Mac busted?
January 31, 2009 7:12 AM   Subscribe

Is my Macbook's HD broken? Unable to boot, more details inside.

I can't get my Macbook (black, OSX Tiger) to boot. I got the flashing question mark. Booted from the install disk, and Disk Utility and Startup Diak apps were unable to see my internal drive. Reset PRAM, following Apple's online troubleshooting guide, then went back to Disk Utility, which was still unable to see my drive. HD is making funny noises - am I right to assume that this is a hardware failure?

Other relevant info - I recently installed a new battery.
posted by djgh to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Your hard drive has failed. You'll need to get it replaced.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:21 AM on January 31, 2009

That's exactly what happened when my 1 yr-old mac hard drive failed. Frustrating.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:43 AM on January 31, 2009

Hard Drive Failure Sounds
posted by odinsdream at 7:46 AM on January 31, 2009

If disk utility can't see your drive, then it has definitely gone south. You may verify this by booting off of the Techtool Deluxe Disc that comes with AppleCare, too.

If I recall correctly, the hard drives are user-accessible in your generation of MacBook. If you are handy, ground yourself electrically, and then yank the drive and plug it into any Mac Pro, and see if it can be seen there. The freezer trick also applies, although you do so completely at your own risk.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 8:02 AM on January 31, 2009

If you're still under AppleCare, I'd head to the genius bar (if you have one handy, otherwise call AppleCare) before I tried swapping drives -- it's probably the drive, but there's also an outside chance that there's a problem with the disk controller on the logic board or the power supply.
posted by nonliteral at 8:41 AM on January 31, 2009

Remember the $1000 question.

Is the data on that drive worth $1000 to you?

If so: DO NOTHING, contact a competent data recovery outfit before you do anything else.

If not: If the drive isn't spinning up, the freezer trick or the whack-start trick (apply power, tap drive with handle of screwdriver) trick might get it to spin up. If the drive is going WHACK WHACK WHACK, that's loss of head positioning info, and it's toast.

If the drive sounds like it's spinning up and slowing down, that's loss of feedback to the spindle motor, and it's toast. In both of these cases, data recovery is easy -- if you have a clean room and the tools and parts to move the platters to another drive. These things cost money, which is why data recovery costs money.

If you have it backed up -- and given that you're using a Mac, which has Time Machine, you should -- then just replace the drive, restore, and go on your way.

Indeed, replace it with a bigger one. You deserve it!
posted by eriko at 8:50 AM on January 31, 2009

Oh man, I'm sorry to hear about your loss. The exact thing happened to me with my old iBook and the HD was toast, until I tried the freezer trick and left it in the freezer for 24 hours and was able to get about 20 minutes of use, so I backed everything up and then bought a new HD from ebay and watched a few YouTube videos about installing laptop HDs and, being completely hardware non-savvy, was able to install it myself. Good luck.
posted by banannafish at 9:24 AM on January 31, 2009

This just happened on my partner's MacBook, which is just a bit too old to still be under warrantee. We checked prices of replacement HDs on newegg and OWC and found she could get a 320GB one for less than $100. Even at the shop, the part was only $139. The good news was that I had already checked the DIY HD replacement at and discovered the process is relatively easy, so when the shop wanted $100 labor, I complained. They reduced their fee to $50. All this is in the San Francisco bay area. Hope you were backed up recently.
posted by sugarbx19 at 2:41 PM on January 31, 2009

It is quite simple to replace it yourself if out of warranty. I have a 3 year warranty and just upgraded from 80 to 320 GB because I could for $100.
Basically, you take the battery out, pull the hard drive, move the cage to the new hard drive, reinstall, and put in your OSX disc to install to the new drive.

MOST IMPORTANT: Torx-8 Driver needed for the Hard Drive cage screws.
posted by ijoyner at 1:30 PM on February 1, 2009

I believe they are T9 size, actually, but a T8 would probably work too. I just did this myself a few weeks back. Luckily I had a time machine backup to restore to (and it worked just beautifully, I am in love). I used these instructions and had no issues.
posted by Chris4d at 12:23 PM on February 2, 2009

Thanks all - HD was in fact dead, so replaced it with a 320GB one myself. Thanks for the heads up about the Torx.
posted by djgh at 4:14 PM on March 6, 2009

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