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

  • it still works after almost 6 years and is still powerful enough for the bulk of my work (thanks to some upgrades – more on this later). It can for example drive my 38″ Dell UltraSharp monitor at full resolution (3840×1600 @ 60 Hz).
  • the new generation of MacBook Pros – up until the latest upgrade – didn’t really provide much more in terms of performance or memory (RAM, CPU, etc.)
  • the new generation of MacBook Pros have a few design choices I’m not too fond of: the keyboard (that is known to break), the Touch Bar gimmick (removing haptic feedback on Esc and Function keys) and the connectors (everything has to happen through dongles)

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.

Comments 17

  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 ?

    1. Post

      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?

    1. Post

      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. Post

    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 !


  5. Post

    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″.

  7. Nice article, I’ve loved my 2013 retina MacBook Pro. Althoughhhhh I didn’t originally purchase one:

    -July 2012: buy new 2012 rMBP, 2.6GHz, 8GB, 512GB
    -September 2012: in for new speakers for crackling audio and distortion
    -December 2012: in for replacement screen for stuck pixels, replacement mobo for distortion and crackling sound from speakers
    -March 2013: in for replacement screen for MORE STUCK PIXELS! 🙁
    -May 2013: in for tightening of display hinge which seemed to be improperly torqued
    -July 2013: in for ANOTHER replacement screen for more stuck pixels…SURPRISE! given a new 2013 rMBP, 2.7Ghz (+.1),8GB(+8) and 512GB (same). Very pleased, was getting a little annoyed with the reliability. Feeling again like I made a good buy.
    -October 2015: in for a replacement screen, antiglare coating quite worn (by this point I’m using a piece of paper in between so its only the edges of the screen but still quite annoying. Apple tech confirms no fix in new screens)
    -May 2017: in for replacement mobo for graphics kernel panics 🙁 🙁 🙁 I thought I was DONE FOR but they fixed it
    -August 2017: in for replacement battery as health was fluctuating wildly (but cycles were at only ~400/1000). Comes with new trackpad/keyboard/top case? why not!

    All in all, I’ve barely owned one contiguous rMBP for more than a few years… And I don’t feel I’m particularly tough on my machine. I do believe that the acidity of my skin may be particularly rough on the antiglare coatings though, as I work in a machine shop and have noticed steel that I touch can sometimes get rusty quicker than normal.

    I’ve also gotta give major kudos to Apple: besides the arm and a leg I initially paid for for my first-gen model, I’ve only had to pay gas and parking fees at my local mall to get this machine serviced by the professionals. They haven’t charged me a dime, even for work done over 5 years after date of purchase. I’ve had absolutely every component of this machine replaced, some multiple times, for free.

    I think the machine deserved to die when the GPU died. I use this machine for intensive graphics work and that poor GPU had been subjected to continuous elevated temps for 4 years, it owed me nothing. I still pinch myself that apple replaced it, just absolutely awesome.

    So the free fixes are awesome, but the need for them isn’t. My previous MBP (15 in. 2008 penryn) got a replacement mobo because stupid me over-voltage the line-in jack, but that is the ONLY service that machine has needed. And it still runs! (even somewhat useful with an SSD and unofficially 6GB of ram).

    And I can’t say I would count on more free fixes in the future. In fact, for each out-of-warranty failure I experienced, I was pretty sure I’d be done for.

    Takeaway: get AppleCare (like I didn’t) and be polite to apple techs (like I did). Lemonade out of lemons!

    TO NICHOLAS: I did the blackmagic disk speed test on my (now 2 y/o) 1TB OWC Aura SSD and I got 409MB/s write, 506MB/s read! I upgraded because DriveDx (GO, BUY NOW!) was telling me that the SSD health was beginning to suffer from over-temp issues. I snagged the caddy for the apple ssd and have that as a bootable backup. Some more blackmagic data:

    USB 3 – attached Apple SSD (in ~70s for health percentile): 117MB/s write, 364 MB/s read
    USB 3 – attached WD elements 5400 RPM drive: 25MB/s write, 94MB/s read
    ofc I can’t find my data from the Apple SSD when it was mounted to the mobo but it was def slower than the OWC drive. But I upgraded for reliability considerations and not purely speed ones.

    I’m also (like you) tempted by the new 16″ machines. For me its mostly GPU power. We can add eGPUs to our 2013 rMBPs but with only Thunderbolt 1… take a look here: https://egpu.io/forums/mac-setup/pcie-slot-dgpu-vs-thunderbolt-3-egpu-internal-display-test/

    Seems like the move might be a new machine. Someday. Haha. Still, great laptops 🙂

  8. This was the perfect article at the perfect time. I, too, am struggling because I hate Apple’s design direction: eliminating SD port, forcing out older USB, and giving us a gimmicky touchbar. The Macbook Pro from 2013 is a serious machine for people who do work in the real world (I’m not carrying a dongle for when a photographer hands me an SD card or someone asks me to print on an older printer with a USB cable).

    This inspired me to get the new battery and upgrade my SSD drive (since 500GB was too small anyways) while I’m at it. Thanks so much!

  9. I have had a late 2013 MacBook Pro for a while now. It is the only Apple computer that I have not had any major issues with. It still works fine (I am about to replace the SSD though). I am probably never getting another MacBook (new ones have many issues with thermals, reliability, and OS issues). I am keeping my 2013 MacBook as long as I can.

  10. To anyone who cares; I came across this thread while researching the 2019 MBP 13″ – more about that later.
    Backstory is I have a late 2013 MBP 13 (with battery and keyboard replaced 2017). Toward the end of last tax year I researched the MBP 16″ as a replacement for my ageing MBP 13″ purely as preventative maintenance (I am on the road a lot for my own business and I dont want to trust an old laptop). My research comparison came down to two laptops – the 16″ MBP, or; changing back to a Wintel (due to constrictive welded-in Mac HW) via a Dell XPS 15 (7590). My key requirements are – long battery life (for long flights), a good screen (Im old and grey and long sighted), big SSD (I replicate all non-archive storage locally), plenty of RAM (to reduce page swapping and improve performance/battery life and stuff).
    MBP late 2013 is a i5 CPU, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD and retina display; I run Win 10 as a (Parallels) VM so I can use MS Project locally.
    I ended up buying a Dell XPS 15, 1TB SSD, 32GB RAM, 4k OLED, i7 CPU, NVIDIA 630 GPU and Win 10 Pro. The reason I didnt go i9 CPU was the blogs complaining about i9’s overheating and throttling.
    My experience – Dell XPS 7590:
    – i7 gets too hot for comfort even when only running Word and Outlook (I should have bought i5);
    – It is bulkier and heavier than I would like (although only 2oz heavier than MBP 16);
    – It requires minimum 130w charger to charge (180w supplied) so cannot extend life with a powerbank (USB-C DC wattage limit is 110w);
    – It is no faster (at all!) for day to day tasks than my late 2013 MBP.
    But, on the plus side it has the following:
    – A carbon fiber palm rest.
    In summary, the XPS 15 is a good unit if you live in a cool climate, have good strong arms and a capacious wallet. I have just completed my first extended trip away with the XPS and I have decided to go back to my MBP (2013) for road trips.
    My opinion: Now that Apple has finally run out of Steve Job’s visionary ideas I would encourage the development department to influence the bean-counters to take a more strategic view.

  11. Thanks for the article 🙂 You wrote that you had an Apple Store in Vienna perform the battery replacement. Was your MBP considered ‘vintage’ or ‘obsolete’ at that point? Now, in March 2020 I’m wondering what my options are. 209 EUR would be a bargain if it’s an option in places like Milan, London, etc.

    1. Post

      So I did the battery replacement before changing the SSD. No idea if it would have worked the other way around. The battery replacement didn’t cost much (30 EUR or so) as there was a defect with the batteries in that series.

  12. Manuel,
    Thank you for this piece — clear, to the point, with important details spelled out, including possible prices. I’d been told too many times that upgrading wasn’t possible or wasn’t worth it, if it were possible. So it’s good to see that, in fact, it is possible. It’s continually surprising how my academic bureaucracy does not place value on reuse — and frustrating especially when the institution at large prides itself on its ‘green’ philosophy.
    A question — how much RAM do you have on your mac? I have only 8GB, and am not sure it will be worth it to upgrade, given that. However, I also don’t do a lot of (or, ok, any) heavy engineering/gaming/video or audio editing type work. I have been given a new Lenovo X13 Yoga with 16GB RAM, so maybe I will begin using more than one computer as well. I’ve never tried that, but perhaps it’s useful to divide up tasks and memory that way.
    By the way, the Lenovo is TCO certified, which is a new-to-me certification for social/environmental responsibility in manufacturing. I’m sure it’s quite imperfect — but it is a start! If you’ve not heard of it, here is a link: https://tcocertified.com/

    1. Post

      I have 16GB of RAM, which is quite comfortable. With 8GB I think I’d have been in trouble. I don’t know about the TCO certification, in general I agree that there is way too much waste when it comes to computers and electronics…

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