Repair Story: 320 GB Drive Troubles

April 18, 2009 Repair Stories — Miro

Agent Smith explicitly stated in The Matrix that we are “only human.” As I’ve found out recently, this generalization also extends to us here at iFixit, and is the basis for this story. Let us all gather ’round the campfire and tell the horror of a semi-successful 320 GB hard drive installation into a PowerBook G4 15″ Aluminum 1.5 GHz laptop.

Yesterday was yet another pleasant California day — the type of day that makes you wish you were outside, painting and listening to Enya. My day started with a trouble-free entrance into the office, my wife’s trustworthy PowerBook G4 in one hand and a brand-new 320 GB drive in the other. I came inside full of hope that I will hook up the 320 GB bad boy with an external USB enclosure, set up a “Restore” cloning session with the existing internal 80 GB drive (Disk Utility is your friend!), and pretend to work for the next couple of hours while the 75 Gigs were transferred over. This completely failed, as did my next strategy– although in retrospect I found that some of the FAIL factors were not entirely my fault.

First problem of the day: When I hooked up the 320 GB drive via a USB to SATA adapter, instead of whirring happily the drive made a CLICKclick, CLICKclick, CLICKclick noise. Uh oh — the brand-new drive is bad, I thought. I hooked up the same enclosure/drive to my MacBook Pro and it worked fine. This was an interesting discovery but it still did not solve my problem of cloning the drive. I proceeded to test back and forth between computers, but the same problem kept happening with the G4. No matter what I did, the PowerBook would not recognize the external USB drive. I hooked up various other PATA drives to the enclosure, but with the same end result.

Eventually I decided the USB ports on the G4 were wonky (this assumption was confirmed over the course of the day). I proceeded to take apart the G4 using our nifty hard-drive replacement guide, and hooked up both drives to my Intel-based (more on the significance of that later) MacBook Pro via one FireWire and one USB enclosure. I formatted the 320 GB drive and did an 80-to-320 clone over the course of three hours, of course while pretending to work. Everything was copied and… It didn’t work.

I put the 320 GB drive directly into the G4, but the computer absolutely would not recognize it. I tried the external FireWire or USB just for the heck of it, but the CLICKclick CLICKclick came back to haunt me. I hooked up another 160 GB drive internally to see if there’s a drive-size limitation, which would have been quite interesting given that the PowerBook G4 Aluminums should have an ATA-6 interface. By booting from a Mac OS X DVD, I was able to confirm that the 160 GB drive was present, although no OS was installed on it. I tried the same with the 320 GB drive, and it was also being recognized! So I tried installing Mac OS X, and saw that the partition was not correctly set on it. By default the Intel-based MacBook Pro set the drive partition to its native Intel-only “GUID Partition Scheme,” which prevents a PowerPC-based laptop to boot using the drive. So I set the 320 GB drive to the PowerPC-native “Apple Partition Scheme,” and of course Mac OS X installed with no problems. Finally, after a day of troubleshooting, the G4 booted successfully with the 320 GB drive!

Had the G4 properly recognized the 320 GB drive via USB, and subsequently performed a clone from its internal 80 GB drive, none of this would have happened. We still don’t know why the laptop has goofy USB/FireWire ports, but I attribute it to the entropy of old age. The same laptop also had one of its RAM slots fail, and the SuperDrive went wonky years ago. Even so, I upgraded the RAM by putting a 1 GB module and tossed in an 8X SuperDrive for good measure. I figured after all this work my significant other can at least have a usable machine, given that it has decent processor, video card, and a great non-glossy display.

Moral of the story: Make sure that the partition you set coincides with your laptop’s processor type. GUID Partition Scheme is for Intels, Apple Partition Scheme is for Power-PCs. Now if we can only make that into an nursery rhyme…

Got a suggestion? Maybe you’ve written a repair-themed nursery rhyme? Drop a comment and let us know!


  1. I’ve had USB-connected HDs click when using them with older, lower-amperage USB ports. Freaks me out when I hear it. Did the external USB enclosure have an independent power source, or did it draw power from the computer?

    Comment by Nils — April 18, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

  2. I have had problems with my PowerBook G4’s inability to power a USB-connected external drive (not enough power available). So I use a Y-cable to plug the drive into both USB ports and everything works fine. This might have worked for you.

    FYI: I used your “nifty hard drive replacement guide” a couple of months ago to upgrade my G4 harddrive. Worked great, including the initial clone of the internal drive! Thanks for an excellent guide.

    Comment by Phil — April 19, 2009 @ 5:16 am

  3. The USB enclosure I used had independent power, so there wasn’t any issue with enough juice coming from the USB port itself. The enclosure had both PATA and SATA capability; interestingly enough, I hooked up a SATA drive to the PowerBook G4 and it ran without a hitch, but no PATA drive would function. And complicating the matter even more, the FireWire external enclosure (which was PATA only and had no external power) also didn’t function properly with the G4 — the same CLICKclick CLICKclick problem persisted.

    I am pleased to announce that the PowerBook has had no problems ever since the 320 GB drive was installed properly.

    Comment by miro — April 20, 2009 @ 10:40 am

  4. I bought the 320GB drive and the enclosure from you. I installed the new drive into the enclosure, copied the old drive using SuperDupper to the new drive, then swapped drives. No problems at all ( knock on wood).

    Comment by Michael — April 23, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

  5. I wonder what that clicking was, to. I had swapped the 250GB, 7200 RPM HD in my brand new Macbook Pro (I mean new it was 3 days old when I did this and that was in Jan 09) with a 500 GB, 7200 RPM drive. I first did a clone and switched drives and it worked. I reformatted the drive (250GB Drive) and am using it for a external drive for the laptop. but I went to hook it up to my 24″ iMac also new (Sept 08)< oh I also have 3 USB external drive off two- 4 port powered Hub, and it did the same thing. I also put it directly into the USB Port on the iMac, the drive did it too. Why does it work on my MacBook Pro with OS 10.5.6 and not with my iMac with OS 10.5.6, Please, does anyone know???? its a bitch burning DVD’s to transfer about 1000 RAW-DNG photos.


    Comment by Kristyanna Virgona — April 23, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

  6. […] Power it up to make sure everything is connected properly. But powering on the machine isn’t the end of your journey. The new drive has no operating system or data on it. You have a couple of options, depending on the state of the old drive. You can clone the old one (if it still works) by installing it into a FireWire enclosure and using Disk Utility to clone. Once you’re done, you can use the enclosure and old drive as a Time Machine backup, in case the new drive ever fails — or as external storage. The other option is to start from scratch with a fresh install from a Mac OS X install disk; this is a cleaner but more time-consuming process. We offer Leopard install instructions on how to perform either procedure, so the choice is up to you. Just make sure the partition is set to the Intel-native “GUID Partition Scheme,” otherwise you may encounter some very interesting problems. […]

    Pingback by Upgrading a MacBook Pro Hard Drive « iFixit Blog — June 12, 2009 @ 2:07 pm

  7. I had the same USB problem, but I managed to find a firewire cable and it worked like a charm!

    Comment by Geddy — August 1, 2009 @ 10:06 am

  8. THe same thing happend to me I took out my 250GB HD from my MBP and cloned it with a 500 GB after I put the USB drive on my 24″ iMac the HD did the same thing. I found out that the 5v on the usb port was very Low so it did not HAVE current to run it/

    Comment by Kristyanna — October 9, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

  9. My friend and I were recently discussing about how we as human beings are so hooked onto electronics. Reading this post makes me think back to that debate we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.

    I don’t mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside… I just hope that as technology further develops, the possibility of transferring our memories onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It’s one of the things I really wish I could encounter in my lifetime.

    (Posted on Nintendo DS running R4i DS NetBrowze)

    Comment by bandsxbands — January 31, 2010 @ 7:30 pm


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