My MacBook is back online following a hard drive crash. The entire process sucked. It’s why I haven’t been online much in the past week or so.
Time to stretch some gigabyte-wasting applications now that I’ve got twice the room available.
UPDATE: Shelby asked for the full details, so here we go.
Last Sunday, while I was running a 103 degree fever due to the flu, Jen sat down with my Macbook to look up a recipe. It woke up from the sleep mode without a problem but started acting strange. One by one everything on the desktop started giving the spinning beachball o’ doom. Nothing responded, and I mean nothing, so I shut it down hard using the power button.
Afterwards the Macbook would not start back up at all. No failed boot screens, no icons indicating a problem, just the startup chime and then a persistent blank white screen. I reset the PRAM and the PMU to no avail. Finally I stuck my ear next to the left-side wrist wrest area (where the hard drive is located) and confirmed my worst fears: A horrible clicking noise was coming from the drive, indicating it had died a messy death and took my data with it.
A little research also linked my dead drive to a bit of news I’d read not too long ago: Data recovery firm Retrodata reported towards the end of October that they are seeing 20 – 30 times the normal failure rate for certain 60GB Seagate drives used in Macbooks. Of course my drive matched the referenced model, but sadly Apple has not offered up any kind of replacement for these drives and my Macbook is no longer under warranty.
On a side note, I will never again buy an Apple computer without automatically including the cost of the 3-year apple care extension. Moving on…
Thankfully I had made a complete backup of the drive just before installing OS X 10.5 so I didn’t really lose that much data. The worst was a few reports for work that take me a while to complete but they can all be done again.
After fighting a long battle with the “instant gratification” side of my personality I bought a 120GB Fujitsu drive on newegg that was the best deal I could find. I patiently (ok, not so patiently) waited the few days it took to get the drive shipped. I had to go out and pick up a torx driver set to move the drive caddy from the old drive to the new drive, took care of that and put the new drive in. I figured my problems were just about over but sadly I was very, very mistaken.
Both my original 10.4 restore discs and the 10.5 disc failed to install. Both yielded I/O errors and would fail at completely random points in the installation process. My suspicions about my macbook’s DVD drive failing jumped to mind, so I borrowed a coworker’s identical Macbook and connected the two with a firewall cable using target disk mode (which is a really cool feature by the way). Sadly my macbook could see the drives on the other macbook but failed to boot off the DVD.
Later that evening it occurred to me that if the install was failing at random points I could try to install the OS with the smallest feature set possible, just to get the core operating system installed, figuring I could install iLife and everything else later.
Amazingly, after two attempts, it worked! Once I confirmed 10.4 was running I tried to upgrade to 10.5. I guess Leopard was determined to add its own bit of humor to this story because even though it told me the install failed it still booted into 10.5 when I took out the installation DVD.
Even though it now appeared to be working ok I did not really trust it. Considering the DVD drive is failing who knows what parts of the OS could’ve been corrupted during the install.
Co-worker with a external DVD firewire drive to the rescue! Using that drive I was able to reinstall everything completely with no errors (for the record, just hold the option key while starting up and a mac will give you a boot-device menu of everything it can see that is attached to it). My co-worker suggested converting the install DVD to a dmg file, citing the ridiculous speed increase you would get versus the standard DVD install method, but I just wanted a working Macbook again
I consider myself extremely lucky that this is the first personal hard drive I’ve had die in the many years I’ve been using computers. Most of my friends and co-workers have had several drives fail on them in their time.