MacBook hardware update

I have a second-hand black MacBook that I bought some 12 months ago (it's just over 2 years old by now, well outside any warranty) so that I could experiment writing iPhone apps. It's served me well. The only update I've made to it so far is to upgrade to Snow Leopard (OS 10.6), but it's about time I did some further upgrades, hardware related this time.

So last week I ordered 4GB (2 * 2GB) of DDR2 laptop memory to replace the 2GB already present. I ferreted around in my little pile of orphaned laptop hard disks (every time I upgrade one of my Windows laptops' drives, I end up with an orphan) and found a 160GB 7200rpm Seagate drive. I think it was the one I was using to play around with the Windows 7 beta, way back when; there was no post-it note on it to help – oh well. It's the same size as, but faster than, the current drive in my MacBook, and since I haven't even used up 60GB of space, it would do admirably.

Next step was to do a backup with Time Machine so that I could restore it to the new drive. I use a WD Passport USB drive as my Time Machine drive.

The memory arrived this lunchtime, so this evening was the preordained time to make the update. On a MacBook, updating the memory and hard drive is pretty simple, although you do need some jeweller’s screwdrivers. You just lift out the battery (so, yes, the machine must be turned off), and there’s a little diagram printed underneath that shows you what to do. Unscrew the three little Phillips screws on the L-shaped piece and lift it out. Two levers pop out and you can use them to lever out the current memory cards. Slotting in the new ones is a little fiddly (I found you had to angle them up slightly).

The drive tray has a flexible plastic tab that you pull to remove it from the machine. This is when I suddenly realized that the drive is screwed into the tray with Torx screws, not Phillips, and I didn’t have any. WTF? Oh well, a very small flat blade screwdriver worked just as well. I replaced the drive and screwed everything back together again.

Now to prepare for restoring the OS and all my data. I plugged in my Time Machine drive, and found my Snow Leopard install DVD. The plan was to boot from the installer DVD, use Disk Utility to reformat the new drive and then restore everything to it.

First problem: how do you boot from the DVD? Sure I know how to do it on a Wintel machine but a Mac? (All right, pipe down all you Mac fans at the back.) It seems you power on pressing the Option key, and you’ll get a screen to choose your boot device.

I booted into the Mac OS/X installer, selected the language to use, and then was able to select Disk Utility from the Utilities menu. It recognized the new drive and I erased it (erase equals format in the Mac world). Once it had done that, I selected the Restore from Backup option from the same Utilities menu.

Some 3/4 of an hour later, it had finished, but, when I tried to exit the installer, it didn’t recognize the new drive as bootable. Another WTF moment.

It turns out that I should have repartitioned the drive first. Macs don’t use MBR bootable partitions like Windows PCs do, they used something called a GUID partition scheme. Dammit. So I repartitioned the drive, wiping everything I’d just done, snivel, and re-restored everything. This time, after restoration, the installer recognized the partition as bootable and offered to boot it.

Which I did, and, lo, everything worked. I now have 4GB of RAM and a 7200 rpm 160GB drive in my MacBook. It’s still a 2.16GHz processor, but it feels a little snappier than before, enough that I shall play around with VMWare Fusion to see how it fares.

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