0 Comments

It’s been quite a while since I upgraded my machine for daily development. Till four months ago I was still using my 2011’ MacBook Pro with some additional upgrades done down the line (described them here and here). Nevertheless it was more often seen it became older and older and somehow the speed and work comfort was insufficient anymore.  

Once decision was made, for the first time in my life I wanted to buy my next laptop wisely. So I wrote requirements!:

  1. it should be small – 13’’ would be preferable, but 15’’ should go fine too
  2. it should have some brand new processor and 32GB RAM or more
  3. display should support al least FullHD on IPS matrix; 4k resolution is probably unnecessary for 13’’
  4. it should allow to plug-in 2 external monitors simultaneously
  5. must have 1Gbit Ethernet socket (as there is no WiFi inside an office due to security reasons)
  6. should support 2 SSD drives, at least one must be PCIex NVMe
  7. good secondary graphic card will be a huge advantage (as the MacBook had only the build-in Intel HD Graphics 3000 – slow as a 3-wheel kid bike)
  8. doesn’t need DVD drive
  9. should support Windows 10 Pro x64
  10. BT 4.0, TPM module, SD-card reader will be an advantage
  11. not too heavy


And then started looking around for anything matching my wishes. Unfortunately, and I cried about it a lot, Apple was out almost immediately. Since I wanted to max the spec on the day one and never care about an upgrade in the future, MacBooks turned out to be extremely expensive. 2 sometimes even 3 times more than the competition with similar components. That is insane. I like them, but I am not such a fan boy.

Also Lenovo jumped out from the competition, but mostly by my personal preferences. Few years back I had two business editions of T51 and I was using them happy until both died almost at the same time, few months after warranty period. I don’t want to say anything bad about Lenovo’s quality as they were really good hardware. It just kept worrying me at the back of my head.


My final choice became: MSI GE62VR Apache Pro i7-7700HQ/32GB/1TB GTX1060 with Samsung 512GB 960 Pro M.2 2280 NVMe as the main drive. After those four months of usage I am really satisfied with this laptop.


Pros:

  • it’s fast (~9 seconds for cold boot to be logged in in Windows, including PIN typing)
  • the quality of colors of the build-in display in really impressive
  • supports 3 displays simultaneously (2 externals and the build-in), that gives lots of space for developer
  • Steelseries keyboard, which is stunning with key reprogramming (changed Pause/Break into Delete) and customizable colors
  • touchpad can be disabled with a shortcut (Fn+F3)
  • it has GTX 1060 and let play newest games with really good quality and framerate
  • is VR-ready


Cons:

  • it almost can’t work without power supply (1.5h if doing only presentation with only HDMI projector attached; when Visual Studio or similar IDE is running it goes down to less than 1h)
  • the given HDD is extremely noisy, I mean it!
  • playing newest games on ultra might make the center of keyboard really hot (65C or more)
  • chassis bottom is plastic not aluminum


I hope you find it useful.

0 Comments

Even though my 13-inch MacBook Pro (early-2011) seems to be pretty old I still like to work on it. Unfortunately running Windows 10 and two instances of Visual Studio 2015 kills it slowly. Mostly because of lack of memory and continuous usage of the swap file. And totally by accident I found out that Apple cheated users in this spec of an equipment saying it can support only up to 8GB of RAM. Another unofficial spec in the contrary claimed it can easily support up to 16GB. Wow, that would be something!

I gave it a chance and bought the stuff, what nowadays was not so expensive at all:

Corsair MacMemory - 16GB - DDR3 1666MHz

 

Then followed the RAM-replacement guide on ifixit.com. Started the machine and checked system preferences on my both OSes. And looks like it is really worth the trouble!

 

MacBook-Early2011-16GB  Win10-16GB

 

Hope this helps you too!

 

EDIT 2016-07-10:

That was a correct move, the performance of the machine is visibly better.

3 Comments

Yes, that’s correct. It’s possible to install and have perfectly running copy of Windows 10 on this extremely old early-2011 MacBook Pro, even though Apple latest BootCamp 6 doesn’t officially support this hardware.

early-2011

 

disks

Was it easy? YES! and NO! (explained in Long Story below)

Was it worth? YES!

 

 

TL;DR

The transition was fairly simple. However some initial configuration is required, i.e. I already had latest Windows 8.1 installed on a secondary harddrive of this MacBook Pro. Then, when the time had come, I simply hit the ‘Upgrade To Windows 10’ button. Windows did the dirty work, rebooted few times and after completion of the whole procedure I had Windows 10 starting up. Of course without the ability to use correctly the keyboard (F-keys) and without the way of turning off the machine (it only rebooted instead), with only possibility to sleep it. Beside that all other stuff was working more-less OK. Few days later I found that repairing BootCamp 5.1 (as suggested here), without even using ‘compatibility mode’ would help and I can confirm – it fixed all broken features.

Good job Microsoft and thanks for such a good experience! I have never been happier, when moving from one Windows to another.

 

Long story.

Really long story, full of midnight joys started the next day I bough this MacBook in the middle of 2011. I had this brilliant idea of making upgrades myself. First I replaced original RAM, put 8GB (max for this model) and seen a little performance boost. Next I replaced the harddrive with a brand new WD Caviar Black with 750GB / 7200rpm and got extra space. Then I installed Windows 7 (using BootCamp). That was an astonishing moment. No one could actually understand, why dare I to buy MacBook and primarly use Windows on it to execute BlackBerry development ;). But that was their problem, not mine. I could perform any type of required mobile-dev at that time using this single machine, while travelling etc.

In 2013, when my desktop PCs were already using SSD drives, I tried to apply similar approach to this MacBook (as RAM was sufficient and i5 processor is powerfull enough for development), where initialization of Windows 7 with lots of bad stuff onboard could consume few very long minutes. Beside, there was a next version of Windows on the horizon. And this started all my problems.

I purchased Plextor 256GB SSD, also equipped myself with a dedicated bay for disk and external case for DVD and followed iFixIt guide to replace the optical drive. Brilliant! at least until I found out I can’t simply insert Windows 8 DVD and install it, as this MacBook has a limitation of not installing Windows from an external drive!! First time I spot such a shortsight from Apple engineers. Second demotivation was OSX kernel, which had TRIM permanently turned off for all SSD drives, which were not bought from official Apple stores/resellers. That’s the worst kind of marketing I’ve ever seen. The third problem was an effort I already put in to alter the hardware itself (check the guide!). I wasted so much time with a screwdriver and closed the DVD in dedicated case, what I didn’t want to undo all and then redo few days later, to just execute another try. Beside that Windows 8 Pro was needed to let me continue Windows Phone tasks.

 

plextor

 

There are those moments in life, when you realize, there is no turning back and you must find THE solution and don’t even think about giving up. That became my motto and workaround for the third problem. Fixing second issue was also quite expected. Turning on TRIM can’t be simply done though system settings and requires a binary manipulation with some system files. There are plenty of apps that can do it, but even though I decided not to put OSX on SSD at all. Mostly since Apple doesn’t want me to do it. Additionally I presumed that 256GB disk might become kind a small, if I had to split it by half for MacOS and Windows. Windows plus Visual Studio and some SDKs could occupy more than 100GB itself, so let’s give all space to Windows.

The unability to install Windows became my nightmare then. I spent more than a week-long sleepless nights googling for a solution without anything successful. Until… I found that very smart cheat, which made it’s task! Thanks to severin, the true savior! My slightly updated solution was following:

  1. Use BootCamp and configure this new SSD, mounted as the secondary disk in place of internal DVD drive as designated for Windows 8 installation.
  2. Close BootCamp, unmount created drives and allow any type of modifications over partitions on this disk by:
    sudo chmod 777 /dev/disk0s2
    sudo chmod 777 /dev/disk0s1
    sudo chmod 777 /dev/disk0
  3. Then use VirtualBox (still on OSX) to create new virtual machine and initialize installation of Windows 8 from an external DVD or ISO image, but instead of using a local file for emulated PC’s storage, redirect it into a raw drive (created at previous steps).
    sudo VBoxManage internalcommands createrawvmdk -rawdisk /dev/disk0 -filename win7raw.vmdk -partitions 2
    
  4. Stop the installation process just at first reboot of virtual machine by turning off of that machine. At that time some files were already copied from Windows 8 installation disk, but the most importantly the created partition was marked as bootable and Microsoft boot-loader was installed.
  5. Remove all files from Windows 8 partition, using any software capable of accessing NTFS file-system (like Tuxera or Paragon NTFS, both have trials) and then copy everything from the Windows 8 installation DVD in that place.
  6. Install rEFInd (better fork of rEFIt) to be able to boot from that new Windows 8 partition.
  7. Reboot MacBook with ALT key pressed. Select booting from Windows 8 partition and request installation again on the same partition! Notice that this time we are running on the real hardware, not inside virtual machine. Most importantly remember NOT to perform any format.
  8. You might need to manually select that Windows 8 partition on reboots, but once installation is completed, you got almost ready Windows 8.
  9. Being logged-in into Windows remove files copied from the installation DVD and install BootCamp 5.1 drivers dedicated to early-2011 MacBook Pro.
    HINT: They could be also written on an USB stick by BootCamp, when preparing the disk at step 1.
  10. Being logged-in into OSX configure rEFInd to add permanent entry for Windows, or restore the original Apple’s UEFI boot-manager using:
    sudo bless --folder /System/Library/CoreServices --bootefi
  11. Using BootCamp on Windows, it’s possible to change, which is the default OS for booting!

 

Some thoughts at the end – if you got just an ‘upgrade version of Windows 8’, you will need to execute all steps above using Windows 7 installation DVD. Then activate your Windows copy and finally do an upgrade. It will run smoothly, the same way as upgrade to Windows 10 as described on top. Using external DVD will work fine since it overwrites system only files and doesn’t need to care about any extra steps related to boot-managers and limitations of MacBook’s UEFI implementation.

And when I just see this procedure, I am curious, if installing rEFInd won’t actually let booting from external DVD drive and won’t simplify the whole process. But once I have all configured, I won’t revert it to try. Let me know, if you did!

 

Have a nice day!

EDIT: 2017-05-08:

There is also an option to extend it to utilize 16GB of RAM, which I described here.