Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Confirmed iMac Hard Drive Is "Failing"

Starting around lunch on Monday, it became a very long but productive day into the night until 4am. We were still able to fit in an afternoon hound walk, some breaks outside for them and me and calmness remained as I looked at my options. It was confirmed late Monday night that my iMac hard drive was "Failing" due to pending bad sectors with a reason of "old age" ... I'm serious, that's the reason they gave me.

{Warning} This post is going to be all computer talk about what happened yesterday, my options, what I did and my future computer plans. All of it is fit in-between some yesterday afternoon pictures and pictures from this morning's walk.

I sit here this morning with a better system and much much faster system than I had even before the computer crash on Thursday. Sometime around 10:30am Monday (yesterday), my repair job or a clean reformat on Sunday, started acting like it did before I erased my hard drive to start over. The computer would freeze over the simplest tasks. Open a program, hang up .. type a word, spinning beach ball .. open an Excel spreadsheet, wait forever, still might not open. All signs of a bad hard drive.

By mid-afternoon Monday my screen on the iMac and large monitor went black and froze. After shutting it down by holding the power button down, the reboot froze halfway across the progress bar just like it did when it crashed. I got into the computer the backdoor way and ran Disk Utility Repair and once again it found missing start up files and bad sectors to repair. That fixed it to where it would run.

It was during this time early Monday afternoon I started going through my options. My intuition told me last week that my 'almost' 7 year old hard drive was dying a slow death. An app sent to me called 'Smart Drive' confirmed it late last night in about a second, literally. My hard drive was failing due to pending bad sectors. I'll explain later how I got that app. I would link it but it is designed to start downloading immediately once you click on the link, so I'll not do that here.

Again on Monday I looked at computer replacements at Best Buy online, with plans of driving over and buying a new iMac that was on sale. I would have a larger hard drive more RAM and a faster processor. Once again I was steps away from leaving when I stopped to look at something else. The Mac Mini !!!

They had improved so much over the years that CNET was giving it raving reviews. It too had more RAM, a bigger hard drive and a much faster processor than my current old iMac. So I had two options I was looking at and really couldn't decide. I wanted to make sure that either one was in stock before making the 45 minute drive one-way. Still ... I had something else in mind.

I was sitting here with a MacBook Air that had a new solid state hard drive, less than two years old and had the ability to connect to my large monitor, use my wireless keyboard and trackpad. Since I had moved 262Gb of pictures to an external drive on Sunday, I knew my 62Gb of files left would fit on the laptop's 128Gb Flash Drive (solid state).

All the geeks use their laptops like that. So why not use that as an option? It was already paid for and a better faster system than the two computers I was looking at. I had bought this laptop to be my main computer when I had plans to travel full time or 6 months at a time. Since those plans were put on hold, this laptop had been nothing more than a place to play Mahjong (addicted) and look out my nice view from the kitchen table when I still was on the computer.

Now remember, I am not an official computer geek or IT specialist, but I know enough to be dangerous as they say. Everything I have learned over my 24 years of using computers is from OJT, google searches, computer forums, Apple and Microsoft support and more recently YouTube (rare). Also add in the fact that at times my memory is not as good as it use to be, unless it is sports trivia or past ballgames, so I forget at times how to do simple things on the computer ... such as:

How do I get the wireless keyboard and wireless trackpad or mouse to connect and work on this laptop instead of my iMac. I found my answer from a google search that led me to that same question being asked by someone else in Apple Support. I had to manually go into preferences and disconnect them from the iMac first before the bluetooth on the laptop would find them so I could click and add them.

Once I figured that out and had a 'new' fast system again, I was golden. I forgot about buying a new replacement computer or even the Mac Mini. PLUS ... the old iMac was still a great, new condition, computer ... all it needed was a new hard drive and some additions RAM memory sticks to be installed. I can do that and did a few times when I had PCs years ago.

But before I made the jump I wanted to make sure my intuition was right. I had time consuming work ahead of me if I decided to make the laptop my new desktop replacement computer. So another place I go to when I have any computer questions is a place for Mac owners called MacRumors Forum

When I could not find my answer by looking through other posts, I decided to write a new post telling people what had happened in detail (bullet format) and what I had done (bullet format) and what the computer was currently doing. Then I asked for opinions or answers to "Is my hard drive slowly dying"?

Within minutes I had an answer that my intuition was exactly right and they suggested opening up that iMac and installing a new solid state hard drive. Within 30 minutes of that answer someone else sent me two links to do just that, where to buy what I needed to do the install and a video on how to do it. Within the hour after writing my post someone from Australia sent me the hard drive analysis app (SmartDrive) that confirmed it was failing.

By this time it's getting close to midnight. I was energized knowing I had a great replacement system sitting right here (on kitchen table) and within a few hours time I could migrate all the files from the iMac to the MacBook via the Time Machine backup from the iMac. But, it would take hours to complete that.

Since my computer desk is the size of a door, I have plenty of room for the laptop to be sitting there connected to power, to the monitor and then having two external hard drives plugged in. One is for the automatic backup every hour and the other is the picture library that Apple Photo runs off of. Then later I had a brain storm that I could set my iMac on my other desk (regular size) to get that out of the way, until I decide to install a new hard drive.

By 3am all the files on my iMac had been migrated to the MacBook Air and things were running smoothly and fast. I had my computer system back using the same monitor, keyboard and trackpad I had used since October 2010.

Just like when you buy a new computer, you have a chance to do some 'house cleaning' of files, apps, software programs thus freeing up hard drive space and getting rid of stuff you never look at or use anymore. I tore into that process even though it was after 3am. I was thrilled with the change of speed, no hanging up, and using a computer the way it was meant to be.

I did have a 'user error' at the very end where I had a real problem. Once again a search on google that led me to the same question from someone else six years ago in Apple Support forum ... I made the mistake of disconnecting the wireless mouse from my iMac. With my wireless keyboard already connected via bluetooth on my MacBook Air ... I had NO way to move around the iMac or even shut it off.

It gets better ... and funnier .... without a lot of thinking I decided I needed to electronically disconnect the trackpad from the laptop so I could connect via Bluetooth to the iMac ... but the iMac couldn't find the signal so I could add it to the iMac. So .... to dig my grave deeper ... I disconnect the wireless keyboard from the laptop to see if the iMac Bluetooth could find the keyboard so I could add it that way.

The iMac could not find the keyboard signal either !!!  So I had two different computers and no way of using them because I (ME) had disconnected ALL of my wireless mouse, keyboard and trackpad and the only way to move around a computer. Luckily my solution was hidden on google search, all I needed to do was ask the question. That led me AGAIN to the same question by someone else asked in the Apple Support Forum.

Needless to say, I got everything worked out in a pretty short time. During these 17 hours of computer work I did not lose my cool, didn't panic, and just kept looking for answers or recommendations to find the solution. Like I said on Sunday night, in a sick sort of way I love doing this type of work on a computer when nothing is working.

For a split second I thought about pulling an all-nighter ... college lingo ... I was getting a lot done and this system was so much faster than I had before. So I had to force myself to turn out the lights and head for bed at 4:18am. I knew the hounds would be waking me up soon for their breakfast kibble but in the meantime Sadie was snoring, Stella was running in her sleep and Heidi was buried under her Mexican blankets with the windows open.

I think I fell asleep about the time my body was in the horizontal position, I don't remember anything.

I had left the computer in sleep mode while I slept instead of turning it off because the Time Machine was copying 60Gb's of backup files to the different computer. There was an option I chose that keeps the old copy in case I send it back to the iMac later one but that will not be needed if I replace the hard drive.

I did think this morning that I had other options.

1.  I could keep this the same setup and with to repair the iMac with a new hard drive.

2.  I could buy the Mac Mini as a temporary desktop replacement but a future of working next to my tv, where I could store movies, tv shows, ballgames on that drive like my DVR, then connect that Mini to the tv vis HDMI cable and use that like a DVR .

3. No matter what, I will install a new solid state hard drive and more memory sticks in the iMac. Depending on the size of the hard drive, I could basically have enough memory and space for around $300-$350.

Before I make any purchase I am gong to live with the set up I have right now and see how I feel about it two or three weeks later. The Mac Mini is nearby if I decided I want to use that. I'll move my iMac to my other desk, plug it into that power strip and continue to look and make sure I am not missing anything as far as information, old files or data before I open the front of that machine to add new stuff to it. (I know all the files were migrated and nothing should be missing) That moving process will take place after the hounds have their late lunch ... they are all passed out right now and have missed the noon howling/barking feature.

When thinking of options, I really did think of the new Windows Surface with the combine laptop/tablet and great reviews. All for the same price of the iMac I thought of buying yesterday. I also thought of going to the ChromeBook route. I've looked at those in the past and from what I do know and plan to do in the future, I just needed more computer than the ChromeBook.

I remember how hard it was, even with computer experience, to go from a Microsoft background to Apple. There was a learning curve there for a few weeks. When I was working and had only a PC at work, then I was flipping back and forth between Windows and Apple every day so it wasn't as hard.

But the fact is ... I love Apple equipment. I had almost 7 years of no problems while spending more time on a computer than a lot of people. I wish it wasn't that way but it's life in the 21st century.

Until this morning, as I typed this and doing computer stuff before our morning walk, I did not really realize just how bad that iMac hard drive was. It really does feel like I have bought a new computer since hooking up the laptop to all the main stuff like large monitor, wireless keyboard and wireless trackpad.

Oh, I forgot to mention, I also get a lot of my information on how to do things, or what to buy by looking at Google "Images" in search. How else would I know without pictures, that a Mini Countryman could really go off-road and even tow a trailer??? Or just how would that MacBook Air look connected to a large 27" monitor ... where would all the cables go? Or ... Heidi's skin condition, has there ever been another basset hound with those type of allergies.

Searching on Google Images is a good tool for information and answers to questions.

So that about does it for the computer story. I am up and running, a clear plan on the old iMac, I have a faster system that makes things more enjoyable and all without spending a dime in today's money. Feel free to email me or make comments on any questions you may have about computers stuff. I know enough to 'be dangerous' and will lead you to someone that can if I can't answer your question(s).

There is nothing such as a straight walk between point A and point B with Stella. Even when you think the walk is almost over ... she finds just one more thing to check out before it's officially finished. Right after I snapped this picture above, she did an about face turn and headed back to the field .... a yell of 'no' ... "over here" got her back in the direction of the house.

Still just 12" into the yard ... there was just one more thing to check out.

You may have saw above that the water is receding in the field ... but thunderstorms are in the afternoon forecast. I hope to MOW the yard not BALE the yard on Friday after these next few days of rain.

After a frustrating Monday, today has been fantastic here in 'the tropics' of southern Indiana.


  1. By that 'old age' reasoning, I have a few pending bad sectors of my own!!

    1. I just push those old age bad sectors aside and scream at the moon!!

  2. That’s exactly what I would have done (laptop + additional big monitor) and add a hard drive to the failing iMac later if you feel like you need it. If you decide you don’t need it, I doubt you’d have any problem selling it. I looked up the Mac mini you mentioned, and it looks like a super-duper external hard drive. Chromebook prices are attractive, but it has some drawbacks with its on-line/cloud/app workings. I really like to be able to play dvds and my understanding is that won’t work even with an app download (VLC) and an external usb dvd/cd player. At least an external hard drive can be attached to a Chromebook, which is a plus. I haven’t been doing it for very long, but will use Google images to search for sites too. It seems like I get better hits doing it that way.

    1. That combo is working out pretty well. I ejected the two externals, unplug power and brought it out to the kitchen table to start my Mahjong playing. So I still have my flexibility. On those google images, once you click on an image, there is a button to go to that webpage that has the image.