MacBook Dead Harddrive – Lesson Learned


The hard disk in one of the kids’ Macbook finally bit the dust.  No matter how many times you  tell them that they just can’t move their laptop immediately after closing the lid, they are still going to do it.  It does take a few seconds for the MacBook to write it’s RAM to disk before you can move the laptop.  Last week, the MacBook finally decided that it had enough of the abuse and killed the drive.

The Macbook is under a year old so I could attempt to get a new drive under the warranty, but I figure that we did this ourselves, we might as well get a new drive ourselves.  So I started pricing out drives on NewEgg expecting to spend a couple of hundred on a new drive.

SATADriveImage I was pleasantly surprise to learn that laptop drives have dropped significantly in price since the last time I did any pricing!  I was able to get a 120gig replacement drive for the  standard 80gig drive the MacBook came with for about $60! So I went ahead and picked up a Western Digital WD1200BEVS Hard Drive.  However I did some more shopping around online and picked the drive up for a little less at Amazon – where I also picked up a diffuser for my Nikon SB600 SpeedLight as well.  In addition to getting the drive a little cheaper, I was able to save a bit on the shipping.

I got the drive about 5 days after I ordered it – I went the cheapest route for shipping since it wasn’t MY computer on the fritz. I thought the whole project was shot because they had shipped the drive in a heavy duty bubble wrap envelope.  I figured there was no way that the drive would have survived the US Postal Service handling.  Fortunately the drive worked.

The physical install of the drive went great. There are a number of sites that have pictures on how to this.  I used the MacInstruct site.  Of course, I didn’t follow the article closely because the I was doing a full replacement with a fresh install because of a failed drive.  The linked article goes into how to use SuperDuper, etc. 

To reinstall Leopard I broke out the 10.5 Leopard Family pack CD I have.  In short it didn’t work.  I got an error message stating that Leopard could not be installed on the system.  Totally forgot that I needed to use the Disk Utility to actually partition and format the new drive!  I don’t understand why Apple doesn’t put that in the installation script.  Every other operating system in the known universe has a section which allows you to manipulate the hard drive partitions.

I created a new partition on the drive and reboot the machine so that I could install Leopard.  Once it rebooted, same error.  After a couple of go-arounds with this, it dawn on me that I was attempting to install Leopard from a upgrade CD! doh!  So I had to dig up the Tiger CDs.  With the Office move, this was no easy task, but I found them. 

I attempted the install again – another error message that the installer couldn’t install OS X on the system.  I attempted to re-partition the drive and attempted a few other things with no avail.  After some more investigation on the Net – I found out that I may have used the wrong Install CD– and sure enough I was.  I was using the Install CD from my wife’s Macbook Pro!  Once I found the right disk for a MacBook, I was able to install the damn OS!  I can’t believe that Apple went to the effort of ensuring that CDs from one type of system cannot be used on another!

I’m writing this blog entry as the OS is installing.  My next step is to get the machine upgraded to Leopard tonight.

Recap – Lessons Learned:

  • Laptop hard disk are cheap! Shop around.
  • You cannot use a Leopard Family Pack CD to do a fresh OS X installation
  • You must use the original Installation CD for your Mac to perform an install. 
  • You must use Disk Utility to partition the drive separately because Apple doesn’t know how to build that into their installation program.


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