Replace HD on Powerbook or new Macbook?
October 9, 2006 7:20 PM   Subscribe

Powerbook 12" G4 is borking itself. HD problem. a) Replace HD or b) entire computer? If b) How much can I sell this thing for? Also is a 12" Alu Macbook available anytime soon?

So last week my powerbook (12", 1GHz G4 768MB ram, OS X10.47) started whirring away with its hard drive being really slow whenever I used it (e.g 20 seconds for webpage load) . Eventually, it wouldn't boot up. So, I started in target disk mode, and copied my files to another computer, reset the PMU and booted in safe mode. Once safemode had booted, i repaired disk permissions and cleaned up using disk utility and turned of spotlight using spotless
The system worked for a week, during which time I backed up again using SuperDuper. Today, whirring recommences and after a couple of hours use and crash it wouldn't start. Safemode start PRAM start and NV start all failed - all of these starts sit whirring on grey screen for >20mins.

I can boot from an external drive, which I'm doing now, but the computer cant even FIND the internal disk on the desktop. It says in system profiler "S.M.A.R.T. status: failing".

Here's the deal: I presume I need a new HD and/or controller. HD's are about $200 for purchase and $100 to install (no way am I opening this thing up). ?My applecare has run out, the battery indicator is broken (battery runs out without displaying change in status: tried different batteries, same result, only charges when ), and maybe me thinks more things could go wrong with the laptop. I need it for work: it's "mission critical" (but I pays for it myself.....and $300 is v.different from $1500!).


Q0. If I replace the internal drive, will this definitely solve my 'S.M.A.R.T.' problem?

Q1: Should I replace the HD or buy a new macbook?

Q2 If the latter, how much can I sell my current POS for? "Works from external drive and battery functions but indicator doesn't" would be way to describe it.

Q3 Are they expecting Alu 12" macbook / macbook pros with a matte screen anytime soon? I like matte screens and aluminum bodies on my laptop!
posted by lalochezia to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
Are they expecting Alu 12" macbook / macbook pros with a matte screen anytime soon?

posted by secret about box at 7:22 PM on October 9, 2006

0: Yes, it's a measure of the drive's health
1. Replace the HD either way:
2. It's worth more than $300 less than it would be with a working HD in it.
3. No, sadly. There was a muttering on some rumour sites about a new small portable Apple, possibly with an OS X variant, but nothing concrete, and the next Apple event isn't until January anyway.
posted by bonaldi at 7:35 PM on October 9, 2006

Q0) Yes, S.M.A.R.T. is specifically a harddisk diagnostic facility which is contained within the disk logic itself. If the replacement hard drive is good, then it will not report an error.

Q1) The MacBook (what I've got) is a fairly different beast from the 12" PowerBook. If you need more power and can stand the different form factor (think about your laptop cases and work areas!), then I'd get the MacBook. Otherwise, stick with the PB, especially if you're strapped for cash.

Q2) eBay knows for sure.

Q3) Not that I've heard of, and I want one just as badly as you do. As it stands, I love my white MB.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:39 PM on October 9, 2006

Honestly--replacing a harddrive isnt hard to do if your at all handy. It will probably take you an hour to two hours, and keep something handy to keep the screws in. I do it all the time.

Want a 40gb laptop hd for less than (considerably less than) $200?
posted by SirStan at 8:06 PM on October 9, 2006

I have a 15" MacBook Pro, new 5 months ago, and it is rife with little issues. (I also had a bad Sony battery, and Apple was great with the recall. I'm thinking that some of the problems will dissapear with the new battery in place.) There are lots of weird things happening with heat and power and never ever wanting to shut down. I also got a DVD stuck in the drive, which (surprise!) has no physical emergency eject release. I actually had to take the laptop to an apple store, where they had to open the machine up to extract the DVD. I feel like a bit of a chump because the primary law of Mac purchasing has always been NEVER buy the first generation of a new model Mac. The message boards are full of weird issues with my model, you may want to check on the 12" MBP message boards.

My boss also told me Tekserve had a batch of new-in-box, never-sold 12" G4 Powerbooks a month or two ago, for $800 apiece. They seem like they're all gone now, but you might keep an eye out for sales like that if you dont need the newest and fastest. (I couldn't settle for a 2-generations-old processor, but that may just be craziness on my part.)

I tend to think it might be worthwhile to replace the HD. That way you can hold out for the next generation MacBook and hope for an aluminum case, and it will have some resale value when you do replace it. Seach ebay for Macs, you'll see the non-functioning HD models are selling for parts only, $20 - $40 apeice, while the working models still get respectible prices.
posted by Cranialtorque at 8:12 PM on October 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yes, S.M.A.R.T. is specifically a harddisk diagnostic facility which is contained within the disk logic itself. If the replacement hard drive is good, then it will not report an error.

Not quite. If the replacement HD passes all the S.M.A.R.T. diagnostics tests, it will not report an error. There is an important distinction here.
posted by secret about box at 9:23 PM on October 9, 2006

Response by poster: So, mikey: could there be a problem with something else other than my HD unit?

Are the S.M.A.R.T. tests run off another chip outside the drive? (driver?) Or are they software based?

What I'd like to know is do smart faliures only occur on the unit, or could something else be happening?
posted by lalochezia at 9:36 PM on October 9, 2006

What I was pointing out is that it's a "positive-negative" test. Any set of diagnostics can only check a finite amount of points of failure. Even when including projections made on tests it performs, the test only knows what it knows how to look for.

S.M.A.R.T. can tell you one of two things:

1. Yes, this drive has failed such-and-such tests.

2. No, this drive has not failed any of the tests available. If there is some other problem with the drive, I cannot see it.
posted by secret about box at 9:49 PM on October 9, 2006

(The test can only tell you POSITIVELY that it has failed--a positive faliure/negative. Everything else is a well-researched guess. It's like a paternity test.)
posted by secret about box at 9:51 PM on October 9, 2006

Also, note that while S.M.A.R.T. is really, really exhaustive, the implementation varies from drive manufacturer to drive manufacturer. They all seem to have different criterion sets and analysis/failure thresholds.
posted by secret about box at 9:59 PM on October 9, 2006

SMART runs on the drive itself (on the logic board that's physically attached to the aluminum housing containing the actual disk platters); exactly what it does depends on the drive manufacturer. There's an ATAPI command to ask the drive to return its error statistics, run diagnostics, summarize its overall health, and whatnot. The computer just displays the status returned by the SMART commands. It seems unlikely to me that a SMART failue indication would be caused by anything other than an actual problem with the drive.
posted by hattifattener at 12:19 AM on October 10, 2006

q0: Yes
q1: Replace regardless (you can get 60Gb ATA notebook drives for less than $70);
q2: eBay knows all.
q3: *shakes magic 8 ball* Outlook not so good.

As for replacing the hard drive yourself: my wife and I have the same model powerbook as you. Both of them had the hard drives fail within a couple of months of each other, which sucked greatly (no AppleCare, just out of warranty, d'oh!). However there are good quality instructions on how to replace the HD. Yes, it's a gnarly process (thank god they've made the HD user-replacable in the new MB), but it's not an impossible process. Honestly, if you take your time and keep track of the screws, you'll be fine.
posted by lowlife at 4:41 AM on October 10, 2006

Use ifixit's instructions (here) and replace your hard drive.

Then take you old disk and throw it in an enclosure or get a usb adaptor and try testdisk or other data recovery tools to get your data back. If the disk has failed this may not be an option or it could be very expensive if you really need it.

Alternatively, I know the 12 inchers have quite a following and still have years of life left in them. I recently got a 700mhz iMac for $185 at an auction with 512mb of ram because it has a scratch on the lcd (minor) and it was running 9.2. I now have it set up dual booting Tiger and Xubuntu and it runs great.

If you are interested in selling your powerbook, try to hold out till January, when we will hopefully see an update in the product line.
posted by eleongonzales at 6:27 AM on October 10, 2006

Email sent.
posted by eleongonzales at 8:38 AM on October 10, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I'm going to replace the HD, see how the machine lasts, and depending on my $$, and new-mac-lust, try and hold out for the nextgen MacBook.
posted by lalochezia at 12:19 PM on October 10, 2006

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