Two Mac Tales

This week’s update is all about the techie stuff, both having to do with Macs, and both having to do with hard drives.
Tale #1: The Beeping MacBook
I awoke the other morning to a MacBook that was beeping intermittently. The system seemed to be operating just fine, but every so often I’d get an odd beep from under the keyboard. I searched for the symptom on Google and came up with a few hits, including this YouTube video. The most common diagnosis to this problem seemed to revolve around a bad hard drive.
When you purchase AppleCare (Apple’s extended warranty), they give you a copy of TechTools Deluxe, which is a suite of diagnostic and test tools. I ran the tests and the machine came up clean: no disk or memory errors.
I decided to re-seat the memory and hard drive just for good measure, especially since it’s very easy to do on a MacBook. After I did this, the beeping stopped. Being the superstitious type, I ran a full SuperDuper backup on the computer.
Five days later, the machine crashed and wouldn’t reboot. Then the hard drive started to screech. I plugged in my external firewire drive containing my previous backup, and booted from there. The computer came up right away.
One trip to Fry’s and $79 later, I found myself installing a brand-new 250 GB Fujitsu drive in the MacBook. After restoring from the backup and assessing whatever I lost in those 5 days, I feel lucky that my intuition paid off.
The former drive, a 160 GB Hitachi TravelStar, is on its way back for replacement under warranty.
The moral of this tale: if your MacBook starts making this particular noise, be prepared.
Tale #2: I’m Goin’ In
Rebecca’s iBook had a 40 GB hard drive. I’m sure that seemed like an awful lot of disk space when the computer was built in 2004, but with music, videos, movies, and photos, that 40 GB is nothin’.
I picked up a 120 GB hard drive from Fry’s (a couple weeks before the events of Tale #1) with the plan of doing the replacement while I was on vacation, so I’d have lots of time to spend working on the project.
Unlike a MacBook, where the hard drive and memory can be replaced by removing the battery, three screws, and a single bracket, the hard drive on an iBook is buried deep within the recesses of the computer and requires multiple disassembly steps and the removal of over 60 screws. Thanks to the wonderful step-by-step instructions at and a pair of non-colorblind eyes (provided by my lovely assistant, Emma), I finished the job in about three hours.
When I got the computer back together, I noticed the wireless (AirPort) signal was really lousy. It worked, but where it previously had very good reception it was now barely connecting.
After a quick search for “bad wireless reception on iBook” (what did we do before Google?) I discovered that the antenna connection on the Airport Extreme Card, which is simply a wire that plugs into the top of the card, needs to be pushed down very very hard in order to make good contact. When I did this, the connector snapped into place loudly, and when I booted up the great wireless reception came back.
I figured I would provide another service to my fellow Mac users in the event they were looking for info on either of these fronts.
The next update won’t be quite so geeky, I promise. 🙂