user ryebread761 writes:

Hello. I have a mid-2010 13.3″ MacBook Pro. It has a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM, and (I believe 5400 RPM) 250 GB HDD that came with it.

If I don’t get a new computer this year, I was planning on upgrading to 8 GB RAM and possibly an SSD. Will the processor still be holding back the SSD and hence make it not worth upgrading?

Is It Worth Putting an SSD in My Mac?It’s nearly always going to be worth putting an SSD in your computer — so long as your computer can support the SSD. Not all computers are compatible with an SSD, you see, but for those that can — Mac or PC — I say do it! RAM used to be the first and most important upgrade I would recommend to anyone; these days, an SSD is right up there with RAM, and in many cases surpasses the need for more RAM. It all depends on how you use your computer. If you tend to use a bunch of applications at once, then yes, get more RAM first. But if you typically use only one application that doesn’t eat up much memory, then I recommend getting the SSD first. (I know, I know. My advice goes completely against the wisdom we’ve been taught for ages. But the times, they are a’changin’.)

As for your 2010 MacBook Pro: I don’t see your computer facing any significant bottlenecks. You’ll certainly notice a significant gain in performance on a computer that is that recent. You’ll notice a significant gain on older computers, too, but some older computers can only support a PATA SSD rather than the considerably faster SATA SSDs more recent computers can use. But your MacBook Pro can handle an SATA SSD just fine, so you can pretty much get your choice of SSD. Check out Other World Computing, a quality vendor that has specialized in Mac components (beginning with hard drives, I believe) since the ’90s, maybe even longer. It’s a great place to purchase RAM if you want to be absolutely certain your RAM will be compatible with your particular Mac. You can also purchase an OWC SSD on Amazon.

I mentioned that there are SSDs available for older computers. In the case of older PowerBooks and iBooks (the brand names of pre-Intel-based MacBooks and MacBook Pros), the price/performance ratio doesn’t add up. Sure, you’ll probably notice a speed bump after installing one of these drives in one of these older Mac portables, but the cost of doing so is simply too great for me to recommend. Plus, with the best of older PowerBooks only able to accept two gigs of RAM, you’ll face bottlenecks unless you only plan on using your computer to surf the Web. Even then, you may find your PowerBook running out of memory. So unless you’re really attached to one of those old Macs, I’d suggest completely upgrading to a newer computer. You don’t have to worry about that, though, if you’re cruisin’ along with a relatively recent MacBook Pro.

Okay, now I’m going to say something that may seem to contradict everything I’ve already stated. You mentioned upgrading your RAM along with your internal storage. If you’re going to perform both upgrades, seriously consider saving the money toward the purchase of your next computer. SSDs are expensive (though worth every penny in my opinion), particularly if you’re looking to buy a quality one that’s in the 250 gigabyte range or above. (Rather than skimp on an SSD, make sure to buy a good one with a warranty. Again, check out Other World Computing.) If you’re going to be spending hundreds of dollars today only to purchase a new MacBook Pro next year, you might want to wait. On the other hand, if you plan on making your MacBook Pro last a few more years, go for it. A 2010 MacBook Pro will likely still be performing like a champ for a few more years, while a few earlier MacBook models are already unable to even accept the latest version of Mac OS X.

Anyone who has replaced the hard drive in their 2010-era (or older) MacBook Pro with an SSD recently: have you been satisfied with the upgrade, or did you find yourself experiencing buyer’s remorse?

Image from Other World Computing