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Hard drive failing, what files besides photos/music/etc should I back up before replacing the drive?

265 Views 8 Replies Latest reply: Nov 11, 2012 10:17 AM by John Galt RSS
Omdineen Calculating status...
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Nov 10, 2012 8:09 PM

I bought my MacBook 5,2 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.13 GHz 2GB 800 MHz DDR2 SDRAM in 2009, never had any problems with it until now. For a few months now, my macbook will freeze up (usually if I'm doing a lot such as posting a youtube video on facebook, or running a game,etc) and make a clicking sound, to which I can't do anything except hard restart it. It only did it once in a while until now it's happening more frequently at very annoying times. I never thought to look it up because I'm an idiot but now that I did I learned that my hard drive is imminently going to fail. I know I dropped it once, from my bed to hardwood, with no immediate damage but I'm sure that could've done something, other than that I take very good care of it.


So I'm in the process of backing up my stuff, which I figure isn't a lot so I'm probably going to use a USB drive & CDs..but my question is: Is there anything important that I need to back up besides my files (pictures, music, documents)? Like any program files etc? And when I do replace the hard drive, which I may do myself following DIY on here, what will remain on my computer? Will my applications all be there? I've only downloaded a few programs that could be redownloaded anyways (frostwire, tinyumbrella, etc) and my Pages/office are on disk. Sorry if these questions are stupid, this is my first personal computer and I've honestly never had to back anything up before/replace hard drives. I appreciate any help to any of these questions and I can further detail anything needed

MacBook, Mac OS X (10.6.8), 2.13 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 2 GB DDR2
  • John Galt Level 7 Level 7 (33,085 points)

    You pretty much covered it. After you replace your hard disk, it will be completely empty. The first thing you will need to do is install OS X so find your original System and Application Install DVDs. They will enable you to restore the computer to the same condition it was in when you bought it.


    After that, you will need to install everything else you had subsequent to buying your MacBook. This will be your music, photos, and all other documents you may have generated and the programs you used to generate them. So, find those program disks and license keys (if necesssary) assuming that is how you obtained the software you have.


    It would be ideal if you had already backed up or "cloned" your system to an external hard disk prior to the damage. You can still do that, but since you may already have had some disk damage and files lost, it may be better to recreate everything instead.


    Use the guides on They are very detailed.

    MacBooks  iMacs  iPods  AirPorts, OS X Mountain Lion,  27 years Apple!
  • John Galt Level 7 Level 7 (33,085 points)

    Your Mac is not booting?


    Boot from your original System Install DVD. Insert it while powering up the Mac and hold the c key until it loads OS X from the DVD. When you get to the Mac OS X Utilities screen, choose Disk Utility. Repair the disk. This is not a permanent fix but may result in you being able to successfully boot the system for the purposes of backing up whatever files remain undamaged.


    You can use an inexpensive USB flash drive for your music and pictures. 2 GB varieties are practically free.

  • John Galt Level 7 Level 7 (33,085 points)

    Omdineen wrote:


    ... what do I do next? Reboot again?


    Yes. If it boots successfully then go about copying your files to whatever removable external media you choose. Ideally, make two copies of everything you need.


    If it does not boot successfully then it is likely that OS X itself was corrupted. Disk Utility doesn't fix that. In that event, boot from the System DVD again and reinstall OS X.


    Once safely archived, put your backup media in a safe place, ideally two separate places. Then you can use your Mac if you wish, but just be aware that its hard disk it on its last legs. It's been on its way out since it fell out of bed.

  • John Galt Level 7 Level 7 (33,085 points)

    Omdineen wrote:


    It boots up to where its just my background and the Finder bar but then crashes, so I can't click anything. Anything from here or am I just screwed?


    There are a few remaining options.


    If you have another Mac with a FireWire port, try FireWire Target Disk Mode:


    You need a FireWire cable to connect the two Macs. This will allow you to mount your failing HD on a working Mac and copy files that way.


    Try Safe Mode - read about it first:


    Safe Mode or "Safe Boot" is a troubleshooting mode that bypasses all third party system extensions and loads only required system components.


    Starting up in Safe Mode 


    This assumes the Finder is crashing due to a third party system extension or optional system component that Safe Mode will prevent from loading. You should still be able to copy files directly to an external device, but file sharing will be disabled.


    Lastly boot from the DVD again, repair the disk again, reinstall OS X, and keep your fingers crossed. You're squeezing the last drops of life from the thing.

    MacBooks  iMacs  iPods  AirPorts, OS X Mountain Lion,  27 years Apple!


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