How to Upgrade a MacBook Pro With an SSD

Format the SSD, clone your HDD, and make an easy swap

What to Know

  • Open Disk Utility > select the SSD and choose Erase > rename it > click Erase again.
  • Clone your HDD using cloning software or Disk Utility.
  • Shut down your computer and swap the HDD with the new formatted SSD.

This article explains how to upgrade a MacBook Pro with an SSD. These instructions apply to older, non-Retina MacBook Pros, but the MacBook Pro models from 2012-2015 have the ability to accept a new SSD as well.

Gather the Right Hardware

Before you begin, gather the following tools:

  • A new SSD
  • A T6 Torx screwdriver
  • Philips #00 screwdriver 
  • SATA to USB cable
  • Spudger tool

Format Your SSD

Before you can do anything with your new SSD, you need to format it.

  1. Attach your SSD to your MacBook Pro using a SATA to USB cable. If you see a popup message when you plug in your SSD warning about readability, select Initialize.

    Initialize option highlighted when connecting an unformatted SSD to a MacBook Pro
  2. Launch Disk Utility and look for your SSD under the External label in the left column. Choose Erase from the top row of options.

  3. In the dialog box, enter a new name and select macOS Extended (Journaled) and GUID Partition Table from the drop-down menus.

    External disk formatting options highlighted from Disk Utility on macOS
  4. Select Erase to format your SSD and ready it for use.

    Disk Utility on macOS erasing and formatting an external drive
  5. When the formatting process finishes, click Done.

    Done button highlighted after disk formatting from macOS Disk Utility

Clone Your Hard Drive With Cloning Software

As outlined below, after formatting your SSD, clone your Mac hard drive using Disk Utility or cloning software such as SuperDuper.

  1. Open SuperDuper and select your hard drive in the Copy drop-down menu, the new SSD in the to column, and Backup - all files from the using drop-down menu.

    Copy and cloning options highlighted from SuperDuper cloning software
  2. After you make your selections, choose Copy Now.

    Copy Now button highlighted from SuperDuper cloning software for macOS
  3. Select Copy to begin.

    Copy button highlighted to begin cloning process on SuperDuper for macOS
  4. A progress box will appear indicating when each phase of the process is complete. This could take a long time, depending on how much data you need to clone.

  5. Press OK when cloning completes. Your SSD now contains all your files and a bootable copy of macOS. You can eject it and power down your computer to begin the installation.

    OK button highlighted after SuperDuper completes a hard drive cloning process

Remove the Internal HDD and Insert the SSD

Swap your internal HDD with a new SSD with these general steps.

These images show the process on a MacBook Pro 13-inch, Mid-2012. The steps might vary depending on your model.

  1. Power off your MacBook Pro if you haven’t already done so.

  2. Turn your MacBook Pro upside down so the bottom case faces upright. Remove all of the screws using the Philips #00 screwdriver and gently remove the lid.

    Removing the bottom lid of a MacBook Pro

    Carefully set the screws aside in an orderly way so you can easily reattach them in the right spots later.

  3. Next, look for the battery connector above the battery. Use the spudger tool to work it away from the socket gently.

    Battery connector nudged away from the socket in a MacBook Pro
  4. Locate your hard drive and loosen (but don’t try to remove) the screws on the hard drive bracket at the top of the device. When loose enough, remove the bracket.

  5. Use the tab on the top of the hard drive to gently lift it up and away from the compartment.

    Lifting a hard drive away from a MacBook Pro battery case from the adhesive tab

    Transfer this adhesive tab to your new SSD in the same spot for easier handling.

  6. Remove the hard drive connector cable away from the left edge of the hard drive by gradually pulling it away from the device. Transfer the four T6 Torx screws (with the T6 Torx screwdriver) on each corner of your hard drive to your new SSD.

    Removing the connector cable from a MacBook Pro hard drive
  7. Attach the connector cable to the SSD, place it back in the cradle, and secure the hard drive bracket. Put the battery connector firmly into the socket if you loosened it, and reattach the bottom lid of your laptop.

    Tightening the hard drive bracket in a MacBook Pro

If your MacBook Pro doesn’t boot up properly after the SSD upgrade, restart your computer while holding down Option and select your SSD as the startup disk. 

Is a MacBook Pro SSD Upgradeable?

Newer MacBook Pro models from 2016 with Retina displays and Touch Bars aren’t easily upgradeable, as the SSD is soldered on. If you want a hardware upgrade, your best bet is to contact Apple Support.

The general process outlined above should work if you have an older MacBook Pro from 2015 and earlier. You can also consult the manufacturer of the SSD to make sure your MacBook Pro model is compatible.

Will an SSD Make My MacBook Pro Faster?

SSDs are considerably faster, more efficient, and offer more durability than hard disk drives, which means upgrading your MacBook Pro’s HDD with a new SSD can make it feel almost brand new.

If your MacBook boots and loads applications slowly, you’ll notice an instant improvement with an SSD. You could also see better battery performance and temperature regulation.

  • Can I upgrade the SSD on a 2018 MacBook Pro?

    Unfortunately, no. 2018 MacBook Pro models come with the SSD, RAM, and graphics card soldered onto the motherboard, which means none of these elements are easily upgradeable. You could explore replacing the motherboard or upgrading to a newer MacBook Pro model with a larger SSD.

  • Which MacBook Pro 13-inch models can have SSD upgrades?

    Most MacBook Pro 13-inch models from mid-2009 to 2015 with non-Retina displays can handle an SSD upgrade. If you're unsure which model you have, select the Apple menu and choose About this Mac to learn more. You can also consult this MacBook Pro upgrade guide for information about which 13-inch MacBook Pros are upgradeable by era.

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