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Mac hard drive test - just failed big time on my iMac, how hard will it be to replace.

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I was having the typical symptoms of a hard drive failure so I got a copy of Scannerz and ran tests on it. The initial scan showed errors and irregularities, and the product says to re-scan in cursory mode over the defective region to confirm that the drive is really the problem and not something else like a faulty cable. They all confirmed, so it's clearly the drive, not the logic board or a cable. Scannerz did a great job, unfortunately it found fairly widespread damage running from about 16G into the scan all the way up to 24GB. Some of this is apparently readable, but some of it isn't. The manual offers some "fix-it" attempts that I'm not interested in trying. This is a late 2006 iMac, and this is the original 160GB drive.

 

This is a 2006 17" iMac, and the screen went about a year and a half ago, which is a common problem with this unit. Instead of tossing it or paying about $250 for a new display, I essentially converted it into a multi-media center. I put the unit against a wall so I don't have to look at all the lines running through the screen, attached a good display to the video output port, and I'm feeding the audio cables into an amp with real stereo floor standing speakers. It's actually quite good as a baby multi-media center. As you might guess, this isn't my only Mac.

 

In any case, I've never opened the unit up, and because of the unit's age I don't want to throw a lot of money at it. All it needs is a hard drive. This isn't a "critical" system.

 

Here are my questions:

 

  1. How big of a pain is this job? I've replaced the HD on an old 12" iBook a few years ago using the step-by-steps at iFixit.com, and that took me about 2 hours. I don't do this for a living, by the way. How long would someone like me, that's careful, by the way, take to replace it?
  2. Are there any "gotcha's" that I need to worry about?
  3. I was thinking about getting a refurbished drive instead of a new drive. Some vendors of refurbs claim that a lot of the units are overstocks that never sold in the first place and they're given the refurb label because the manufacturer doesn't have to honor the warranty. I tend to believe this because why would a manufacturer waste money actually repairing a drive instead of replacing it, considering their cost these days?

 

Any tips would be appreciated, especially about the "gotcha's" and reliability of refurb's. Keep in mind, this isn't a primary system any more, just a toy more or less.

 

 

Thanks.

post #2 of 9

It's not to bad. Here's a repair guide.

 

http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/iMac+Intel+17-Inch+Hard+Drive+Replacement/891/1

NOTICE: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information supplied herein, fahlman cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. Unless otherwise indicated,...
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NOTICE: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information supplied herein, fahlman cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. Unless otherwise indicated,...
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post #3 of 9

It's not bad, but it's not easy either. The hardest part is getting the plastic cover off, at least it was for me.

 

Here's a link to iFixit for your unit:

 

http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/iMac+Intel+17-Inch+Hard+Drive+Replacement/891/1

 

If you look at step 4, that's a PIA. I ended up taking a 1" wide putty knife with tape on both sides to prevent damage to the case, but even after I got the latches released I still had to jimmy the thing off. DON'T YANK IT AFTER IT COMES OFF! There are connectors along the case that connect to the microphone and the camera and if you yank them they might end up pulling connectors right off the logic board. Since your system's already got a dead monitor, you probably don't use them, but you don't want to hose your logic board.

 

Another tip: DON'T PULL ON ANY CABLES AT ALL! I know the guides say "gently pull on <connector name here>" but I've seen more people rip the connectors right off a circuit card doing that than anything else. The way to get them off is to insert the smallest flathead screwdriver you have, and it should be a jewelers screwdriver, into the small space that will exist between the connection you want to remove and the connector on the circuit board. Once you've got the screwdriver inserted, apply a SLIGHT pressure downward on the circuit and rotate the blade of the screwdriver up. The connector should budge a little. Work your way around the connector in a few places, and then repeat with a slightly larger jewelers screw driver. By the time you get to through with the second one, the connector in most cases, will be loose enough to actually "gently pull it off." A lot of connectors on the logic boards and other circuit cards have connections so small they're easy to rip right off the board. I don't know what happens to connectors as they age, but when they get old, probably from heat and airborne contaminants entering the unit and working their way into the connectors, it's like someone almost applied glue to them. Some WILL come off easily but others won't. Better safe than sorry.

 

Also, since your monitor is already dead, if you look at the iFixit link, in step 9 and 10 they disconnect the video cable to the monitor and the inverter. You don't need them any more so I wouldn't re-connect them. What will happen is that the video controller will simply re-route to your external display like it's a primary display, excluding the internal display all together. Right now your basically using 2 memory frames for video, one for the internal display, which you have facing a wall because it looks bad, and the one you use. This will probably free up memory and speed the system up some. You probably don't need to reconnect the speaker or camera either if you have the unit against the wall. 

 

Aside from that, the rest of the iFixit guide is good.

 

About refurbished drives, what do you have to lose? Apply common sense here. If someone was really going to refurbish a drive they would have to:

 

1. Ship it to a repair center.

2. Analyze the failure

3. Repair it.

 

About the only repair on a hard drive that can be done easily is to replace the controller. That can be done quickly, but it would still need to be determined if that's the source of problems, and if a controller failed, when it did so, did it damage the platters? Sounds like a lot of testing is in order here. How much will all this testing and analysis cost? How does that compare to the cost of the drive? My guess would be that they toss the bad drives and your "refurbished" drive is probably overstock from a supply that was intended to be used to replace drives that failed under warranty.

 

With drive prices being so low these days, I wouldn't buy a refurbished drive for a critical system, but for an entertainment system like yours, I wouldn't be scared.

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

Just thought I'd do an update. 

 

I replaced the original drive with a 320G Seagate that was on sale for $59.95. The job wasn't that hard, I'd say the hardest part was getting the plastic case off. If you do that read the iFixit and be very careful (if you need them) about the wiring to the camera and mike. It wasn't a big deal for me because the displays dead so I just disconnected them but if you need them, I'd think they'd be easy to bust. I disconnected the video cable from the bad busted LCD since the original was, as I said, bad. The external monitor works great like this. 

 

Before I had the thing completely assembled I did a full scan on it with Scannerz and it passed with flying colors. I did that because I'd hate to re-assemble the thing and then find out either the drive was bad or I screwed up a cable.

 

In any case, all is well now.

 

 

Thanks for the advice, guys. 

post #5 of 9

Anyone know how big a problem SATA cables are on these things? I've heard they can be problematic and act just like a hard drive failure.

post #6 of 9

I'd hardly call it a plaque, but the MacBook Pro's seem to have a higher than ordinary percentage of SATA cables. That's just an observation I've made over time...no statistics to back it up. I don't see it with other units is why it stands out.

post #7 of 9

I meant to say "MacBook Pro's seem to have a higher percentage of SATA cable failures", not just a "higher percentage of SATA cables." 

 

OOOPS! ;-)

post #8 of 9

I had mine replaced 3 times already.

post #9 of 9

Also watch some replacement hard drive videos (just find your Mac model). This will give you a great reference before changing out the drive yourself.

Mac Pro Dual 2.8 Quad (2nd gen), 14G Ram, Two DVD-RW Drives, OS X 10.9
Mac Book Pro Core 2 Duo 2.16Ghz, SuperDrive, ATI X1600, 2GB RAM, OS X 10.7
1TB Time Capsule

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Mac Pro Dual 2.8 Quad (2nd gen), 14G Ram, Two DVD-RW Drives, OS X 10.9
Mac Book Pro Core 2 Duo 2.16Ghz, SuperDrive, ATI X1600, 2GB RAM, OS X 10.7
1TB Time Capsule

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