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  1. #1


    Member Since
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    Do I need a new hard drive?
    Monday evening I noticed that my mac mini, though working fine, was displaying the time as Saturday, 3:01 pm. Whenever I tried to open date and time preferences, I just got the pinwheel. I figured I would reboot the system, since I don't do that very often. It hung. And hung. And continued to hang after multiple reboots. I finally booted from the Snow Leopard disc, ran the disk utility, and had it verify the disk. It said the disc needed to be repaired. So I hit repair and after a few minutes and lots of "Invalid node structure" and "Invalid record count" statements it said the disc could not be repaired, that I should erase and restore from backups. I had my time machine backups on an external hard dive, so I wasn't too worried. But after restoring, it still wouldn't boot, and I had a repeat experience with disk utility. So I restored the next older backup. Same story, except that disk repair got to something like "rebuilding boot partitions as required" (or something like that, I forget the exact message) before telling me the disc could not be repaired. I have now worked my way back through a week's worth of nightly backups, back to before I even installed the recent OS update, and have the same experience every time. So am I likely looking at a hardware problem at this point...?

  2. #2


    Member Since
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    Back to my old 2.2GHz C2D MB after selling my MBP and wondering what my next Mac will be :)
    Yep, sounds like it's time for a new HD.

  3. #3


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    Really? This is my first mac and it's barely over three years old. Not impressed...

  4. #4


    Member Since
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    "Updating boot support partitions for the volume as required" was the exact message....

    Another question, just to make sure this isn't stupid operator syndrome. Prior to restoring the backups, I selected the disk utility "erase" function. Is this the same as "reformat"? Because it seems to execute rather quickly. If not, what's the proper way to prepare the disk for the restore?

  5. #5

    chscag's Avatar
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    Really? This is my first mac and it's barely over three years old. Not impressed...
    Brand new hard drives sometimes fail right out of the box. And the hard drives that Apple uses are the same as used in other PCs. Nothing different.

    Another question, just to make sure this isn't stupid operator syndrome. Prior to restoring the backups, I selected the disk utility "erase" function. Is this the same as "reformat"? Because it seems to execute rather quickly. If not, what's the proper way to prepare the disk for the restore?
    Erase is not the same as reformat. Erase does exactly what it says, it erases the disk. The format command is separate in Disk Utility.

    In any event, as 6string related, you need a new hard drive. If you have a good backup, you can restore from it to the new hard drive.

  6. #6


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    As far as "reformat" versus "erase"...I can't find anything in Disk Utility that says "reformat". I did "repartition" and in the status it said it was "formatting" but there doesn't appear to be anything I could find that actually says "reformat". Is it tucked away somewhere? Don't think it matters....I tried a clean install last night and that failed as well...Oh well....guess I'll make some calls today and see how much this is going to set me back.

    I realize hardware can fail, but anecdotally, I have now owned four Mac products and all four of them have experienced a major hardware failure within the first three years. That's a far worse track record than anything I ever experienced with PCs. It seems as though I've traded frequent OS crashes for less frequent but more costly hardware failures...

  7. #7

    pigoo3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jerH View Post
    As far as "reformat" versus "erase"...I can't find anything in Disk Utility that says "reformat". I did "repartition" and in the status it said it was "formatting" but there doesn't appear to be anything I could find that actually says "reformat". Is it tucked away somewhere? Don't think it matters....I tried a clean install last night and that failed as well...Oh well....guess I'll make some calls today and see how much this is going to set me back.
    Quote Originally Posted by jerH View Post
    I realize hardware can fail, but anecdotally, I have now owned four Mac products and all four of them have experienced a major hardware failure within the first three years. That's a far worse track record than anything I ever experienced with PCs. It seems as though I've traded frequent OS crashes for less frequent but more costly hardware failures...
    Well...4 "major" failures in 3 years would seem a bit unusual...but I try to look at things in a more fair & balanced manner. Given that you are not that familiar with Disk Utility & how to format a new hard drive...I would want to confirm that those "major" hardware failures were "real" hardware failures or misclassified other problems.

    A fair number of people use their computers like they drive their automobiles. They use them & use them & use them...and all they do is put gasoline in them (no periodic maintenance)...and then "magically" one day the automobile breaks down in the middle of nowhere...and they wonder...what the heck happened...it was running fine yesterday!!! Computers can be the same way. To keep them running at their best...a little bit of periodic maintenance is needed....and knowledge of how they work...so you don't abuse them.

    As far as the "reformat or erase" question:

    - Click on the "erase" tab in Disk Utility
    - then choose the format type...Mac OS Extended (Journaled)
    - then click the "Erase" button

    Actually all of these instructions are already listed in the Disk Utility window...so I'm not sure why this is confusing.

    Good luck,

    - Nick

    p.s. And yes...there is no where that says "reformat"...but there is a place that says "format" (the instructions in the window after you click on the "erase" tab). "Reformat" and "format" are the same thing.

    "Reformat" refers to something that you've already done once..."Format" is something you need to do for the first time. "Reformat" & "Format" are really two terms that mean the same thing...different folks may choose to use one or the other.

    It's like the term "Copy". If you wanted to "Copy" something you "copy" it. If you did it a 2nd or 3rd time...would you say "Re-Copy". No you wouldn't...that would sound silly. Same thing goes for "Reformat". You're really "Formatting" a hard drive. If you do it a 2nd or a 3rd time...you're still "Formatting" it. Yes...some folks would call that "Reformatting"...but really...you're still just "Formatting" the hard drive.
    - Too many "beachballs", read this: Beachballs
    - Computer seems slower than it used to? Read this for some slow computer tips: Speedup
    - Almost full hard drive? Some solutions. Out of Space
    - Apple Battery Info. Battery

  8. #8


    Member Since
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    Thanks....I get the difference, just making sure I wasn't missing some distinction that is unique to the Apple world. I've spent many an hour building/troubleshooting/rebuilding PC and Linux machines, but frankly with Macs they've been stable enough (which is why I switched to them) that I've never had to delve that far....chscag's comment that "the format command is separate in Disk Utility" is what threw me, as I couldn't find a distinct "format" command and, as I commented earlier, I thought "erase" ran rather quickly.

    But yeah, this is the second hard drive to go bad on me (the first was in an older macbook and I finally confirmed the number of bad sectors on the disk by booting it from a Linux thumb drive so I could access something more than Disk Utility). I've also had to replace the trackpad on my wife's newer macbook (not the one the hard drive failed on), which failed two weeks after the warranty expired, and the DVD drive on an iMac. I've also had to replace the rubber pad on the bottom of the macbook after it warped (which is asthetic, not functional, but still annoying), the power supply on the old macbook, and the keyboard on the iMac...none of which I considered "major" but again, not impressive.

    So while I've got you here...what kind of "periodic maintenance" do you recommend? I run mac janitor occassionally and keep up with software updates. I don't reboot very often....

  9. #9

    pigoo3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jerH View Post

    So while I've got you here...what kind of "periodic maintenance" do you recommend? I run mac janitor occassionally and keep up with software updates. I don't reboot very often....
    Here's what like to do:

    - I like to run Onxy occasionally (maybe similar to Mac Janitor)
    Apple - Downloads - System/Disk Utilities - OnyX

    - I usually "sleep" my computers when I'm not using them...and restart them every couple weeks (or when they seem to slow down)

    - repair permissions (Disk Utility) occasionally

    - desktops & laptops...monitor temperatures with "Temp monitor"...if I start to see temperatures getting higher than normal...I check for dust/dirt buildup inside the computer & fans. This of course is not easy with iMacs & laptops.
    Temperature Monitor: Description

    - with laptops occasionally calibrate the battery:
    Apple Portables: Calibrating your computer's battery for best performance
    Apple - Batteries - Notebooks

    - don't have too many items stored on the computers desktop...this slows things down.

    Hope this helps,

    - Nick
    - Too many "beachballs", read this: Beachballs
    - Computer seems slower than it used to? Read this for some slow computer tips: Speedup
    - Almost full hard drive? Some solutions. Out of Space
    - Apple Battery Info. Battery

  10. #10


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    So here's a thought...given that disc utility only seems unable to fix errors associated with the boot support partitions, would it be possible to boot from an external drive and attempt to use the current hard drive for data only? I'm basically looking for a short term fix since I have spare USB 2.0 external drives, but don't have $200 laying around for a new internal HD....

  11. #11

    chscag's Avatar
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    An external hard drive can be used to boot from provided it's formatted correctly and the operating system is installed. The external would have to be formatted as Mac OS Extended Journaled using the GUID partition scheme. Attach it via USB or FW and hold down the OPTION key during the boot cycle to choose the external as the boot device. A warning though... it will be slow.

    Also, what kind of hard drive are you referring to that costs $200? OWC has large 7200 RPM hard drives of various manufacturers all for less than $100, some for $70 or $80.

  12. #12


    Member Since
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    $200 was the installed price from a local independent Mac shop ($119 for the drive and $69 to install it, plus tax). I've built lots of PC in big spacious cases but never tried to open my mac mini. But I'm thinking I might give it a shot and put this drive in

    Newegg.com - Western Digital Scorpio Blue WDBABB2500ANC-NRSN 250GB 5400 RPM 8MB Cache 2.5" SATA 1.5Gb/s Internal Notebook Hard Drive

    (Stupid browser at work won't let me link!)

    I'll check out the ones you recommended as well. Thanks!

  13. #13


    Member Since
    Apr 20, 2009
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    That is of course assuming that I can use pretty much any 2.5" SATA drive...nothing magic about particular brands/models. Just called my local Best Buy and that have a WD one on salle....250gb for $45.

  14. #14

    chscag's Avatar
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    You should be able to use any good SATA 2.5" hard drive. The most difficult part of swapping out the HD in a Mini is getting the case open. After that, it's straight forward going.

    Check out the steps at iFixit: The free repair manual.

  15. #15


    Member Since
    Apr 20, 2009
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    Just to close this out

    Picked up a Western Digital 250 GB drive last night for $49.99 and, after my first experience using a putty knife as a computer repair tool, got it installed. Restored from my latest Time Machine backup, rebooted and (drum roll please) hang. Rebooted in verbose mode. Hang with the last messages being

    bootcache: hit rate below threshold (1811 hits on 3633 lookups)
    bootcache: hit rate below threshold (1811 hits on 3624 lookups)
    bootcache: cound not terminate cache on bad hitrate
    Rebooted in safe mode. Hang. Rebooted in safe verbose mode. Hang. Don't recall the exact last error message, but I was able to attribute it to VirtualBox...I had forgotten I even had a Windows VM set up on the system since I hadn't used it in over a year.

    So I wound up doing a clean install of Snow Leopard and then using the Migration Assistant to recover files from my Time Machine backup....still have a few things to clean up, but the system appears to be back in business with an extra 130GB of storage...woo hoo!

    Thanks to everyone for all their help.

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