Complex question on upgrading 13" mid 2010 MacBook Pro

photochthon

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Feb 13, 2020
5
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Greetings - first post, relatively new to forums in general, thanks for being patient with me!

I am attempting to upgrade a 13" mid 2010 MBP running El Capitan. I have a series of questions pertaining to the general sequence of actions I need to take as well as what those specific actions are and how they are best performed.

I need to cross a few different chasms here: from El Capitan to High Sierra; from HDD to SSD; from HFS+ to APFS. I have two identical HDD bootable clones made with CCC. I have been slogging through what feels like 20% of the internet today trying to wrap my head around all the steps in this process.

I have a Crucial MX500 SSD and a new HD cable to install in the MBP. I have been warned (by a couple of very helpful, pro greybeards on iFixit) against cloning from a CCC bootable clone to move my data and instead to install the SSD, clean install High Sierra (for the sake of the APFS) and then run Migration Assistant from the current (by then removed) HDD via USB. I am prepared to remake the backups in a better way if using CCC is to be avoided. This is my working plan, with questions inserted:

Make bootable installers for El Capitan and High Sierra
(Do I have to do this? Will I be able to clean install OS from Recovery in a backup?)

Make current (preferably bootable) backups for the HDD currently in the machine.
(Can I do this without CCC? Using Disk Utility?)

Upgrade HDD to High Sierra.

Upgrade the backups to reflect the OS upgrade.
(What about the HDD externals' file system? APFS? HFS+? Can I create an exact copy using "Restore a Disk" in Disk Utility? Again, will it be bootable?)

Install SSD and replace HD cable.

Clean Install High Sierra on SSD
(Use Recovery Mode on one of the backups? Boot from USB installer?)

Use Migration Assistant to move data from HDD to SSD.
(Or "Restore a Disk" in Disk Utility from a backup?)

Upgrade RAM from 4GB to 16GB.

Sit back, amazed that this seemingly interminable task has been completed!

Also, the HDD in my computer is old and probably failing (original to my refurbished purchase in 2011), does it really make sense to move data from this disk versus one of my brand new WD 2TB HDD drives I'm using for backup?

Okay, I think that's it. I'm in a muddle - I keep making progress and hitting snags. The actual physical install seems like a piece of cake next to preparing for it. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

EDIT: I am performing this upgrade at home where my only internet connection is through tethering to my phone, so Internet Recovery is out of the picture unless I camp out somewhere with wifi.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
18,221
6,086
Get an EXTERNAL 2.5" USB3 enclosure if you don't have one.
They're cheap, under $10.

Get the SSD (the one that will end up in the MBP) into the enclosure.

Now, erase (format) it to Mac OS extended with journaling enabled, GUID partition format.

Now, install High Sierra onto it (drive will be automatically converted to APFS).

When done, run the setup assistant.
IMPORTANT
You can use setup assistant to migrate your data from the internal drive to the new SSD.
I recommend that you do this.

When setup assistant is done, DO ONE OR MORE TEST BOOTS while the SSD is still in the enclosure.
Reboot, and IMMEDIATELY hold down the option key and KEEP HOLDING IT DOWN until the startup manager appears. Select the external SSD and hit return.
Do you get a good boot?

OK, now it's time to "do the disk swap".

Take out the old HDD and hard drive cable if you're going to replace that.
Put the new SSD and cable it, close it up.

Now, THE MOMENT OF TRUTH:
Again, use the "option key trick" to start.
DO YOU GET A GOOD BOOT?
If so, fine, now and important step:
Log in, go to the startup disk pref pane, and select the new SSD to be the NEW boot drive.

Now, reboot once more.
You should go right to the login screen.
If so, that's it.

A final thought:
THE REASON for doing the install with the external enclosure is that you can "prep and test" the new SSD WITHOUT disturbing your current OS setup. If things don't go as planned, you'll still have a working computer.
Got that...?
 
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iluvmacs99

macrumors 6502
Apr 9, 2019
404
194
Greetings - first post, relatively new to forums in general, thanks for being patient with me!

I am attempting to upgrade a 13" mid 2010 MBP running El Capitan. I have a series of questions pertaining to the general sequence of actions I need to take as well as what those specific actions are and how they are best performed.

I need to cross a few different chasms here: from El Capitan to High Sierra; from HDD to SSD; from HFS+ to APFS. I have two identical HDD bootable clones made with CCC. I have been slogging through what feels like 20% of the internet today trying to wrap my head around all the steps in this process.

I have a Crucial MX500 SSD and a new HD cable to install in the MBP. I have been warned (by a couple of very helpful, pro greybeards on iFixit) against cloning from a CCC bootable clone to move my data and instead to install the SSD, clean install High Sierra (for the sake of the APFS) and then run Migration Assistant from the current (by then removed) HDD via USB. I am prepared to remake the backups in a better way if using CCC is to be avoided. This is my working plan, with questions inserted:

Make bootable installers for El Capitan and High Sierra
(Do I have to do this? Will I be able to clean install OS from Recovery in a backup?)

Make current (preferably bootable) backups for the HDD currently in the machine.
(Can I do this without CCC? Using Disk Utility?)

Upgrade HDD to High Sierra.

Upgrade the backups to reflect the OS upgrade.
(What about the HDD externals' file system? APFS? HFS+? Can I create an exact copy using "Restore a Disk" in Disk Utility? Again, will it be bootable?)

Install SSD and replace HD cable.

Clean Install High Sierra on SSD
(Use Recovery Mode on one of the backups? Boot from USB installer?)

Use Migration Assistant to move data from HDD to SSD.
(Or "Restore a Disk" in Disk Utility from a backup?)

Upgrade RAM from 4GB to 16GB.

Sit back, amazed that this seemingly interminable task has been completed!

Also, the HDD in my computer is old and probably failing (original to my refurbished purchase in 2011), does it really make sense to move data from this disk versus one of my brand new WD 2TB HDD drives I'm using for backup?

Okay, I think that's it. I'm in a muddle - I keep making progress and hitting snags. The actual physical install seems like a piece of cake next to preparing for it. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

EDIT: I am performing this upgrade at home where my only internet connection is through tethering to my phone, so Internet Recovery is out of the picture unless I camp out somewhere with wifi.
Someone here had already posted a good guide to upgrade your Macbook Pro 2010 to High Sierra, so I won't repeat.

I will explain the main reason why some guys on iFixit said it's a bad idea to clone the boot drive with HS back into the SSD for your Macbook Pro 2010. And the reason is that, cloning the drive back to SSD WILL NOT UPDATE your Macbook Pro 2010 firmware. The firmware that is needed to support APFS. If you just simply clone an installed High Sierra drive from an external SSD or install it on an external SSD, the installer WILL NOT INSTALL the SMC firmware and the BOOT firmware needed to support APFS. So while it may seem that you may have success installing High Sierra on an external SSD or SSD on the external drive enclosure, eventually you will be greeted by a grey screen with a slash sign; meaning that your computer can not support this OS. A sign that the computer wasn't firmware updated.

Apple changed this update method in 2018 or mid-2019 (can't remember offhand) from a sequence of number and alphabets with their SMC and Boot firmware to just a series of numbers with their boot firmware. The implication to this change is that, in order to successfully and properly update your macbook pro 2010 firmware to the latest to support APFS, you need to install High Sierra over an existing OS like El-Capitan ON AN ORIGINAL Apple stock drive. It won't install the new firmware on a NON-Apple SSD drive.

Once you have the new firmware, you can clone the content of the High Sierra install from your original stock Apple drive or drive inside your Macbook Pro to the new SSD. Then move the SSD into the Macbook Pro and it will boot properly.

I work in a computer recycling and refurbishing store and I had seen many instances of people facing the grey screen with a slash sign and usually it's because they installed HS on an external SSD or HD or clone the drive where cloning and installing on an external SSD will not update your Apple firmware. That's how Apple set it up. You also need to make double sure your SMC and Boot firmware are properly updated by checking the firmware version against what Apple published. Only then you would proceed to do the rest.

I hope this helps.
 
Last edited:

photochthon

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Feb 13, 2020
5
0
Fishrrman - Thank you - this is great and straightforward! I already have the SSD installed in an SATA to USB enclosure, so it's ready to go.
- - Post merged: - -

iluvmacs99 - Thank you for your explanation - this is precisely the information I wanted to know. I will update the original Apple stock HDD and double check the firmware information before I go any further.

I had mentioned to the guys on iFixit that I was planning to clone from a CCC bootable clone to the SSD when they warned me against cloning. If I first upgrade the original HDD to HS and make sure the firmware is correct, cloning from the original HDD to the SSD will present no problem? They got me all worried about using CCC to make bootable clones, but maybe it was just the firmware issue they were referring to (they didn't explain, just said they'd seen issues). I currently have two identical CCC bootable clones of the HDD that came with (and is still in) the computer; if anything goes awry with the upgrade to HS will I still be alright? Thanks again!
 
Last edited:

iluvmacs99

macrumors 6502
Apr 9, 2019
404
194
Fishrrman - Thank you - this is great and straightforward! I already have the SSD installed in an SATA to USB enclosure, so it's ready to go.
- - Post merged: - -

iluvmacs99 - Thank you for your explanation - this is precisely the information I wanted to know. I will update the original Apple stock HDD and double check the firmware information before I go any further.

I had mentioned to the guys on iFixit that I was planning to clone from a CCC bootable clone to the SSD when they warned me against cloning. If I first upgrade the original HDD to HS and make sure the firmware is correct, cloning from the original HDD to the SSD will present no problem? They got me all worried about using CCC to make bootable clones, but maybe it was just the firmware issue they were referring to (they didn't explain, just said they'd seen issues). I currently have two identical CCC bootable clones of the HDD that came with (and is still in) the computer; if anything goes awry with the upgrade to HS will I still be alright? Thanks again!
When your firmware is updated, then yes it will be no problem. I had this problem with my Macbook Air and nobody at Apple could figure it out until I realized the firmware on my Air was too old. When it updated, then everything is fine. I did a few for our clients and they all went smoothly!
 

photochthon

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Feb 13, 2020
5
0
When your firmware is updated, then yes it will be no problem. I had this problem with my Macbook Air and nobody at Apple could figure it out until I realized the firmware on my Air was too old. When it updated, then everything is fine. I did a few for our clients and they all went smoothly!
Great, thank you!
And if I understand correctly what Bombich is saying, it looks like once I have switched over to the SSD as my new startup disk running High Sierra in APFS I will also still be able to clone it to my HFS+ formatted HDDs with CCC 5: "CCC 5 can make a bootable backup from an APFS-formatted volume to an HFS+ formatted volume or to an APFS-formatted volume."
 

iluvmacs99

macrumors 6502
Apr 9, 2019
404
194
Great, thank you!
And if I understand correctly what Bombich is saying, it looks like once I have switched over to the SSD as my new startup disk running High Sierra in APFS I will also still be able to clone it to my HFS+ formatted HDDs with CCC 5: "CCC 5 can make a bootable backup from an APFS-formatted volume to an HFS+ formatted volume or to an APFS-formatted volume."
Yes. CCC5 claims are correct but with certain caveats. Some USB enclosures that used to be bootable with older firmware will be rendered un-bootable with the new firmware. There are certain OWC models that were bootable before High Sierra and APFS and then no longer boots after the firmware update. Another Apple way of shutting out USB bootable and forcing people to buy Thunderbolt drives.
 

photochthon

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Feb 13, 2020
5
0
Ugh. The planned obsolence of non-Thunderbolt drives also pushes people with computers as old as mine to buy new ones. As much as I have loved Apple products (my first Apple arrived I think in 1987) I've already begin learning about Linux and repairability ranking of non-Apple laptops. I just bought two Western Digital USB enclosures (WD Elements 2TB) for use as bootable clones - what is the best way to determine (preferably in advance) whether or not they will work with High Sierra and APFS?
 

iluvmacs99

macrumors 6502
Apr 9, 2019
404
194
Ugh. The planned obsolence of non-Thunderbolt drives also pushes people with computers as old as mine to buy new ones. As much as I have loved Apple products (my first Apple arrived I think in 1987) I've already begin learning about Linux and repairability ranking of non-Apple laptops. I just bought two Western Digital USB enclosures (WD Elements 2TB) for use as bootable clones - what is the best way to determine (preferably in advance) whether or not they will work with High Sierra and APFS?
You need to find a machine that has the updated SMC and boot firmware with High Sierra or Mojave (a Mac that supports High Sierra and lower) and then press the "Option" key when booting up. If the boot manager sees your WD Elements 2TB as a boot partition, then it will show on the boot manager as being bootable. If not, then it's not. I have the NexStar TX USB 3 enclosure which Bombich certified as being High Sierra and APFS compatible, which it is. But I think there are a few others that work just as well.
 

photochthon

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Feb 13, 2020
5
0
You need to find a machine that has the updated SMC and boot firmware with High Sierra or Mojave (a Mac that supports High Sierra and lower) and then press the "Option" key when booting up. If the boot manager sees your WD Elements 2TB as a boot partition, then it will show on the boot manager as being bootable. If not, then it's not. I have the NexStar TX USB 3 enclosure which Bombich certified as being High Sierra and APFS compatible, which it is. But I think there are a few others that work just as well.
Thank you very much, I will give this a try!