How to Upgrade the SSD in Your MacBook Pro with Retina Display

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ssd replacement kit

Even if you're not doing a lot of video or photo editing, the hard drive in your MacBook Pro can quickly get filled with files. Fortunately, replacing the SSD in the notebook is fairly easy to do. Here's how to do it.

For this story, I upgraded a 15-inch 2013 MacBook Pro with Retina Display that originally came with 256GB of storage. I purchased a 480GB OWC Aura 6G SSD + Envoy Pro Upgrade Kit, which costs $288. The kit includes not only the SSD, but the necessary screwdrivers to open up the MacBook Pro, as well as an enclosure so that you can turn your old SSD into a portable hard drive. You can save $40 by purchasing the SSD alone, but being able to convert your old drive into a massive portable storage device is worth the extra expense.

1. Back up your Mac. If anything goes wrong, you'll want to have all your files safely stored somewhere.

2. Unscrew the bottom cover of the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. There are 10 screws in total, and they're all the same size, but be careful not to lose any. Use a little box to hold the screws until you need them.

unscrewing bottom

After you remove the bottom cover, you should see this:

bottom exposed

3. Remove the screw holding the SSD in place. This requires the second screwdriver that came in the kit.

ssd circled

4. Gently remove the SSD.

old ssd removed

5. Insert the new SSD into the MacBook Pro, and screw it into place.

installing new ssd

6. Replace the bottom cover of the MacBook Pro, and replace all the screws.

screwing lid back on

7. Open the external drive enclosure, insert your old SSD, and screw it into place. This will be crucial for restoring your files.

old ssd in enclosure


8. Turn on your MacBook Pro and hold down Command+R. This will start the Internet Recovery process. 

starting recovery

9. Connect to a Wi-Fi network, and follow the prompts to restore the Mac's operating system. First, you'll need to use Disk Utility to format the new drive.  

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10. You can either completely reinstall the Mac OS, or restore from a Time Machine backup. Choosing the former helps to get rid of old files and things that may be slowing down your Mac, but will take much longer than restoring from a Time Machine backup. That's because a fresh reinstall will load the version of the operating system that originally came with your Mac, so you'll have to run further system updates if you want to use the most recent version of the OS. 

disk utility

Like I said, this takes a bit of time.

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11. Connect the OWC external drive (the one that has your old SSD) to your Mac using the included USB cable.

12. On your Mac, open the Applications>Utilities folder, and launch Migration Assistant.

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13. Follow the steps to transfer the data from your old SSD to your Mac. The Migration Assistant will let you choose which types of files you want to transfer. Depending on how many files you have, this can also take upwards of an hour.

img 0388

After that, you're all done! Your Mac will restart, and your desktop should appear exactly as it did before you swapped SSDs. Provided you're comfortable with it, you can now erase all the files on your new portable drive, and use it as external storage.


Add a comment
  • Brian Astbury Says:

    Is this also applicable to the 13-inch 2013 MacBook Pro with Retina Display?

  • Mitty Says:

    Gene Frazier wrote:
    "the last sentence of the procedure says to erase the files on the NEW drive and use it as external storage? I don't think so."

    Wrong, Gene. The last sentence refers to your new PORTABLE drive:

    "you can now erase all the files on your new portable drive, and use it as external storage."

  • Gene Frazier Says:

    Two problems with the procedure. First, you should always disconnect the battery cable before removing any component. Second, the last sentence of the procedure says to erase the files on the NEW drive and use it as external storage? I don't think so. That should have been the OLD drive. I'm still investigating the proprietary interface comment.

  • Amaan Says:

    @Shane Cashin:

    Thanks for the very useful comment! I recently bought a Mid 2015 MBP (my first ever apple product) and was wondering if solutions like this and Transcend Jetdrive would work with the 2015 version. This article would have led me to believe I could do a similar thing for my MBP but thanks to yours and @Greymarch's comments I'm not going to make the mistake of buying this product and getting bummed when I find it incompatible.
    Thanks a bunch!

  • Joel Chua Says:

    Hey, I have a few questions! Can we talk over email? I would be glad if you could help. Thanks!

  • Shane Cashin Says:

    Makes buying a 2nd MBP a good option. Been thinking about getting a 2nd MBP to hold more music for djing. Wasn't interested in just using the traditional HDD but replacing it with a SSD really puts it on my radar.

    Also, i knew that the newer models were different, however most, especially those who don't currently own a MBP who have limited funds may look at this as a way to get a MacBook Pro wouldn't know the difference and will feel burnt.

    Personal verdict,
    Despite the fact that the writer specified that it was a 2013 MBP, it doesn't qualify as a disclaimer.

    So, I think if anything, the article borders on click bait. The more fitting headline should have read, How to Bring life to your 2013 and older MBP.

  • Colin Pinkham Says:

    Why bother with perfection? Spawned fully formed from the genius of Apple, it needs nothing more.

  • Greymarch Says:

    This cannot be done on any macbook Pro made after 2013. The newer macbook Pros use a proprietary interface between the SSD and the motherboard. Apple refuses to share this technology, so no third-party company has been able to figure out how to create a SSD which will work inside a 2014 nor 2015 macBook Pro. LaptopMag should have mentioned this somewhere in the article. Shame on them.

  • Aneef Says:

    Is this also applicable on 2014 and 2015 15" Retina MacBook Pros?

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