoid paying someone to do it for you.


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