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Upgrading the hard drive on my MacBook

Yeah, I know, I haven't even had the machine for a week yet and I'm already looking to upgrade the hard drive. Well, I wanted more than the 120GB that came with the machine but Apple charges so much more for drives that I couldn't justify it; not when I could simply buy a 2.5" hard drive off NewEgg and plop it into my machine.

So I set off to find a decent sized replacement drive. I take a lot of high end digital photos and my current library of photos runs over 44GB. In addition I shoot some video that I want to edit on my Mac, so 120GB gets shallow awfully quick.

I popped onto NewEgg and found the Western Digital Scorpio 320GB drive. Looked like a winner; nearly triple my existing space and only $179. I also picked up a small USB 2.0 enclosure from Bytecc so that I could set up my new drive properly and have a place for the 120GB drive once I removed it from the MacBook.

The first thing I did was plop the new WD drive into the Bytecc so that I could configure it. That took all of about 30 seconds. I plugged it into the USB port on my MacBook and it saw it, loaded up Disk Utility and I was prompted to set up the drive. I created a new, single partition on the drive and let her rip. It didn't take long at all - I went upstairs to do a couple of things and when I came back down it was ready to go!

Next I loaded up Carbon Copy Cloner. Great little application for cloning your hard drive. That took all of about 12 minutes since I didn't have too much on the machine yet.  Once that was done I had my two drives ready to go so it was time to do a little surgery.

I followed the directions that Apple provides for replacing your hard drive - it really is a simple DIY job. All that's required is a coin to pop out the battery, a very small phillips head screw driver and (no one told me this one) and extremely small Torx drive. The only thing missing from the directions that Apple provides is that there are 4 small Torx screws that secure the small drive housing to the hard drive. Fortunately I happened to have one but if you're considering doing this make sure you have a small Torx drive bit available.

It only took about 5 minutes to swap the drives and that was with me in full "meticulous" mode. Once the drive was in I fired up the Mac and everything worked! There was a very long delay at first, likely the BIOS detecting that a different drive was in there and having to reconfigure itself but after that it allowed me to log in normally.  I used the Spotlight to try and pull up Disk Utility and the machine had to think about that for a while. It needed to reindex everything, which took about 20 minutes with the CPU running at about 50%.

After the reindexing was complete the machine ran perfectly. The drive is just as whisper quiet as the last one and I am not experiencing any problems at all. As I type this I'm copying my digital photo library over from one of my internal servers - looking forward to seeing what I can do with iPhoto!

9 comments:

Vito said...

Glad your install went smoothly.

Just to let you know, Macs do not use BIOS, they use a system called EFI.

I'm not trying to bash you, I'm just helping you out for the future. Some people might not like you saying BIOS (it is quite stone-aged).

Good luck with your new Mac, I'm glad everything is going well!

David Alison said...

Vito: Funny you mention that today - I was just reading up on that earlier today!

I was very pleased with how quickly the drive went in - this MacBook is very nicely designed. I'll be hitting that part up again shortly when I install the additional memory I just purchased.

Tom said...

The startup delay wasn't anything EFI level, it was OS X booting without any caches. Carbon Copy Cloner clones all the important stuff, but leaves out the caches for drivers and some other things, to allow the copy to work with fewer issues on any machine.

There are other ways to do what you did as well, but only using built in OS X methods. I'll outline them here, as they are handy to know for disaster recovery as well:

1. Take out the existing drive and put it in the USB enclosure
2. Put the new drive in the machine, without partitioning/formatting
3. Boot off the OS X DVD (put it in, then hold Option on bootup to get a boot menu), and use Disk Utility (In the Utilities menu) to do the initial partition/format
4. Do a normal OS X install, and this might be a handy time to uncheck the gigs of unneeded printer drivers or languages.
5. When the install completes, it will ask if you have another mac. Tell it yes, and select the option to copy from another drive. Plug in the USB enclosure, and it will allow you to pull over all your apps, settings, and data.

The other method involves having a Time Machine backup.

1. Boot off the OS X DVD
2. In the menus once it boots to the initial install screen is a restore from Time Machine option. This will reimage the entire system back to where it was when it was backed up. Apps, settings, everything. With a Time Capsule, this even works over a network in a supported way, and there are ways to do this with 3rd party NAS devices too.

Interesting tidbit about The Time Machine method, or really any of these methods, they can be used to restore to completely different hardware too. I had an Intel Mac Mini backed up via Time Machine, and wanted to shift that over to an older PowerPC mini. All I did was the process above, and even though the machine had a completely different CPU and everything, it worked fine. Everything was where I left it from the Intel Mac, and everything ran fine.

Third solution is to use Disk Utility to clone the drive, basically boot off the OS X DVD with both drives attached, and run it via the utilities menu. There is a restore tab, and yo can drag the source and destination drives and hit go.

There are many other methods, digging into the Unix side, but those are just 3 quick ones to give you an idea of how flexible restoring can be.

David Alison said...

Wow - thanks Tom. Some great information in there.

Steve said...

FYI, rather than using a specialized hdd copy program, you could have used a Time Machine backup to rebuild your machine. Just make sure it's a full backup, then when you boot off the install disc choose the "Install from Time Machine backup" option in the top menu (I'm going from memory on the wording).

I've done this reinstall-from-TM approach twice, once while replacing the main hard drive, and it worked very well. It had the added benefit of clearing out all of my "useless" files like tmp files and cache files that are not backed up by TM.

Eric said...

Thanks for the info, this is the exact hard drive i am looking at buying and i wanted to make sure it works for my macbook before buying it.

battery said...

Interesting tidbit about The Time Machine method, or really any of these methods, they can be used to restore to completely different hardware too. I had an Intel Mac Mini backed up via Time Machine, and wanted to shift that over to an older PowerPC mini. All I did was the process above, and even though the machine had a completely different CPU and everything, it worked fine. Everything was where I left it from the Intel Mac, and everything ran fine.

Chris said...

Thanks for sharing the process. That specific Western Digital hard drive is now $65. I think I'll go for it!

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