A 27-inch Mid-2011 iMac in 2019

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

Buying a new computer can be a major investment and more so if you need to customize the configuration to meet your specific requirements. For instance, someone who uses a computer primarily for e-mail, surfing the web and streaming content will not need all the “bells and whistles” that a graphic designer or video editor may need. That said, when budgets are tight, you’ll need to find ways to maximize the life of your computer while being able to work efficiently.

A few years ago, I had a similar situation dealing with an Apple 27-inch Mid-2011 iMac. The iMac was originally configured with a 3.4GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7 Processor, 16GB of RAM, 1TB 7200RPM hard drive and an AMD Radeon HD 6970M graphics card with 1GB of memory. At the time, this accomplished what it was intended for. However, over time it began to run slow. Formatting the hard drive and performing a clean installation of macOS (OS X at the time) did not resolve the performance issues.

One obvious course of action would be replacing the hard drive with a solid state drive (SSD). Of course, opening an iMac and replacing a standard hard drive with a solid state drive is no easy task and having it done by an authorized Apple Service Provider wouldn’t be cheap. So, what to do?

Well, the iMac did have four USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 800 port and two Thunderbolt ports so I was already thinking about using an external bootable drive as a workaround in lieu of replacing the internal hard drive. After doing some research, I opted to go with the Transcend 512GB Thunderbolt solid state drive. I had found several cases where this drive had been implemented and worked well as an external boot drive on an iMac. I’ll include a link to the Transcend 512GB Thunderbolt SSD at the end of this post.

I also did some additional research on the RAM limitations for the Mid-2011 iMac. While Apple’s technical specifications list a maximum of 16GB of RAM, I did check the OWC website and found that the Mid-2011 iMac did support up to 32GB of RAM. While 16GB of RAM would likely suffice, the cost of an additional 16GB of RAM wasn’t too expensive. If the external bootable SSD worked and brought new life to this Mid-2011 iMac, the additional RAM would be well worth it. I’ll include links to OWC compatible memory modules at the end of this post.

Since the original internal hard drive was recently reformatted with a clean install of OS X and all applications, it didn’t make a lot of sense to go through this exercise again unless absolutely necessary. So, the solution was to clone the internal hard drive onto the new Transcend 512GB Thunderbolt solid state drive and then boot from the new SSD. This required the use of Carbon Copy Cloner to create a bootable clone of the internal drive. Back then, there was a free version of Carbon Copy Cloner. Today, you can still get a 30-day trial before you need to pay for the software which should be fine to create a one-off bootable clone of your internal hard drive to an external SSD.

The result . . .

It all worked out well. The drive cloning worked perfectly. The iMac was able to boot from the external solid state drive and gained a huge performance boost over the standard internal hard drive. Note: I left the internal hard drive intact as a backup. The additional RAM gave it a beneficial boost to support newer memory intensive applications. There was one small issue. You could restart the iMac without an issue but if you shut down the iMac and then started it up, the iMac would defaultly boot to the internal drive instead of the external SSD as the SSD would not yet be powered up at initial startup. The way around this would be to hold down the Option key on startup to get boot options, power cycle the external SSD so that the external SSD would be an available boot device then select it as the startup disk. Of course, this would be tedious to do on a daily basis, so the simpler workaround was to restart the iMac under normal conditions and only shutdown when needed. It was a small price to pay to bring new life to the Mid-2011 iMac.

While the Mid-2011 iMac is not supported by macOS Mojave, you can still use it with macOS High Sierra. Eventually, this iMac will be retired but for now, it’s gotten a few extra years of life for a fraction of the cost of a new iMac.

LINKS:

Note: The links below include Affiliate Links. Please review the section entitled "Affiliate Links" in the Terms of Use of this website for additional information.

Transcend 512GB Thunderbolt Solid State Drive StoreJet 500 for Mac (TS512GSJM500) - https://amzn.to/2Eu6fYm

OWC 16GB (2x 8GB) 1333MHz PC3-10600 DDR3 SO-DIMM 204-Pin Memory Upgrade Kit (OWC1333DDR3S16P) - https://amzn.to/2XoGLD0

OWC 32GB (4 x 8GB) 1333MHz 204-Pin DDR3 SO-DIMM Memory Upgrade Kit (OWC1333DDR3S32S) - https://amzn.to/2ErZB4L

 

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MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 Series . . . in 2018

MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 Series . . . in 2018

Apple MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009

Apple MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009

Last year, Apple added the last of the polycarbonate unibody series, the MacBook 13.3-inch Mid 2010 series, to their list of Vintage and obsolete products, officially bringing an end of support to this product line.

While official support has ended for the polycarbonate unibody series, I’ve managed to get some extra life out of my MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 series with a couple of upgrades that have kept it running through 2018. When I purchased the MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 series, it included a 2.26 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM (base version came with 2GB RAM and Apple’s official maximum is 4GB RAM, but more on this in a moment), a 250GB 5400 RPM hard drive (upgradeable to a 500GB 5400 RPM hard drive), Nvidia GeForce 9400M with 256GB RAM and OS X v.10.6 Snow Leopard.

About a year before the AppleCare warranty on the MacBook was up, I decided to upgrade the 250GB 5400 RPM hard drive to a new Sandisk 240GB SSD. This gave the MacBook a significant performance and speed boost over the 5400 RPM traditional hard drive. At the time, solid state drives were still quite pricey for limited amounts of storage, so the Sandisk 240GB SSD was at a price level that I was comfortable investing in.

As for RAM, I initially operated under the belief that Apple’s official 4GB RAM limit was indeed the maximum. However, a couple of years after the AppleCare warranty had expired, I did some research and learned that the MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 series (MacBook 6,1) could support a maximum of 8GB of RAM. After some extensive research, I was able to confirm that the 8GB RAM maximum limit was indeed accurate and went ahead and purchased the compatible memory modules (I’ll include a link to the modules at the end of this post) to max out the MacBook’s RAM. It worked perfectly!

Today, this MacBook is still running, albeit slower than newer computers, with a 240GB SSD, 8GB of RAM and macOS High Sierra. Newer MacBooks will certainly run circles around this nine year old MacBook and I do not use this MacBook for memory intensive or performance heavy loads; but, for e-mail, surfing the web, watching YouTube videos and general use, it still works.

This MacBook will not support Apple’s latest version of macOS - macOS Mojave which means this MacBook has reached its maximum upgrade potential. That said, I’m impressed with the extended life that I’ve gained from these upgrades and when the day comes to officially retire this MacBook from service, I’ll know that it had one heck of a run!

If you have a MacBook 13.3-inch Late 2009 series with a model identifier of “MacBook 6,1” and want to know which memory modules I used to upgrade my MacBook to 8GB of RAM, check out the link below.

To find the model identifier for your MacBook, go to the Apple menu then select “About This Mac.” In “About This Mac,” select “System Report.” In the “System Report,” select “Hardware” then look for “Model Identifier.”

LINKS:

Note: The links below include Affiliate Links. Please review the section entitled "Affiliate Links" in the Terms of Use of this website for additional information.

OWC 8.0GB (2 x 4GB) PC8500 DDR3 1066 MHz Memory Upgrade Kit - https://amzn.to/2RdgCEb

The Windows Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) – Part II: A Real World Situation

I recently ran into a Blue Screen situation on a Dell Vostro 430 mini-tower computer running Windows 7 Professional. First, a bit of backstory . . . this is a computer that’s about seven or eight years old. While it’s clearly not current, it does the job it’s intended for. The computer originally came with a 250GB SATA HD. The SATA HD was experiencing performance issues and after running a series of diagnostics, it appeared that the SATA HD was at risk of potentially failing. Not surprising given the age of the computer. After reviewing several options, the first plan was to try and clone the SATA HD onto a solid state drive (SSD) and then replace the SATA HD with the cloned SSD. If the plan worked, the computer would be up and running with minimal downtime.

I won’t get into the details about the hard drive cloning process in this post, but if you’re interested in what I used to clone the SATA HD to a SSD, I’ll provide links at the end of this post.

After cloning the SATA hard drive to a solid state drive (took a couple hours), I replaced the SATA HD with the newly cloned SSD. The SSD booted into Windows without any issues and the cloned SSD worked perfectly like the original SATA hard drive, but with a significant performance boost. I ran a series of diagnostics on the cloned SSD and all diagnostics passed without any errors. I left the computer on overnight and would check on it in the morning.

The next morning, I noticed the computer had frozen. After restarting the computer, the computer appeared fine. The system logs did not show anything unusual that would have shed light on why the computer froze. After running a series of additional diagnostics, all of which passed, I began looking at the BIOS. The BIOS was out-of-date and I recall replacing a SATA HD with a new SSD in another Dell Vostro 430 mini-tower computer some years ago, but I recalled I had upgraded the BIOS when I replaced the SATA HD with a SSD.

In that scenario though, I did a clean installation of Windows rather than a clone of the hard drive. I’m generally not a fan of cloning hard drives and prefer to perform clean installations, whenever possible. To put it into perspective, I haven’t cloned a hard drive since the days of Norton Ghost. However, for the current scenario, cloning the existing SATA HD was preferable.

I went ahead and upgraded the BIOS to the latest version and for a few days the computer appeared to be stable. I continued to perform diagnostics and monitored the computer to make sure everything was running properly.

After a week or so, the computer began experiencing random crashing and Blue Screens. The Blue Screens indicated an issue with iastor.sys. With this information, I was able to isolate the issue to the Intel Storage Controller. Unfortunately, before I could take any actionable steps, the computer began to experience continuous Blue Screens. I was unable to sign-in via the Windows login screen without hitting a BSOD. Shutting down and booting up the computer didn’t help either. I checked the BIOS configuration to make sure the settings were correct, and I tried to run the Windows Repair Utility but still could not get into Windows without running into a Blue Screen. Fortunately, I was able to Safe Boot into Windows to uninstall the existing Intel Storage Controller located within Device Manager | IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers.

After uninstalling the device driver, I restarted the computer. The computer booted into Windows and upon login, Windows detected the “new device” and began the process of locating, downloading and re-installing an appropriate Intel Storage Controller for the computer. After a couple of additional restarts, the computer was once again stable and running properly. I ran some additional diagnostics to make sure there were no other detectable issues and continued to monitor performance and stability in the following weeks.

While this Blue Screen situation ended on a positive note, not all BSOD situations will be the same, so remember to take steps to backup your computer to external storage frequently and when you do experience issues, don’t turn a blind eye. Look into the problem or contact an IT professional as soon as possible. Make note of any vital information displayed on the Blue Screen (ex: what file or files may have caused the Blue Screen) and any error codes which might be displayed. This information can be extremely helpful when troubleshooting the issue. Be proactive and not reactive!

If you’re interested in what I used to clone the SATA HD to SSD, check out the links below. For the SSD, I had an older model Samsung solid state drive lying around, which I used as the target drive, but I’m providing links to some of the current SSDs on the market from Crucial, a brand that I use frequently for drive replacements and in external hard drive enclosures. I've also used SSDs from Intel, Sandisk and Samsung. Please check for compatibility with your specific hardware.

LINKS:

Note: The links below include Affiliate Links. Please review the section entitled "Affiliate Links" in the Terms of Use of this website for additional information.

Cloning Software

Macrium Reflect 7 (Free Version) - https://bit.ly/2piJVWU

Instructions for cloning a disk with Macrium Reflect - https://bit.ly/2Q1RaRp

External Adapter for connecting SSD to computer via USB 3.0 for hard drive cloning

Anker USB 3.0 to SATA Adapter - https://amzn.to/2NiUx8i

Solid State Drives (SSDs)

Crucial MX500 250GB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD – https://amzn.to/2wGeefP

Crucial MX500 500GB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD – https://amzn.to/2MKd7qe

Crucial MX500 1TB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD – https://amzn.to/2M0jTmC

Crucial MX500 2TB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD – https://amzn.to/2NJm5Ay