Thought Leadership

My first Mac anniversary – celebration and an expensive error

By Colin Walls

Time flies. And, the older you get, the faster it flies. So I am somewhat unsurprised to note that it is now just about a year since I took delivery of my first Mac – a MacBook Pro. I had deliberated for a quite a while beforehand: would Macs do the job for me? A good friend said to me “Yes! Get a Mac. It will make using a computer fun again.” I was skeptical. He was right.

So, what I have learned in the course of that year? …

A year ago, I really did not know how things would turn out and I wrote about my plans and concerns. I was soon writing about my enthusiasm and success. Eventually, I could report that everything had turned out fine.

Since starting out on this journey, I have hardly touched a Windows machine. On one occasion that I did, it was a disaster. I was doing a talk at a camera club and needed to show a PowerPoint presentation. It took us a long time to get it working – trying two different laptops. Eventually I started my talk and was about 15 minutes in when the computer decided to apply some updates and would not take No for an answer. I was amused to see that this happens to other people too:

Although my move to Mac has been very successful, there were some bumps in the road. The first was the appalling trackpad that came with the iMac. I could not believe how bad it was and assumed that it was faulty, but, checking out others in an Apple Store, I found that my unit was quite typical. In due course, Apple sorted the problem, as a new trackpad was released. I mused on this matter here.

The other issue that I had was self-inflicted. When I ordered the MacBook, I minimized the spec of the machine to keep the cost down, as I was still unsure of its future. The key thing was the hard drive [SSD actually] – I chose 128GB. My thinking was that my wife’s use of the machine would not require too much storage. That was an error. Her photographs alone filled it up. I looked at the options available to upgrade the storage:

  • add an external drive [Apple’s suggestion] – easy but messy
  • use an expander card in the SD slot – neat and cheap, but limited performance
  • sell the machine and buy one with a better spec – expensive and tedious

Then I stumbled across a supplier of replacement SSD units. This was not a cheap solution, but it was neat and looked straightforward. Of course, taking the MacBook apart would invalidate my warranty, but that was running out anyway. The kits came with 256GB, 512GB and 1TB. I went for the monster. The kit included the necessary tools and a nice carrier that enabled the old SSD to be used to create an external USB drive. I followed the instructions:

  1. back up the computer – no problem: Time Machine to an external drive
  2. take out the old SSD and insert the new one – quite easy once I found the video instructions for my exact model
  3. start the machine in Recovery Mode
  4. format the new “disk”
  5. install OS X
  6. recover everything else from the backup

There was something mysterious about this process. How did step #5 work? At this point, the machine had no access to WiFi, as it had not asked for the password. I discovered that the machine actually had two SSDs: one was the 1TB drive that I had just installed; the other was just a few GB and was where the OS came from. A clue was the version of OS X: it installed Yosemite, which is what the machine was delivered with. I had later upgraded to El Capitan. Once it was all running, I need to apply this upgrade again. It was an interesting afternoon’s effort, but seemed to work OK and I do not think that we will run out of storage any time soon.

So, although I had a couple of problems, they were, as my late father-in-law would have put it, “nothing a check won’t cure”. The adventure continues …

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at