Repair Stories

Liz Screws Up (But the MacBook Upgrade Happened Anyway)

Here at iFixit, we make new people work on their stuff. I’m Elizabeth, and I’m new.

A couple of years ago, Mitra wrote on the blog about her success replacing the hard drive in her 15″ PowerBook, and I thought I’d follow up. My story is a hard drive upgrade success, too—but I’m here to prove that even clumsy people can take charge of their devices.

I’m an English major. You can laugh; I certainly do. But since my livelihood depends on all my data staying safe, I’ve been looking for a good backup system. If I lost my 5,000-word treatise on Uncle Remus, I might not get invited to conferences anymore.

As in many other MacBooks, my MacBook’s optical drive failed within a year or so of my 2007 purchase. I so rarely use CDs that I never felt motivated to repair it. But my need for backups and my dead-weight optical drive led me to an obvious solution: replace my optical drive with a second hard drive. Luckily, we have exactly the part to make this possible, an Optical Bay Hard Drive Enclosure.

Hard drive MacBook upgrade

I started out well. I set out all my tools, including a Phillips #00 screwdriver and a spudger, and pulled out a muffin tin to organize my screws. I brought up our optical drive guide.

And then, six screws into opening up my computer, one of them was stripped. I guess I must’ve stripped it when replacing my fan last year.

iFixit Answers users have a lot of great suggestions for removing stripped screws, including adding a new slot in the screw head with a Dremel—but I don’t own a Dremel. Following some other suggestions, I even tried using the screwdriver through a rubber band, for a better grip.

It didn’t work.

By the time I’d spent ten minutes trying to get just one screw out, I was pretty tempted to say, “Screw this!” and go do something better suited to my English major talents, like making coffee. But I figured I would try one more suggestion from the Internet. I switched to a small flat head screwdriver from the bit driver kit. Sweet success! The screw came out almost immediately.

Once I was in, the upgrade went fairly smoothly. I disconnected a few ribbon cables, pulled the defunct optical drive out, fit my new hard drive into its optical drive-shaped enclosure, and reconnected all the important cables. I did drop a couple screws on the floor. Do you know how easily screws get tangled up in carpet fiber? And I lost yet another screw inside the computer for a while.

I think my new hard drive looks pretty cozy in its optical drive housing (pardon the dust—I didn’t realize until I looked at these photos just how dirty the inside of my laptop is!). Booting up to see two 500-gigabyte drives in my little old MacBook made it worth the headache. Using Time Machine, I fully backed up my drive in just a few minutes. My scholarly papers and bad poetry are safe from data loss.

Don’t let being clumsy scare you away from cracking open your devices. It’ll probably be easier than you imagine—and if you drop a few screws, your computer won’t judge.