Help my poor dead Mac?
December 30, 2012 12:54 PM   Subscribe newish MacBook Pro is dead and I have a question about whether or not I can salvage the HDD and stick it in the new MacBook Pro to save a whole world of time.

Suffice to say, electronics don't much care for tonic water. Or gin for that matter. But what's done is done. Those of us that are not so delicate and are thus still alive need to move on as best we can.

I've opened up the back of my 2011 MacBook Pro and fished out the hard drive. It wasn't at all wet so I have high hopes for it. What I'm wondering is to what extent is it possible to stick it in the new machine and have it boot and recognise things are different but just deal with it and not freak out.

On a Windows box I know this wouldn't work. Would it work with the more Unixy Mac OS X?

The alternative is to hook up the hard disk to the new Mac as a USB device and attempt a manual transfer of settings and files but I know which route I'd prefer if it's feasible!

Many thanks!
posted by dance to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yes. I've transplanted an HDD from a circa 2006 MBP 15" to a newer (2009?) MBP...or was it the other way around? I forget-- we shuffle laptops around a bit at work.

It worked right off the bat-- I don't recall any errors occurring. The Windows partition in boot camp, predictably, did not.

If you can get ahold of someone else's MBP, put the hard drive in theirs and use the User Migration tool (I forget what OSX calls it) to move your user to the new MBP. That will ensure total compatibility. I've moved users across a Cat-5 network cable in less than 30 minutes, and not only did it move everything, but the windows that were open on the old machine were open and in position on the new machine when the job was finished.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:00 PM on December 30, 2012

It'll almost certainly work. Of course, I'd hook it up via USB to boot first to test before I opened up the new machine.
posted by pompomtom at 1:00 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Should work, unless the OS on the old machine isn't compatible with the new machine's hardware.

I'd put the old drive in an external enclosure (they're very cheap) if you don't already have one and migrate the user and apps and everything else from it to the new machine's own internal drive (Migration Assistant is what you will want to open once you boot up the new machine with the old drive attached via USB).
posted by BillMcMurdo at 1:05 PM on December 30, 2012

As others have said, yes, you can almost certainly do this with few problems. (By the way and for the record for future users of AskMe, there are indeed 'Windows boxes' with which you could do exactly the same thing. I've done it.)
posted by trip and a half at 2:03 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unless you absolutely must be up and running on the new machine with all your old data as quickly as possible, I'd go the route BillMcMurdo suggests.

Pop the drive into an external enclosure and use the Migration Assistant app to transfer data, apps and settings to the new machine. It takes very little effort and does a great job. It just takes a while to run if you have much data to transfer. I think when I used it last it took a few hour to transfer apps and documents. It would have taken much longer, but I excluded my photos and music files and transferred them later. If you go that route, create a temp admin account with something other than your preferred username on the new machine so that it doesn't collide with the account you transfer over.
posted by Good Brain at 2:08 PM on December 30, 2012

As convenient as transplanting the HDD may be (well, for a value of convenient that involves lots of small screws), remember that HDDs have a lifespan, and the HDD that comes with your new MBP is a spring chicken. You said that your late, great MBP is newish-- if it's less than 2 years old, I wouldn't hesitate to go the transplant route. If it's older than 2 years, I'd begin to consider other options, but transplant is viable. At the 4 year mark, an HDD that has been running an OS (even doing so part time, as laptop users idle their drives more than desktop users), I'd be favoring an option that lets me put the old HDD to a comfortable retirement, as a relatively inactive storage drive or backup drive with a medium level of trust.

The HDD and any fans are the last of the moving parts in your machine, and while HDDs are built great, they aren't going to get any better with SSDs horning in on their role. It's important to respect the lifespan of hard drives, and an Operating system puts the most punishment on most hard drives.

-> On preview, I didn't know you could migrate a user from USB-- that's excellent, and that's what I'd recommend if an option.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:15 PM on December 30, 2012

if your new MBP is a retina one, then you can't transplant in an older SSD - the retinas have the SSD on a card instead of the traditional 2.5" HD form factor. an external enclosure and the Migration Assistant are your best bet.
posted by russm at 2:44 PM on December 30, 2012

Yes. I have done this, but in my case I dumped and entire cup of coffee into my Macbook.

However, I would also suggest getting an enclosure and using Migration Assistant. Speaking from personal experience, it's a much better way of doing it.
posted by Grangousier at 4:51 PM on December 30, 2012

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