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Early MacBook Pro (2,2) Owner report on Upgrades
(Dual-Band WiFi card w/Airdrop Support, SSD, Thermal Paste)

Posted: 9/29/2011
Updated: 11/29/2011


(from a reader mail)

"Long term maintenance/upgrade project - Macbook Pro 2,2 (Mem controller cooling, SSD, Wi-Fi)

I am writing you to report on a long term maintenance/upgrade project of a Macbook Pro 2,2 (late 2006 model w/4GB RAM, obviously only 3 are recognized). I went into "restoring" my 5 year old computer because it became increasingly unstable starting around the time 10.6.8 came out. I intervened in three areas: memory controller cooling, SSD/energy saving and Wi-Fi.

1) Memory corruption and overheating: zalloc (memory management library) crashes where bringing the kernel down a way too often. After excluding all possible kexts extensions, I more closely checked temperatures. To my surprise the CPU/GPU where not running so hot (63/59 at idle - never experienced a safe shutdown). Still fans where running a way too often. Only after I proceeded to a deep cleaning and the application of new thermal paste (Arctic Silver Ceramic 2) I notices a huge drop in memory controller temperature (from 50+ (°C) to 43 at idle). Since then, the computer is not only cooler, but it seems to offer a quite more fluid and enjoyable interaction. More importantly, it has been 20 days without zalloc crashes and I ran memtest in single user mode for 2 nights with no error.
(I remember some first model (2006) MacBook Pro's that shipped with thick -slabs- of thermal compound between the heatpipe and CPU/GPU/Chipset. (Many links on that old MBP page from spring 2006 are 404 now.)-Mike)

2) SSD (Intel 320 160GB) and energy management: there where some unstable behaviors not related to zalloc crashes. For instance, the system was becoming unresponsive and no new element could be loaded from my ssd. The problem has been solved by disabling "energy saving" options in Lion. This happened after applying the firmware update, but I have no concrete elements to track it down to the new firmware version.
(Asked for version #. Anyone else have any issues with that update?
Not sure if Lion changed that, but also some notes here from March 2011 on Notes/Tricks for Enabling 3rd party (non-apple shipped) SSD OS X TRIM Support and also earlier (posted in 2009) Tips for OS X SSD Users including disabling hibernate/del sleepimage file (saving GBs of SSD space = amount of installed ram), disabling SMS (not needed w/SSDs), etc.
)

Those two steps gave me an enjoyable and stable laptop, but after so much trouble I wanted to improve things a bit.

3) Wi-Fi and Airdrop: I installed a new BroadCom card (BCM94322MC BCM4322 Mini PCI-E WLAN WIFI Card), compatible with Airdrop.
(Reader FYI - Aug. 4th, 2011 archives has List of AirDrop supported WiFi card models. Several later posts on under $20 cards from the list found on ebay. Also there's an article from Feb 2007 here on early 2006 MacBook Pro 802.11n card swap)
By using ubuntu and following this tutorial, the card is now recognized as native Apple Airport Extreme. I can confirm it works out of the box with natively supported macs. I noticed no errors on Network Utility and I transferred a few GB of disk images. (Their checksum showed no errors.) The range/speed has improved too, since now I can profit from 5GHz 802.11n band that was not available to late 2006 models (w/original card). Moreover, I can find more networks despite the fact that only two of the three laptop antennas are connected. (Although 5GHz can have less range than 2.4GHz, it's a higher perf. and less cluttered band usually with less interference.)

In the end, my machine seems reliable and relatively up-to-date. Other than the graphic card performance it is a very usable/enjoyable machine (2.33 GHz Core 2 Duo), thanks to all upgrades (total cost around 285 euros). At least, it is comparable to 2009 - 2010 Airs in performance, but offers more port flexibility and a DVD drive.
Best regards, Mattia"

In late November Mattia sent a follow-up report:

(Nov 29, 2011)
I am sending you a little followup... In fact, the operations I mentioned have not been sufficient to restore full stability to my system. I had a problem with my SSD (sleep drive) and with general system stability. After experiencing the most diverse kernel panics, some caused by the bluetooth driver stack, I understood I missed an obvious problem: rotten bits.
My system had been set up when my north-bridge/memory controller was overheating. Plus, I was using FileVault 2.
That meant two things: 1) all my system files have been read and written with a malfunctioning/overheating memory controller, 2) all my system backups were somehow corrupted. The solution to this problems appeared obvious but also it felt like a last chance: reinstalling the system, the apps and download fresh updates.

I installed every kext carefully (ex. Virtual Box, wacom drivers) and I took some time before doing it.
Also, I changed the test environment, using Prime95, to check the hardware.
Now I can report more than 10 days uptime, very cool hardware temperatures, a great SSD which is finally compatible with sleeping, solid WIFI with Airdrop support and I am working with a system that has never been so quiet or so fast.
Thanks a lot for your site and for keeping it up despite these tough times.
All the best, Mattia"

Thank you for taking the time to send this. Sometimes when all the usual tips (reinstall OS combo updater, check/remove 3rd party addons, SSD firmware/updates, corrupted prefs, etc) fail to help, a clean reinstall is worth the effort. (It can't fix a hardware problem, but at least you have a clean slate software-wise.)

I welcome other owner reports on upgrade experiences (pros and cons, value/bang for the buck, etc).





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