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Running OS X Yosemite on a late 2009 Macbook White Unibody

OS X Yosemite

After waiting on the fence since its release last October 17th (UTC+8), I’ve finally given in to upgrading my MacBook to Apple’s latest operating system – the OS X Yosemite. First off, before you proceed in reading this post, kindly note that this ain’t an in-depth review of the OS. There’s already too many of that online. I won’t be going through each of Yosemite’s features  and highlights.

Why the wait?
The reason I’ve waited this long to have a taste of Yosemite is because of one primary reason… Adobe Creative Suite. With every new OS X upgrade comes a plethora of bugs, incompatibilities and patches for us graphic designers and our apps. I wanted to make sure that this time around my workflow wouldn’t get disrupted with such nuisance. There’s also the fact that I was a little apprehensive about running Yosemite in my half a decade old Mac. Yes… five years old, that’s like 50 in human years. I got it back in October of 2009. So far my unibody MacBook have housed a total of five Operating Systems: Snow Leopard (which came out of the box), Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks and Yosemite. So far, this is my longest lasting, most reliable and most used computer ever. No major crashes, no BSoDs, never overheated, never got f*cked up by any viruses, never got serviced for being ‘unusable’. The only three separate times I tinkered under the hood is when I upgraded its RAM to 8GB, upgraded my SuperDrive into an SSD and when I replaced the battery. By now you could just imagine how much I’m taking good care of this baby.

Patches, patches everywhere…
Adobe officially announcing that Photoshop (and other CS apps) are working properly with Yosemite was all the reason I needed to upgrade. And so I did. They did note in the forums that after upgrading to OS X 10.10 you’ll have to update your Java in order to launch Illustrator, well that’s true. Right after I launched AI it prompted me to update my Java. No biggie, I just followed the Java download link from Apple that AI provided and followed the installation wizard.

java-update

Another issue that came up, which OS X actually caught and notified me with, was that my Wacom tablet driver was incompatible and cannot be used. I knew from the moment I started using a graphic pen and tablet that I’ll be getting driver updates from time to time (specially during OS upgrades), so I already had the Wacom tablet driver download page handy in my bookmarks.

wacom-driver-update

Another satisfied customer
Haters often say that Apple computers are overpriced, underpowered and overly-hyped pieces of trash. But what I often notice is that most of the people who say these kind of things are users who haven’t actually used a Mac for an extended period of time, enough to actually incorporate the machine into their workflow and in their everyday lives. Yes it’s true that for half the price consumers can easily buy a PC or a laptop with the same or even better specs. But it’s not always about spending big money for the highest specs, with Macs its more about paying a premium for the assurance that all of your machine’s components will work seamlessly and not collapse overtime and that you’ll get the support you need—when you need it. Take my experience for example; how many laptops have you owned that lasted you five years that you can still use for professional work and a little bit of gaming?

With all that said, I’ve upgraded and I’m happy with how seamless and fast everything is. Back when I upgraded to an SSD with Mavericks, booting up the Mac took less than 10 seconds but somehow shutting down was a drag… it took somewhere around 30-45 seconds. I don’t know why, but it was inconvenient specially when I’m nearing my bus stop and waiting for it to finish. But now with Yosemite it’s surprisingly quick. Shutting down takes less than 3 seconds! I was so surprised the first time I shutdown my Mac, I thought that it crashed or something ominous was brewing, I had to boot it up and shut it down again just to make sure everything was fine and it’s just the way it is.

OS X Yosemite

 

 

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20 thoughts on “Running OS X Yosemite on a late 2009 Macbook White Unibody

  1. Gerald Malis says:

    I’m wondering how this will run with the EXACT same machine that you have (late 2009 MacBook with 8 GB RAM) without the SSD (I have the original 500 GB SATA hard drive).

    Any comments on this? Using Mavericks, I already have a long boot up and shutdown times with the SATA drive…but I understand that and since I mainly use my MacBook as a desktop and rarely reboot, this isn’t a major annoyance.

    Funny, reading your article I have the same situation you have had with the white unibody MacBook. I have replaced the battery once after I noticed it expanding and also upgraded to 8 GB from 4 after installing Mavericks and basically being unable to even run two apps at the same time. 8 GB made a world of difference. And yes, I run a virtual machine in Parallels 9 in order to use Quicken.

    If you could email me back with your opinions and possible suggestions, I would appreciate it. Right now, I really don’t want to invest the time or money to switch to a SSD drive and I’m really hesitant (after reading other reviews) that this will mess up what is a perfectly good system right now.

    Thanks!

    1. Hello Gerald,

      The list of machines that can run Yosemite is actually the same list as Mavericks, so with your 8GB RAM I guess you can enjoy OS X 10.10 as much I do. From what I read online, Yosemite doesn’t add that much strain to the system if you’re upgrading from Mavericks. So if you’re already comfortably running Mavericks, there shouldn’t be any problem. Not sure if it has any issues with Parallels though—I’m using bootcamp for my windows apps.

      IMHO, I think you’d really benefit a lot from upgrading to an SSD though. Not just with the Boot-up and shutdown, but also with opening apps and copying large files (you can read about my SSD upgrade experience here: http://lance.sison.me/2014/01/breathing-new-life-into-my-ageing-macbook/ ). Everything just feels faster. But you really have to take note that it’s in your best interest to get a 3Gbps SSD and not a 6G —the MBW unibody’s setup optimally works with 3Gbps drives and not with the new ones— I’m using an ‘OWC Mercury Electra 3G’. And cloning everything you have into a new drive is relatively easy with a Time Machine backup + OS X’s Migration Assistant. Almost everything is automated.

      Cheers.

  2. Damian says:

    hey lance, thanks for your write up. very reassuring. it’s hard to find a clean, to the point write up about 10.10/late 09 on the interwebs.

    1. You’re welcome Damian. I’m glad that this post has at least been helpfully informative to a couple of people. :)
      I’m actually happy to find out that it’s not just me who’s still dearly clinging on to their beloved MB White — specially now that everybody else is packing a shiny silver MBA or MBPr.

  3. Matteo says:

    Hey Lance!!!!

    I’m wondering if it’s convenient to me to switch from mavericks to yosemite.
    I’ve the same machine than you, I enjoy this baby, I’ve used this mac just like a desktop, for everything, everyday.

    I’ve upgraded RAM (8 GB) I’ve switched the old 250GB HD to a Samsung 8400 EVO SD 128 Gb and i’ve switched the Super Drive with another HD 500 Gb.

    After that I did a fresh install of Mavericks and now my Macbook is born again.

    My concerns about this are something about the installation of Yosemite. Should I install it with a fresh install?
    or I can do it from the apple store, without any fresh install/time machine thing?

    Thank you!

    And Long Live to The MB white!!!

    1. Hello Matteo,

      In my experience, upgrading the the MB White’s OS via the App Store has always been a seamless process. I’ve done all my OS upgrades through the App Store ever since Snow Leopard and have never really had a need to do a fresh install. IMHO, it’s imperative that you always do a TM backup before you make any upgrades to your OS.

      Hope this helps.

  4. Emiro says:

    Hi!

    I own the same MacBook and recently upgraded to a 250 GB SSD and 8 GB of RAM; I was afraid to upgrade from Snow Leopard to later OSX, but your post make me decide to upgrade to Yosemite! Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome Emiro, I’m glad that this post has been helpful to you. Cheers!

  5. Lucas says:

    Hey mate.

    As far as I’ve seen I’m not the first guy to ask you, but still I have to: I have the same macbook as you have, I’ve recently replaced the HDD by a Samsung 840 EVO SSD (250gb) and my mac runs as fast as in the beginning (under 10.8). Now I’m curious if I should also upgrade to another, newer OS or if it’ll slow down my mac again. I’ve read several concerns by other users in the comments, but I’m probably the only person, that has not upgraded to 8GB RAM so far. Would you recommend to upgrade the OS without upgrading the RAM, or should I rather upgrade the RAM first before installing the new OS?

    Thanks a lot in advance!

    Lucas

    1. Hey Lucas,

      Looking at the current lineup of Macbook Air in the Apple Stores, they all come with a stock 4GB RAM. So I suppose that means Yosemite should run comfortably with that much RAM. IMHO, it boils down to how much work you’re making your Mac do. If you’re running RAM heavy applications, such as Graphic Design, Video Editing softwares or other RAM intensive apps then you’ll definitely benefit from getting more than 4GB of RAM. But if you’re just using it for day to day internet surfing, word/spreadsheet processing, streaming music and videos; you should be good with 4GB of RAM. Don’t forget to TM backup first before upgrading though. Hope this helps.

      Cheers!

  6. Maya says:

    Hi Lance! Thanks for this post. I also use a late 2009 macbook white, with no hardware upgrade since the day I bought it. Ever since I upgraded to Yosemite, it’s taking me forever to open files, apps, surf the net, etc. The rainbow wheel (or whatever it’s called) is just appearing every so often. Since, I’m not really a techie person, please bear with my questions. 1. Where does one buy RAM memory here in the Philippines and is there a specific brand recommended for macbook laptops? 2. Do you have an idea if Apple service centres include changing the memory in their services? Or do I have to do it by myself?

    Thanks!

    Maya

    1. Hey Maya,

      Thanks for visiting my blog. For a ‘non-techie’ person your safest bet is to go to an official Apple Service Partner. Follow the link below to see a list of Authorised Mac Service Locations around Manila:

      https://locate.apple.com/ph/en/service/?pt=4&lat=14.5995124&lon=120.9842195

      I’m not sure how’s the pricing back in the PH, though here in SG Mac servicing (for devices outside warranty) costs and arm and a leg. If it’s the same case there, I suggest you try to find a trust-worthy shop who can do the upgrade for you. RAM is rather common and can usually be bought/installed at any PC shops.

      You can check the MB White’s RAM specs here: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT1651

      It says, MBW only support 4GB RAM (2x2GB) officially, but based from research a lot of users (including me) have successfully upgraded to 8GB. I’m using 2x 4GB, DDR3, 1067 MHz Kingston RAM.

      Hope this helps.
      Cheers!

      PS: When I’m over there I personally go to Brochiere, Festival Mall (http://brochiere.com/branches) for my parts and servicing, I’ve had nothing but good experiences with their staff and I find their pricing rather competitive.

  7. Maya says:

    Thanks for the tips!

  8. Eduardo says:

    Hey Lance. Just happened to stumble on this page. Can I ask you something? (Old Post, but hopefully you can reply)

    I’m looking for a new notebook for college that is hopefully under $250 and that doesn’t break the bank. I found an old 09 Macbook Unibody on sale cheap, but its mainly stock and it has only 2 GB of RAM with Yosemite preinstalled. The vendor seems to be trustworty (100% rating) and says that they are fully functional with light cosmetic damage. I am a tech enthusiast, so I do know how to open and upgrade my stuff.

    My question is: do you still reccomend it for someone who probably won’t upgrade it immediately and will probably only use it for 6+ tab browsing and word processing multitasking? I love Macs, but if it’s not a good deal, I’m going to be stuck with the HP Stream 11 (which I hate, but will at least be functional). Please Reply as soon as you got a minute. Thanks.

    1. Hi Eduardo,

      From my experience, a MBW ’09 unibody is a solid buy. I’m not sure how Yosemite would perform on a 2GB RAM though — I’ve upgraded to 8GB RAM back when I was running OS X Mountain Lion. Though I’m sure that if you’re only going to use it for Browsing + Word Processing + iTunes, you shouldn’t have any problems at all. The primary reason why I needed 8GB of RAM is because my usual workflow has Photoshop + Illustrator + InDesign (or Dreamweaver) + iTunes (and some other apps like twitter, dropbox, TimeMachine and Skype) almost always open and running at the same time. So that’s that, the best part about the machine is that if you would really need to upgrade RAM or to an SSD it’s quite easy to do – and it’s relatively easy to find compatible aftermarket tech.

      I really wouldn’t know how to compare the MacBooks with current Windows laptops in the market, the last Windows-based laptop I’ve owned was a 2006 Compaq Presario — after only three years I could barely do any work with it. Overheating issues, two dead pixels (which is a lot of dead pixels when you’re a Graphic Designer with OCD), can’t run Adobe CS2 because of the specs with limited upgradability. So after that I had a choice between a Sony VAIO or a MacBook, clearly I was spending a bit more with the MacBook but it was worth every penny. So far my everyday-used MacBook Pro has outlived a newer Alienware MX 15, Sony VAIO E Series and a Samsung Series 9 in our household.

      Hope this helps.

  9. Greg Hall says:

    Thanks for your informative blog. I had a 2.4 Macbook 13″ but sold it to buy a 11″ Macbook Air to take travelling overseas as it was half the weight. It was tough and gave me great service while bike riding through France (lots of great free wifi for booking accommodation).
    When I got back and did more serious work on it I realised I really missed the extra 2 inches of screen. So I bought one from eBay cheap. It had 2gb ram which I upped to 16gb from OWC and slipped my SSD from the previous Macbook which I had retained prior to selling it.
    Upshot was that now with Yosemite running, its such a great enjoyable computer for a less than $500AUD. And I love the feel of the keyboard on this model too. Only lacks a backlit keyboard to be perfect IMHO. Cheers.

    1. You’re welcome Greg.

      It always fascinates me when people drop me an email or leave comments on this blog about their love for their ‘legacy’ MacBooks. Back then I used to think that most Mac users always upgrade to the newest and and shiniest MB models with all the bells and whistles, then after this post I start to realize that there are a lot of people like me who truly appreciate the value of how well-built these MacBooks are.

      I’m crossing my fingers that when the OSX El Capitan officially rolls out we’ll still be able to enjoy the MB unibody just the same. Cheers.

  10. Greg Hall says:

    Fully agree Lance. Don’t always need the shiniest or newest. Most people seem to only need a basic computer for what they are doing. But the manufacturers are selling hardware way beyond our needs. Seems to be the same with the software e.g. OS which keep taking up more and more space on the hard drive. Would love to see a stripped down OS that speeds up the computer for a change. I know this is available if you are computer savvy but for the average punter it would be nice to have an OS that just gets it done without all the bloating add ons.
    More strength to you.

  11. Charnsuwach says:

    Dear all,

    I’m using original macbookwhite late 2009 with Yosemite. I have terrible time on slow response. Don’t know what to know. Please advise. Do I need to upgrade RAM to 8GB as well and change HDD to SSD to get normal response?

    1. I believe that upgrading your RAM to 8GB will greatly increase your Yosemite experience. Upgrading to an SSD as well is optional — mainly you’ll noticeably benefit from an SSD in terms of really fast boot-up (and shutdown) and really fast loading of your applications.

      Hope this helps.

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