Macs are like all other systems, OS X and your data can succumb to a corrupt hard drive. When this happens, your data is at risk. Apple Repair will only replace the drive, and won’t give you the faulty one with your files on it.
If you want a third party data recovery company to get back your pictures, movies, music, and documents, it’s extremely expensive. So, how do you get your system back?
With the following three items, you’ll have a good chance at self recovery.
Faulty or Corrupt Hard Drive Symptoms:
Corrupt or failed drives usually manifest themselves in the following ways:
– Flashing Folder / Question Mark at boot.
– Heavy, Heavy, almost constant Beachball activity.
– The “(Filename) could not be read or written” popup after a long wait.
– Strange system activity / hanging on boot.
If these begin to occur, with no obvious explanation – Like you just wiped your system or forced the machine off during a system update. Immediately run a backup.
Note: Use Time Machine.
Before I go any further, I have to remind you that the easiest and least painless way to recover from a corrupt or failed hard drive is to have a current backup. Time Machine makes backing up your system really easy. Use it, at least once a week, unless you are doing critical work – then daily or twice daily depending on your needs.
System Recovery Item #1 – The OS X Install DVD:
Never lose that gray Install DVD that ships with your Mac. It is important in so many ways. In addition to troubleshooting problems, you’ll need this DVD for two reasons when your Hard Drive goes south:
1. To reinstall OS X when you get a new drive. That new HD doesn’t come with OS X pre-installed if you buy it on your own. Also, if Apple replaces your drive and reinstalls OS X for you, it doesn’t include iLife (GarageBand, iPhoto, iWeb, etc). Even though its bundled with a new Mac, Apple considers this to be a separate application.
2. To restore your system from a Time Machine backup. Time Machine has the ability to completely recover your system back to it’s latest backup. However, It needs the Install DVD to activate the restore process.
System Recovery Item #2 – An External Hard Drive:
Of course, an external hard drive is essential to put backups on. But if you didn’t, an external Hard Drive is essential for:
1. Copying your files from the Bad Hard Drive onto it. Many times when a drive goes bad, there’s still sections of it that are still good. This means if you can access them, you can copy them off and salvage them. You’ll need an external drive for this.
2. You’ll need a working OS X system to boot your computer from if it’s not starting up properly. If you set your external drive to be bootable via SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner, you can boot your system up through the external drive and bypass the corrupt drive. Then once you’re in a working state, you can copy files from the bad drive onto the external drive.
System Recovery Item #3 – Data Rescue II:
Alright, so what happens when you’ve tried everything and nothing works? OS X sees your faulty drive and tells you it’s either unreadable or not formatted. Warning: Do not let OS X format it!
As long as the drive will spin up and it physically works, ProSoft’s Data Rescue II has been known to work miracles.
A few notes about using Data Rescue II,
1. You’ll need an external drive to recover files to.
2. Recovery can take days or weeks if your drive is in bad shape. Data Rescue II will go into a very low level scan that can take an extremely long time if it needs to. The good side of this is that if it can, it will recover the data even if it takes weeks.
3. If Data Rescue II can’t see the drive, it can’t recover anything. Unfortunately, sometimes drives are physically broken. Either they don’t power up or the read-heads are damaged. In this case, it’s still possible to recover, but you’ll need a third party recovery service like Drive Savers and they’re not cheap.
Repairing your Failed Hard Drive:
Now, once you’re recovered your data, you can either have Apple repair it for you or you can do it yourself. With MacBooks and Newer MacBook Pro’s I recommend doing it yourself. Its so easy that even Apple won’t void your warranty.
If you want Apple to repair it for you, that’s OK. Just remember to do your data recovery before you repair it. Apple has a policy of not recovering data and not giving you back the bad drive. Once you give them the bad drive, it’s gone.