The Computer Blog

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Not Really User Serviceable Hard Disk

Almost as soon as I bought my new MacBook Pro, I ordered 4GB of RAM and a new 500GB 2.5” hard disk from Other World Computing. They both arrived Thursday of last week. After reviewing the information in my new MacBook Pro’s User Guide, I thought that replacing the hard drive in the first MacBook Pro designed with a “user serviceable” hard disk was going to be a snap. And in some ways, it was. But I have to say there are also some significant “gotcha’s!” in the task that make me hope I never have to do it again. Likewise, while not significantly hard, swapping out memory also holds some of those same undocumented risks that can easily make you wish you’d taken the whole thing to an Apple Service Center in the first place.

First off, you must have the correct tools for this job. Getting to the hard disk itself only requires unlatching the bottom door and pulling it off. You’ll see the topside of the hard drive as soon as you do. It’s held in place by four lugs, two of which are under black plastic catches mounted in the body and two of which are held down on the other side by a black plastic bracket secured by a tiny, aluminum Phillips screw. You will need a Phillips PH00x40 size screwdriver to work with this screw. It has been torqued tight by a machine which will make you press down very hard on the screw to get it to loosen. The trick is to get it loose without stripping the head, which is moderately soft. Once the screw is loosened, the bracket lifts straight out. At that point, you can remove the connectors to the hard disk or carefully pull up on the plastic tab attached to the hard disk to swing it out of position. Once you have the hard disk loose, you’ll notice the four lugs that have been screwed into it and are used to position and secure the drive into place. These have to be removed from your “old” hard drive and placed on your new one. This will require a Torx T6 screwdriver. If you don’t have one of those (and few people I know do), go to an electronics or cell phone store and look for a tool kit that contains one or buy it as a single. Once you get the right tool, removing the lugs and replanting them on the replacement hard drive is a snap. Reassembling the hard disk is also easy as is mounting it in place. The hard part is securing the screw that holds the hard disk’s bracket in place and trying to get it torqued tightly without stripping it. As careful as I tried to be about that, the screw head was not in as good a shape as it was when I first started.

Replacing memory also became a nail-biting routine, not because of its technical difficulty but because of the tiny screws that are easily mangled and must be removed. There are eight of them, some long and some short, and the users guide does a good job of pointing that out. Again, you’ll have to apply more torque than you think to get them loose with a good fitting tool or you’ll strip the heads. Once you have all eight screws out, you lift off the rest of the computer’s bottom that wasn’t removed when you replaced the hard dive. The memory slots are at the center of the machine and nestled up against the small metal rail that separates the hard disk/battery cavity from the rest of the machine. The slots are stacked vertically, so you’ll remove the top memory stick and then the bottom one. When replacing memory, reaching the bottom slot is not too difficult though you’ll have to push past the top snaps and make sure that it’s the bottom snaps holding the bottom stick securely. Replacing the top memory stick is simply a snap in place move. Then, it’s a simple matter (if you placed your screws in some manner that lets you know which screws were where) of replacing the body screws and securing them without damaging them.
Frankly, the screws involved in all of this are so easily damaged that it would behoove Apple to make available replacement screw kits. After all, they’ve advertised these machines as having “user replaceable” RAM and hard drives while still maintaining the high engineering standards they are known for. Some users, though, are not going to be ready for that.


  • My problem is I stripped the single screw holding the HD bracket in... and I was using the Philips #00 :(

    Any advice on what I should do?

    By Blogger Wannabe, at 3:14 PM  

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