Upgraded MBP 15's SSD

#1

As I pointed out in this topic, I was running out out space on my MBP 15. 512GB seemed like a good idea and Apple’s price for the 1TB was just insane back in the day (imageine stuffing a whole iPad into the MBP, pricewise). As upgrades still are. I maxed out the RAM, but didn’t go for a bigger SSD because I didn’t win the lottery.

All non vital data is not on the Mac, but there’s just too much essential stuff I need. 2 virtual machines (Windows 10 and Linux) are needed at least, a huge Lightroom catalog, etc. Huge project folders. Just no more wiggle room there.

So, I want to get a bigger SSD for my MBP. Apple’s prices are still insane. Are their components made of Unobtainium and sprinkled with fairy dust? What infuriates me: the SSD doesn’t use standard connectors, but a proprietary connector. There’s absolutely no reason for that. None. Doesn’t make it faster, better, safer or more reliable, the only purpose of it is to lock 3rd party SSDs out. In previous MBPs, you just got any SATA SSD (or HDD) and many buyers did it. Bought an MBP (or other Apple computer) with the smallest SSD and RAM, upgrade by yourself and save hundereds of dollars/euros. In the 2015 models the SSD has a weird connector, forcing buyers to get bigger SSDs from Apple and pay way too much. This is also some kind of “think different”.

Then I searched for alternatives and found OWC. Prices as of 04.03.19:
OWC 1TB Aura Pro X: $348,75
OWC 1TB Aura: $398.88

Ok, cheaper than Apple, but still a lot of money for something that costs a lot less, just because of that dumb connector. 350-400 for a 1TB cosumer-grade SSD is just not right. Again: not better, safer, more reliable or whatever. Just a different connector.

Then I did what I always do: let’s see what China is offering. And, of course, dozens of adapters were offered. The needed adapter has no electronics on it, no complicated research, nothing. Just make Apple’s pin layout match the industry standard pin layout. On AliExpress they go for as little as $4 (shipping included). That’s standard shipping, 2-4 weeks. Since I was eager to replace my SSD, I went for somebody offering fast shipping and with a product name that allowed me to find some reviews. On Amazon marketplace I bought the “SinTech NGFF”. This is an adapter from “Apple weird” to M.2 PCIe/NVMe. Price: €15 (~$17).

Then I needed a PCIe/NVMe SSD. Samsung has a pretty good reputation, so I went for the 1TB Samsung 970 EVO NVMe M.2 SSD for €212 (~$240). So, for the components I paid €227 (~$257). That’s what a 1TB SSD is worth today and why Apple’s prices make me angry.

Industry standard vs. Apples idiot connector:

So, let’s start with the procedure.

Part list:

  • 1 MBP 2015
  • 1 SinTech NGFF adapter
  • 1 Samsung 970 EVO adapter

Tools&materials:

  • 1 Pentalobe Screwdriver (Dear Apple, WHY?!?! Torx and Philips are industry standard)
  • 1 Torx 5 Screwdriver
  • optional: Loctite Blue
  • optional: Polyimid tape (yes, “imid”, not the more known “amid”. Might also be found as “Kapton”. Polyimid has one nice characteristic: it’s heat resistant. Please don’t use scotch tape.)
  • optional: compressed air - dust be gone
  • optional: Isopropyl alcohol (“Isopropanol”) - the right stuff for cleaning electronics
  • optional: swaps&stuff: clening is fun

I am not going to detail the whole procedure, it’s already described here: https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/MacBook+Pro+15-Inch+Retina+Display+Mid+2015+SSD+Replacement/48251, just going to add some thoughts.

Additions:

  • When reinserting the screws, I use Loctite Blue to “lock” them into place. Don’t overtightem them, just add a small amount of Loctite to the threads and gently tighten them. They will never get loose. In fact, if you disassemble your MBP for the first time, you will see threadlocker fluid on the screws.
  • Polyimid tape is used as insulation. The adapter has some exposed pins and little clearance to the cover. Safe is safe, to I covered the adapter with polyimid tape. Again: don’t use scotch or elictrician’s tape. The inside of a computer get’s hot. When disassemling PCs or electronics you often see “brownish scotch tape” - that’s polyimid.

Additions the iFixit workflow:

  • clean your Mac! It’s amazing how much crap is in a computer. The real “cruft” ist not found with CleanMyMac, it`s in there. After all, there’s a steady air flow through your computer. And, to be honest, I absolutely don’t care about my computer. I’ve even used it in the desert dust (there’s a picture of that somewhere in the forums). Lugging the MBP from home to workplace, to presentation and so on means there will be junk in there. So, when your fans go crazy, don’t get an app…clean the fans!
  • to clean: blow the dust out, gently clean any parts. Isopropyl alcohol leaves no residue, if there’s anything that needs a thorough cleaning.

IMPORTANT STEPS:

  • you need at least High Sierra! With High Sierra the EFI was updated to support NVMe SSD drives. Upgrade your MBP before doing this. Mine was on Mojave, so not an issue
  • you need something to boot! Recovery (boot with CMD-R) will not, I repeat: NOT, work. Make a clone of your current SSD to an external drive and check if you can boot from it
  • atfer replacing the SSD, boot from the external USB drive, stat Disk Tool and partition/format the new SSD (again: this will NOT work with recovery mode)
  • then you can clone back your system or do a nuke&pave

And yes, I cleaned, but forgot to make a photo of the shiny fans and internals. All that crap is gone.

If somebody from Apple is reading: your upgrade prices for RAM and SSDs are a rip-off. Not justifiable by anything (research, development,…). Apple computers are expensive and I am willing to pay premium cash for them. But what you charge for the upgrades is not OK at all. And…one more thing. If memory and “disks” are soldered to the logic board on iPads and MacBook Airs, so be it. Those devices are built for ultimate portability. MacBook Pros are performance machines and I think most users would be OK with an ounce more weight and 2mm thicker computers, if RAMs and SSDs remain replaceable and instead of the toy keyboard you are currently shipping, a better keyboard would also be great. The Pro is some kind of souped-up Air, please stop doing that!

2 Likes
#2

So you were able to use the samsung with no special hacking since you were on Mojave? I see the pins are different, and you mentioned it… what was done about that?

#3

Between the pictures there is text describing excactly what adapter I used.

#4

Just did some very rudimentary tests. I didn’t have time to do a proper speed benchmark with bonnie++.

Old SSD:

New cheap-o SSD (very sloppy test, forgot to stop re-indexing, so read speed should be a little higher):

1 Like
#5

[darthvadervoice] Impressive. [/darthvadervoice]

#6

3 Likes
#7

Good stuff @lars, and I totally agree with your points about Apple’s pricing, unnecessary proprietary connectors etc, and lack of user upgradability. This has gone back and forth with Apple over the decades. I hope the pendulum will swing back again this time.

#8

Using the 12+16 connector (it doesn’t even have a name) is just weird. Doesn’t add speed, functionality, ease of manufacturing, heat benefits oder whatever. Just a different pin arrangement. The original 12+16 is a Samsung BTW.

If you can even find 12+16s (eBay, whatever), you pay double the price.

I get the Lightning connector. My work phone has a standard USB charging port and it’s more difficult to connect. I can attach my iPhone to the cable in the car without taking my eyes off the road, not possible with Mini-USB.

I get going for USB. I get removing floppies. I get many things.

But ordering a custom connector on SSDs? No, I don’t [/end rant]

BTW: now I have a useless 512GB 12+16 “Apple” SSD.

#9

I think the addition of the T2 chip to most everything is going to fix the pendulum where it is (preventing diy upgrades) for a while.

#10

This looks interesting. A 1T upgrade, assembled in the US, with the Apple style connector, less than $300.

More:

https://fledging.net/

#11

Yes, you’re probably right. I forgot about that :unamused:

#12

Take advantage of the speed, it seems that you need to do a clean install of High Sierra or Mojave to update the boot ROM version.

Fortuitous post just when I am preparing to do a clean install of Mojave. I’d thought about purchasing a new internal SSD to save some trouble. The cost/benefit ratio was not especially high on standard SSDs. This gives me pause to reconsider.

Thanks!


JJW

#13

Just to follow up, I bought and installed a 1T Feather M13 in my rMBP11,5, and it works like a charm. Speeds are comparable to the old drive. I’ve emailed their support to see if I need to do a clean install of Mojave on my old drive to update the boot firmware in my laptop (then reinstall the M13).
I’ve partitioned ~150GB for Windows 10, the rest for macOS. Both are working well.

I previously tried an OWC drive, but got kernel panics, so returned it. The OWC was also ~$600, whereas this one was $275.