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How to breathe life into an old Mac

Christopher Phin | Sept. 8, 2015
Here are a few things you can do before you put that old Mac out to pasture.

Add as much RAM as you can afford, basically; with the kind of older systems we’re talking about, in any case adding the maximum possible is unlikely to hit your wallet hard.

Replace the battery in a laptop

If your MacBook, PowerBook, or iBook is only lasting minutes away from the mains, you can replace the battery. Apple no longer makes them for older machines, but there are plenty of third-party options available. It’s your call but we’d be uncomfortable trusting a no-brand bargain from eBay; buy with a guarantee from a reputable dealer.

refresh an old mac replace the battery in a laptop 
Credit: Christopher Phin

You might think you can’t replace the battery if it’s sealed in your MacBook, but not so. Some third-party options exist, but we’d recommend having Apple do it; follow the links on Apple’s site for costs and next steps; prices range from $129 to $199, plus taxes.

Boost the I/O

Use the fastest ports your old Mac has to connect peripherals—from slowest to fastest, it goes USB 1.1, FireWire 400, USB 2.0, FireWire 800, Thunderbolt—but if the ports your Mac has are too slow for you, you might be able to add faster ones. You can add PCI cards for faster USB and FireWire (or even eSATA or fibre) to most tower desktop Macs, and this is also true for MacBook Pros with ExpressCard/34 slots; Sonnet makes a wide range. Check compatibility carefully, though.

refresh an old mac boost the io
Credit: Christopher Phin

You can also add faster Wi-Fi to many Macs, either with a USB or PCI adapter or by connecting an external box to an ethernet port. (Just make sure the ethernet port isn’t so old and slow it will be a bottleneck.) And remember that, say, adding 802.11ac to your Mac is pointless if you’re still running an 802.11g router; replace that too.

Add a second—or third!—display

refresh an old mac add a secondor thirddisplay 
Credit: Christopher Phin

Lots of us find ourselves more productive when we have more screen space. If your Mac can’t extend its desktop to a second screen for whatever reason, or if you’ve already added one external display but want to add more, remember that (somewhat expensive) adaptors exist to let you connect displays to USB ports. Make sure the one you pick is Mac-compatible.

Upgrade the built-in webcam—or add one

Even Apple’s latest webcams are pretty awful, which is especially irritating when adding a superb external one from the likes of Logitech is a pretty cheap investment.

refresh an old mac upgrade the built in webcamor add one
Credit: Christopher Phin


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