Friday, 31 October 2008

A MacBook Pro hard drive upgrade

I have just upgraded my 15" Macbook Pro with a larger hard drive. The machine was shipped with a 120G hard drive when I bought it. Times move on, and data accumulates. Cubase projects and Parallels virtual machines quickly fill up precious space.

Hard drives are not a user-upgradable component of these notebook models, but there are plenty of descriptions of how to disassemble a MacBook Pro available on the net. To their credit, MacBook Pros are relatively easy to pull apart and very well-made machines. Still not as serviceable as an IBM (or Lenovo, or whatever they're called these days), but not bad at all.

The upgrade is perfectly simple for anyone with technical competence, a little bravery, and a torx size 6 screwdriver.

The drive

I installed a 320G Western Digital Scorpio drive, which seems a very good choice. It's a high-performance 7200RPM drive. WD claim that it consumes a comparable amount of power as an equivalent 5400RPM drive - a claim I can't validate this yet, except to say that battery life doesn't seem significantly shorter than with the previous drive.

A jump from 5400 to 7200RPM is great. The result is a snappier machine which handles better when running many tracks at once in Cubase. Software build speeds are marginally faster. The machine boots more quickly, too, but I tend to reboot infrequently anyway.

Running XBench tests before and after give compelling results:
  • Sequential uncached writes increase from 18.3MB/sec to 55.5MB/sec
  • Sequential uncached reads increase from 9.1MB/sec to 19.7MB/sec
  • Random uncached writes increase from 9.8MB/sec to 31.7MB/sec
  • Random uncached reads increase from 8.2MB/sec to 24.93MB/sec

The only interesting part of the process was working out how to migrate my old data onto the new drive.

Previously, I've performed a Leopard install with the old drive attached over USB; the Mac OS installer magically notices the old drive and offers to migrate the data over. I tried this. but it didn't go as planned - not all the data migrated over (a whole load of components and programs didn't move across) and the installer still forced me to register and add a new user, despite there being a number of users that had just migrated over. Less than full marks, then. I wonder whether this was due to the Leopard version on the old disk being ahead of the install DVD version?

There are suggestions that a Time Machine backup is a good migration strategy. But I fear that this will fail in pretty much the same way.

The solution is simple, though:
  • Boot the machine from the Leopard install disk.
  • Select Disk Utility from the Tools menu.
  • Partition the new drive with a suitable partition table to boot an Intel machine. Create a single journalled HFS+ partition.
  • Click on the "Restore" tab and restore data from the old drive (make the old drive the Source) onto the new drive (make the new drive the Destination).
  • Ensure that Erase desination checkbox is selected.
  • Click on OK.
  • The old data is copied onto the new drive's parition.
  • You now have a carbon copy of yor old drive, covering the entire surface of the new drive.


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Unknown said...

Very informative post. Keep up the good work. I would really look forward to your other posts

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