Upgrading Your MacBook Pro’s Hard Drive the Super Duper Easy Way

by Chris Howard Aug 19, 2009

Last week I upgraded my new MacBook Pro's hard drive, and using ShirtFront Pocket's SuperDuper! made it dead simple.



As any of you who've been reading me for the last couple of months will know, I bought a 13" MacBook Pro at the end of June. Like a lot of folks though, I bought it with the smallest hard drive (160GB) with the intention to upgrade to a 500GB hard drive. Last week the 500GB arrived, so the fun began. I might add, it couldn't have come at a better time, as I was down to only about 8GB free.


The Gear

The drive I bought is a Seagate Momentus SATA II 500GB 2.5" 5200RPM hard drive with 16MB cache, model number ST9500325AS. It cost me AU$175, which was about AU$150 cheaper than buying a 500GB pre-installed. For another AU$50 I could have bought a 7200RPM drive, but with the MBP already prone to run hot, and the 13" not having as much air inside it as its bigger brothers, I settled for the 5400RPM model.

The external drive I used has a FireWire 400 interface. This required an adapter to use with the MBP's FW800 port. But a FireWire drive with OS X on it boots and runs much faster than a USB2 one.


Time Machine or SuperDuper!

For the backup and restore process, I could have used OS X's Time Machine as, time wise, it probably would have taken the same amount of time. However, I had two reasons not to. Firstly, I don't use Time Machine. I needed the hard drive it was using and since I rarely, if ever, needed to restore a file from Time Machine, I let it go. Secondly, I like the concept of SuperDuper! (and Carbon Copy for that matter) in that it clones your drive. I find something reassuring about that. It seems more logical. For instance, if my hard drive crashed and burned right now, I could be up and running again in the time it takes to reboot my computer. You can't do that with Time Machine. 

Time Machine has the advantage though of easily keeping a series of backups. This has become more important to me in the last few months since I've got upped my freelance designing. Time Machine also has the advantage of, after you've been away from your backup drive, catching up within the hour, whereas with SuperDuper! which is usually only scheduled to backup once a day (though you could set it for every hour but there's not much point since it doesn't keep a backup history unless you swap drives.)

When I can afford an external terabyte hard drive I'll run Time Machine again, simply for the extra peace of mind.

Okay, I am a bit obsessive about keeping backups. I'm a hoarder too. smile In fact, I also use DropBox for smaller files I'm working on, such as WordPress themes, documents, etc., but not Photoshop stuff. DropBox has the added advantage of keeping versions, although in the free version it now only keeps the previous six—you have to pay for more than that.

So simply put, the advantage of Time Machine is that it keeps a history of backups without you having to do anything, whereas SuperDuper! requires swapping media. But the advantage of SuperDuper! is it can clone your system drive allowing very easy recovery. (It also can be used for standard backups)


Backing up

Being somewhat cautious, I added two steps to reduce the risk of problems later. First off, I ran repair permissions on my MBP's hard drive. Second, I took a totally new cloned (with SuperDuper!) backup of the hard drive, rather than use an existing one. These two steps added a couple of hours to the process but were worth the extra peace of mind. I had read of people who had permission problems after restoring from a clone, but I wonder if they repaired permissions first. I have had no such problems in the week on the new hard drive.

If you're braver, you can just run a smart update backup, which will update any files added or changed since the last backup. That should work fine, though the repair permissions are worth the added assurance.

By the way, just to prove the backup, I booted my MBP from that fresh new clone before going to the next stage.


Replacing the drive

Man this was easy! Well, almost. In total the process of removing the back of the MBP, taking out the old hard drive, switch its mounting screws to the new one and putting it all back together took 20 minutes. However, half that time was swapping those darned mounting screws. It's not that it's hard. However, it requires a very small hex key or screw driver, which I didn't have handy. Therefore, I had to use pliers, which was quite slow.



Many people wonder if you void your warranty when you swap the hard drive. The fact that the instructions to do so are in the manual that came with your MacBook Pro is proof enough that swapping your hard drive does not negate your warranty. But that said, if you do something silly while you're in there, like forget to de-static yourself, or slip with the screwdriver, you'd probably screw up any chance of warranty claims.



This is the cool part. You boot up from your cloned drive and then run SuperDuper!, this time telling it to clone from this drive back to your MBP. Again I erred on the extreme side of caution, running repair permissions in my external drive beforehand. A couple of hours later I rebooted my MBP and returned to work as if nothing had happened.


Post Op

It's been nearly a week now and I've had absolutely zero problems. It's wonderful to look and see "315GB free". The downside is I do have to consider how I am going to continue backing this up in the future. For Time Machine I will need a terabyte drive, and for SuperDuper! for the time being my 250GB drive will do, but I'll also need a 50GB one sooner or later.


No More Click!

If anyone's been bothered by the click from your MBP's hard drive, I can tell you mine's disappeared since installing the Seagate. MBPs come with Hitachi drives and any sudden movements cause them to click. So I'd assumed it to be some sort of motion detection switch, but it was still a little disconcerting. 



Swapping the hard drive in a MacBook Pro is dead simple. The backup and restore could be done using Time Machine, but SuperDuper! does the job exceptionally well and comes with a little more peace of mind. Anyone who can competently drive a screwdriver should have no problems.

Over the years, upgrades to OS X have rendered some third party applications and utilities obsolete. SuperDuper! is definitely not one of them, it's still a must have for your Mac.



  • I’ve been using Super Duper for years and it’s one of the best pieces of software available for the Mac. In fact, I think it should be bundled with every new Apple computer, it’s that good and reliable.

    By the way Chris, did you realize that Super Duper will automatically repair permissions with every new backup?

    LorD1776 had this to say on Aug 19, 2009 Posts: 19
  • Good info.

    But, in the Post Op, you probably meant to say “500GB” instead of the “50GB” that you did say?

    DCJ001 had this to say on Aug 19, 2009 Posts: 7
  • I’d pop in the drive, then restore from my Time Machine backup. That experience was so pleasant that I decided to apply the same strategy to a voluntary hard drive replacement. -County Line Nissan

    countylinenissan had this to say on Aug 12, 2011 Posts: 11
  • The unibody-construction MacBook Pro largely follows the styling of the original aluminum iMac and the MacBook Air and is slightly thinner than its predecessor, albeit wider and deeper due to the widescreen display. Apple said that the battery would hold 80 percent of its charge after 300 recharges.

    Yochanan Berkowitz

    Ana had this to say on Aug 16, 2011 Posts: 76
  • Good tutorial.
    Serwis Koszalin

    Alpina had this to say on Aug 29, 2011 Posts: 154
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