Thursday, August 30, 2007

MacBook Hard Drive Failure

As Roseanne Rosannadanna used to say, "It's always something"...

Yesterday when Bob turned on his 8-month old MacBook and was greeted with the flashing question mark. The computer was asking where's the system folder? We tried a few things such as starting up in safe mode but same old question mark. We found the install disk and when that booted up the computer we looked at disk utility and it did not display the hard drive... Oooh, that doesn't look good.

I did a search on "macbook does not recognize hard drive" and found some interesting and informative links. Seems like there has been lots of hard drive issues with MacBooks but I'd probably get lots of results if I replace the word MacBook by Sony...

We were very pleased to find that removing the hard drive on the MacBook is very easy. Remove the battery, remove the metal RAM retainer, pull out drive. With our iBooks you had to almost remove everything to get to the drive.

We were kind of discouraged as it had been a while since his last back up but so it goes... But then, I read this posting on the THINGYMAJIG blog. This is what the ever-so-helpful Anonymous had to say:

A tip for the broken-hard-drived...
by Anonymous (not verified)
Hi all, after being an onsite engineer (PC and Mac) for what seemed forever, a PC IT Manager for far too long and happily working as an AppleCentre Manager for a couple of years, I'd love to pass on this little gem that *sometimes* can give a dying drive one last blast from the paddles of life. This has worked on countless occasions for me personally, on PCs, Macs and HD based iPods:
Remove the drive from it's enclosure (excluding iPods, obviously!), hold it in one hand and give it a SINGLE brisk flat-handed slap on the top of the drive. Don't panic, when hard drives are powered down they can withstand multiple G's of shock force and not sustain damage. What prevents this (and is also the problem culprit) is the hard disk seek heads being parked away from the platters inside in their safe place. What is extremely common is for the heads to stick in the parking bay, especially when the drive has been exposed to quick temperature change. If the drive is unable to unpark the heads and continue spin-up, it will shut itself down until the next time it is powered off and on, hence the drive appears unavailable to the OS.
The reality is, it's not going now, so what have you got to lose. Just be sensible and resist the temptation to imagine Apple Customer Relations officers faces on the drive and don't belt the crap out of it. If the technique is going to work for you, it'll work with one slap. If no go after that, she be toasted.

So, Bob removed his hard drive, gave it a "Proby slap" upside the head (NCIS reference), put it back in, and his MacBook started up normally. Cool! We then went up to the computer store and bought a 120GB replacement drive which we will be installing soon.

Here's another thing that MacBook & MacBook Pro users should be aware of:

Read this link about how you may damage your hard drive if you move your computer too soon after closing the lid...

This is what Apple’s MBP manual states:

Warning: Wait a few seconds until the white sleep indicator light on the display latch starts pulsating (indicating that the computer is in sleep and the hard disk has stopped spinning) before you move your MacBook Pro. Moving your computer while the hard disk is spinning can damage the hard disk, causing loss of data or the inability to start up from the hard disk.

So, you wonder - what difference does it make, Apple notebooks have the Sudden Motion Sensor and will prevent any data loss or disk damage ?

Wrong again! The Sudden Motion Sensor has no effect in this situation, so you’ll be better off to leave your computer to finish the job it has to do.
I feel fortunate that I haven't experienced this problem. I'll now be more careful.

Hope this helps other Mac users...