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The joy of upgrading a MacBook harddrive

12/26/08 | by Adam | Categories: Macintosh

For the last few months, my MacBook has been running with a grand total of about two to four gigagbytes of harddrive space. As that number also has to accomodate the OSX swap file which grows over time, it simply wasn't sufficient. Besides, I was getting fed up of constantly deleting my MP3s to make space and that "Wrath Of The Lich King" expansion for World Of Warcraft required six gigabytes (!!) of space to install.

I broke down and bought myself a nice shiny new Seagate 500 GB 2.5" SATA drive for about $150. Much roomier than the rather smaller disk I'd had in there originally. Of course, buying the harddrive is only half the battle. There's rather more to it than that: installation and migration. They're not really two independent items as the process is sigificantly intertwined.

Step #1 was to create a copy of the data from the old drive onto the new. I used Drive Genius 2 to clone the OSX drive onto the new one and then opted to use its partitioning tools to create space for the Boot Camp section. I guess I didn't mention Boot Camp before. Cool concept, running Windows on a Mac. Works well. Seriously sucks when you try to do this migrate disks.

Last time I changed the hard drive in my Mac, I didn't realise that a specific disk formatting was required for Boot Camp to work. I therefore didn't make that change and then had to redo all of the work when I did. It added about a day on to the time. So, gentle reader, when prompted as to the formatting of your drive on an Intel Mac, always choose "GUID Partition Scheme". But I didn't make it this time, oh no, not me. I learn from my mistakes.

Not that this matters and the clone includes the correct setting from the previous drive. I let Drive Genius do its thing and it completed successfully.

Yay. Onto Step #2. I took apart the MacBook, removed the old drive and put in the new one. It booted fine -- after I'd spent several hours or so trying to get the new drive to fit into the bay where the little rubber slides had detached and were blocking the connection. There was also the issue with stripped screws on the battery bay edging, the Torx screws used nowhere else on the case and the drive sled that happily fit in upside down. Ah, the language.

Step #3: Ensure OSX works on the new drive. I then went to repartition only to find that the clone had a corrupted filesystem. Something do to with reuse of extents, whatever they are, and it wasn't going to fix it. No big deal. I'd just use SuperDuper instead. And this is where I started going significantly wrong. I booted off the Drive Genius CD again, recreated the partitions on the new drive, and told the Mac to now boot off the old drive, now in an external USB drive case.

It didn't boot. I don't know why, as it should have.

Back to Drive Genius to run the same tests as before, but this time on the old drive. Not surprisingly the same errors that had appeared on the new drive appeared in the old. I don't know what that says about OSX -- I never encountered any problems actually using the drive so it's either very robust or very stupid. And apparently it won't let me boot when mounted externally. A minor side note here: Drive Genius will not even try to touch a drive with an NTFS or DOS partition so it's rendered almost useless for me from this point on. The sensible thing would have been to put it back into the Mac, swapping the drives around, and go with the SuperDuper plan but I really didn't want to deal with stripped screws and the drive sled again.

So I took option #2: I found an old Firewire drive in the basement and installed Tiger on it. I would have put Leopard there but apparently I've mislaid my disks. I then made that the boot drive, installed SuperDuper on it, wiped the internal drive again using the proper Disk Utility tool that Apple supplies with OSX, and then started the copy process. Again.

Overnight it finished. I rebooted the computer so it was now using the internal drive and disconnected the other two. And it worked. And it was good. For the first time in two days, I could now read mail and browse the internet without worrying about losing data.

However, the battle wasn't over yet. Step #4 is that Boot Camp partition. I used the Boot Camp assistant to create the appropriate partition and then used WinClone to copy the original Boot Camp partition off the external disk onto the new one via an image file. It all went swimmingly well. Booting into Boot Camp went smoothly and everything there seemed to be working fine too.


This meant that just two more things needed to be tested. Parallels 4 and Fusion 2. Parallels uses the Boot Camp partition for a work build environment as I ran out of space on the Mac partition to grow its virtual disk large enough to hold a full Visual Studio install. Fusion uses it as it could run using just the Boot Camp partition without messing up the ability of Boot Camp to use it too, something I would have preferred to have done with Parallels too but that's the price of being an early adopter.

Naturally, neither worked. Parallels at first refused to run on the grounds that the drive where Boot Camp resides at had changed. When I removed and readded it, the complaint changed to being:

"Failed to configure the Boot Camp partition's hard disk. A disk configuration error has occurred. Make sure that you have read/write permissions for the disk".

I tried various things like setting the permissions, installing MacFUSE to enable the NTFS-3g driver to give full read/write permissions on NTFS drives, rebooting Boot Camp a few times, removing all of the drives in Parallels and re-adding them but all in vain.

Google came to the rescue again. The solution turned up in the Parallels support forums and was easy although completely non-intuitive:

mv "/Library/Parallels/Parallels Service.app/Contents/MacOS/BootcampConfigurator" "/Library/Parallels/Parallels Service.app/Contents/MacOS/BootcampConfigurator.old"

Do that and magically everything works again.

Over to Fusion. The error here was that it wouldn't recognise the Boot Camp partition and after I removed it, wouldn't let me add it back in again. The solution this time was to delete the entire Fusion directory in "\users\me\Library\Application Support\VMware Fusion". This forces Fusion to go through the whole process of reinitializing when it starts which allows it to re-create the Boot Camp default settings. When it does that, you have to sit through a somewhat time consuming process where it prepares the Boot Camp partition to run as a virtual machine. Alas for me, that then resulted in an ongoing complaint about Windows not having shutdown correctly. I repeatedly tried rebooting Boot Camp directly and even upgraded to a newer version of Fusion. Eventually one time the error just went away of its own accord. I'm not sure what I did (or didn't) do but I wasn't complaining.

So there you have it. It took me two days to change a hard drive in a MacBook. I somehow think that this will be the last time I change that; if the drive fails, I'll probably just go and buy another computer. It's getting on for three years old now which makes it pretty much obsolete in computer years...



Comment from: shupie [Visitor]

Thank You for your article!!
I solved this problem just now- (about 20hrs takes..)
Thank You, Thank You very much again!

03/20/09 @ 12:25
Comment from: Adam [Member]  

Glad to be of help!

03/20/09 @ 13:40
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