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Imac Hard drive going kaput
Replacement suggestions?

 12:13 am on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've got an 08 24 inch Imac (aluminum case) with a 320 gb hard drive that's about to give up the ghost. It will only run for 10-15 minutes before locking up, so I'm salvaging the last of my wife's photos off of it in 10-20 gb batches.

It seems to be temperature related, as after it locks up-if I let it sit for 30-40 minutes I can start it up (in target disk mode) and get another 10-20 minutes out of it. But, I don't hear the fan ramping up and there is no HD noise-so I'm not certain* that the hd is actually failing-or if it might be some other component.

*Apple support says that it's most likely the HD (I'm out of warranty).

So, if you think it may be something other than a failing HD-please chime in.

Now, If it is the HD-which at this point I think is probable-what should I replace it with? I'd love to put in either the 2tb WD caviar black, or the 2tb Hitachi deskstar (both 7200 rpm 64 cache) but I don't want to overload my existing hardware-if that's possible. Any tips or recommendations?



 3:57 am on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

If it was me I'd take it and have it serviced/fixed. If they say it's the HD, then make sure you make it clear you want the dead drive back (if it was in warranty they wouldn't give it back, but since you're out of the warranty period you should be safe). I went through that some years ago and used a USB to Hard Drive adapter and the old freezer trick and got all my data off it before it died.

As to what drive to buy, I've owned so many drives over the years and so rarely had a problem that I don't have any recommendation for any specific hard drive manufacturer. I've heard lots of horror stories about different brands (always anecdotal 'evidence') and there are fanatics for different manufacturers, but personally only a few of probably 100+ hard drives I have had (I have 11 drives {various brands} hanging off my 2009 24" iMac right now between the Firewire 800 and the USB drives) have died on me without warning (such as noise) well in advance.

My iMac internal drive: These days I do a weekly clone with CarbonCopyCloner to an external Firewire 800 drive (an old LaCie) and I have another drive (a Western Digital) Firewire 800 drive which I use Apple's Time Machine as the Target Disk for.

As an side, I recently had an old iMac repaired. It was one of the old white ones so it's probably 8 or 9 years old. I took it to a local shop which is Apple certified and they didn't want to repair it. Apparently Apple has a 7 year lifetime cap on repairs, or so I was told. The problem was the power supply. Since it was a local repair shop I talked with the guy a while and eventually after telling of my first Mac back in 1986 and how I had supported Apple over they years (not getting angry in relating all of this) he eventually said he'd see if they had one in stock. You have to remember there really aren't any third parties that sell things like power supplies for an iMac. Luckily Apple had one in stock when he checked. Then he went on about the 7 year rule and all that hogwash and that Apple may not sell it to him, etc. In the end, Apple did send him the power supply and he repaired it (US$120 all told). It's back in the bedroom working as a LAN server for the house.

I don't know that the 7 year "cap" is real - I never called Apple to ask. That's what the fellow told me, though.


 5:12 am on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Aside from what you replace that hard drive with, it's very possible that you may be able to drop it into an external enclosure and run it off of that. I went through multiple HD failures a few years ago when the one TB drives were coming out. My computer repair guy said they're unstable and after burning through several I agree. Nevertheless the drives could still be dropped into an external enclosure, plugged into the computer with the new drive and then still access the data in that manner.

Afaik, taxing your system is not an issue. As long as your motherboard has the SATA II hardware then you should be good to go. Check online for your mobo specs.


 5:44 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the replies! My local mac store wants $200 for a 500gb drive and $60 for the labor-so I'm tempted to order a drive and put it in myself (the 2tb WD Caviar Black is $165 online).

Using an external as the boot drive is an interesting option. It would certainly be easier than tearing this one open...


 6:01 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't recommend using the external as the boot drive. However you can drop the old HD into the external to grab any leftover data you might need.

I highly recommend NewEgg for researching your hard drive. Their user feedback is great. There are some hard drives that may not work inside Macs, mostly notebook computers though, because some of them were not built to handle the vibrations from a faster drive. Your iMac should be fine, but do read the user feedback just in case.


 8:18 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Will do-thanks MB!


 9:02 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't recommend using the external as the boot drive

While this would certainly not be a general recommendation, I frequently use external FireWire drives to boot Macs (including the one I am typing this on) and have never found any drawbacks other than the reduced portabilty of laptops.

And I would definitely recommend installing OSX on an external FireWire drive if you have one. Put it on a partition of its own, it may come in useful someday.



 9:14 pm on Apr 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

My local mac store wants $200 for a 500gb drive and $60 for the labor-so

wooo your local mac store is taking you to the cleaners! 2TB drives can be had for less then $90


 6:39 pm on Apr 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Is there a way to replace the HD without the OS Installation CD? My install disks are in Alaska, and I'm in Hawaii...

I have two external HDs and another Imac-could I put the new HD into one of the external enclosures and just copy over all the backed up files from the dying machine?


 7:11 pm on Apr 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Straight copying from the Finder will not work with OSX - you need to clone the installation.

Free options include Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper.



 7:30 pm on Apr 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

^ yep you have to clone not copy.


of course you are going to have to pull that clone off before your drive starts acting up or the whole processed will be ruined.


 7:34 pm on Apr 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

I frequently use external FireWire drives to boot Macs (including the one I am typing this on) and have never found any drawbacks other than the reduced portabilty of laptops.

well as long as your firewire bandwidth is faster then whatever on board SATA is.... you'd be losing I/O speed otherwise.


 7:37 pm on Apr 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have a time machine back-up of the drive-will that work?


 8:50 pm on Apr 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have a time machine back-up of the drive-will that work?

Unfortunately the standard procedure to restore the system from Time Machine also requires the OSX install DVD (which you left in Alaska).

As you also have an another iMac, however, you should be able to clone OSX from that to the new drive (in an external case) before fitting it in the dead Mac and restoring any of your wife's photos that you managed to salvage.

CarbonCopyCloner and SuperDuper are free tools that can clone a bootable OSX drive.


Norton Ghost can be a useful tool on Windows but is unlikely to help in this case.



 9:52 pm on Apr 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks Samizdata!

I just get the new drive from the UPS guy and have formatted it with Disk Utility on my working Imac. What's the best way to clone only the OS to it? (I can copy the applications folder and other data from my backup drives)

I've installed carbon copy cloner and I see where I can select which folders to clone over... Do I just copy over everything but the users/user folder and the applications folder...?


 10:15 pm on Apr 7, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's actually a long time since I used it - I have only ever done a "block level" clone which copied everything to a FireWire drive (making it bootable) - and the latest version will doubtless offer additional, possibly confusing, options.

I'd suggest reading the support material and FAQ on their website before you start as the process can take quite a long time. If in doubt clone the entire installation then delete stuff afterwards.

Aloha and good luck.



 9:05 pm on Apr 8, 2011 (gmt 0)


After reformatting the new drive, and cloning the OS to it from my working Imac, I pulled apart the old Imac (24 inch aluminum 2.8ghz) and replaced the drive. Once I got it put back together, I put the old drive between a couple gel ice packs in a box on my desk and was able to import the user accounts from the old drive to the new drive via Migration Assistant. All the various files have been copied back from the external drives, and the machine is purring with its new 1.5tb seagate drive ( I read the 2tb drives are more prone to failure so I opted for a proven-and much less expensive 1.5tb drive). I also upgraded from 2 gb to 4gb RAM while I was at it.

Thanks for all the help!

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