Reviving an old MacBook

Can an old, ca. late-2007 MacBook be revived? Photo by Lyn Francisco

Can an old, ca. late-2007 MacBook be revived? Photo by Lyn Francisco

A very kind friend of a friend had dropped off an old MacBook, stating if we could get it to work, we could have it. He said it belonged to his wife, who passed it to their teen-aged daughter. When the daughter went off to college, she got a new MacBook Pro, leaving this one to sit and collect dust. It looked rather worse for wear; what was probably a bright white looked old, gray, and dingy, and there were what appeared to be ink spots of varying shades across the keyboard and area around the multi-touch trackpad.

I turned on the MacBook and noticed it was crawling. There were also a bunch of programs that opened upon starting (Skype, Spotify, instant messenger-type programs) which also contributed to the slow running of this computer. I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed; I was under the impression the hard drive would have been wiped completely clean so that all we’d have to do is set it up for our use. That wasn’t the case. A quick Google search revealed ways to wipe the hard drive clean and reinstall whatever operating system was resident on the computer. To be honest, it sounded like quite the hassle.

So I had the idea of taking the MacBook to the Genius Bar at the local Apple Store. I did a little research to reveal that the MacBook was running OS X v10.5.8 (Leopard) and that it dated to about late-2007 (MacBook 13”, 1 GB memory with Intel Core 2 Duo processor). I wanted to know if it was worth going through the effort of wiping its hard drive clean and reinstalling the operating system, and possibly upgrading to a newer OS that this computer could handle.

When I arrived at the Genius Bar, the guys raised eyebrows at the dinosaur I brought in (and believe me, next to the sleek new MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs, this 5-pound dirty white thing looked really ancient). I asked them my question, and they had a look at it. They even guessed probably a 2007 model. Once its identity was confirmed, the next question was: would it be worth it to revive this ‘vintage’ machine?

A couple of the fellows debated this briefly and decided that yes, it might be worth giving it a shot. They decided not to install any OS newer than the most recent version of Snow Leopard (10.6.8 v.1.1) especially given that version would be the last to support the Intel Core Duo CPUs.

So they wiped the hard drive and installed the OS, which took about half an hour. In the meantime, I noticed they took some wipes and started scrubbing the MacBook. By the time they were finished, it looked like a totally different computer! It was gleaming white, the keys were shiny white, and all the pinks and greys and greens of what I thought might have been some kind of ink were all gone. Talk about going above and beyond the call of duty!

I set up the MacBook for my friend, Cindy, and saw that it was working quite well. The speed seemed adequate. She said as long as she could check her Facebook page and pay her bills online, she would be very happy. Of course, the MacBook doesn’t respond as quickly as something more modern, but for Cindy’s needs, it’s enough, and if the MacBook were in a place with faster Internet, it would work fine. (It worked just fine in my place, and I just have a relatively slow DSL connection.)

I’d say if you have an old MacBook that you were thinking of passing down to the kids so they could use it for their school work or to the elderly parents so they could stay in touch with the grandkids, it’s probably worth it to reset it to factory conditions and then set it up like new. Oh, and the price I paid at the Genius Bar: Zero. They didn’t ask me for any payment whatsoever! Yes, I do have AppleCare, but that covers my iPhone 4.

Kudos to the Genius Bar and the Apple Store. You have shown, very consistently, very good customer service. I can see why people tend to be very loyal to the Apple brand.


  1. Awesome share. It’s true, we can use old computers for just simple web tasks, online streaming and/or social media. I used to have old laptops and tried using the mobile version of Ubuntu. While the installation was successful, never could find a compatible Wi-fi card. Back then Ubuntu desktop only worked with certain wi-fi.

    Now that I am on Google Chromebooks and boxes, don’t think I’ll have any old stuff, it just works on the cloud. But I do wish I had a Google Genius bar too.

    – RAS

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