I recently upgraded my Macbook hard disk from the 80 gb disk that came with it to a 250 gb hard disk. I am posting my experience here in the form of an FAQ, partly because many people have been asking me about it.
1. What are the specs of the upgrade?
The new hard disk is a Samsung 250 gb disk. Speed is 5400 rpm. When you scouting for a hard disk upgrade, don't go lower than 5400 rpm. RPM is rotations per minute -- an indication of how fast a disk spins (the faster the spin, the quicker you access the data stored in the disks).
The old hard disk that came with the Macbook was an 80 gb 5400 rpm.
2. Where did you buy the new disk?
At Digital Hub, Greenhills Theater Mall. It cost me Php 8,500. The Digital Hub staff were nice and helpful. I could have bought one from tipicpc.com at Php 8,000, but Digital Hub's Mac geek (named Emerson) installed the unit in my Macbook.
Emerson also installed my Mac OS X from scratch (this meant going back to 10.4.6 -- I had to bring my Mac OS X installation discs; I also had to upgrade to 10.4.11 afterwards). But he backed up all my user settings and preferences and then restored them.
However, Emerson did not reinstall the applications that I added outside of the default OS X install. I had to do this myself when I returned home. It turned out to be easy. Most of the Applications were still in my old hard disk, so I simply bought an enclosure (for SATA and not IDE; Php 550 at V-Mall in Greenhills), connected it to the Macbook and dragged the applications back to the new hard disk.
I did reinstall iWork '08 though from the installation disk, just to be sure. I have tested some of the apps I simply dragged from the old disk to the new one. One of these was Firefox -- and it's so far been working fine without redownloading the original DMG file and then reinstalling it from scratch. All my Firefox preferences, bookmarks, etc were intact.
3. Was iTunes intact?
Yes! Including my downloaded and paid Audible audio books. I tested the audio books and they just asked me for the password again. I think this happened because Audible noticed different settings. So this probably ate up one of the 5 computer slots that you are allowed for an Audible audio book.
4. How long did the procedure take?
My estimate was about 2 hours and Emerson actually also confirmed this. But to be sure, he requested that I return after 3 hours. Data and I had a snack and then watched a movie (I Am Legend) to use up the 3 hours. When we returned, the Macbook was ready with the new disk! Emerson let me investigate the settings and they all looked all right. He asked me to check my Address book, Mail, and Calendar -- everything was preserved properly. My Applications folder though was empty and Emerson asked me to take care of that myself, which I did.
5. How did you update the OS?
There are a couple of ways to skin this cat. The easiest is to click the Apple icon (upper left of the screen) and then Software Update. I chose the longer path -- logged in to apple.com/downloads and found Combo Update 10.4.11. After downloading that file, I ran it.
Then it also prompted me to update various software like iTunes, iWork, etc and I simply clicked and let the updates install. This took a bit of time, since 10.4.6 to 10.4.11 is a long gap. Tip: I prioritized my updates, based on my most-used apps. So I unchecked most of the updates and left only those for iTunes and Quicktime. Then I will slowly update each software as I need them.
5. What other insights did you learn from this?
Again, Apple shines in the ease-of-use department. To preserve my documents and settings (and those of other users as well), all we needed to do was attach an external drive and then copy the folders in Macintosh HD > Users.
When the OS had been installed in the new HD, Emerson then simply copied the folders back into the new disk.
In Windows, this would have been a nightmare! Just imagine trying to hunt down your email folder and then backing it up. Also just imagine trying to find the preferences for MS Office, Firefox or Internet Explorer in Windows, including bookmarks, etc. The task was always daunting!
6. Which do you recommend? Upgrading the internal hard disk? Or getting an external hard disk?
This depends on your need. Data and I have lots of valuable files (Data edits videos in her Macbook and she needs external backups while I have publication files, proposals and other stuff). For this, an external drive is handy as a backup in case my laptop disk gets corrupted. I also move installation files and less-frequently used pictures, movies, music etc into this external drive. That way, I keep only my frequently used files in my laptop, which is a way to optimize disk space and speed up the response time of the Macbook.
However, if you have money, prefer getting the Firewire drives instead of USB. Firewire is considerably faster than USB.
Upgrading to a larger disk capacity is recommended if all you need is a monstrous amount of space. If you like ripping your CDs and putting them in iTunes to connect to your iPod, then a larger internal disk is recommended. Attaching to an external drive to connect to your archived music can get tedious, especially if your external drive is not really portable and requires its own power adapter. So it's really up to you to find out your own needs.
7. How is the hard disk doing so far?
No problems with the Samsung 250 gb so far. I noticed some increase in speed in the Macbook. For instance, Gmail in Firefox now loads and responds faster. There's also a slight increase in speed in the loading of applications. (However, Data's Macbook is still faster, since it's Core-2 while mine is the old Core Duo only).
As for the old Toshiba disk which is now an external drive, when I first connected it to the Macbook, it took a long time before it was recognized by the system. This speeded up after the first connection was made. I plan to preserve the original contents of this old disk, as a form of full backup. I will wait for a couple of months and if I encounter no problem, I will delete the contents and make it my portable external drive.
UPDATE: After reinstalling Xcode (it was previously installed in my old HD but lost in the new one), I realized that I could have easily moved the Xcode Tools into the new hard disk by simply copying /Developer. Too late for that. I had to reinstall from the Mac DVD.
UPDATE 2: Found out that I had to reindex my drive. Spotlight was not finding documents that I knew were still in the drive. Visit this link to learn how: http://macswitched.blogspot.com/2008/01/forcing-spotlight-to-reindex-my-drive.html