Just when I thought everything on my Hacintosh was in good shape, I hit a snag. Shortly after installing the new WiFi/BT combo card to get Handoff working, I discovered a problem with a hard drive. I keep all of my pictures and music and movies on a separate 750GB hard drive. It means that I can back it up separately and that the hard drive can spin down and rest more often than the main drive that sees constant activity. It also means that when I want to upgrade the computer, as I did last year, I just remove the disk from the old computer and install it in the new one.
With all this stuff going on recently with the computer, you’d think that I’d get a back up done. You’d be wrong. So one night when I sat down to finally get to work on some 2015 pictures, I clicked to open iPhoto and it came up asking me where the iPhoto library was. Well that’s silly, I thought it’s right… it’s right… on the disk that is… Uh-oh. Where’s that disk? I rebooted and this time the disk came up with a warning saying that it couldn’t mount the disk. Did I want to reformat? No! Okay, so clearly we have a serious problem with the disk.
The first step was to get my hands on “testdisk” again. I had used it before and while I wasn’t a fan of the tool, it seemed perfect for this – the data appeared to be there but the partition scheme couldn’t be used to mount anything. So the plan was to have testdisk put it back. I tried using testdisk in MacOS and just found it too painful. Everything was super slow. I booted up in Linux and testdisk ran easily and quickly and confirmed that everything about the disk was fine – just bad partition info. I wrote the partition info back to the disk and rebooted to MacOS. No luck, same problem. Hmm.. What now?
Well, given that this hard drive is not new and that this hard drive contains lots of important stuff on it. And given that this 750 GB drive was nearly full. Maybe it’s time to get a new and bigger drive? I made a quick stop at MicroCenter and picked up a new WD Black 2TB drive for $130. I used Clonezilla to clone the existing drive, then I confirmed in MacOS that the new drive was up and working. Finally, I resized the 750 GB partition to now use all of the available space on the disk. And I’m back in business.
A couple of additional thoughts about this failure and the repair. I had problems with the cloning operation and the recovery operation and MacOS wouldn’t do the Repair Disk (necessary after the clone) or the resize when the hard drive was connected through my SATA card. It didn’t matter if the connection was on the internal SATA card port or the eSATA port – either way, it wouldn’t work. I needed to have it connected directly to the motherboard.
And it’s worth noting that when I initially started swapping SATA cables to get the drive connected to a port on the motherboard I discovered that the cable was somewhat loose in the SATA card’s internal port. Those ports aren’t locking ports and the card is right next to the new WiFi/BT card I had just installed. So it’s possible that I bumped the cable and that the problem was my doing where the loose cable caused bad data to be written to the drive. It’s even possible that the drive was actually fine all along and that it was just a loose wire. But I suspect if that were really the case, that I either would have not been able to read the drive at all or that the drive would have worked fine. It doesn’t make sense to me that a not full secure wire would lead to the Mac knowing that there was a drive attached but not being able to mount it. Who knows, maybe the SATA spec is such that the side of the cable that was loose was the data side while the side that wasn’t was some sort of connection info set of pins. Regardless, once the drive started looking flaky to me, it had to go – trust was lost and would never be regained.