10 minutes to 1TB

WARNING this post contains all the boring details of a HD swap and Lion (OS X 10.7.1) installation. For those of you with ADD or couldn’t care less about this geeky stuff, stop yourself now and click on this.

For those of you that don’t know. My aging, decrepit hard drive of 1.5 years decided it was time for Carnival and turned its S.M.A.R.T. status light red. I was about to install the Lion installer to a USB Stick and was going to repair disk permissions using Apple’s built is Disk Utilities when my drive’s text listing was in red. I had never seen a red listing before even though I’ve literally worked on hundreds of Macs and opened disk utilities on a good portion of them.

So, my natural curiosity made me click on the drive, and lo and behold SMART status was listed as “failing.” So I did what and good christian er technical person would do and immediately ended my IM session with my friend and started looking for my external drive to back up.

But I couldn’t find the drive. It was on my equipment stand last time I was home for any length of time (about 5 weeks prior). So, I did the next best thing. I backed up what I could to dropbox ( http://db.tt/SlxDF7D ) and called it a night…

But as late night Ronco commercials say, “But wait there’s more!” In also decided to keep the drive spinning and close out as many programs I could to keep the disk access to a minimum. I did however tweet a question about SMART and checked my phone for answers. I was told by my Friend Alex that SMART drives can last a while. So, I stopped my frantic search for that backup drive. (My other 1.5TB external FW drive from OWC died about 6 months prior)

I was also in the midst of evaluating a software package, and had sent the developer a few emails about audio stuttering on disk access. So, I decided I should let him know that my drive might have been at fault to save him the trouble of checking his code for bugs.

I also searched the web and found a 2.5″ 1TB 9.5mm drive for less than I bought the 640GB drive for a year and a half ago. So, I quickly ordered it. The shipping charges for overnight and even 2 day were astronomical, so I decided 5-6 days was fast enough.

It arrived while I was in SF for the weekend, and I didn’t notice it until Tuesday sitting on the counter along with a check I had been waiting for. So “double-yay!” When I had time I reviewed the HD swap video and instructions and went to work.

I wish I could say it was nerve wracking swapping the drive. I wish I could say it was an extremely delicate operation, because that would make a better story. But no. It all went so smoothly, that when I was finished unscrewing 12 #0 phillips screws and four Torx 6 screws, I paused for a minute after I snapped in the SATA cable and thought, “Wow, things have come a long way from the days of disassembling half the laptop to reach the drive and gingerly laying out the screws on a tape picture of the laptop case and labeling each internal screw set. (Yeah, I actually did that quite a few times back in the day.) No instead, I just carefully places the screws where they would not be lost and the 2 internal screws holding down the drive securing bar were attached to the bar.

I was literally in and out in under 10 minutes. <10 minutes to swap a laptop drive! I was pretty pleased with Apple's Unibody MacBook Pro line when I got it, but I was about as happy as one could get after this experience. While I was in there I noticed that I could have upgraded the RAM in another minute or two.

Then the test: would it power up and see the drive? I popped in the USB stick containing Lion (OS X 10.7) and booted the MBP. After a few seconds the USB stick lit up and the Lion installer loaded in about a minute. After a few warm up clicks, I was then greeted with a redesigned disk selection tool. The 1TB drive was listed and I was surprised to find that of the 1TB, after formatting it's capacity was 999.35GB!

For those of you that do not know, most drive formatting "steals" a good amount of space — we're talking gigabytes of space. I think my 640GB drive was formatted and only had about 620GB of storage. So, seeing that formatting was only taking up a piddly 650MB of my 1TB, I was even happier. Could it be that drive manufacturers were finally labeling media with actual formatted storage capacity? That's a nice trend. Keep it up.

The Lion installation couldn't have been easier; about 15 minutes of file copying from USB to HD, a reboot and 30 minutes of install time and I had a fresh new system. I looked at the clock when it was all done, and from power down of the system with the old drive to the finder fully loading it took less than 1 hour.

Update: I later migrated my old data using Migration Assistant. And after about 3 hours, I had my 450GB of data copied over without a hitch.

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