iMac Hard Drive Failure - Help!
November 10, 2012 12:04 PM   Subscribe

My iMac hard drive is failing - please help!

I have an iMac (27" 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 4GB RAM 1TB HD).

Lately it has been quite slow - the rainbow pinwheel now makes frequent appearances when running more than one program. It is also making a lot of noise - murmuring and growling and clicking - even when no programs are running.

I went into Disk Utility and, when I select the menu item highlighted in red called "ST31000528ASQ Media" am then told that "This drive has a hardware problem that can't be repaired. Back up as much data as possible and replace the disk. See an authorized Apple dealer for information." And in the information block below: "S.M.A.R.T. Status : Failing".

What do I do? I have searched through various Mac and other forums and it seems that some folk think this is an easily solved problem where one simply swaps in a new hard drive. Others, however, have encountered problems of various sorts, where new hard drives are incompatible for one reason or another.

I rely upon this computer for a good portion of my precarious income and can not, at present, really afford a new one. Can I save this one? Can I do it myself with little to no experience in hacking hardware? Should I leave it to professionals? Any advice or ideas are most appreciated.

Apple care / warranty expired at least a year or more ago.

Last question: Am I harming it by continuing to use it?

And yes: I have currently backed up all of my essential data to an external drive. That said: If anyone has advice about back-ups (i.e., things commonly missed that are quite important) please do chime in.

Thank you!
posted by jammy to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Search IFixIt for your model and decide if you can do it yourself. It might not cost much more to have a shop do it, and if this is a vital machine you should consider letting experts handle it. Soon.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:10 PM on November 10, 2012

Same exact thing happened to me about a month ago on the same computer.

I brought it in to the Apple Store. They replaced the hard drive for about $280, which is a lot of money but at least less than getting a new computer, and with less risk than trying to do it myself. So far it seems to be working perfectly.

If you use Mac's mail program, make sure your messages are all saved if you want to keep them. I've lost those before. I used Time Machine this time, and I have to say it made the process of putting my stuff on the new hard drive pretty painless.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 12:11 PM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

You may be in luck. Certain Seagate drives in iMacs are prone to failure so Apple has an extended hard drive replacement program that will replace your drive for free even if you're out of warranty. Put your iMac's serial number in on that page to see if you qualify.
posted by zsazsa at 12:29 PM on November 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

1TB drives are falling over, all over the place. Apple will likely replace it free of charge (but won't recover any data)
posted by Packed Lunch at 12:32 PM on November 10, 2012

Oh, and I wouldn't try to replace the hard drive in a 27" iMac yourself if you don't have much experience. Opening one is a very delicate operation due to the large pane of glass and display panel, and it also requires uncommon tools (suction cups and torx bits). I've opened mine twice and it was pretty nerve-wracking even though I have a lot of experience working on the guts of computers.
posted by zsazsa at 12:34 PM on November 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd pick up an external drive of suitable size and turn on Time Machine, to back the whole thing up to that new external hard drive. Then whatever course you take in getting the internal drive replaced, you can transfer your data back onto it from the (up-to-date) Time Machine drive.
posted by BillMcMurdo at 12:56 PM on November 10, 2012

I have a 27" iMac that was part of the seagate recall. I did buy applecare at the time of purchase. I am not sure if this why they gave me several options, but one of the options they gave me was to have the HD repaired at my office, sending a tech over. I chose that one. I had not previously backed up the HD and I will say that it took DAYS to do an initial backup with Time Machine. I think I only had about 150 GB of data to back up. There are some threads out there saying that OS X Lion is very slow to do initial time machine backup. Evidently that is the camp I was in. Either way, you need to do a full back up of your system if you still can. When the OS is re-installed, you can restore your data from the Time Machine backup. This also took several hours. I did have to re-enter some software serial numbers and a few other small things, but the whole ordeal wasn't really that bad. Hope it goes smoothly for you!!!
posted by walmerhoz at 7:54 PM on November 10, 2012

1) nthing checking to see if the recall/Seagate replacement program will cover you,
2) nthing doing a full backup as soon as possible and
3) I've never tried Time Machine's approach, but I have been happy using Carbon Copy Cloner. Backed up a bootable terabyte drive in a day over USB 2.0, FWIW.
posted by TangoCharlie at 10:01 PM on November 10, 2012

Thank you everyone!

And thank you zsazsa for pointing me toward the Seagate Hard Drive Replacement Program - turns out my old pooter is eligible. Yay!

Also: the guys up the street from me are licensed Mac Techs and can replace it for free with only a day turn-around. Yay yay!
posted by jammy at 6:25 AM on November 11, 2012

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