Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cleanin' Out My Closet: MacBook Pro SSD Upgrade and Clean Up

Despite my dislike for all things Apple, I do actually own a MacBook Pro 6,2 (Mid 2010) that I've been using as a work machine for the last 4 years. This system has helped me understand a great deal about multibooting operating systems, GPT vs. MBR and (U)EFI booting, so it's not all bad! For a while now, the system has been showing it's age, with the mechanical hard disk the primary bottleneck. It's also been in desperate need of both a physical clean out of all the dust that's gradually built up over time and a re-installation of the three operating systems I have on the machine. I finally made the decision to actually try and carry out this much needed maintenance after the recent release of Corsair's MX100 SSD:

It's not the fastest SATA SSD you can buy currently, but it certainly has the lowest price per GB (at the time of writing): I ended up buying the 512GB model from Amazon, costing just under £150, to replace the HDD in my Mac. To facilitate the transfer of my data back onto my laptop, I picked up a cheap USB 3.0 HDD caddy as well. As I was going to have to open the system up, I decided to not only clean out the dust from the system, but to completely strip the laptop down and replace the thermal paste under the heat sink. I already have a couple of tubes of Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste, so I simply added some ArctiClean and some compressed air to my order. Later, after commencing the disassembly of the system, I was unable to find my Torx screwdrivers necessary to complete the process, so I ended up buying a replacement set:

I have replaced many storage devices in Apple laptops over the past few years, so I was comfortable with the SSD upgrade, however, the cleanout and thermal paste replacement seemed like it would be a far more complex task. Thankfully, iFixIt have some excellent guides on the maintenance of Apple products and I found a specific guide for removing the heat sink assembly; it's worth noting that iFixIt have flagged this process as "difficult", confirming my initial fears! Still, I was determined to take on the challenge, as I'll demonstrate with pictures I took throughout the process:
Removing the bottom of the laptop's chassis; this step is necessary for pretty much all the hardware maintenance you'll need to perform on this particular model.


Double eww.

WTF!?! After removing the heat sink, I was greeted with this sight: this seems to be far too much thermal paste.

The CPU and GPU ready for fresh thermal paste. I stopped short of scraping the remnants from around the chip edges as I was afraid I'd break something - I'm used to chips with integrated heat spreaders!

After putting the system back together,  I made a small prayer and offering to the Machine Spirit within and powered it on: success! It booted without issue and I was pleased to find that during the arduous process of installing/updating the three operating system, it not only performed a lot better (thanks to the SSD), but it was a lot quieter. However, since I've been working with the machine for a few days, I've noticed that the fans still spin up fairly regularly while I'm working in Linux; but there seems to be rather high CPU utilisation, even after switching to the proprietary Nvidia driver. Something for me to investigate further; at least I know it's able to actually dissipate the heat after I've cleaned out the heat sink!