Replacing a MacBook Pro optical drive with a SSD: stripped screws a-plenty

Older model MacBook Pros typically came with a rotational hard disk and an optical  disk. Some models had a 6Gbps SATA controller for the HDD and a 3Gbps controller on the optical drive bay. It’s worth checking in the System Information tool if the controller for the optical bay is not slower than the HDD bay. If it is then you might want to consider swapping out your HDD for the SDD. If both bays are 6Gbps on both sides, then it’s ok to put an SDD in the optical bay and not limit it’s throughput.

My mid-2012 MBP has 6Gbps on both bays:

HDD:

Optical bay:

 

I used an OWC drive doubler bracket to put my SSD into my optical bay. Here’s the patient open and ready to receive it’s new drive. Existing HDD at the top right, optical drive bay bottom right. The bag of tools comes with the OWC bracket:

 The OWC bracket is more pricey at $29 on Amazon, compared to the cheaper alternatives at < $10, but the difference in price seems to be you get everything you need in be box, including tools, replacement screws, and a manual. The manual is incredibly detailed and covers step by step with photos for each MBP model that the bracket fits. Find you model, follow the steps, done.

The replacement probably should take you less than an hour, but I ran into one of the soft black screws that wouldn’t budge and it stripped pretty much instantly. I tried the elastic band trick, I tried supergluing a screwdriver to the screw.., no good.

Drilling out a stripped screw is probably the last resort, unless you can reach it with a dremel and cut a slot into the top. This one was recessed, so did some reading around and a ‘Grabit’ seemed to be the way to go.

The screw in question for me was the larger one in step #8 in iFixit’s instructions here. The instructions even say:

Take care, as these screws are unusually easy to strip

Yep. I think that should actually say:

These screws are guaranteed to strip. Make sure you have tools at hand to remove them when stripped.

The Grabit Micro #1 and #2 did the job for me. The #1 seemed the one to use. Using the drill end, it took a while to drill a whole into the top of my stripped screw. Flipping the drill bit around to the extraction end, it didn’t catch like it was supposed to. At that point I thought my only option was to drill the screw out, so I swapped the next up size and started slowly drilling, but the drill bit end actually caught inside the hole. Since the drill and extractor ends both turn anticlockwise, it immediately started to remove the screw. Phew!

So hows the SSD? It’s awesome. Whereas before El Capitan seemed to take more than a minute (I hadn’t timed it, but roughly) to cold boot on my i7 2012 MacBook Pro, from a clean install on this SanDisk SSD, it boots to logon in around 6 to 7 seconds. Pretty damn incredible. It boots from cold it the same time it would take to come out of sleep from my HDD. And using OS X is incredibly damn fast and fluid. My 2012 MBP has a couple more years of life to go 🙂

4 Replies to “Replacing a MacBook Pro optical drive with a SSD: stripped screws a-plenty”

    1. not sure, I didn’t attempt to replace them. A quick Google and I found lots of online vendors selling case screws for the bottom of the case, so I imagine some more searching would turn up a set of internal screws too.

  1. I have a mid 2012 15″ Macbook Pro 2.6ghz and now 12gb RAM; I’m thinking about an SSD upgrade. I want to add an SSD to the optical bay and in the future upgrade the main hard drive (750gb 5400rpm) to an SSD too. However on my hardware report for the optical bay, it says link speed 6 Gigabit and negotiated link speed 1.5 Gigabit. Does that mean if I add an SSD to the optical bay it will be slower? Or is the negotiated link speed not important?

    1. I think the negotiated link speed depends on what the attached drive supports. I think my optical drive was 1.5Gbps too, but notice in my screenshot with the SSD attached in the same bay it negotiated at 6Gbps.

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