Why I’m still using a MacBook Pro Late 2013 in 2019

Published on 7 June 2019 , last updated on 7 June 2019

I’ve started using Apple computers in 2008. Of all the Apple computers – and other computers – I’ve owned, the MacBook Pro Late 2013 is the one I’ve been able to keep the longest so far. The main reason that’s possible is because there are still a few ways to upgrade this Apple computer.

Still going strong

There’s a few reasons why I’m still clinging on to this model and don’t feel any need to upgrade to a later model:

Upgrading the MacBook Pro Late 2013

I’ve done a few upgrades to my MacBook Pro since I bought it and which have helped me to still stay satisfied with it.

Using the SD card slot for more storage

SD Card storage extension

The first upgrade I’ve done was to extend the storage by getting a permanent SD card and use it as additional drive like this one. You can nowadays get 256 GB at 58 EUR. Make sure to get one that is designed for your model if you plan on doing the same. Sure, you loose the access to the SD drive, but it is possible to get the drive out when necessary. I only put data on it that I don’t need all the time to be able to do this without having any side-effects.

Battery replacement

The second upgrade I’ve done last year was to get a battery replacement as the battery life kept on declining after a few years of use. I got the replacement at the Apple Store in Vienna and it cost 209 EUR. Interestingly, since the battery is glued in some ways to the top case, that also meant getting a new keyboard (you cannot just replace the battery). Even if the old keyboard was still working properly, getting a brand new keyboard in the process was nice.

SSD replacement

The latest upgrade I’ve done is to replace the original SSD drive. There are a few options out there, I went with the OWC Aura 1 TB drive which goes for 271,90 EUR (excluding VAT). In this case the motivation was not so much to get more storage (although that’s a nice side-effect and you can get up to 2 TB of storage) but to get a faster speed. The replacement drive is 3,5 times faster in terms of read/write speed and this does make a significant difference in the day-to-day use.

You can get the drive with or without upgrade kit. The upgrade kit contains the two screwdrivers you’ll need to open the MacBook Pro and to unscrew the drive as well as an external case that can be used to hold the old drive. I ordered the drive at the european reseller of OWC and went for the option without the upgrade – I’m still pondering what to do with the old drive.

The ultimate screwdriver kit

By the way, if you’re into taking things apart I recommend you get a kit that has adapters for all the Torx, Philipps and other types of screws out there. I got a set from TackLife a few years back which has not let me down so far (it seems to be currently unavailable on Amazon but there should be other sets like this).

MacBook Pro with newly replaced drive

Replacing the drive is quite simple and only involves unscrewing two types of screw – the ones of the back cover and the one screw holding the SSD drive.

You’ll need to create a boot USB drive with OS X Mojave on it (or one of the predecessors – but it needs to be recent to be able to support the new drive). I went for installing everything from scratch instead of restoring things from backup, to get a real clean installation.

Some final thoughts

I’m really quite happy that there’s a way to keep extending the lifetime of this generation of MacBook Pros, as I’ve seriously considered switching away from Apple as my portable computer due to the design of the new generation of MacBook Pros, if I ever have the need for more performance. Yet, Mac OS X is still the most ergonomic operating system I know of and when it comes to “getting things done” so this isn’t an easy decision to take.

Besides of the Mac I have two desktop Linux computers: a 8-core Intel Core i7-7700K 4200 with 32GB of RAM and a AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X with 64GB of RAM. This allows me to do performance engineering work and all kind of cluster-related experiments – the 16 (or 32 with hyperthreading) cores of the Threadripper are really nice.

MacBook Pro and 2 workstations – can you spot the 5 other computers on this image?

A final thought – when it comes to getting new hardware, I think that we should be looking more and more into recycling existing hardware rather than getting new one. Clearly, this is not what tech companies want you to do (especially not Apple, I’d say), but there are ways to get really good performance out of existing hardware – and at a cheap price.


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8 Comments

  1. You speak from my heart. Got the 2013 Macbook Pro as well and can’t persuade myself to switch to the new generation. Will bookmark this article in case I need to upgrade. The only difference with the 13inch version I own is that is doen’t support external 4K monitors properly (max 30hz…) . Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Hi thanks for your post. I have a mac book pro 2013 ( ME294 ) with a 512 gig ssd on it. Is there any changes between my original ssd and the new ssd on the shop. I mean Is it a good Idea to change my ssd which is made in 2013 with the newest ssd ? Where can I find the speed difference between new mac ssd generations ?

    • Hi Mahdi,

      I got an Aura Pro X2 SSD (sold e.g. here and am very happy with it.

      This is about 3 times as fast as the original SSD if I recall correctly, I’m very happy with it (you really feel the difference)

      Sequential Read (Max) up to 3194MB/s
      Sequential Write (Max) up to 2488MB/s

  3. This was a nice read that helped me justify my own thoughts that my MBP 15″ Retina 2013 continues to be a completely adequate machine for me. CPU, memory, and storage -wise, it seems to be keeping up nicely with my needs. My only concern is that I purchased an ASUS MX38VC 38″ monitor similar to your 38″ Dell, with a max res of 3840×1600. I’m trying to drive it with the the MBP’s HDMI port, and I’m not convinced that I’m getting full resolution output. How are you driving your 38″ Dell, and did you have to go through any particular tactics to get full res output?

    • I’m driving the screen directly via Thunderbolt. This does only work when it is directly connected to the screen, not via a dock – haven’t tried HDMI yet. So I use one port for the display and the other one for a Thunderbolt hub where I have network, USB drives, etc. permanently plugged in. Not sure if it will work for the ASUS – I wish Apple had better support for third-party screens, it’s really a pitty. Also I heard that on the latest OS X version there’s a bug with support for the Dell, so I’m not upgrading to that anytime soon (generally it seems the latest OS X version is bug-ridden).

  4. Hi Manuel,

    Thank you for your post. That’s exactly the information I was looking for since I’m more or less in the same situation.
    I have a Macbook pro 15 from april 2013 – 2’7Ghz i7 / 16G / NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M 1 Go
    Intel HD Graphics 4000 1536 Mo- which worked perfectly fine for 5 years (battery changed once and video card changed by apple) – for a daily use with Adobe suite, Toonboom video and a 24 Cintiq. Nevertheless during the last monthes and maybe the update to Mojave I noticed it began to slow down seriously and some issues appeared, that are maybe linked to the update or simply the age of the computer. Now it takes seriously more time to start. Applications take more time to open. Some previews are invisible. Safari takes more time to automatically complete adresses. Saving files on photoshop takes longer. It’s still correct, but the difference is ennoying for a professional and intense use, specially after being use with the former speedt
    So I was looking for the new 16′ but I read many issues like the ones you mentionned and since my computer still works correctly I was looking for an alternative but thought optimizing a Macbookpro was not really possible – until I read you post.
    But I’m not sure it applies to my situation. Do you think the slowness I noticed can be fixed with the new SSD ?
    Could also a complete reinstallation give a boost or correct small bugs which may have appeared with time ? Is it worth to add an extra memory (I use about half of my 512 G) ?

    Thank you for your advices !

    N.

  5. Hi! I definitely noticed a significant increase in speed after updating the SSD. I think it is in part due to the SSD being a lot faster in its specifications (about 3 times faster for writes, more for reads if I recall correctly), but also due to the old SSD being used – and SSDs degrade after a while as far as I know.

    The reinstall also helps, I did both at once. What I’d do in your case if you don’t want to spend all that money on the 16″ is to get a new SSD, no memory yet, and see how far it gets you. I’d definitely recommend a fresh install, as that will also get rid of a lot of stuff that accumulated over time. It takes some time, but is worth it.

  6. Thank you for your answer and the advice Manuel. I really appreciate.
    That’s what I’ll do.
    First complete reinstallation of the OS (Mojave). Then if it’s still too slow I’ll change the SSD for a new 1T.
    I tested the speed of the native SSD which is now in the mac. Both reading and writing are aroud 350M/s.
    If it does’t help enough I may go for the 16″ and put the new SSD in an external enclosure to use with a new 16″ via a USB cable (that’s another advice I got). But I hope I could keep my current brave 15″.
    N.

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