Can I trust this drive again?
June 19, 2016 11:52 AM   Subscribe

My iMac hard drive is having issues. The computer wouldn't boot, etc., so I started up disk utility to repair the disk and got an error. Should I replace the entire disk?

The error read:

"Disk Utility stopped repairing "Macintosh HD"

Disk Utility can't repair this disk. Back up as many of your files as possible, reformat the disk, and restore your backed-up files."

I have a complete (but sadly non-bootable) backup, so that's no big deal. My question is this: Assuming I can repair the disk by reformatting it, should I trust this hard disk again? Or is it time for a replacement?
posted by griseus to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
the technical answer to this is to look at the smart data -

but in practice disks are so cheap it's safer to just stick a new one in. or even take the chance to switch to an ssd (they are so much better).

(discalimer: not a mac user and unsure how user-serviceable those things are).
posted by andrewcooke at 12:06 PM on June 19, 2016

If you are going to have anything important on that machine, then yes, you should replace the disk. +1 on the SSD recommendation, but get one of the SLC ones (Samsung EVO usually pretty reliable). Depending on which generation iMac, the drive can be tricky to get at, but there are youtube videos to help with this, or take it to a local Mac shop.

Again, if there is anything important on that machine, please remember to use a decent backup software, I use and would recommend CrashPlan.
posted by techSupp0rt at 12:25 PM on June 19, 2016

Yes. It's dead.

I don't know how old your iMac is, but replacing a drive on an iMac is not an easy operation. Here's a how-to guide for an older model. The newer ones won't be any easier.

That said, spinning hard drives are cheap. One option might be to get a drive and a USB enclosure so you can pull as much off as you can from the original drive.

And yes, have backups. I have remote backup with Backblaze, a local Time Capsule backup, and weekly clones of my laptop's hard drive onto a second HD. In this day and age, there is no good reason not to be backing up.
posted by SansPoint at 12:34 PM on June 19, 2016

Can you trust it? Hell no. Replace it? Hells yes.

I replaced the hard drive on my iMac following a guide like the one above, and it is quite an involved operation. I wouldn't say it was terribly difficult, just a long process of many steps. Depending on your level of comfort with getting up in them guts, either set aside an afternoon for the surgery or take it to a repair place (and open your wallet).
posted by rodlymight at 1:16 PM on June 19, 2016

Yeah, replacing the HDD on an iMac is a pain. Not super complicated, but you have to take the whole display out, and worry about getting fingerprints on the glass and so forth.

An alternative to replacing the internal drive would be getting a Firewire thingy like this and just booting off of that. Firewire because it's much faster than USB2 (I doubt the iMac has USB3 if it's old enough to have a conventional HDD in it).

What I'd do myself, if I went the dock route:

- Get the dock and an HDD at least as big as the one in the iMac
- Using another Mac (if you have access to one), mount both the new HDD (using the dock) and the HDD in your iMac (using Target Disk Mode and a Firewire cable). You might have to use USB for the dock in this step because Macbooks typically only have one FW port.
- Use Disk Utility to clone your old disk to the new one
- Boot from the new disk on the iMac
- Maybe reformat the internal disk at this point to keep the iMac from trying to boot from it
posted by neckro23 at 5:31 PM on June 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would replace it. If you have an iMac without a cd drive (the ones with the thin edges) you probably want to have an expert replace the hard drive. It's a miserable job and requires some special tools.
posted by gregr at 6:49 PM on June 19, 2016

Drives are cheap. Replace it. If you have the option and the means, spring for a Solid-State Drive ("SSD"). The performance boost is dramatic.
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:54 AM on June 20, 2016

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