My Hard Drive Crashed. What now?
July 25, 2006 8:57 AM   Subscribe

My 12" Powerbook G4's hard drive has gone belly up. Help me figure out my options.

My hard drive crashed in a serious, unfuckwitable way mid-day yesterday. After exhausting my own technical know-how, I took it to the Apple Store, who told me (basically) that it's unrecoverable due to hardware damage (it makes a reallllly scary spraypaint-can clicking noise when turned on). I attempted to target boot it to my girlfriend's computer (from where I am writing this question), but it won't mount. This, it seems to me, is a v. bad thing. So: I would like to know what, exactly, my options are.

1) a) Obviously, I need to get my hard drive replaced. I would do this myself, but I've heard that the 12" Powerbooks are difficult to pry open (and instruction manuals I found online back this up). Is this true? Is there anyone who's done it? If I decide that I don't feel comfortable doing it, can anyone recommend a Los Angeles-area Mac service store that will do it quickly, well and cheaply?

b) Should I just spring for a new computer? My Powerbook's not in great shape--sticky keyboard, dead line of pixels on the screen, bumps and dents all over. What's the lifespan for the rest of the hardware parts on these machines, and if I do replace the hard drive, how much longer am I looking at? Am I better off just buying a new Macbook?

2) a) At this point, how likely is non-heavy-duty data recovery? From what I can tell, most places recommend (if the drive wont mount in the computer itself) removing it and placing it in a firewire enclosure, and trying to get it to mount from there. Is this something that I could do? (I suppose this is a similar question to 1a). When I attempted to target-boot the laptop, wasn't I basically doing the same thing--and if it doesn't show up then, am I basically fucked? Is there a store that would do this for me (if it's even worth doing), and how much would they charge/would they charge if it ended up not working?

b) Assuming that I will never be able to mount my hard drive again, is there a Los Angeles-area data recovery service that will do it for fairly cheaply (I understand that in this case that might mean something like $500), or is that just wishful thinking? Considering that the hard drive is making the bad noise and I've tried to turn it on several times, I'm worried that I've damaged it even further. What's the likelihood of that, and how much will that affect other people's attempts to fix it?
posted by maxreax to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
I can only answer question b: if I were you I'd replace it
posted by matteo at 9:12 AM on July 25, 2006

I mean, I'd replace the PowerBook with a new computer
posted by matteo at 9:12 AM on July 25, 2006

I just took ownership of the same model, so I've been poking around a few sites to prep myself for the inevitable repairs.

The replacement seems pretty straight forward. And prices for a 7200rpm drive are reasonable.
I have nothing to offer in regards to data recovery however.
Good luck.
posted by paxton at 9:26 AM on July 25, 2006

regarding firewire enclosure vs target disk mode:

I have a busted powerbook drive that will spin up and mount in target disk mode, but not from an external enclosure. I have no idea why this is the case, but it is. I moved it back and forth several times to verify.

Of course, in your case you're hoping the opposite will be true. The point is that the two environments are different.
posted by alms at 10:00 AM on July 25, 2006

The very same thing happened to me and my 12" PowerBook three weeks ago: Got the clicking sound of death -- luckily, mine developed slowly so no data was lost -- which climaxed in a dead 60-gig HD. I replaced mine with a cheap-ass 40-gig to keep me going until I get an MBP in September.

I would say it is perfectly doable to replace the harddrive yourself. I used the instructions from here without much problems. My tips: Make sure you have the screwdrivers required as stripping one screw would really, really suck. Also, be more than anal about tracking the screws as you remove them. I put each batch into its own teacup saucer, labelled with the step where they were removed.

Good luck -- it is not as daunting as it sounds.
posted by docgonzo at 10:29 AM on July 25, 2006

the instructions docgonzo posted for replacing a hard drive are the best around - i used an icecube tray to keep track of the screws when replacing the backlight on a 12" powerbook. that repair was definitely not for the faint of heart, but i think you'll be fine replacing the hard drive on your own.

you might booting from diskwarrior ($90) to see if the drive is readable, but it is probably trashed.

as for data recovery, well, there is no such thing as cheap in the data recovery world. i have used a couple times in the past (for users without backups) with great results - but they are pricey (typically around $2000).

good luck!
posted by wearyaswater at 11:17 AM on July 25, 2006

1a. I've done this. I found it a little stressful, since you really do have to tear the computer apart to get at the hard drive. However, if you're going to replace the hard drive, you should do it yourself since you sound pretty competent and it's a hell of a lot cheaper than getting a Mac shop to do it for you. (The place near me charges $125/hour)

1b. I currently own a MacBook, and I couldn't be happier with it. It is very noticeably faster than my 1.5Ghz 12" G4 PowerBook, and the wider screen is also much nicer. Also, Apple appears to have fixed the preliminary problems affecting some of them, like the mooing and the discoloration. If you go with this option, get more ram (It's well worth it), and not from Apple – their prices are way too high. This is my recommendation as well.

2. I don't have much experiences with data recovery services, so I can't help so much on this one, but there are 2 tricks that you way want to research and may be useful:

A) Take out the hard drive, put it in the freezer overnight, and put it back in. Have an external drive handy when you boot it back up, and move all your files over quickly. It won't work for long. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it works. (Quick Google shows proof here and here.)

B) I've heard, HEARD that if you can find a hard drive of the exact same model, you can swap the drives logic board to fix it. I have no idea how well this works, I never was able to find an identical HD to try with, but this was with some old 10GB PC hard drive. PowerBook drives can probably easily be found on ebay.

Good Luck!
posted by patr1ck at 11:31 AM on July 25, 2006

I've done this twice; I bought two Rev1 12" PBG4s, and they failed within a month or two of each other. I'm used to pulling apart computers, and while the Powerbook was a little more gnarly than some machines, it wasn't insane.
posted by lowlife at 11:55 AM on July 25, 2006


an icecube tray works better then teacups for that.

i think that maybe the most surreal line i have ever typed....
posted by ShawnString at 12:56 PM on July 25, 2006

Best answer: Thanks for all of your help.

I ended up sending my PB away to PowerBookResQ, who upgraded my 40GB to 100GB, and threw in an enclosure for my old HD for a little less than $300, which was cheaper than anywhere else I could find in L.A., and it only took three days. They also cleaned the laptop. I highly recommend these guys. It probably would have been more expensive if I had sent the PB away for repairs and had them "diagnose" it, but since I knew what was wrong and what could be fixed, I just sent it for the HD replacement.

In any event, I attempted to boot my drive from the external enclosure and had no luck. I also attempted the freezer trick, also without any luck.

So the lesson is, as usual, BACK UP YOUR FUCKING FILES.

P.S. My girlfriend's brand-new MacBook's hard drive failed two days after mine did. Is there something we did/have been doing to cause this to happen?
posted by maxreax at 11:39 AM on July 30, 2006

« Older Cool Newsgroups Providers   |   I'm weird. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.