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 :).

Online Backup Solutions. Which One Should I Choose?

I've been researching new backup solutions for both online and offline backups of my development computers. I don't just want to backup a few files, I need disaster recovery (if my machine completely fails, I want to be able to replace the HDD (or computer) and be able to restore it back to the way it was in a few clicks).

For years I've been backing up my PCs using Acronis True Image Home to my local NAS drives. This works great for local backups, but I moved to a Mac last year and haven't found a backup software I really like yet that does compression as well as Acronis (currently PC-only) and offers something close to a GFS backup solution.

But this blog post is to discuss online backup solutions. While I continue to try different offline backup solutions to backup my data to my NAS drives, I really need an offline backup solution for redundancy.

Here are a list of some solutions I've been researching. I'd be grateful to hear people's thoughts on the products or to hear what other people are using that they might suggest to consider. I need something that can backup my Macs (most important), but if there is a product that can backup my PCs as well, it would be preferred:

  • Jungle Disk: Offline storage powered by Amazon S3. Very affordable at only 15 cents per gigabyte per month (and you only pay for what you use).
  • CrashPlan: A really cool product that allows you to use either their online storage facilities, or backup to your own servers (online and offline). You can even do redundant backups (backup to multiple devices, both your own devices and their online backup facilities). I really like this option, except it doesn't (yet) have an option to just backup to offline HDDs (like my NAS) without involving another OS (I say "yet" because their site lists that they are working on that option and may be offering it soon). Check out their video for a pretty cool demonstration.
  • Mozy: An online-only backup solution. This one has been around for a while. It still doesn't appear to officially support Mac OS 10.5 yet (like CrashPlan), but I've had friends say they're using it without a problem. I believe it deletes your data after 30 days.
  • Carbonite: An offline backup solution. This is a very enticing solution... only $49.95 per year with no file storage capacity storage limitation. What's that you say? You heard me correct. The downside is that its Windows-only (and I need a solution for the Mac). Still, it was worthy to list here. I believe it deletes your data after 30 days.
  • iDrive: Looks like a pretty cool online backup solution, but their pricing os too high for the amount of data I need to backup and it's Windows-only.
  • Drobo and DroboShare: Okay, I know... this product doesn't belong on this list of online backup solutions, but it was too cool not to talk about anyway :). The two devices together act like a NAS (using new technology that may replace standard RAID as we know it (my personal opinion)), but limitations like USB2 between the devices, no redundant gigabit connections, etc. are holding me back. Its been out for a while, so hopefully they will have a new version out soon with many of the missing features people have been asking for.

If you Google "online backup solutions" you'll get a long list of products out there (only a few of which I've looked into). So, what do you use or suggest?

Mac Bootup - Mapping/Mounting to Windows Shares Automatically

I'm currently using Mac OS x 10.5 and originally had these scripts while using 10.4 (thus I haven't tested them on any earlier versions).

Normally when you want to map (mount) to a Windows shared network drive you have to click on the word "Go" in the finder menu, choose "Connect to Server..." (propeller-K), and use SMB to mount to a Windows shared server.


view plain print about

However, I have several shares I use on my network (a NAS that uses SMB) and I prefer to have my shares connect automatically on startup. So I use the following script to map to my drives (using Apple's Script Editor).

view plain print about
2    set ping_result to (do shell script "ping -c 1 -t 2 -i 2")
3    mount volume "smb://workgroup;userName@"
4end try

From there I can either add all the drive mappings I want to that one script, or save them as individual scripts (the way I usually do it). Then I save the script as an application (make sure to uncheck "Startup Screen", unless you want that extra step).

Finally I add the applications to my startup (System Preferences --> Accounts --> Highlight the account --> Login Items (tab) --> Then I add the applications to the list.

On some occasions (for some reason), when my machine starts up not all of the mappings will connect (giving an error that the destination was unreachable). I haven't figured out why yet, but it only happens occasionally, so I've been living with it (to fix it I just manually click the application again and I'm in).

There are plenty of other methods to get this to work, but I haven't had much luck with others yet (I'm still a bit new to Mac and *nix). If someone else out there has a great idea (or a better one), feel free to let me know.

Printing Features From Office 2008 Mac Using Gutenprint Drivers

Yesterday I received my copy of Microsoft Office 2008 (Home Edition) from Amazon. So far I'm really liking it (the video tutorials on Lynda were very helpful to me in getting up to speed).

The printer I use (Canon MP830) is not networkable, thus I needed to purchase a network print server that supported a Mac (I'm currently using the D-Link DPR-1260. Although it supports multi-function printers (including my printer) it only supports "printing" from Macs (unfortunately I didn't find that out until after installing the device... the box just said Mac OS X supported)). When I upgraded to OS X 10.5, Apple pre-installed the Gutenprint printer drivers, which allowed me to finally print to my printer without a problem. Although it doesn't support all of the features of the printer (actually, hardly any features... not even draft printing) it at least had a few important features like duplexing (or what Apple calls "Two-Sided" printing). So far, every program I've tested on my Mac has had great success... until I installed MS Office 2008. From Office I can only print (with little-to-no feature options).

The solution? It was easier than I thought. When you're ready to print, choose "print" from the "file" menu. Then hit the "Preview" button (which loads up Preview). Now you'll be able to have all of your print features again.

As an aside: During my trials, I tried upgrading the Gutenprint printer drivers to the latest version (which claim they fix some bugs and add more printer support... at this time I upgraded from 5.1.3 (Leopard default) to 5.1.6). Although it didn't address my issues I thought people might like to know I am not having problems using the new versions. The only thing I should point out is that when the new version installed, it deleted my current printer from the "Print & Fax" settings in System Preferences. Although it only took me a moment to setup I was glad that I wrote down the settings before I started the upgrade :). Still, had I known that it wouldn't have addressed my issue, I wouldn't have bothered (if it's not broke, don't fix it).

Running ColdFusion 8 on Leopard

Okay, this really isn't as difficult as many are making it out to be. It took me 5 minutes (once I knew what to do). Essentially all you need to do is replace one file (


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)).

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