How-To: Update your old MacBook, Mac mini, or Mac Pro hard drive with a fast SSD

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My Mac is now silent. After installing a solid state drive (SSD) with no moving parts, the drone of my iMac’s hard drive and fans has given way to such an absence of sound that I only hear the high-pitched squeal of my office lights.

My Mac is now fast. Even with 400GB of available space, OS X Yosemite’s constant hard drive accessing had brought my quad-core, 3.4GHz Core i7 machine to its knees. Now I’m seeing five times the hard drive speeds, apps are loading instantly, and my iMac feels as responsive as the MacBooks and iPads that beat it to the SSD game.

Last week, buoyed by (finally!) reasonable SSD prices and a desire to try a DIY project, I walked through the steps to replace a prior-generation iMac’s hard drive with an SSD. Similarly excited readers have pointed out that older MacBooks and certain other Macs are also easy to upgrade… but at least one Mac (surprise: the Mac mini) is not. So below, I’ll show you some great SSD options that you can install yourself, ask a tech-savvy friend/repair shop to handle for you, or choose as external solutions.

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How-To: Now’s the right time to swap your old iMac’s hard drive for a fast new SSD

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If you bought your iMac 3-5 years ago, there’s probably nothing so seriously wrong with the hardware that you need to consider replacing the machine. Sure, the new iMac with 5K Retina Display looks a little nicer, but at a steep $2,499 starting point, it’s still a luxury, not a necessity.

Yet there’s something you can do for $200 to $500 that will radically change your iMac’s performance: install a solid state drive (SSD) in addition to or instead of its original hard drive. SSDs use high-speed memory chips rather than the spinning platter mechanisms in traditional hard drives, achieving up to 5X benefits in speed while requiring no moving parts. Five years ago, SSDs were both expensive and limited in capacity, making them unlikely components for most Macs. Today, high-quality, capacious SSDs can be had for reasonable prices, and they’re surprisingly easy to install in iMacs. With limited expertise and only three tools, I swapped out my old hard drive for an SSD in roughly 30 minutes. Here’s how I did it, and – if you’re up for a quick do-it-yourself project – what I’d recommend for you.

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Apple adds refurbished Retina 5K iMac to online store, prices start at $2,119

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Apple has recently added the 27-inch iMac with Retina display, originally released in October 2014, to the refurbished section of its online store. Currently, the baseline 5K iMac with a 3.5 GHz quad-core Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 1 TB Fusion Drive, and an AMD Radeon R9 graphics processor will cost you $2,119 refurbished from Apple. That’s $380 – or 15%- off the price of a new model.

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Apple to widen pre-release iOS testing by roping in retail employees

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Apple will begin providing select retail store employees access to upcoming versions of iOS in order to widen its pre-release testing program, according to multiple sources. The program will begin in the near-future with an upcoming iOS release, perhaps version 8.2, which is slated to be released alongside the Apple Watch

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Security researcher rewrites Mac firmware over Thunderbolt, says most Intel Thunderbolt Macs vulnerable

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A security researcher speaking at the Chaos Computer Congress in Hamburg demonstrated a hack that rewrites an Intel Mac’s firmware using a Thunderbolt device with attack code in an option ROM. Known as Thunderstrike, the proof of concept presented by Trammel Hudson infects the Apple Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) in a way he claims cannot be detected, nor removed by reinstalling OS X.

Since the boot ROM is independent of the operating system, reinstallation of OS X will not remove it. Nor does it depend on anything stored on the disk, so replacing the harddrive has no effect. A hardware in-system-programming device is the only way to restore the stock firmware.

Apple has already implemented an intended fix in the latest Mac mini and iMac with Retina display, which Hudson says will soon be available for other Macs, but appears at this stage to provide only partial protection…  Read more

Jeremy’s holiday gift guide: Mac, iPhone & iPad gear you can trust

Holiday Gift Guide 5My first post for 9to5Mac is on a topic near and dear to my heart: best-of-breed Apple products and accessories. Why should you trust me? I’ve been a professional product reviewer for 23 years and an Apple user for 28 years. Last week, I finished an 11-year stint running the editorial side of iLounge, the leading Apple product review site, where I tested literally thousands of Apple accessories from every major company on the planet. Readers have praised my reviews as accurate and insightful, and I always put my readers’ needs first when testing new products.

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Hyper’s Black Friday: $50 off the world’s only external MacBook battery, $10 battery packs (Reg. $50), $2 iPad cases (Reg. $30), much more

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Hyper, the brand behind a number of popular Mac and iOS products we’ve reviewed in the past, is today offering its best deals ever for Black Friday. The sale includes big deals on external battery packs and other iOS accessories including the world’s only external MacBook battery.

Some of the notables: A $10 3600 mAh battery pack (Reg. $49), a $20 7200mAh battery pack (Reg. $70), and up to $50 off the company’s external battery for MacBooks. Head below for the full list of deals.  Read more

Last chance to get a Retina iMac for the holiday nears as ship times hit 2-3 weeks

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When Apple announced the first 27-inch Retina 5K iMac at its special event last month, its new super high resolution desktop computer became available for purchase online that same day. Ship times for the Retina 5K iMac have since steadily slipped from 3-5 days to 7-10 days. With Black Friday and the holidays quickly approaching, though, the shipment promise for the Retina 4K iMac has stretched out to 2-3 weeks when ordering directly from Apple… Read more

KGI: iPad Pro pushed back again to Q2 2015, Q1 to see under 10M iPads shipped

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The latest report from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims Apple will delay its expected launch of a 12.9 (or 12.2)-inch iPad ‘Pro’ as it predicts a 50% decline for iPad shipments heading into next year. Specifically, KGI thinks Apple will sell just under 10 million units in Q1 2015 following a busy holiday season in the last quarter of this year. That would be a 54.5% drop from quarter to quarter with KGI predicting 21 million iPad units sold during the Q4 2014 Holiday quarter: Read more

The tl;dr version of early iMac with Retina 5K display reviews is TAKE MY MONEY [Review roundup]

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The early reviews are out for the iMac with Retina 5K display, and the tl;dr version is: if you can afford it, buy it.

Everyone of course agrees that the key market for the machine is video professionals (beating even the base-model Mac Pro in benchmarks), the 5K resolution offering the ability to display full-size 4K video while still leaving enough room for editing tools.

But while the new iMac may be overkill for more mundane tasks, reviewers also agreed that the display is so good that even if you don’t need one, you’ll still want one …  Read more

Mac mini teardowns are underway, with good news and bad news

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iFixit and MacminiVault have both completed their teardowns of the new Mac mini, with Macminicolo planning theirs soon.

We already knew the main bad news: soldered RAM means you can’t upgrade the memory later, so you have to decide how much you want and pay Apple’s pricing for it. Both iFixit and MacminiVault described replacing the RAM as “impossible.”

Getting access to the inside of the new Mac mini is more difficult than it used to be …  Read more