Clicking hard drive of (almost-)death

in Genius Bar edited January 2014

I've owned a 700 Mhz 12-inch dual USB iBook since July 2002. For a long time, it served me well. Early 2003, the battery's capacity started decreasing rapidly, but Apple replaced it for free, and the new battery has been performing much better. The real problems didn't start until Easter 2004.

It was then, a few days before I was off to a trip to the US (all the way from Germany), that I noticed very strange slowdowns in my usage. However, I was unable to locate the problem. My suspicion of a hard drive issue seemed unfounded: Disk Utility, run off the installation CD, would not report errors.

I made the foolish decision not to bring said installation CD on my trip, since about two weeks later, I could have used it: the slow-downs turned into actual problems. The system would sometimes stall for twenty minutes or just decided to hang entirely. Sometimes, when booting, the kernel failed to find certain kernel extensions (figured out by booting with Cmd-V verbose mode). Simply put, it *was* in fact the hard drive that was failing. Checking the S.M.A.R.T. status confirmed this. Luckily, with a lot of patience and hundreds of reboots, I was able to save almost all significant information.

(As a sidenote, I wish .mac Backup wasn't crippled for non-customers. In version 3, it has become a fine program. For now, I'll stick to using hdiutil, creating compressed disk images and storing them on an SMB share on another computer.)

Suffice to say, my laptop was useless for the rest of the trip, with no means to even reinstall a temporary system, let alone have someone inspect and/or replace the hard drive. Back in Germany, I've had it done and took the opportunity to get a bigger drive; a Hitachi TravelStar with 60 GB capacity (rather than the Apple-supplied 20 GB Toshiba drive). 5K80, I believe.

Everything seemed fine; the faster drive made the area to the left of the trackpad (where the hard drive is located) a little warmer, but not, apparently, to a critical point. Furthermore, other people told me this drive should be perfectly fine for this model.

I started hearing of the logic board replacements and found myself astonished and happy that my model didn't seem affected, despite having one of the related serial number series. Not so, though: one morning at the end of March 2005, I did experience the very issues described in Apple's FAQ. For a while, though, I was able to continue using the computer (and, again, saving some crucial data -- yes, I do need a safer backup plan) thanks to the "press area next to the trackpad together" trick that has been described on this board and elsewhere on the internet. For various reasons, however, I was not able to actually have the iBook repaired until July, just a few days before it would have slipped over the three years warranty. And before July, for whatever reason, something else happened: the hard drive died. Again. Same issues: slowdowns at first, no sign according to Disk Utility of trouble, then all of a sudden, a "failing" S.M.A.R.T. status, and finally, an utter failure at booting the system, unrelated to the logic board trouble.

I checked with Hitachi, and luckily, I was covered by their warranty. I had someone remove the hard drive and send it in; a replacement arrived within two weeks, and things were fine again. I decided not to touch the laptop until I was able to have the logic board replaced in July.

(Once replaced, the dealer commented surprisedly that while the machine should be fine, he found that the hard drive seemed empty, heh.)

I took the laptop back home, fresh hard drive, fresh logic board.

It wouldn't boot. This made me raise my eyebrows, but a PMU reset using Shift-Ctrl-Opt-Power fixed that. Maybe nothing significant; after that, an installation of OS X worked fine and once again, I was able to work with my iBook.

(Then, my power adapter died, I had to order a new one, giving me another several weeks of no working laptop. What a year!)

Skipping forward to early September, issues appeared yet again. Every now and then, the hard drive would start clicking loudly, the GUI would stall (some apps at first, then all), etc. I have had booting problems, have had to reset the PMU multiple times a week, and so on.

Today, I've also had the video turn weird once; during bootup, the grey apple would get funky colors. Doesn't necessarily mean the logic board is broken again, though.

What *is* it though? Could it truly be the hard drive? After two replacements? Have I picked a bad model at Hitachi? Or is the logic board the culprit?

Other ideas include the ATA/power cable to the hard drive, the shielding around it, etc. Power and almost everything else of the laptop per se seems perfectly fine.

It should be noted, though, that during verbose startups, I sometimes experience odd messages with the lo0 network adapter and mDNS. A Tiger bug, or something with my hardware?

Any hints and pointers greatly appreciated. The iBook isn't worth selling in this state, but neither do I want it laying around uselessly.



  • Reply 1 of 2
    I must say, that is a really long post about a hard drive failure. Either you have really bad luck or you are too rough with the computer when its on and you had a head crash.

    You could probably replace the drive agian but who knows how long that will last. What i would suggest doing also, is using CCC to make regular entire backups so that you don;t lose data (that is, unless you don;t care about the data).

    If you do want a new computer, why not look at the refurbished iBooks. That may be good for you.
  • Reply 2 of 2
    chuckerchucker Posts: 5,089member

    I must say, that is a really long post about a hard drive failure.

    Heh, indeed it is. I tried to cover as much information as possible from the start.


    Either you have really bad luck or you are too rough with the computer when its on and you had a head crash.

    If I did have a head crash, the S.M.A.R.T. status would most likely not be "Verified", but "Failing", as it has been with the previous two hard drives that did fail. I don't think it's a head crash, it seems more like a physical connection problem.

    I also already did order a new iBook, that's not the issue, I just want to do as much as possible to "resurrect" this one. I currently have it proper running using an external hard drive. If I can figure out what's wrong with the internal hard drive, though, it will have a considerably higher resale value or might alternatively be of use for my fiancée.

    As for backups, you're right with that; I guess I'm just waiting for the "miracle backup solution" to arrive. The backup programs I've tried out so far weren't particularly to my liking, and while Apple's Backup 3.0 seems decent, its 100 MB limit (unless you have an expensive .mac account) is obviously a deal-breaker.

    Anyways, thanks.
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