Upgrade Hard Drive in a MacBook Pro

Last week I was running out of space again in my MacBook Pro. I've gone through this again and again (always running out of space - deleting files or moving them to a separate storage device to get a little more space). I finally decided it was time to upgrade.

Speed has also been an issue. For the last 3 laptops (since 2004) I have always purchased them with 7200 RPM drives. When I purchased this MBP last summer the largest 7200RPM drive they offered was a 160GB drive (with 8MB cache). It's actually a pretty decent Seagate drive.

At the time of this blog post, the largest 7200RPM drive for laptops is 320GB with 16MB cache (or 500GB for 5400RPM). Over the past 5 years I've had a lot of bad luck with 3.5" Western Digital drives (almost all of them have died - poor ventilation in my NAS I guess). But after doing some research I decided to get one of the Western Digital 320GB hard drives (the WD Scorpio Black 320GB drive without free-fall sensor (WD3200BEKT). I made sure not to get the one with the free-fall sensor (built-in shock protection) because there have been multiple reports of people having kernel panics when physically moving the laptop (a conflict between the HD's shock detection and the MBP's head parking technology). Although I could not find any official data (from WD or Apple) to back up this claim, it was enough to make me be more cautious and avoid the possible issue.

The whole process took about 3.5 hours (3 hours to clone the data from my 160GB drive to the 320GB drive, and a half hour to swap the drives).

When I was a PC repair tech and network engineer in the 90's I repaired quite a few laptops. I have to say, they were much more complicated back then than the ones I've taken apart over the past few years (IMO). Apple's was even easier. But I wasn't without help. I found this great walkthrough which saved me a lot of time. If you're considering doing this, let me give you a helpful tip I learned from a tech who trained me back in 1994. Before taking out screws from a laptop, grab an empty egg carton (qty of 12). As you move through each set of screws, use a new compartment in the egg carton (makes things so much easier :) ). Also, make sure you have the correct tools (I was lucky enough to already have precision screw drivers on my workbench - saved me an extra trip to the hardware store).

I also saved a lot of time by purchasing an external hard drive enclosure (I purchased that particular one for other reasons - I have a couple other SATA 2.5 and 3.5 drives I've been meaning to retrieve data from and this will make things much easier. Also, I found that device to be much cheaper on Best Buy, but I've had so much bad experience with Best Buy over the years and great experience with NewEgg that I'll keep going with the better service. I do, however, wish the device had Firewire 800 :) ). I was originally planning to use one of my existing USB external HDDs to clone the data (make an image), and then use the same drive to restore the image back to the new HDD, but I skipped the middle-man by using the enclosure and just moved the data over in one step.

So here's a breakdown of how I replaced the drive (3.5 hours):

  1. Researched some hard drives and chose the Western Digital WD3200BEKT drive for it's overall balance of speed and power consumption (speed being the more important factor for me). Suggest: or
  2. Shutdown all programs on my Mac and disconnected from the web (don't want some auto-update running by mistake)
  3. Mounted the new drive to the Mac (now in the enclosure unit) and formated it (use "Applications >> Utilities >> Disk Utility". Select the new drive (which shouldn't be formatted yet if new) and choose "Erase" with the default setting of "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)).
  4. Used Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the data and make the new drive bootable (took 3 hours)
  5. Shut down Mac and installed new HDD
  6. Booted up Mac with new HDD (it was a slow bootup the first time - see next step)
  7. This next part I couldn't find documented anyhere on the web. I just happened to catch some guy talking about it in a forum after having slow bootups from my recent restore.
    • Go into "System Preferences >> Startup Disk", select the new drive, and restart (your bootup will be much faster now).

I'm not sure if this upgrade would void my warranty with Apple (I have Apple Care), but if I have to send my MBP in for repair again in the future, I figure I'll just have to swap out my new HDD with the original before sending the laptop out. It's possible I could have paid Apple a large sum of money to upgrade the drive (note: They don't sell anything larger than 200GB 7200RPM) just to protect my warranty, but after having a bad first experience with an Apple Genius, I'd prefer to just do it the right way myself.

Adventures of a Dead Mac - All Fixed Now

A little over a week ago I blogged about my Mac dieing. I'm happy to say that as of last Friday I am functioning in tip-top-shape.

Because of the holiday weekend I had to wait until Tuesday before receiving Apple's shipping box (the shipping box was really nice and well organized - with good instructions). But I was able to ship it back the same day and I received the repaired MBP three days later on Friday morning.

Apple replaced the logic board and reinstalled the OS.

Now don't be alarmed about the OS reinstall. Once you know a little more you'll understand that that was actually really nice of them. You see, I consider all of my client data on my development machine (my MBP) to be confidential (whether it is, or isn't). So, before I sent the Mac in for repair I mounted the drive on another Mac and formatted the drive 10 times (each time doing a zero out of all the free space). Am I being paranoid? I don't think so. I'm just being mindful of my client's information. Except for maybe some family photos or documents, I don't have anything to hide on my computers (no pr0n, pirated software, etc). However, my development laptop is my office, and everything on it is more important to me than all the physical items in my office workspace. This is why I back up everything daily (I use several secure backup solutions just to be safe... downtime == bad).

So I got the MBP on Friday with a new OS installed (very nice of Apple... especially since it was the latest 10.5, and according to their records I purchased this laptop with 10.4 - I own 10.5, but how would they know). I used one of my latest backups off of a secure image on a usb drive. I booted from the drive and restored the data. One hour later it was as if nothing ever happened (other than the laptop being turned off for a week). My backup software was yelling "No backups for over 7 days!" and I had to download a week's worth of email from IMAP, but this was all expected and took maybe 10 minutes to get back in order.

As it turns out I got hit with the flu last week during all the downtime, and except for a couple small fires (10 minutes of code), I wasn't able to get on my PC anyway to code.

All-in-all I am happy to be up and running. Except for the bad experience with the Apple "Genius" (see my last post), I had a great experience and turnaround with Apple Care and their service people I dealt with.

Adventures of a Dead Mac (nVidia GPU)

The other day my primary computer died (my Macbook Pro). I should warn anyone before reading this that this blog post is mostly me venting about my experience during the ordeal, so don't expect to get anything useful out of reading everything here (oh, and my first experience with an Apple "Genius" leads me to believe that they are just plain rude and to be avoided if possible).

For a couple months now I'd randomly get artifacts on the screen and things would get weird. Eventually it got so bad that I would get kernel panics, random particles, vertical lines, and more artifacts. I called Apple about it and was told to just reboot. The first couple of times this seemed to fix it. However this past Thursday when it happened again the screen froze and the internal fans were running at full speed (the machine was really hot).

I forced a shutdown, waited for the computer to cool, and then turned it back on. I could hear the Apple chime, the fans power up, and the HDD doing it's normal boot process, but there was no image on the screen (same result if I added an external monitor).

I tried all of the regular steps (cleared PRAM and SMC, attempted to boot from the install DVD, etc) but no video appeared. I then called Apple tech support who had me repeat the same steps. I was told that the GPU was likely fried (apparently a known defect in all MBPs that have the g84 and g86 chipsets *See link references below) and that the logic board needed to be replaced. Unfortunately this is happening to a lot of MBP and Mac Pro owners who have the nVidia chipsets.

For those interested, my laptop specs are:

  • Macbook Pro 3,1 2.4 Ghz Intel chipset
  • Purchased June 2007
  • 2GB RAM original (I later purchased 4GB RAM)
  • 160GB 7200 RPM HDD
  • ...and before someone asks, I do play games every now and then which make the laptop (most likely the GPU) run really hot).

From my understanding, when I send in my MBP in for repair I'll just receive a new logic board with the same defective chipset. My default one-year warranty recently ended and for once I'm feeling better about having purchased the $350 Apple Care (Apple's version of extended warranty) since Apple is only handling this on a case-by-case basis (HP and Dell officially recognized this a while back, but to-date Apple has no comment).

The tech support guy was really nice and suggested that I take the laptop down to the local Apple Store for a faster turnaround in replacing the logic board. So I made an appointment for the earliest slot and then headed down to the local Apple store. I explained the situation to the Apple "Genius" who in turn was very rude to me and treated me like I was wasting his time (a whole 5 minutes). He tried resetting the PRAM and SMC and decalred that the machine would have to be sent in for repair. He explained to me that I should take the machine back home, call Apple tech support again, and have them send me a box (for shipping) to have the machine sent in for repair. He said it would be a faster turnaround than having him send the machine out from the Apple store (right...).

So... I called tech support (again) while still in the Apple store (instead of waiting until I got home). I didn't have my case number on me (from the original call) and the tech support person couldn't find it attached to my information, so we had to create a new one -- which meant we had to start all over again (clearing PRAM, etc etc) until he was satisfied (in his defense though I felt he was just doing his job... the guy was actually really nice). We went through some second-tier support (who was also very nice and also confirmed that these nVidia chipsets are failing quite a lot) and got approval to have the machine sent in for repair.

Apple tech support was supposed to send a DHL box to my home (to be received no later than Saturday morning) with instructions on how to return the laptop... Unfortunately it hasn't arrived yet (and it's late Saturday night). I now have a feeling I'll have to wait until Tuesday to send the laptop out for repair due to the holiday weekend (in the US we have a national holiday on Monday where most businesses (including Apple) are closed) so that I can wait an additional estimated 7-10 days to receive the repaired machine (thanks Apple "Genius" (the rude guy) who assured me this process was faster than having it sent out directly from the store on Friday).

Here are some recent articles and discussions about the nVidia chipset problems

I've heard rumors that the possible September 9, 2008 Apple announcements may include a new MBP (doubtful, but you never know). I wonder then if Apple would be willing to replace defective machines (or logic boards) with something newer... or are we just stuck with these defective chipsets?

Please note that other than this defective chipset problem, I really do like my video card. For the most part it's been really good to me and runs games really well (and I bet I could cook eggs on it with all the heat :) ).

Sorry for the long vent. Here's to hoping that Apple won't send me the same defective chipset :).

Adobe Connect Plugin for OS X Leopard Fix

If you were like me and upgraded to Mac OS X 10.5 when it was released and used Adobe Acrobat Connect (either Pro or basic version) to give presentations then you were likely not too happy with the random crashes while screen sharing.

I had called Adobe tech support multiple times and was told that they were working on it. Finally in May tech support told me they had a fix for it. Essentially you just need to manually remove the old plugin and it will automatically be upgraded to the new version the next time you attempt to connect to Connect (read the article for full details). This worries me a little... Should I randomly delete these going forward in order to check for a new plugin version?

From that point on it has worked great for me. Unfortunately I had essentially paid for 6 months of an annually-priced product that wouldn't work. I recently renewed my annual license and was told I would not be refunded for the 6 months of the non-usable product. But at least I'm good going forward. I suppose I only have myself to blame. I should probably wait at least a half-year before upgrading to any new OS... what can I say? It's the geek in me :).

I've Recently Converted to a Mac and Loving It

A few months ago I made the plunge and bought a MBP. I've been slowly converting over my apps and configurations from my PC to my Mac (learning as I go) and couldn't be happier.

I'm so pleased with it that I've been preaching to family members to get one for their next computer upgrade. I even bought a new iMac this weekend for the new family computer at home (waited until Leopard was released).

I decided to upgrade my MBP to Leopard (knowing full well that CF8 is not yet fully supported (I still have my PC laptop here as well and all of my projects are in SVN, so its not a big deal to use that until a CF8 patch is out or I decide to use a workaround (see comments on that page)).

I have several programs that don't quite work correctly (but I researched them before upgrading, so I'm not surprised and can live with them as-is until they are updated).

My overall impression so far is that I'm very pleased:

  • Spaces is excellent. Sure I've used similar mutli-desktop programs for the PC since the late 90's, but its nice to have something like this built into the OS and officially supported.
  • Time Machine works great (although I have a feeling I may still do nightly image backups on my NAS until I've done enough testing to make sure Time Machine is backing up everything (ie. my Apache configs, etc).
  • And Boot Camp runs great (I was already using the Beta, so I only needed to update the drivers in Windows) and also loads well from VMWare Fusion (note: If using VMware Fusion 1.0, there is a new release of 1.1 Beta to support Leopard. Just keep in mind that its beta (although its working great for me so far)).

BlogCFC by Raymond Camden | RSS | Contact Blog Owner