Owners of Apple’s new unibody MacBook Pro notebooks with 7200rpm hard drives are suffering widespread problems such as beeping, clicking, and freezing. Apple’s still working on an official solution, but there is a way to fix these issues now.
A little over a week ago I ordered a brand new 2.8GHz 15″ MacBook Pro from Apple’s online store. I read about the difficulties people have been experiencing with their 500GB 7200rpm hard drives and figured I would try to save myself the headache by just getting a 320GB 7200rpm drive instead. The difficulties I’m referring to, for those who haven’t already heard, consist of the Seagate Momentus 7200.4 hard drives Apple uses in the MacBook Pro locking up the entire system. Many users report beeping and clicking sounds, followed by 10-30 second freezes where the computer is unresponsive to input.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered my own MacBook Pro is plagued by this glitch as well. It doesn’t beep at all, but it does temporarily lock up. I could hear all hard drive activity stop during the freeze and then start back up when it all of a sudden came out of it. This happened once on Day 2 and then again three more times within a 30 minute period on Day 3. For any of you folks who are compiling information about this problem to better understand it, my laptop’s hard drive model is ST9320423ASG and the revision is listed as 0007APM2.
Despite Apple’s acknowledgement of the issue, there is unfortunately no official fix yet. In the meantime, I tried something which seems to have stopped the frequent freezes for now. Anyone with a beeping, clicking, & freezing MacBook Pro hard drive should give it a shot – others have reported success using this method as well.
- Download hdapm, a free Mac OS X utility for hard drive power management. This tool will set the hard drive’s performance to “max,” which will stop it from inexcusably resting at random times (causing the freezes). The only downside is that battery life will take a hit.
- Open a Finder window and select Go > Go to Folder in the menu bar. Type /usr/local/bin and click Go. If Finder says it cannot find this folder, continue to steps 3 and 4. If it does open the folder, skip to step 5.
- Open Terminal (Applications > Utilities) and run the following command:
sudo mkdir /usr/local/bin
- You will be prompted for your password – make sure to type it carefully because Terminal will not show any characters as you go. In fact, the cursor won’t even move. Press Enter/Return and then quit Terminal. Repeat step 2 to open the folder.
- Open the hdapm.dmg file you downloaded in step 1 and copy the file named “hdapm” into the /usr/local/bin directory.
- Copy the “hdapm.plist” file and paste it in /Library/LaunchDaemons.
- Restart your MacBook Pro.
To summarize what we just did, we took the free hdapm tool and copied it to a hidden directory on your Mac. Then we added a preference file that calls on that tool to run every time the computer reboots. The end result is a unibody MacBook Pro that should no longer freeze up due to a 7200rpm hard drive that likes to take breaks when it shouldn’t.
When Apple finally releases a real fix for this bug at some point in the future, you can safely remove hdapm the same way you installed it. Except this time you’re deleting the two files instead of copying & pasting them.
Is there anybody else out there who this is working for? Not working for? Let’s hear from all you 7200rpm unibody MacBook Pro owners!
UPDATE – 8/19/09: Apple has released MacBook Pro Hard Drive Firmware Update 2.0, which brings 7200rpm drives up to firmware 0007APM2. Since this is already the firmware shipping with the newest batch of MacBook Pros such as mine, it’s unknown at this time if this fix really solves the problem for all users. It might get rid of the beeping and clicking, but perhaps not the freezing. Can anyone confirm that this solution from Apple works for their MacBook Pro?
UPDATE – 9/10/09: Unfortunately, it looks like Snow Leopard and hdapm do not like each other. The fix doesn’t seem to work under 10.6. I have been experiencing one or two 15-30 second freezes every day since upgrading to Snow Leopard. Even worse, I can still hear the hard drive starting and stopping when this is going on. What is the status of everyone else’s unibody MacBook Pros, especially after making the leap to 10.6?
UPDATE – 10/15/09: At long last, it appears Apple has come to the rescue with Performance Update 1.0. According to the download notes, “This update addresses intermittent hard drive-related stalls reported by a small number of customers.” Small number, medium number, big number… who cares as long as it’s fixed, right? Check out Software Update to install. If this update doesn’t appear for you, then the fix most likely doesn’t apply to your Mac model.