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TLDR: What can I do to my 2007 MacBook Pro (under Leopard) to make it snappier?


I have a 2007 MacBook Pro (technical characteristics below). I use it for heavy nonprofessional office-style work: browsing, email, Word & Pages, Excel, Keynote & Powerpoint, Acrobat Pro, … I tend to have many documents open simultaneously, so I can easily have 20 windows open and ~30 Safari anf Firefox tabs.

I don't know if my usage is slowly increasing, my expectations growing, or the system aging, but it's gotten to the point where everything feels so slow (notably app-swapping). What measures can I take to improve the responsiveness of the setup? I’d rather not perform invasive hardware changes, so I’m thinking of small small tweaks that could help a bit here and there. And yes, I realize that short of buying a new laptop, there is no silver bullet.

Things I've already done (and, in some cases, corrected):

  • make sure I have enough disk space for swaping (8 GB free).
  • check that I don't have FileVault or encrypted swap.
  • check that my usual programs are not running under Rosetta.
  • run a cycle of Safe Boot
  • I could disable Spotlight altogether, which I suppose would help, but I really use that feature a lot, so I won’t.

Technical characteristics:

  • bought April 2007 on French Refurb
  • MacBook Pro1,1
  • Core Duo 2GHz
  • MacBook Pro 15'
  • 512 MB RAM, upgraded on the first day to 2 GB (= 2 x 1 GB)
  • 75 GB hard drive
  • running up-to-date Leopard (10.5.$latest)
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Are you looking for just software tweaks or are hardware upgrades on the table as well? –  Jannemans Aug 4 '11 at 8:00
    
@Jannemans: mostly software tweaks. But easy hardware updates are on the table, if they’re not too expensive (given the age of the machine, I don’t want to bet too much on its remaining lifetime). –  F'x Aug 4 '11 at 8:12
    
You can use quicksilver to replace spotlight. It's quite fast and doesn't use spotlight database. –  Eimantas Aug 4 '11 at 9:47
    
@Eimantas: seems questionable that an external tool would put less strain on the resources than an internal tool (which would be much easier for developers to optimize) –  Rabarberski Aug 4 '11 at 10:17
    
@Rabarberski - I used QS only for app launching and some documents. I didn't need my whole disk to be indexed, hence, it took less resources. So customize what you need to be indexed and fire away. –  Eimantas Aug 4 '11 at 10:36
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Well, if it's a MacBookPro3,1 model, then you can upgrade the RAM to it's maximum of 6 Gb. Ram is extremely cheap these days, would be less than a 100$ I imagine.

As for hard drives, you could install a 7200 RPM drive (like Western Digital Black series), again cheap, ~100$ for 750 Gb. If you have a bigger budget and no need for such space I strongly suggest installing an SSD drive, at least a 128Gb. This is by far the best upgrade option you can do on your computer. You won't believe the difference in speed! Check out OWC's Mercury extreme 3G's SSDs from Macsales. They are by far the best out there.

And I would install at least OS Snow Leopard, it's pretty solid and fast. Can't say for Lion yet, haven't tested it.

As for software there isn't much else you can do. Reinstalling the entire OS from scratch will bring you back to it's original speed but machines tend to slow down over time, this is normal. In my honest opinion, the main problem these days is the hard drives that can't keep up with the rest of the computer. This is why an SSD is a good solution to remedy this problem. And if you buy a bigger version or better yet a SATA3 version of the SSD you could transfer it to any new laptop you might buy in the next 2-3 years, it will be even faster.

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It’s a MacBookPro1,1. I’ve added this to my question. –  F'x Aug 4 '11 at 8:29
    
Apparently, 2 GB is the RAM limit for the MacBookPro1,1. So, that's one option out of the way. –  F'x Aug 4 '11 at 8:43
    
Change your hard drive @F'x to 7200Rpm disk. Also upgrade to snow leopard. I'm sure it can last a few more years if you do so. –  Enrico Susatyo Aug 4 '11 at 9:02
    
Here you go: ifixit.com/Guide/Repair/…. BTW this is not a simple process so maybe you want to ask a genius to change it for you. Otherwise trying snow leopard out by it self will give you a huge speed boost. –  Enrico Susatyo Aug 4 '11 at 9:20
    
I agree with @Fred. RAM is not as expensive as it once was. You can try Crucial, their prices are hard to beat. Maxing out your RAM will make it feel like a new machine. I usually upgrade my Macs after two years, but my current MacBook Pro I have kept well over three years thanks to the RAM boost. It still performs great! –  Christian Correa Aug 4 '11 at 19:32
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I would upgrade to Snow Leopard. It's definitely faster. Also, check out this article. Another thing that I have found helps is to restart your Mac into Safe Boot Mode (Startup while holding the shift key; when the gear starts spinning you can let go. It'll take about 7-10 minutes to boot up). Once it's booted up, restart again (without holding any keys down). Here's an Apple doc that explains what Safe Boot Mode does.

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OK for Snow Leopard, already did the Safe Boot (should have said so, I have now edited my question) –  F'x Aug 4 '11 at 19:22
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I also forgot to add: don't use the Dashboard if at all possible. It eats up a lot of speed. –  daviesgeek Aug 4 '11 at 20:02
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