My MacBook Pro 2009 is a nearly 15 year-old modern computer that still works for daily use

Marc Hoag
3 min readFeb 28, 2024

An SSD + 8GB RAM + macOS Catalina + Firefox does the trick

My work machine is a 2020 MacBook Air M1 and it will likely serve me just fine until Apple obsoletes it in 2026 (est). Meanwhile, I’ve kept my first MacBook Pro (mid-2009) sitting on a shelf ever since it was retired from daily use in 2012.

About 6 years ago — so 2018, when it was already positively ancient at 9 years old — I decided to see what sort of fun I could have with it. I upgraded the HD to an SSD and max’d out the RAM to 8GB. It also needed a new battery.

Somewhere along the way I learned how to install El Capitan, and that was that; a fun hobby that had zero practical value, not lease of which because, at some point, modern browsers stopped running on El Cap, so there was really not much left to do with the thing.

Then a few days ago I happened to take a look at it and decided to power it up to see if it would still fly. That’s when I noticed the trackpad wouldn’t physically “click” anymore; turns out the replacement battery was itself already long past its expiry and had started to bulge. Yikes.

So I ordered yet another replacement battery for a mere $30 or so (tools included!), fired it up, and this time, managed to get Catalina running; this was essential since, again, there weren’t any modern browsers that would still run on El Capitan, without which, it was little more than a glorified antique.

With Catalina up and running and Firefox installed (along with the requisite safety extensions if only to augment Catalina’s obviously out-dated security), somehow, incredibly, this nearly 15 year-old machine is, for all intents and purposes, a perfectly capable daily machine for basic web browsing tasks, and even the occasional SimCity 4. And with the 1Password Firefox extension installed, I can easily access all my various sites and services with ease, too.

What a thing. Just thinking about the age of it… it would be like trying to use IBM’s first PC/XT (1983) at the cusp of the millennium in 1998, a machine that, at that time, would itself already be a novelty at the Computer Science Museum in Mountain View.

The longevity of these things is simply remarkable; that none of the physical hardware circuitry has failed — capacitors? is that not a thing? — is astounding.

But I do have questions, if anybody feels like answering in the comments:

(1) Assuming safe/normal websites, is my configuration indeed relatively safe?

(2) Unpacking (1) a bit further, are there any risks to having the 1Password Firefox extension installed on such an old setup?

(3) I have not yet signed into iCloud; I’m a little concerned about trying to sync something so old; thoughts?

(4) Anybody else with an even older machine that you can still legitimately use in day-to-day work?

(5) Any guesses on how many more years this thing will physically operate until it just refuses to turn on, never mind the inevitable obsolescence of the software and, eventually I’m sure, web browser support for Catalina, too?

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