Ye Olde MacBook Pro - a restoration story

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maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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So, I bought Aaron's early 2009 MacBook Pro the other day thinking it would be a fun project. Based on the description, I figured it would need a new keyboard, and while I was at it, maybe a new SSD, battery, and a RAM upgrade.

Well, the machine came in last night, and since I was excited to get started, I fired it up. It came with an 80GB SATA HDD with a copy of Mac OS X 8 on it. Not really an issue as the plan was to replace it with an SSD anyway, and I figure the original drive was kept for archival purposes. I was actually impressed, as I expected it to be much slower. While it is no speed demon by today's standards, it felt pretty perky for a 10 year old computer. With a proper SSD, this thing should still be entirely usable. However, since the disk wasn't original, it didn't have Apple's hardware diagnostics on it.

Fortunately, a bit of digging turned up a disk image with a copy of them. It seems Apple does make the utility available, just in a completely inscrutable way. Note that the Github has links to Apple's servers - it just translates model numbers to Apple's numbering scheme for you.

https://github.com/upekkha/AppleHardwareTest

As expected, the keyboard had several keys that didn't work, so I plugged in an old Dell USB keyboard to get past that. Once I had a reasonably good keyboard, I was able to test the rest of the hardware. Thankfully, it all seemed to work fine (though the track pad's "button" is a bit sketchy). I figured this would also be a good time to download El Capitan.

Which is when I realized that the copy of Safari wasn't going to cut it. Worse, I couldn't find a modern browser that would work on 10.8. Firefox came close, but stops at 10.9. So, I downloaded the disk image to my Linux machine and shared it over the network. While that was downloading, I flipped the thing over and got started opening it up.

Unfortunately, this was the point at which things went from enthusiastic to "oh crap". I removed the cover from the trackpad and keyboard connectors and noticed something weird about the keyboard connector. I remembered from a teardown video that there is a lever bar that tightens the ribbon contacts, which was missing from this connector. A closer examination showed that the lever was broken away, which mean that even if the top case was defective, I wouldn't be able to reconnect the cable to the logic board. Ruh roh...

I was, at this point, a bit despondent. I had assumed until now that the logic board would be fine and this would be a simple matter of replacing the keyboard. I had even discovered that you can, with great effort, replace JUST the keyboard rather than the entire top case. A bad connector on the logic board, however, was going to be a potential show stopper.

For giggles (mostly), I contacted a place in town called the "Powerbook Medic". This place can do logic board repairs at the component level (they have some really good videos). The estimate came back at nearly $300, though - roughly the same price as a used logic board. This was supposed to be a project, not a way to tick my wife off, so that was a no-go. HOWEVER, while digging around, I found Louis Rossman's YouTube channel and store. Turns out you can buy the connector, new, by itself.

Which is where I am now. I have ordered two of the connectors and asked a technician buddy of mine if he can swap them for me. It's a bit tight, and the plastic is fragile, but I think it can be done.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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I need to replace the battery in my 2010, but not sure it's worth it. It's so far behind the new ones as far as tech goes, and it weighs a ton.
justine posted:
I need to replace the battery in my 2010, but not sure it's worth it. It's so far behind the new ones as far as tech goes, and it weighs a ton.

Being that old you almost certainly will not find one at an Apple Store, but Other World Computing has these replacements for between $80-100.

Do note that some models of MacBooks will require special tools due to Apple's annoying habit of using SOME screwheads which are non-standard. You should watch the appropriate video for your MacBook model in order to buy the appropriate tools if needed.
maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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Parts that Apple didn't deem "user serviceable" were generally screwed down with tri-lobe screws during that period (now replaced by pentalobe screws). However, you can get a set of tools for use on Macs for pretty cheap that include one. The local Mac repair place where I live has a 6-piece set for $8.

Also, while 2010 is starting to get on up there (I believe the 2010 MacBooks were still Core 2 based systems), depending on what you use it for, it might still be fine. I have been using my upgraded 2009 Sony VAIO daily for email, web browsing, etc. and it has a Core2 T9500 and 6GB of DDR2 RAM. Your machine probably has the last generation Core2 processors with DDR3 memory. In your case, I would consider replacing the hard disk with an SSD - it will feel like you got a new Mac without shelling out for one. On machines of this vintage, it really does make that kind of difference.

It's the dirty little secret of computing - we have had machines that are "good enough" for about 90-95% of the population for well over a decade. With a good SSD and a memory upgrade, you can keep going with machines that would have been considered geriatric a decade ago.
Pretty much. As long as it doesn't choke on a YouTube stream it is powerful enough to do its job.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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Oh, it's good enough for what i do i suppose, but it's so much slower and harder to look at after getting a new MBP and a pretty new iMac.
My link to OWC also has some SSD options depending upon if you have a MacBook, a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro. From about $80 to $210 depending upon your MacBook's needs and the size in GBs of the replacement. From what I have seen, they are likewise fairly easy to install though again you will need an odd screwdriver which MAY have a DIFFERENT head than the one you will need for the battery replacement.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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Yeah, i've been dragging my feet about the screwdrivers. I used to know what it took to take apart the old iMac and MBP, but i've since forgotten. Some research is in order.
If it's a white iMac I think magnets are involved.
justine Elitist Beer Lover
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I don't know what a white iMac is so i'm pretty sure it isn't one.
maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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You can get a complete set of Mac screwdrivers for about $8. There is a place in town where I live that sells a kit of them.
DukeofNuke FREE RADICAL
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Betonhaus posted:
If it's a white iMac I think magnets are involved.

Are you talking about a G5? I took mine apart a couple of times; I don't recall any magnets.
macnuke Afar
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DukeofNuke posted:
Betonhaus posted:
If it's a white iMac I think magnets are involved.

Are you talking about a G5? I took mine apart a couple of times; I don't recall any magnets.


the newer IntelInside iMacs use magnets to hold the front glass on..

toilet plunger gets the iMac opened up.
Vulture 420
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maurvir posted:

Congrats on finding Louis, he's the man. If anything ever went wrong with a Mac, he's the guy who would have it fixed the fastest and at the lowest price, and correctly.
ukimalefu dysfunctional
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justine posted:
I don't know what a white iMac is so i'm pretty sure it isn't one.


it's an iMac... that is white... in color... on the outside

remember? before aluminum iMacs were white

these two models were white iMacs

Image

they had translucent colors before that

:D
maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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Ok, so step one of the logic board repair is done. The old keyboard connector was hot-aired off and the pads cleaned with no damage to the PCB. Now I just need to get the replacement connectors in the mail. :up:

I did discover that the special screws that hold the hard disk in place are missing, though. I'm going to have to see if the local mac repair place has some.
maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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Step 2 is done. The logic board was successfully repaired and the entire keyboard and track pad are working now. :up:

Now onto the slightly tougher calls. The spinning disk is definitely a problem, so an SSD seems like the first order. Unfortunately, because most SSDs are thinner (7mm vs 9mm), I will need to get a screw set to secure it to the internal rails. The only set I found was part of a complete replacement kit at $17. :( I can also update the RAM to 8GB for about $30, which is questionable, but cheap.

The OTHER issue appears to be getting Linux to boot on bare metal on this machine. It seems it straddles the 32/64-bit EFI period, with a 32-bit EFI bootloader starting a 64-bit CPU. Most of the Linux installers seem to have fits with this.
maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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Now that the logic board is repaired and the machine is working normally, I ordered a set of replacement screws today, along with a second magsafe charger. Hopefully it will come with the cord and not the wall plug, but it is used. The screws will let me mount the hard drive properly in the bay, but as long as I don't bump it, it seems to do fine just wedged in there. The screws will be necessary for the 7mm SSD, though. A shame I couldn't find just the four screws I needed, but odds are good I will lose one of the others working on this rig.

I also finally got this thing to boot Mint Linux 19.2 from a USB thumb drive. Needless to say, it performs VASTLY better than the VAIO. I suspect a huge part of that is the dedicated graphics adapter - the Sony is stuck using Intel integrated graphics while the Macbook Pro has a 9600M with a dedicated 512M texture buffer. I will need to figure out how to dual boot once I get the new SSD so I can toggle back and forth between adapters, though I may just leave this one enabled.

The DDR3 RAM also seems to be helping. Even though there is only 4GB at the moment, there isn't any memory pressure on this install USB so everything is very fast (well, for an older machine). All in all, it's definitely going to be an upgrade over the Sony. Which is really kind of interesting, given that the Sony has almost the same processor, but a lower FSB (the Sony has a T9500 with 6GB DDR2-800 RAM. The Macbook Pro has a T9550 with 4GB of DDR3-1067 RAM)

Unfortunately, the screws and charger maxed out my hobby budget for this paycheck, so the SSD and RAM upgrade will have to wait. I don't want to blow away the working El Capitan install on the 80GB HDD either, so I will be playing with Mint from the USB only. So far, so good on that, though. I think a bare metal install will fly on this rig. As an aside, it seems Mint can now enable the built-in wifi chip without needing to pull firmware from an OS X install. It downloaded the correct firmware and enabled it. (I did have Ethernet connected as a backup). Hopefully the graphics driver will be as simple.

About the only issue I've noticed so far is the keyboard. It's not as comfy to type on as the Sony, and for some reason the backlight isn't working under Linux. Hopefully someone has figured out how to turn it back on, as that was a nice feature.

Lastly, the display on this Macbook is unbelievable. It is night and day better than the panel in the Sony, and in fact it is on par with my desktop display. Now I know why these things are still in such demand!
macnuke Afar
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Pariah Know Your Enemy
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maurvir posted:
Step 2 is done. The logic board was successfully repaired and the entire keyboard and track pad are working now. :up:

Now onto the slightly tougher calls. The spinning disk is definitely a problem, so an SSD seems like the first order. Unfortunately, because most SSDs are thinner (7mm vs 9mm), I will need to get a screw set to secure it to the internal rails. The only set I found was part of a complete replacement kit at $17. :( I can also update the RAM to 8GB for about $30, which is questionable, but cheap.

The OTHER issue appears to be getting Linux to boot on bare metal on this machine. It seems it straddles the 32/64-bit EFI period, with a 32-bit EFI bootloader starting a 64-bit CPU. Most of the Linux installers seem to have fits with this.

Just use a strip of that foam, double sided adhesive to secure it. That stuff really hold stuff and leaves no residue when removed.
maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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I went ahead and got the screw kit. I figure I will probably lose a screw or two anyway working on this thing, so why not have a few spares? Given how much better a computer it is over my Sony VAIO (my current traveling companion), I don't mind spending a bit to do it right.

As an aside, I know this whole saga is "stupid", and that I could get a really nice, new computer for about what I'm spending fixing up these old-timers. However, it's as much a hobby project as a need for a laptop. Technically, I can do everything I need to do from my tablet (except writing - still need a proper keyboard for that)
maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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OK, I got the replacement screw set in, and figured this would be a good time to take care of some maintenance tasks. Hopefully for the last time in this machine's lifetime. I cleaned the heatsink and repasted the CPU and both GPU's, making sure to clean all the old paste off and polish the heat plates. This logic board has clearly been worked on before, as there was non-OEM paste on the chips. Not a huge deal, but the new paste should last well beyond the point where this rig is ready to be put out to pasture permanently. I did note that the temperature sensor cable was slightly damaged. I believe that is fixed now, but whoever was last in there should have been more careful with that connector.

Anyway, I cleaned out the two fans and reassembled everything - this time using the new screws with fresh Loc-tite, as I don't expect to have the logic board all the way out ever again. I did have a brief scare with the keyboard, but it turns out the cable wasn't all the way in. That scotch tape trick worked, though, and it's now fully functional again. I also learned that the two solder pads by the power button cable will serve as a test power button...

As an experiment, I cloned the SSD from the VAIO to see if it would boot the Macbook. Amazingly, it did! Though it was labeled as a Windows partition. I got another bit of a scare due to some graphics glitches, but those turned out to be Linux related. Once the GUI was running, I was able to log in and the graphics were smooth as silk. Of course, there was no WiFi or Bluetooth (due to lack of drivers), but it was up and running a bare metal install. However, I intend to try again with an EFI install, so I won't be keeping that partition. I just thought it was cool that the Macbook would boot my Sony install without too much issue.

The only remaining task is to upgrade the memory to 8GB and get Linux running bare-metal with EFI to avoid the machine pausing to ask which disk to start from. After that, I suppose it's time to retire the Sony, though I'm not sure who would want it at this point. It is a perfectly serviceable computer, but I have already started running up against its limits.
maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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Getting Linux to boot on this machine was... interesting. I also learned that the Mac logo at startup is part of OS X, not the firmware. This Macbook no longer shows a logo at startup - just a gray screen.

I tried to just use the BIOS booted Linux install, but the NVIDIA drivers weren't happy. (though, in hindsight, I might have been able to fix that...)

The actual install went flawlessly. I used Mint Linux 19.2 (cinnamon) and the USB stick booted with nary a hitch. I blew away the existing install on a 250GB Samsung 860 EVO and put a fresh, EFI booted install down. Reboot was quick, and login was fast. At this point, nearly everything was working more or less. This would change before the night was out. I had used an Ethernet connection to get past the Broadcomm wireless driver problem so the first step was to get the proprietary drivers. Remarkably, I was able to download these from within driver manager just fine. However, on reboot, I had WiFi, but no Bluetooth. The adapter shows up, but the driver won't load. A bit of research shows that this is a common issue that zapping the PRAM will fix.

So, I reboot, clear the PRAM, and sure enough, I now have WiFi and Bluetooth - but it seems the graphics adapter mux setting is ALSO stored in PRAM. Not a biggie at this point, and I figure I will get to it later - after I get through the next step: installing the Nvidia graphics drivers. Which downloaded from within driver manager normally. I reboot the system and am greeted with a black screen for a few seconds, then a message that Cinnamon has crashed and gone into fallback mode. Oops. Turns out this is ALSO a known issue. https://askubuntu.com/questions/264247/ ... verheating

I make the appropriate patches as indicated, replacing the bridge information with the correct values for this machine, and reboot. Success! I am now running the Nvidia binary drivers - on the GT9400M. There is no way to switch the gmux from within Linux, and while it is minimally clocked, the GT9600M is still active. I'm still working out a way to power it down, but for now, I moved on. I wanted the keyboard backlight back on. This was, thankfully, easy: https://bugs.launchpad.net/linuxmint/+bug/1411989 Just create a script that writes the appropriate (though how they found that, I'll never know) value to the SMC and it lights right up. Obviously there is no automatic control, but at least it's on.

Which was when I finally got tired of the super bright display. No problem, I'll just use the brightness controls on the keyboard. Nope, no I won't - they don't work. A bit MORE research, and it seems you need to add some more configuration data to your xorg.conf. Except you can't do it directly because it's auto-generated now. https://askubuntu.com/questions/76081/b ... dia-driver It's working now. :)

Now, I had been using an external keyboard and mouse for most of this exercise because I wanted to type at full speed. At this point, most of the system is up, so I switch to the built-in keyboard. It was getting frustrating, though, because I was outpacing it. The keyboard was literally lagging! I checked the system load to see if something was bogging the machine down, but it was ticking along at 1-2%. I then switched back to the external keyboard, and that was fine. I could type at full speed, no problem. This one, unfortunately, is just an Apple thing. There were a ton of forum threads on keyboard lag, all of which required a PRAM reset to correct. Sure enough, zapping the PRAM fixed it on mine as well. (This appears to be a hardware issue with the Cypress PSoC chip that has nothing to do with the OS at all)

With that out of the way, it was onto reinstall apps. I stayed on Ethernet for this and it went reasonably well, though I noticed the machine was getting a bit warm. I checked the dmesg (since I haven't figured out how to configure lmsensors yet) and noticed the CPU was reporting thermal throttling. This, despite TWO cooling fans. The Sony might sound like a freaking jet engine, but it could get through massive compiles without significant thermal throttling. The Macbook Pro was throttling on a software install?

That's where I left it last night. I shut the machine down and went to bed. I'm going to reinstall a few compilers and see how it handles thermals under real load later.
maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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As an aside, I also discovered that the Expresscard slot doesn't handle hot-swap on the Macbook. It will see cards, but only after a reboot. :( The saving grace is that they are a LOT harder to remove than on the Sony, making accidental removal harder.
maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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Ok, the fan control thing is solved. Apparently macfanctld isn't a standard daemon. Installing it has had a HUGE impact on system performance, as it scales the fan speed up in order to keep the CPU under (or close to) 56 degrees C. Obviously it goes higher under load, but it doesn't begin throttling nearly as bad as it did before. This one daemon may mean the difference between this being a daily driver or not.

I did discover that the "performance" graphics chip can't keep up with a 1080p stream to the display - period. It drops frames like a waiter drops crumbs. The 9600GT, on the other hand, CAN keep up with a 1080p stream just fine. It does, however, keep the system running about 8 degC warmer than the 9400. Also, for some reason Mint Linux isn't enabling the VGA switcheroo driver, which means the only way to switch to the 9600 after a PRAM zap is to pop into Mac OS and switch the graphics.

So far, this is the ONLY thing that requires a trip back to El Cap. Everything else has a Linux counterpart or some known register I can poke with rc.local. I may have to see if I can install Mac OS X to a large thumb drive to keep in my laptop bag for when I need to refresh PRAM settings...
maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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I got everything up and running enough to actually use the Macbook Pro for real work today. It performed very well, and the screen was awesome. I've been using Octave (the open source Matlab) to do filter design and having the extra screen real-estate to see the plots is handy compared to the Sony's smaller screen.

Since tomorrow is Payday (and it won't go through until tomorrow...) I ordered an 8GB PC3-8500 kit from Crucial. It wasn't the cheapest at $42, but I trust Crucial RAM over Kingston or Hynix. Maybe silly, but I've used Crucial memory for years and it hasn't caused problems yet. I also snagged a dual-drive adapter kit to replace the DVD drive with another internal HDD. I'm not entirely sure if I will use it, but I'm thinking I will. When was the last time anyone used optical media?

After these upgrades, however, I think the Macbook Pro will be set for the rest of its life. The only other thing I could (reasonably) replace is the battery, which is at 71% life. I priced "new" ones, but they are only guaranteed to have 80+% life...
dv
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On a semi-related but less old-school note: I got my late-2013 15" rMBP back from iResQ today. Trackpad wasn't working, but it turned out it just needed to be taken apart and cleaned. Which they did for $80 plus shipping.

A long time ago I might have tried to do it myself, but that was before Apple started assembling their laptops with glue instead of screws.

Sadly, our local apple-authorized repair place went out of business a couple years after Apple opened a retail store next-fucking-door. Bastards.
maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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Wow, those battery removal instructions are insane. You have to essentially hollow out the whole machine. :eek:

I sort of knew that, which is one reason I wanted an older machine to tinker with. It's a shame, because I really enjoyed this restoration, and I'd like to do more of them. However, that looks awfully daunting.
juice Inadvertently correct
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Weight and thinness are more important than upgradability, especially by the consumer.
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Ye Olde MacBook Pro - a restoration story