Nov 122009

This article is about how Frau Klein deals with a dying hard drive in her new macbook pro having time pressure of finishing up a project. the ongoing head -> wall, swearing and screaming isn’t documented here ;)

Symptoms: The mac used to freeze for a few seconds every now and again. Since I am back home it increased dramatically: every half an hour it froze for half a minute and in between every so often.

What happened? I was looking in to the system.log using the  Console and found for each freeze a Disk I/O error. Panicing around I used Disk Utility to check the HDD, the tool lied and said everything is ok. I also executed it from the install CD with the same result. A hardware check was successful too.

Backing up the system: As the duration and count of freezes increased I used one of my external HDD to backup everything via time machine which worked out fine. As I haven’t used it before I don’t know what gets backed up and which applications or configurations I might loose, so I also used Carbon Copy Cloner to backup everything to another drive. CCC complained about unreadable files – and proofed so my concern that the HDD is dying. I hope I can create a bootable external disc to be able to finish my project before I fix the mac. For that I formatted an external 320 GB device as bootable disc using disk utility:

  • In Disk Utility click on the external drive (the manufacturer’s info line but not a specific partition) and click on the Partition tab.
  • choose the Options button and select GUID partition table (needed for booting on an Intel Mac) and click OK
  • Click on the Volume Scheme, and choose 1 partition from the drop-down list
  • Click the Format drop-down, and choose Mac OS Extended (journaled)
  • Name your drive and click the Partition button.

Then I started CCC, choosed the source drive (deselected some folders) and the target drive and clicked on clone. It takes about 2 h to clone 100 GB.

Finishing work: Once, the cloning is done I restart the mac using the USB drive by opening System preferences, choosing Start up device and then selecting my backup device.

Now I try to finish my work before I care about fixing the machine.

Helpful articles

Console is a mac utility which shows all log files. there is a lot of noise in the system log but once you have time stamps, know which program causes problems etc it is quite easy to figure it out what is going on.

Disk Utility is a mac utility, just open the application, select the HDD, click on the tab first aid and hit “verify Disk”. This checks if the file system is ok. If you get an error you might want to try out “repair disk”. You can also start the disk utility from the install CD. insert the install CD and restart the Mac, hit D while the machine is rebooting. Choose a language and don’t click on “continue”. In the menu choose Utilities > Disk Utilities and then check the HDD again. This ensures that the whole drive is getting checked.

Time Machine is also a mac utility, just open system preferences to activate it. You will need an extra drive to store your backups on it.

Carbon Copy Cloner
is a program I first read about at I used it to clone the 120gb drive to a 500gb drive in my old macbook. It ran smoothly without problems. Just clone, shut down the mac, change disk, start the machine, done. A perfect tool.

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