As much as I love technology, it also really stresses me out at times. Things are always changing, breaking, getting upgraded, breaking some more, and eventually progressing forward. It’s hard to keep up with it all! But we can’t escape technology or the constant race of which tech company and devices are on top. Investors are always waiting for rumors to leak, new products to get released, and the latest sales figures to come out. Apple’s stock has been dropping all year and they’re facing more and more pressure with the rise of Samsung. Tim Cook still wants to hoard cash and shareholders aren’t happy. So these signs make you wonder is Apple going to zero? Well, I sure hope not but last week my MacBook Pro hard drive sure did!
I Made “The Switch” Long Ago. Have You?
I’ve been using laptops since about 1999 for all of my personal computing. Since I’m a big traveler and a computer addict, I like the flexibility of being mobile. I first started out with a Dell laptop that I used to think was the most incredible thing around. A couple years later though I was calling that same laptop a “piece of junk” because of constant freezes and getting the “blue screen of death.” Then one day it just decided to stop turning on. I’d had similar frustrations with Dell and Gateway desktop computers prior to that too. I got so fed up with the constant crashes and Windows freezes that I decided I’d had enough.
So in 2003 I made the switch to Macs and haven’t looked back. Over time I went from an iBook to a MacBook to my current 15 inch MacBook Pro. No longer dealing with freezes, crashes, and bugs my 10 year history with Apple was proving its products were worth the premium. My only issues were running out of space because of my ever growing Aperture photo libraries, which was due to my own actions not Apple’s.
Funky Noises From A Hard Drive Are A BAD Sign
So I was happy that things had been going smoothly for such a long time. About a year and a half ago I’d given my laptop a digital makeover to improve my productivity, and I’d been regularly backing up my files about once a month or two. I figured I could get another couple years out of my MBP without any problems.
But just last week things changed. My laptop started making funky noises. Chilling click click clickity and grinding noises were coming right from the hard drive. Doh! Although I’m no tech genius, I knew that was a warning sign things could go very wrong, very fast. Maybe I’d bumped my laptop on something or it was just on its last legs from constant use.
In addition to those hard drive noises, I noticed that I was running really low on free space. There was also a large 40 GB variance between the free space reported in my Finder vs the Activity Monitor. I decided to use Disk Utility to erase free space to try and get rid of the space discrepancy and perhaps even free up a gig or two. But that was a bad idea. My hard drive was already messed up at this point and it wasn’t able to perform the erase free space function correctly. I ended up stuck with a laptop with only 1 GB of free space that couldn’t erase anything anymore, period. Crud.
Diagnostics Disaster Day
Well, one great thing about living in San Francisco is there are Apple stores everywhere. There are 3 in the city, 2 in East Bay and even more in the South. So I immediately went online and booked a Genius Bar appointment for the next day to get help. After arriving, I explained what was going on and they immediately ran several different diagnostics. The first set all passed (phew), but the second set of diagnostics was a disaster. A giant “WARNING” came on the screen in 100 size font and I braced myself for the worst.
“Sorry but it looks like you need a new hard drive.” the Mac Genius proceeded to tell me. Nooooooooo! They could install a replacement 500GB drive on the spot for $206, which didn’t sound too expensive at the time and would get me 200GB more than I had. But then I started thinking if I was going to replace my hard drive, I might as well upgrade my RAM at the same time!
However the Apple store didn’t carry any larger RAM, so the Mac Genius nicely suggested I check out a 3rd party store just a few blocks away for bigger and cheaper parts. My MBP was already out of warranty anyway so there really wasn’t a downside to going to a third party.
Making Lemonade Out of Lemons And Finding Good Value
So I walked my busted laptop over to a place called Central Computer to see if they could help. Turns out they had a 750 GB 7200 RPM Westing House hard drive on sale for only $74 bucks. Sweet! That was more than double the size of my busted drive, plus it was faster and over 50% cheaper than what Apple was offering me. They were unfortunately out of stock of the $80, 8 GB RAM I wanted, but could get it delivered and installed the next day if I came back.
So for that 750 GB hard drive, new RAM, and labor I’d only be paying $184! I was stoked. All of that together was $22 cheaper than the smaller and slower hard drive at Apple. Now that felt like good value, and I was actually happy my hard drive croaked and that I was getting new parts.
Genius Bar To The Rescue!!!
After I got the new gear loaded into my laptop I had to head back to the Apple store to get my OS installed. This was my fourth outing at this point, phew, and it wasn’t the last. My hard drive failure sure sucked up all of my free time last week just running back and forth between places!
With my OS freshly installed, I headed home to start the long process of restoring all of my files onto my new hard drive. Long story short, I wasn’t able to use the one click Recovery Assistant. There was just too much corrupted data in my backups. Fortunately though I had a backup of my backup! My paranoia that Time Machine could fail on me someday led me to keep copies of all of my critical files saved separately on a different partition. I had to reinstall several apps from scratch and dig out some serial numbers, but that wasn’t too painful.
What initially freaked me out is I lost all of my iLife apps and an old version of Photoshop CS4. But at the helpful suggestion of another Apple store employee, I decided to switch to GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) which is totally free, super fast to install, and has all of the Photoshop equivalent functionalities I need. And on my fifth and final trip, I was able to get iLife reinstalled in a cinch back at the Apple store. Thank you Genius Bar!!! So my failed hard drive experience had a nice and happy ending.
With The Increased Competition Is Apple Going To Zero?
For those of you who follow tech news, I’m sure you’ve heard about Samsung opening mini shops in Best Buy stores. This is creating even more competition for Apple and I’m a bit fearful for their future. Apple’s stock hasn’t been performing well this year either. Microsoft is also trying hard to become a bigger contendor in the device market with their bombardment of advertising for the Surface Pro and Windows Phone. I would never buy one but I give them props for their convincing commercials.
After what happened to me last week you might think I’d be fed up with Apple because my hard drive died, but I actually like them more than ever at 9.5X forward earnings with $145 billion in cash! Yes it was a pain to have to go to a third party store to get better and cheaper parts, but the ease and quality of the customer service I got from multiple Apple store employees was simply awesome. It’s so nice being able to get help when you need it and to get straight answers on a ton of questions. So when I’m ready to upgrade to a new laptop (hopefully not for another 3+ years) you can bet I plan to buy another Mac. And it’ll be nice having one with no more moving parts. Hopefully by then Apple will have lowered their prices though! 🙂
–> So if you only take away only 1 thing from this post, I hope it’s a reminder to go back up your data! Or better yet, go make a backup of your backup. I sure needed mine!!
Untemplaters, what type of computer do you use and have you ever had a hard drive die on you? Are you loyal to a particular brand? With all of the ever growing options and increased competition, what do you think – is Apple going to zero?
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