How do I remove a recalcitrant HD from a Macbook?
January 18, 2010 10:51 AM   Subscribe

macbook hard drive problem

OK, so here's the deal: a while ago I had to replace the keyboard and topcase on my macbook (due to some faulty keys). I found some tutorial on youtube and put the new one in without too much trouble. the battery also needed replacing (the thing's about 2.5 years old now).

Anyway, for a few weeks it worked perfectly until one day it abruptly turned itself off. I tried to restart, and would hear the hd start to spin briefly and see the screen flicker, and the sleep light would stay on constantly. I looked on forums and tried all the usual stuff like zapping PRAM and whatnot but nothing worked.

Then I tried opening it up again and checking the ram wasn't loose. Fine. Then I tried the hard drive. Here's the tricky part: you know how there's a kind of ribbon you can use to pull the hd out? I mean like this:

I then realised I had no way out getting my new upgraded hd out (tweezers didn't work). I gave it a bit of a jiggle though, and then tried my computer again. It got all the way up to the apple screen before crashing! Then back to square one.

The most success I've had is by putting a folded up bit of cardboard under the hd (that is, looking at the laptop upside down). It booted and was running for about 15 minutes. I was so taken aback I didn't really do anything. Then I thought, to be sure, I should give it a little shake just to make sure it was really fixed. I went over the top and it turned off again. Now the hd doesn't even start to spin and the sleep light just flickers when I turn it on. Grrr.

So I think it must be to do with a dodgy hd connection, but how to I get the damn thing out short of taking the whole thing apart again?
posted by mandrake to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is the kind of thing that the folks at a local Genius Bar will be happy to do for you, often for free. Why not try that?
posted by contrarian at 11:18 AM on January 18, 2010

Duct tape.
posted by Gungho at 11:18 AM on January 18, 2010

I live in Alice Springs. The nearest Genius Bar is over 1500kms away. -_-
posted by mandrake at 11:30 AM on January 18, 2010

To be clear, you're saying that your HD doesn't have the tab-pull on it to allow you to pull the HD out?

It definitely sounds like your HD doesn't have a solid connection to its "plugs" along the optical drive side of the computer. It might also not be correctly aligned on the rubber "snubbers" that guide the HD into place and help to hold it in place.

The good news is that you can easily fix this by removing the top case, which you said you've done before (the top case is the keyboard). There is a very easy to use guide on iFixit, which you've already linked to. Just take the top case out (being careful of your screw order), fix the problem with your HD (reseat it properly, align it along the snubbers, or even replace the HD entirely), and you should be fine. Once the top case is off the MacBook, everything in the HD area is very easy to access.
posted by at 1:12 PM on January 18, 2010

You know, pretty much right after I posted that second comment, that occurred to me. D'oh. So I took it all apart again using that ifixit guide (I don't have down pat quite yet) but then I realised I hadn't done the final step of removing the torx screws and putting the new drive into the metal case... like, it's just been sitting in there, as it come out of the box!

So I feel pretty stupid now. I would also feel relieved but I can't find the original hd. I think I put it in an external case but that was a while ago and I have no idea where it is...

The thing is, how could it have worked thus far with all that stuff missing?
posted by mandrake at 1:25 PM on January 18, 2010

Ah, I see. You didn't replace and reuse the cage that goes around the HD, which includes the pull-tab and some "guides" that allow it to align along the snubbers. Without it, the HD will indeed fit into the space but won't be very secure, causing many of the symptoms you were experiencing. It was working because you had managed to get the data and power plugs of the HD to make a connection to the HD board/controller.

You need to try to find your original HD so you can remove and reuse the cage and torx guide screws. Apple doesn't even offer these parts separate from a HD...they sell the HD as a module that comes with the HD, the torx guide screws, the metal cage, and the pull-tab, already assembled. As such, I can't even look up an Apple part number for you to order one on the gray market (like from Apple Parts or eBay).

You could, of course order a HD replacement module from a gray marketer and it would come with everything, but then you'd have an extra HD.
posted by at 1:44 PM on January 18, 2010

Well I found the original hd and its enclosure, so now it's all ready to put back in... but I'm still gonna have to same problem of having to take the whole thing apart because I don't have a pull-tab. If this hd keeps giving me trouble that is... touch wood. Thanks mrbarrett for your help!
posted by mandrake at 3:38 PM on January 18, 2010

There are some suggestions on removing the hard drive without the pull tabs here.
posted by mhz at 8:01 PM on January 18, 2010

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