Haylp: Epic Mac Fail or how I survived Salem, my Mac’s HD clicker-death!

Last week, Salem my 15-in G4 Powerbook died unexpectedly. He was fine the night before and the first thing I knew about it was the scary Mac question mark folder blinking at me. I tried booting from the Leopard disk and looking for the hard drive with the disk utilities. Unfortunately Salem’s hard drive was making a worrying clicking and the hard drive could not be located.

So, accepting the worst, today I went to Tottenham Court Road and purchased a new 120GB hard drive for £39.99.

There’s an awful lot of screws to undo, so a Phillips screwdriver and a tiny allen key was necessary. It’s a good idea to use a static wristband and my tweezers were really useful for picking out screws in awkward places or fishing them out of the Mac when they’d dropped into a hard to reach place. I also had to get my torch to hunt for screws that fell on the floor and under the settee – I needed a cup or something to put them in really.

Anyways, first thing I had to do was lots of unscrewing. I took out the battery and there’s about 6 screws on the underside of the Mac and then a couple inside the battery compartment. For some reason I needed to take off the memory case shield and the screws inside – not sure why, I was just instructed to do so online!

There’s 3 screws each side of the Mac and the top two on the side at the back. The allen key is needed to unscrew the two on either side of the keyboard. Once these were out, some gentle manipulation got the top/keyboard open, but there’s some little latches just inside the CD drive opening that are unlatchable (if that’s the right term?) very carefully. When the keyboard / top comes off there’s a bit of electrical tape holding a teeny tiny connector that connects it to the board – this needs to be stuck back on when reassembling!

Anyway, with the top off, to get the hard drive out there’s a small bridge thing that needs unscrewing and taking out, next there’s a couple of screws around the CD drive to remove and then it can be propped up against the screen, with a hankie or something in between so it doesn’t scratch it – see the photo below to see how it was propped up!

The hard drive is attached to the logic board by an IDE ribbon cable and needs to be gingerly lifted, without pulling and then gently manipulate / pull the old hard drive away very carefully without bending/breaking the pins. The hard drive is wearing a little clear plastic insulator jacket, so this needs removing by unscrewing the pins holding it on.

Woo, so with the old hard drive out, the new hard drive fits into the clear jacket and then connects to IDE ribbon – making sure it’s the right side up. Also there was an ickwl bit of rubbery stuff on the end of the old hard drive to help it fit it snugly into the Mac that needed to be transferred. If all goes well and all the connections are correct – wahey – the hard drive fits into its hole okay!

Everything then has to be put back together very carefully!

The first attempt sadly failed as the new hard drive didn’t show up in disk utilities on booting, so annoyingly it all had to taken apart again and the old hard drive was put back in in case it wasn’t b0rked at all. On booting it was still making the clicking noise. So booted it from the open firmware to have a look at what was going on, but this didn’t really achieve anything from this as it turned out to be probably a loose connection and so went through the whole rigmarole again to take out the old hard drive and put the new one back in, which on second attempt happily did get recognized when looked for in the disk utilities!

I must also mention that I did have a bit of a faff with Time Machine as it didn’t restore automatically as the Leopard disk implied, so I had to install Leopard from the disk first and then restore from Time Machine. Anyways three hours later I had my old Salem back and was very happy!

What a hoohar!

So here’s the kit I needed
* tiny allen key
* tiny phillips screwdriver
* anti static wristband
* tweezers
* pliers for tight screws
* vessel to collect the screws
* 2.5-in 5400 IDE HD

Disclaimer: this isn’t a tutorial, just a summary of the process! If you need to do it yourself I suggest looking up a proper tutorial with all the correct technical terms 😉

Oh yes – don’t forget to back up regularly mmm’kay!

PS I have to thank Ciaran for his help and advice in getting this sorted out!



  1. I’m just amazed at your bravery in going so deep into the inards of this machine! That you ended up with a positive outcome is a wonderful encouragement to us more timid folk in thinking that maybe we can keep older, beloved, kit like this running when something internal goes belly up. I take great encouragement from your success but even more from your bravery in tackling the problem in the first place!

  2. By your illustrations you seem to have used a magnetic bit holder. You used good procedure working with a grounding strap on a non-conducting surface but any magnet is a danger to your electronic components. Insert a bit in the holder and it should lift a paper clip: touch it to the wrong bit and buy a new mother board. Otherwise, well done.

  3. Hi Odilon

    Thanks for your wise words, don’t worry though, my screwdriver isn’t magnetic, (I didn’t use the one with the red handle n bits as it’s far too big)! I had lots of fun with my tweezers though picking out ickwl screws that I dropped or crawling around the floor chasing after the ones that tried to escape ;-P

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