Beware DIY component replacement

I own a 17-inch 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro. When I purchased it, I chose the largest hard drive available, the 200GB 4200rpm option. Over the years, that hard drive had become quite full, and it’s also very slow compared to newer hard drive models. Thus, I decided recently to replace it with a 500GB 7200rpm Seagate Momentus hard drive.

My original plan was to pay a local computer repair shop to swap the drives. I’m a software guy, not a hardware guy, and my time and sanity are (somewhat) valuable. However, some people who shall remain nameless shamed me into doing it myself, arguing that a proper computer geek should be able to replace components easily. (Sure, right, just like the midplane was a ‘user-serviceable’ part of the iMac G5.)

I found several online videos with instructions for replacing my MacBook Pro’s hard drive. For example, Other World Computing has a video here, which specifically mentions my model: MacBookPro2,1. After studying the instructions carefully, I set about to do it myself

The first problem was that the OWC video mentions the requirement of a #00 Phillips screwdriver, which I did not have but which I acquired for the purpose of this hard drive replacement. Nonetheless, it turns out that the #00 was not actually the right size for the screws. Fortunately, I did already happen to have a screwdriver that fit the screws in my MacBook Pro. Otherwise, I would have been forced to scrub the replacement at the start.

This screwdriver mixup was but a minor blip compared to the next and worst problem. The videos completely failed to show or mention that there was a very short and easily snapped wire on the far left side of the machine, running from the bottom board to the top case. I did not discover that this wire existed until I opened the top case, and after a few seconds of attempting to lift the top case, the wire indeed snapped.

Here’s a photo of the broken black wire:
Photo of broken black wire

And here’s a photo of where it was attached on the top case:
Photo of top case

At the time, I had no idea what the wire was for. I had to take the machine in to the genius bar at my local Apple Store. The genius examined it and informed me, to my great relief, that the wire was for the built-in microphone. My microphone is now broken and inoperative, but it could have been much worse.

Another thing the videos failed to mention is that the metal tabs with screw holes on the top case are extremely fragile. When I put the top case back on, one of the tabs broke off. It’s not a big deal, there are enough other screws around the case to keep it securely in place, but it’s annoying, and there is a little area of the bottom case on the right side that is sticking out slightly and bent.

In the end, I’m happy with my new hard drive. My advice, though, is to pay a professional to perform the replacement, don’t try to do it yourself. Ignore the DIY demons whispering in your ear. I don’t think so, Tim.

3 Responses to “Beware DIY component replacement”

  1. ssp says:

    Apple certainly has created some machines which are horrible design failures when it comes to maintenance. I have seen electrical engineers give up over the dozens of screws between them, their iBook G4 and its hard drive. I thought they had somehow returned to more reasonable designs in recent years. At least the MacBook isn’t too bad.

    Perhaps you also happened to run across bad instructions. The internet probably isn’t known for correct nor complete information. In my experience the step-by-step instructions on ifixit.com are quite good. I used them to fix many Apple machines (TiBook, G4 iMac, MacBooks) and their instructions as well as photos always seemed quite precise and warning me of pitfalls like those little wires I might accidentally damage.

  2. OWC Michael says:

    Interestingly enough, the model we used for the Other World Computing Instructional Video is the same MacBook2,1 that you were upgrading. The internal microphone is not mounted to the top case as shown in your photo but rather is meant to sit in that same black housing that holds the left speakers.

    We’ve done literally hundreds of these upgrades and our best guess (given the pictures you show) is that your particular machine may have experienced a spill or possibly a heat releted issue that caused mic to adhere to top case.

    The microphone placement was not mentioned in the video because it is not a component that normally would come into play in swapping out a hard drive.

  3. Jeff says:

    Hi Michael. My machine hasn’t experienced a spill, but it does tend to run hot on the left side of the case.