Advice on buying new Pro - current one can be slow, want it fixed

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by sun surfer, Sep 4, 2011.

  1. sun surfer macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2010
    (I bolded all the main points for the tldr crowd)

    My current Macbook Pro is 10.6.8, and not Lion but whatever one was right before it, I think it's Snow Leopard. I have 4GB ram and 2.26 GH dual-core processor. It's 13".

    It's now two years old and I want to go ahead and update and trying to decide which Macbook Pro to get. Not looking for anyone to tell me to keep this one - I know it's good enough but I want to go ahead and update to a new one and sell this one, and I need to do it soon so no waiting for newer models.

    What I do need advice on is what I might add on to make my computer faster. As good as this one sounds, it often slows down.

    I think my memory is 160GB and I have plenty left open - over 50GB, so I don't think it has to do with memory space (if that's even possible for memory space to slow a machine down).

    I don't run any crazy programs. I don't do video editing and I rarely do photoshop or things like that, which I'm finding is what people say you'd need more than 4gb ram for. I usually use Safari (also just installed Chrome to see if it'd make things faster so sometimes use it instead), Pages, Numbers, Preview, VLC/DIVX/Quicktime video players (usually just one at a time of the video players though), iTunes, Transmission (torrent thing), Sony Reader Library (ebook library), Coffee (keeps mac from going to sleep when using certain video players) and Flashfrozen (I'm not sure but I think it's always on...I downloaded it to try and help my slowness's supposed to let me load a page without all the flash videos but I never manually use it).

    Of those, I almost always have Safari and Pages always open. I hardly ever close them because I have multiple pages open on both that I'm always working on so it'd be a pain to close them just to say use Itunes or something and then have to reopen them and get the multiple pages back up.

    I use all the rest I mentioned occasionally, but it's very common for me to be jumping from one thing to the next and back again, so I often have many different things open at once.

    Also, sometimes I play games, right now Sims 3 but also sometimes Civilisation and the old Simcity and old Fable and the like. They seem to work fine *if I let the settings not be too high* which annoys me because I'd like to have the best visual settings for them. But just to be clear, that's only occasionally that I play them and usually they're all closed down so they're usually not even on when slowdowns occur.

    The problem is that things do sometimes start slowing down, and oddly it's not always when I have the most intensive things going. In fact, sometimes I'll only have Safari and Pages open and things still slow down. That dreaded rainbow wheel will pop up on my Safari and take forever. Usually it's Safari that slows down, but I've also had it happen to all of them, such as sometimes I'll press a button on a video player or iTunes, such as pause, and the dreaded rainbow wheel will pop up and sometimes the program will even quit before the rainbow wheel finishes. Or especially with Safari, it'll get stuck and I'll eventually have to force quit Safari to get rid of rainbow wheel.

    I admit I do often have many Safari windows open (probably 3-10 at any given moment) and some may be intensive sites, but that shouldn't really be a problem for a current Macbook Pro right?

    So anyway didn't mean to write a novel but now I need help on what to get to maximise my experience on my new Pro.

    I've pretty much settled on another 13". I actually like the smaller size and weight better (and it's often hooked to my big HDTV so screen size is almost irrelevant). The only reason I'd consider a 15" would be if its processor or something would really make that much of an improvement that I couldn't get with a 13".

    The main two options I'm seeing for a new 13" is processor and ram. For hundreds more I can get a 2.7ghz i7 instead of a 2.3ghz i5 processor. From what I've read around the 2.7 is a definite improvement, but a lot of people say don't bother unless you do a lot of video editing or similar. Obviously, I don't do a lot of video editing but my dang computer is still slow! So, do you guys think a 2.7 would help the kind of slowness that I'm experiencing over a 2.3? I have the money but I'd rather spend as little as possible if the 2.7 won't really help me.

    Second, the ram. It comes with 4 but I can pay Apple for 8. Again, from what I've read, most people say it's not needed for the kind of things I do, but again, something is slowing my computer down so would more ram help?

    And, if more ram would help, should I only pay for 4 and then buy more cheaper from somewhere else and install myself? That way I could buy two 8gb and have 16gb ram if it would really help. BUT, and it's a big BUT, I'm really bad with technical stuff like that and have never replaced ram before so would it be worth the trouble and is it easy enough to do with the macbook pros?

    Another thing with replacing ram - does it invalidate applecare which I will be purchasing? Even if it does, I imagine that if anything went wrong with my computer and I needed to take it in for repair, I could just pop the ram it came with back in there before taking it in. Is that possible?

    So I leave it with you wise Mac people - tell me what I need! (besides a good editor for this post :p )
  2. Young Spade macrumors 68020

    Mar 31, 2011
    Tallahassee, Florida
    You don't need a new computer. For your uses, the C2D machine will handle everything you throw at it.

    You might need more RAM. You can purchase two 4 gb sticks for under 50 bucks. That will help.

    If you want to speed up the machine, get a SSD. Samsung and Intel versions are rated at having the best stability and speed (ratio); at 200 bucks you can get a 128gb version.

    Again, the newer model won't really help you as for what you are doing, you aren't maxing out the one you have now. A SSD would give you the most improvement.

    If you were to get the 2011 model, get the baseline 13 inch and upgrade all of the internals yourself. You do not need the upgraded processor. Apple charges a ton of money for Ram/HD upgrades when there simply is no need and you can easily do it yourself.

    Any more questions? Or clarification?
  3. snaky69 macrumors 603

    Mar 14, 2008
    You don't need a computer, you need more RAM, most likely. It's hard to say without seeing your activity monitor but I'm betting on that.
  4. ScottNWDW macrumors 65816


    Jul 10, 2008
    Orlando, Florida
    Upgrading the RAM would be your best bet. I haven't done it yet to my 2011 13"MacBook Pro yet, haven't found the need yet and it's still pretty fast.

    However, my previous laptop was a Windows machine (2010 Gateway) and I doubled the RAM to 8GB, and what a difference it made. I can only imagine how much faster the Mac will be when I get around to doing it, but as it stands right now the Mac runs a lot faster than the Gateway. I tried it using identical Excel Spreadsheets on each machine and the Mac was just faster. The Gateway had Office 2010 and the Mac had Office:mac 2011.

    Not all that familiar with the SSD drives others talked about, but would agree they would increase the speed as well.
  5. phpmaven macrumors 68040


    Jun 12, 2009
    San Clemente, CA USA
    I'm a bit confused. You start out by saying that you don't want anybody to tell you to keep your current Mac as you've already decided to get a new one and then ask a bunch of questions about how to make your Mac faster.

    So which is it? Advice on a new one or advice on making this one faster?
  6. sun surfer thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2010
    I didn't mean to sound abrupt, it's just that I was expecting a lot of "keep your old mac there's nothing wrong with it" comments. I'm definitely buying a new one as I've already got someone to buy this one for a really good price once I get the new one, so there's no reason for me not to go ahead and get a newer one anyway, but I have to do it soon.

    But I don't think what I wrote was confusing. I want a new mac but I want advice on how to make the new one faster because in specs it's pretty similar to the one I have now, so I'm expecting the new one to also possibly have the same slowness problems. I might order it with upgrades from the get-go if it'll make it faster to nip the problem in the bud hopefully. I think I was pretty clear on that.

    Actually in all this time I had totally forgotten about Activity Monitor to see what's going on, so I just popped in open. Right at this moment I'm using 3.76 of my 4gb ram, and that's with only Safari (only one window), Pages (two windows) and Activity Monitor open. That's crazy! I thought 4gb ram was supposed to be plenty. Is that normal?

    So now I'm thinking that's the real culprit - the ram. If it's at 4 with so few things open, it's definitely overloading when I have more open, and I usually have lots more open.

    What's getting me though is that in Activity Monitor about THIRTY things are listed as being used. Is that normal? Aside from what I already have listed, some others listed include: safari web content, dashboard client, finder, itunes helper (itunes is closed), reader library launcher (reader library is closed), airport base station agent, usereventagent, mdworker, imklaunchagent, and on and on. If it'll help anyone figure out the problem I'll list them all so let me know. Most of them I have no idea what they're for.

    If you're curious, though it's ever changing, the general break-up of the 4gb is, according to Activity Monitor:

    free 245 mb
    wired 688 mb
    active 1.55 mb
    inactive 1.54 mb

    So if any of you guys see anything suspicious in all that that doesn't sound normal or right, let me know.

    OK, so it's sounding like the 2.3 processor is fine and 2.7 won't really help me.

    I didn't know an SSD would help speed. I may be able to handle installing ram but an SSD sounds major....if it'll help speed I'll definitely consider it though. Since you asked if I had any questions...why would a SSD be faster?

    The ram does sound like from you guys' replies I'll definitely be getting more than 4, probably third party and trying to install myself. In fact, since they're so much cheaper now, I may just get two 8s and have a 16gb ram. My question on that is - does this technically invalidate Applecare if something happened to the laptop, installing stuff myself? And if so and something did happen, can I just switch the ram back to the pre-installed ram before I take it in so Applecare would still work? I guess that question applies to the SSD too.
  7. Young Spade macrumors 68020

    Mar 31, 2011
    Tallahassee, Florida
    I have 130 things in my Activity monitor.

    In relation to the ram, the free is what the computer sees. The active is what is being used. Wired is... something, I'm going to assume RAM that's taken up by the system, but I'm not sure (I know it isn't usable); and inactive is what isn't being used but CAN be used if the free gets used up. Because you have practically no inactive and no free, you are out of ram.

    I have 375 free but 670 inactive, so I have theoretically a gig left to use. That's what I think all of those things mean; a quick Google search would provide you with the proper results though.

    Well a SSD has amazing read/write speeds, that's why computers with one can boot in under 30/20 seconds, resume from sleep within 2, and load applications much faster. That's why the MBA seems faster than the MBP; it's slower/weaker processor wise but the SSD makes up for it as long as you don't do processor intensive applications (rendering video, photo editing, etc.)

    I mean, yea you can get 16, but you won't use it. That's way more than you need, and having more than you need, at some point, just stops being useful. Get 8 gigs and stop there. I have a TON of things open, all of the time, and the ONLY time I get to 4 is when I'm running a virtual machine.

    Right now I have chrome with 10 tabs, HD video, excel, word documents, itunes, iCal, bean, things, schoolhouse, and a plethora of other things running in the background (as indicated by my previous post in relation to Activity monitor).

    You'll be good with 8 gigs.

    But with ram and stuff, just put the stock apple ram back into the machine if you have a problem; they won't fix a machine with aftermarket ram in there but they don't care if you take it out and put the stock back in when you need to get something fixed.

    I would say the same about the HD; just throw the stock back in there before you send it in or take it into the store.
  8. snaky69 macrumors 603

    Mar 14, 2008
    SSD's are Solid State Drives. They are made from very fast NAND flash memory, and offer a significant improvement in speed over a traditional spinning platter HD.

    A normal HD would be able to do anywhere between 60-90MB/s in read write speed, whereas a SSD can reach upwards of 250MB/s of read/write speed. You can see that it is a really big improvement in speed, as most computers are not limited by processing power or ram, but hard drive speed.

    Installing a SSD, or any other type of hard drive is stupidly easy in most notebooks. In fact, if you know which way to turn a screwdriver to unscrew/screw things, as how to install OS X, you're good to go.

    Both RAM and HD are deemed user replaceable by Apple and will not void your warranty. Go right ahead, if you're fearsome of frying something, take a look at youtube or, plenty of walkthroughs are available.

    16Gb RAM is around $900 right now, I strongly doubt you need that much to edit documents in pages and use safari, stick with 8.

    Anything else?
  9. sun surfer thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2010
    This is some great advice, thanks for all your help. Honestly, now I wish I'd asked about this speed thing a long time ago!

    I had no idea two 8gbs ram would cost so much! I was thinking they'd be only about twice as much as two 4gbs which apparently have really come down in price. So, two 4gbs it is going to be then!

    And the SSD sounds like a great possibility too. It might be the thing that really makes it faster. However, since Applecare lets me replace these things myself and I won't have to buy them pre-installed, I will probably go ahead and buy the barebones 13", and also separate 8gb ram to install since this Activity Monitor is showing my ram as pretty much fully used and since it's cheaper to try first instead of the SSD. If the speed is fixed I may leave it at that since I really don't do anything crazy on my computer, but if I still have speed issues then I'll definitely buy the SSD too. In fact, I may be tempted to go ahead and get one anyway while I'm buying the rest! :p

    If I do get an SSD, I'll look at Samsung and Intel first as recommended. The only other question I can think of asking are the best places to buy ram and SSDs (I've never bought either one) and any other brands or particular models of either SSD or ram you guys would recommend since it's all new to me.
  10. snaky69 macrumors 603

    Mar 14, 2008
    #10 is a great place to shop for anything electronic.

    Crucial, OWC, Kingston, g. skill, mushkin are all reputable brands. Be sure to buy the correct RAM for your model and properly seat it, and if you don't get bad sticks(they are mass produced, lemons happen) you'll be good to go in under 10 minutes.

    Try for your cabling needs, also.
  11. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    You don't specify which MBP you currently own, but 8GB of RAM from Other World Computing should run around $120, more or less. Forget installing 16GB unless you have money burning a hole in for pocket!

    OWC has excellent RAM that is guaranteed to be compatible with your Mac. It's prices are competitive, if not always the least expensive.

    Another thing to consider: do you leave your Mac running 24/7? If so, that is a likely cause of your slow Mac. I have found that restarting a Mac (or simply turning it off when it isn't being used...) once a day frees-up RAM that gets tied-up by the system. Safari is one app that tends to grab RAM and keep it for itself.

    4GB of RAM is sufficient for many people. But if you leave a lot of apps running in the background then 8GB is going to give you more headroom RAM-wise.

    Another thing that slows down Macs is disk fragmentation. OS X has been touted by Apple as being able to manage disk fragmentation better than previous operating systems, but in my experience fragmentation still occurs. And the longer that use the Mac, the more likely it will be that fragmentation will worsen over time.

    You can use the excellent iDefrag to diagnose and fix fragmentation. Or you can simply use Disk Utility to erase the internal drive (while booted-up from a clone on an external drive) and then use SuperDuper! to copy everything from the clone to the external. This process will defragment the drive without the need for a utility like iDefrag.

    But even after following my suggestions you may still experience a gradual slowing-down of your Mac if you keep a lot of apps running simultaneously. It's the nature of the beast...
  12. ExiledMafia macrumors regular

    Jan 26, 2011
    I believe 16 gb would be wayyyy overkill. with a solid state drive and 8 gb of ram you should have a pretty solid machine!
  13. sun surfer thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2010
    Thanks for the suggestions. I'll be looking at the sites/brands recommended and looking to buy two 4gb rams and also maybe a SSD.

    Yes I do. I almost always leave it on and just put it to sleep (so much faster to start back up). One main reason I do this is that I thought restarting it over and over wasn't good, so I thought it was healthier for it to always stay on rather than restarting.

    However, I have been told it's better to shut it down once a week for the night, so I've been trying to do that. Besides that though it's always on.

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