Catastrophic MacBook Failure
April 13, 2009 1:16 PM   Subscribe

I think my hard disk just died. Help me figure out an action plan, before I die of anxiety.

In the middle of a Mozy back up, my MacBook suddenly stalled. Force Quit failed, and I was forced to turn it off with the power button. On trying to restart it the hard drive makes a knocking sound, followed by very faint clicks, and nothing boots at all beyond a whitish blank screen.

I have a complete copy of the hard disk on an external drive from two weeks ago, a complete Mozy back up from three days ago, an 80% complete Mozy back up from seconds before the crash, and some crucial, but not current, stuff saved with DropBox.

My important questions in order:

1. Is the Mozy web restore option fool proof?

2. Can I get my MacBook working again tonight, booting off the copied drive? It's a USB2 external drive, not firewire, and the MacBook drive is backed up using SuperDuper

3. Is it definitely the hard disk that has failed, or could it be something worse?
posted by roofus to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
1. Not sure, never used it.

2. Depends on how you backed it up to the external drive. If it's an actual full duplicate, then yes.

3. Most likely yes, it's a failed drive and you'll need to replace it. When the drive starts clicking, never trust it again.
posted by pmbuko at 1:21 PM on April 13, 2009


You can boot from the SuperDuper clone.
Buy a 2.5 SATA drive and replace it. It is just 3 screws and some trim between you and the drive, the swap is easy. Reformat it GUID partition map and clone back from the superduper clone.
Clicking is the worst sound to hear from a drive..... it's likely toast forever but you are good.....
You Backed up.....

Bravo! Congrats!
posted by StUdIoGeEk at 1:26 PM on April 13, 2009


dunno about Mozy.
Nothing beats a bootable SuperDuper or Carbon Copy clone of a drive.
Surely not Time machine.
If Mozy is web based it is not bootable i'm sure....... it would take forever!
posted by StUdIoGeEk at 1:29 PM on April 13, 2009


First of all, congratulations on actually backing up your data. Your hard work is now paying off and you probably won't have many issues getting everything back.

Can I get my MacBook working again tonight, booting off the copied drive? It's a USB2 external drive, not firewire, and the MacBook drive is backed up using SuperDuper

I'm fairly paranoid about backups, but my policy is I don't start using the backup until I've replaced the dead drive. Then the absolute first thing I do is copy the backed up data onto the blank drive, so that there isn't much of a chance of the backup failing or getting corrupted (unlikely but possible). It sounds like you have two independent backups, so it's probably not a big deal, make sure you're 100% certain that your Mozy backup is everything you need before you start messing with the backup.

Is it definitely the hard disk that has failed, or could it be something worse?

Any kind of strange noise usually means death with hard drives. It's a mechanical device and most of the things that can go wrong mechanically are fatal. If you are so inclined you could try running some diagnostic tools on it (I'm not a Mac user so I don't know what's available for that) to try to salvage it, but definitely don't put anything important on it or pay anyone to repair it.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:31 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It could also be bad RAM. My MacBook Pro was doing something similar a few days ago. It wouldn't start up, just got as far as the chime, then some faint clicks and a white screen. Following advice on the Apple support website, I swapped out my upgraded memory for the original Apple RAM, and everything worked again.
posted by teg at 1:59 PM on April 13, 2009


I booted off the external drive, and my internal drive isn't showing up at all, so I figure it has died, rather than a RAM problem. I seem to have lost all my work from this long weekend, but otherwise everything is safe at present.

I'll look into getting a new internal drive tomorrow. I needed more space anyway, so that's something good to come out of this. How big a drive can I go for, and any recommendations for makes or models?
posted by roofus at 2:26 PM on April 13, 2009


I'll look into getting a new internal drive tomorrow. I needed more space anyway, so that's something good to come out of this. How big a drive can I go for, and any recommendations for makes or models?

Western Digital Scorpio 320GB 5400RPM SATA 2.5" hard drive.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:57 PM on April 13, 2009


I just put a WD Scorpio blue 500GB drive for my MacBook Pro -- love it. There are apparently various thicknesses of 2.5" SATA drives -- there is some chatter on various mac forums. But I had no trouble. When you pick a drive you think you want, google quickly just to make sure there is no problem with it in your model of macbook...
posted by misterbrandt at 3:17 PM on April 13, 2009


Hi!

Same thing happened to me, unfortunately right out of warranty. I'm just chiming in to say that both of the hard drives so far suggested have been 5400 RPM, I'd recommend a 7200.
posted by mhz at 3:27 PM on April 13, 2009


I seriously suggest 500GB. Loads of space on a Laptop is so "luxurious".
As for the 7200RPM thing. There are still no 500 GB, 7200 RPM, 2.5 SATA drives shipping. The Seagate is being pre-ordered but is not shipping yet.
I don't think 7200 RPM will be worth it unless you are doing heavy video or audio from your internal drive (one should use an external 7200RPM for this). The extra space is surely more important to me.
I have also heard chatter about shorter battery life and higher heat with the 7200 RPM drives.
Good Luck
posted by StUdIoGeEk at 6:47 AM on April 14, 2009


yeah, too much heat with the faster drives. Macbooks get pretty toasty already. I forget the model I replaced mine with (dead drive, same symptoms) but I restored from a time machine backup and was 100% good to go. I know the hardcore backup guys love to hate time machine, but it's actually pretty awesome. Anyway, I only wanted to mention that it is a worthwhile addition to your backup regimen, especially because it's virtually 100% automatic. the biggest problem with backup solutions is that people don't use them (or don't use them often enough), and if you'd had a time machine backup, it would have been a lot more current than two weeks old.

Congrats on getting your machine running again, and I hope you didn't lose much work.
posted by Chris4d at 9:47 AM on April 14, 2009


I installed the WD Scorpio 320GB drive, because it was cheap, and available with express shipping from Amazon. It's working well, and not too hot.

I ended up only having lost only a couple of hours work. I can't recommend Mozy and Superduper highly enough. They both worked exactly as advertised to save my digital life.

Thanks everyone!
posted by roofus at 5:46 AM on April 16, 2009


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