Laptop Surgery – installing a new hard drive on my Macbook Pro

My Macbook Pro (~2006 edition) came with a 120GB HD.  At the time, I knew this was likely too small but that I could handle it.  I keep most of my music and video files on an external drive.  Of course, I also have a 34GB Windows Vista partition, which means only ~86GB Mac HD.  Despite careful use of my space, I only have 4GB free.  I cannot clean out any more files but I now no longer even have enough space for automatic updates from Apple.  This is a problem.

Solution = buy a new hard drive and install it on my computer.  This is much easier said than done.  I thought about doing this in the past but decided against it given the potential for error on my part and what that would mean (i.e. broken computer that could become expensive to fix).  The pros of more space did not outweigh the cons.  However, with only 4GB left, the pros have it and my laptop surgery has begun.

Some details about my MacBook Pro: 4GB of RAM (user installed but that was easy), 2.2 Core Duo 2, 128MB GeForce 8600.  Four years of use and it is still fast and runs well.

Installing a new hard drive on these computers is no easy feat.  There are a number of guides out there such as this one from ExtremeTech or this one from iFixit.  Both are pretty detailed but to do a full HD install on my type (i.e. not the newer ones) of MacBook Pro, you are basically taking the computer completely apart.

I write this mini guide to provide an overview of what I did to those who may follow and as a mini-journal.

1. Buy a new HD and a 2.5inch external enclosure – I choose a 250GB 7200 RPM drive.  I think this is already too little space.  Ugh – why didn’t I splurge a bit and buy another 100gigs?  I went for the 7200RPM because I like the idea of making my computer a bit faster wherever possible.  The 2.5 inch external enclosure has dual purposes: 1. use it to copy all of your old HD data to the new drive, 2. put your old drive in it when all is done and you have a new external backup HD.  I purchased both items from Newegg.

2. Download and install SuperDuper and Winclone (for those who have a Windows Partition they would like to keep).  Note: Winclone is a bit confusing (and the developer’s website seems to be down) but here is a decent description and outline.

3. Run SuperDuper to backup all of your data onto your new hard drive (sitting in its external enclosure).  Once backed up fully, reboot your computer and load the computer from your new hard drive (the one that is still external).  If it loads, then you should be in good shape to install the new drive.   Do the same backup with Winclone –> Winclone needs some explanation since there is no FAQ or detailed description of how to use it.  Basics: You create an image of your Bootcamp Windows drive somewhere on your Mac hard drive or an external hard drive (I put it on an external drive but NOT my new hard drive).  Don’t do anything else with the image until after you install your new drive.

4. Install the new hard drive.  Here is the scary part — one wrong move and my computer could be fried.  I carefully followed the instructions from iFixit and, as I had hoped, the installation was easier than expected.  Sure, you always have to be careful opening up a beautiful piece of hardware but there is something beautiful looking at everything that makes it work.  I followed iFixit’s instructions, then reversed them and the entire process took about 20 minutes.  Phew.  Now for the real test: turning my computer back on.  Voila, it worked (although it was a bit slow at first).

5. Reinstalling Windows.  Run Bootcamp Assistant and create a new partition.  If you don’t mind losing everything on your old Window’s partition, then install Windows brand new.  However, if you do want the old information, you can once again use Winclone.  However, this time around, click on the “Restore” tab, select your backup image, and then restore it to your new Bootcamp partition.  If you are lucky, this will work no problem (although Windows may ask you to verify that you have a valid copy).

If all goes well, despite the slight trepidation you may feel about opening up your MacBook Pro, you will have a faster and bigger new hard drive.

A few small things I learned:

1. Opening up my computer was not nearly as scary as it seemed.  Me and my computer lived to tell the tale and we are both better for it.  I can now not only play around with the software (which I already do) but the hardware, as well…anyone know if it is possible to upgrade my graphics card (note…that is rhetorical since I am 99% sure the answer is no).

2. Be careful, go slow and be methodical.  Each screw I took out I laid out in a line, in order of when I took it out.  When I had to put everything back together, it was simple to know which screw to use when.

3. Have fun!

Hope this helps.

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