27" iMac HDD crashed; Recoverable? Self-Replaceable? Limitations?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by LemonPepper, Apr 28, 2011.

  1. LemonPepper, Apr 28, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2011

    LemonPepper macrumors newbie

    Apr 28, 2011
    My 27" iMac i5's HDD just failed without warning yesterday afternoon when I got home. So far I've booted from the OS install disc and put an operating system on an external drive from which to run the computer itself. Once booted from the ex drive's new operating system, it runs fine, if a little slowly.

    I'm leaning towards downloading TechTool for data recovery from my internal drive. There is a LOT that I would miss if I lost this data, but I'm not going to stress because it's either gone or it isn't. A costly lesson learned about the consequences of not keeping a proper backup in the first place.

    Data recovery and external hard drive operating system should suffice to get me through the weekend. Someone suggested I try the forums for additional ideas.

    My situation: I'm stationed on a military base in Okinawa, Japan. There is no apple store on island, and shipping to/from the APO over here would require substantial time and cost--both of which I want to avoid. So...

    1) Can I replace the hard drive myself? I have googled a bit on this and found mostly articles from 2005-2009, not referring to 27" iMacs. I saw some youtube results for it but haven't watched them yet, as I'm still at work. If there's a good walkthrough I can reference (via phone) while performing the surgery, I would see it put to use.

    Edit: Also, would I be able to replace it with a SSD? Probably ~200 GB or so. Just enough space for the OS and most game/application files. I'm betting a game like World of Warcraft, which stores a LOT (40+GB) of data computer-side would benefit immensely from the huge boost in read/write speed.

    2) Limitations on the hard drive? I can't say the exact specs on the HDD at the moment, but I ordered one of the very first generation (it didn't ship for quite some time; was ordered before christmas), with a 1TB drive. I'm guessing there will obviously be some size and cable constraints here.

    3) Recovery software recommendations? I'm leaning toward Techtool, as it was highly rated http://data-recovery-software-review.toptenreviews.com/mac-recovery-software/ and also has a good amount of utilities. I'm banking on them having a downloadable version--can't access their site at work. If they don't I'll see if the BX has it, and after that, turn to another downloadable software solution.

    This computer is my absolute connection to friends and family back home, as well as my savior of gaming magnificence, so I don't want to go into open heart (display) surgery without the proper walkthrough. Any experience someone might be able to share, I would be truly thankful for.

    Sorry about the wall of text =(
  2. smithrh, Apr 28, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2011

    smithrh macrumors 68020


    Feb 28, 2009
    I very much recommend DiskWarrior - it's saved my butt a few times.

    It costs money, but you can FTP the software after you buy it and they'll also ship a disc to you.

    Can't say it will work in your case as if you have a true hardware failure of the HD then you're in trouble, but it's probably worth the effort.

    Then, the next thing to do is to buy an external drive that you dedicate to Time Machine - but I think you know that by now...

    Once you boot from the external drive can you mount the internal drive at all? Does the Mac see it there in System Profiler?
  3. LemonPepper thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 28, 2011
    Aye, I'm going to get one of those type of programs to have for the future anyhow. And yeah, lesson learned, buying a 3TB this weekend which should keep me good for a long while to come.

    System profile I don't know, haven't tried yet, work over in a couple of hours and I will. It sees it if I open a window in Finder, and will show me names of folders inside, but if I try to look in those folders, it attempts to load, then just says 0 items.

    If my drive is FUBAR'd beyond software repair, what are my hail mary options for possible data recovery?
  4. SaSaSushi macrumors 601


    Aug 8, 2007
    Takamatsu, Japan
    Sorry to hear about your crash! I am assuming you are out of the one year limited warranty and have no Applecare? If not, Apple will send a courier to you anywhere in Japan with packing materials to pick up and return it on their dime.

    Otherwise, this isn't a video but it's a great photo tutorial at iFixit for replacing the HD on the 27" iMac.

    Also, if you search on Youtube for videos for replacing the HD with an SSD you should find a bunch. It's the same procedure up to the last step of course.

    Good luck!
  5. smithrh macrumors 68020


    Feb 28, 2009
    * Yes, always smart to have a disk-recovery app on-hand. Disk Warrior has saved me the trouble of recovering a drive from backup a couple of times.

    * Honestly, I'd stay away from 3TB drives yet. I've always had more issues with cutting-edge drives versus the older ones.

    * If you're seeing filenames in the Finder, I have some hope for you with SW-based recovery.

    * Check in Console app (in the Utilities folder) and see if you have any error messages in there for your internal drive. Post them here if you find any.

    * Using a disk-recovery service would be spendy (very, actually) but barring some absolutely bizarre hardware issue, can usually get your data back.

    Let's hope it doesn't come to that point. Try Disk Warrior first and let us know how you do.
  6. LemonPepper thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 28, 2011
    Thanks, your post here is giving me a lot more peace of mind, even if I would have to spend half a grand on data recovery from a disc-recovery service as a last resort.

    At this time, DiskWarrior has been running for over 12 hours, with the Speed Reduced by Disk Malfunction message displaying a count of 760,400 and climbing. I left a message for Alsoft using Skype and they sent me an email suggesting I let this process run for up to a week. Oy. Well, I'll let it do its job, unfortunately, though, DW is completely taking over my console messages; it would literally take me 2-3 hours of clicking the "Earlier" button to get anywhere near the top of all the DW I/O error messages, so no love from those here.

    Thanks for all your support thus far; I will keep this thread updated as I go along--I'm positive I won't be the only one with this problem and if someone else looks for a solution, I hope they find a happy ending in this thread. :eek:
  7. trip1ex macrumors 68000

    Jan 10, 2008
    I put a 1 TB hard drive in my early 2009 20" iMac 2 years ago. It was pretty easy to do. Just found a guide on the internet.

    It feels scarier than it is because of the screen.

    But the glass pops off really easy with a suction cup or two. A bunch of screws held the bezel down. Unscrewed those. Have to disconnect the facetime camera wire too. Take bezel out.

    Then more screws need to removed in order to get lcd out. There's a handful of wires that power the lcd that you have to disconnect before pulling it out all the way. You'll want to label those to make sure they go back where they came from. I didn't and regretted it, but ultimately I either guessed right or it didn't matter as much as I thought where the wires went.

    There's a few more connectors I believe. And possibly a few more screws. I think there another cover or something.

    And you're there. Now that was early 2009. You'll want a guide for your machine is possible but shouldn't be much different.

    Need torx screw drivers. A guide will tell you which ones.

    Hard drive had me staring at it for awhile because I wanted to make sure I got it out right, but in the end it was a no-brainer.
  8. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    You might also consider ProSoft's Data Rescue. And it's on sale as part of a great bundle for $50 (worth it just for Screenflow and LaunchBar IMHO); maclegion.com.

    I seem to recall that only a few drives work in the latest 27" iMacs because of new tempature sensors. But go with what ifixit recommends; I've done repairs on the internals of iMacs, iPhones and MBPs (not just the usual hard drive/memory repair) and found it pretty easy if you're careful. Those tiny screws cost a bundle and disappear FAST. And there was that experience with this ribbon cable...but again, just go slow, document your progress so you can retrace your steps, and it's fine. Even a little fun if you're mechanically inclined.

  9. LemonPepper thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 28, 2011
    Update: I originally posted this thread friday noon my time, it is 11am on monday. I started DiskWarrior at 9pm friday and it has been running since. So, while I'm not enthused and I have to restart my computer for some updates to take effect, I'm not going to cancel it out at damn near the 72 hour mark right now.

    A week is worth it if it might get my stuff back, and so far running my computer has been running very well on my external WD drive; well enough for internet, gaming and movie watching, woot. More to come when I see what DW finishes.
  10. LemonPepper thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 28, 2011
    It's going on 5 full days now since I started Disk Warrior, and it's looking like shipping my drive away to Drivesavers is going to be my only option for getting all my data back. Sigh.

    I'm looking at buying an intel 160GB solid state drive and doing the replacement myself when I take the drive out.
  11. cl-user macrumors regular

    Dec 16, 2009
    LemmonPepper, did DiskWarrior ever come through?

    I'm in a similar situation, up to "Speed reduced by disk malfunction: 26,013", over a week of grinding away.
  12. NatefromRI macrumors newbie

    May 25, 2012
    LemonPepper, first - THANKS for your service! It is very much appreciated.

    I feel for you, as I have had several old Windows hard drives crash on me. You don't expect it to happen with a MAC but I guess that's just wishful thinking on my part.

    The only thing I would say regarding replacing the hard drive yourself is that there may be an issue with fan speed that you can read about here:


    I've been tempted to put a SSD in my iMac (early 2009 24") but haven't done so yet.
  13. LemonPepper thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 28, 2011
    Diskwarrior never did come through, sadly. I now have a 256GB Intel SSD and up until last night, everything was working great. The problem I have presently may be unrelated, though. That hard drive crash taught me the value of a constantly-wired-in backup hard drive, which I have used ever since.

    And I did find out about the fans prior to making the switch, from my own research. A small script shuts them down, as they're just not needed with the SSD.

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