iMac Goes Terabyte

The iMac Aluminum 20″ started misbehaving. Claire and Kelly reported, “it has been on a gray Apple screen for 5 hours trying to start up.”

I found the computer did not want to boot up properly and when it would, it would end up going into a sluggish state after a short period of time. I was worried it would be another logic board problem which would cost upwards of $500 to replace. (I’m now out of the 1 year warranty.)

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After several experiments of testing the drive, fixing errors, reinstalling the software, etc. I decided I was getting nowhere fast, and would need to make an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar.

Before that, though, I wondered if I could create a boot drive with one of the external Seagate drives. I didn’t think you could boot off a USB drive, but I couldn’t find anything that said yes or no on the web, so I tried. I consolidated the contents of the two Seagates onto one, and went to install OS X on the empty drive. The install software said I needed to format the drive as “GUID” to make it bootable. It told me to do that with Disk Utility, so soon I was off installing OS X.

After the install, I was prompted if I wanted to copy existing software, settings, and documents from another Mac or another disk. Wondering if I could pull the contents off the internal drive, I prompted it to look there. After a couple of hours, all of the data, software, and settings on the internal drive were on the external drive, and we were up and running as if nothing had happened. (Still lost the wiki, though.) USB is a bit slower, but for the most part, the iMac acted normal.

I decided I had a failing internal hard drive since errors were found that could not be repaired and the drive would no longer mount. Guided by a video of how to upgrade an iMac Aluminum hard drive, I was off to Best Buy to pick up a Seagate Terabyte (1,000 Gigabytes) drive on sale for $112. Twice the size of the failed drive. I also picked up two shower suction cups and a torx screwdriver set (always wanted one.)

Claire and I went into surgery following the video. The suction cups worked great for pulling off the cover screen that is held in place with magnetic strips. (The suction cups in the video are overkill.) Only one step was missed by the video– a sensor cable on the left side that is tucked behind the fan. It was easy enough to disconnect. The video really made it all so easy to do. We had the brain transplant complete within an hour, and then it took several hours to reverse the install / copy process from the external drive.

Claire was a great helper. She was partially motivated by her mechanical engineering interests, but the truth is she was really motivated to get back to playing the new game she and Kelly bought, Sims 3. The two of them have missed not having the iMac for a week. They even took up sewing like two Mac-less pilgrim children.

Lost wiki. Lost videos.

Our 1.5 year old iMac 20 is semi-broken and will have to go back for a second visit to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store… this time not under warranty. ($) I think the hard disk has some problems. I had to reinstall the operating system to get it to come back at all, but it is not happy.

All of our photos, music, and documents are backed up, but the one thing I never got around to backing up was the Fiveforks Wiki that held copies of the Histories and FOPAB scans as well as some nice commentary and original text created by Ted and I. It is that unique text that I’m afraid is gone. (We have the FOPABs and original Histories.)


In order to run the WikiMedia software I needed newer technology (PHP5) than what is running on the Mac5 server (PHP4). While I have the databases backed up daily on Mac5, I never did get around to installing the backup routines on the iMac at the house.

This combined with the failure of a Lacie external hard drive (1 year old) about the same time also meant the loss of a lot of the crazy videos the girls have made. The best were burned to DVD, posted on YouTube or Facebook, so we have those, but I know they were disheartened to lose some of their crazy unpublished stuff.

I also lost a large Western Digital external hard drive last year almost exactly after one year. Amazing these two external drives failed within weeks of their 1 year warranty expiration. My two external Seagates any two external Maxtors (at work) have held up well.

All of this makes me question 1) using desktop Macs like servers… running almost 24 hours x 7 days per week and 2) depending on external hard drives to back up the desktops. Still, if I had backed up the Wiki and the videos, I would feel better.

Mac5 may move to a hosted server (non Mac) in the not too distant future.

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