Replacing the hard disc drive in a Macbook Pro

Mac OS booted from external USB drive

I replaced the hard disc in my Macbook Pro (uploaded the photos last year but only got round to writing about it now). The actual replacement of the disc went smoothly, thanks to the detailed instructions on ifixit.com (no direct link to the instructions because they vary per model), however when it came to restoring my system to the new disc, I ran into some problems.

Here are a few tips that, if I had known before, would have made the process a bit easier.

Backup. It goes without saying that before you start, you should make sure you have a complete Time Machine backup on an external drive. I of course did this, but ran into problems because I did not do the following.

Make sure your original OSX installation DVD is in working condition. You will need to boot from it in order to restore from Time Machine to the new hard disc. When it came to this step, I found that my DVD had somehow got damaged and was not readable. I managed to borrow one off a friend, but this cost me a couple of days while I waited to get it.

Clone the installation DVD to an external USB drive. I cloned the DVD onto a partition on the same external drive as the Time Machine backups, which is perhaps not the best thing to do, but works OK so far. I actually did the restore by booting from the cloned image on the external USB – as far as I have read, it is quicker to do that than boot off the DVD.

Get a cheap external USB case. Assuming the original drive is not being replaced due to it not working any more, it’s useful to have an external case handy to put it in and boot from in case you run into problems. I booted and ran my system off the original disc in an external case while I waited to get hold of the OSX installation DVD.

Finally, after finishing the Time Machine restore, you’re still not finished. You still have to:

– Reauthorise iTunes
– Reindex Spotlight (took ˜3 hours for me)
– Re-import all email into Mail
– Run Time Machine backup again

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