Mac OS X: Notes On Upgrading A Bootable Hard Drive With Boot Camp Support

by Jon Davis 27. November 2008 22:27

I lost last weekend to a hard drive upgrade for my Mac Mini, the last "pimpage" I will do to this Mac. My Mac Mini now has 4GB RAM and a 320 GB hard drive (the largest I could find in 2.5" laptop hard drive class while retaining 7200 RPM), upgraded from 2GB RAM and 150GB 5400 RPM drive.

This was supposed to go smoothly. Oops.

First while doing the physical install, it was about 1:00 am. I snapped off the orange ribbon at its base--as in, permanent destruction, pins yanked from their soldered sockets. Mac Mini computers have these ribbons and they look kind of like old PATA ribbons for laptops so I was pretty much convinced I lost my computer altogether. I Googled a bit and discovered that this was an audio cable, not a hard drive I/O cable. Whew! I also discovered that you can replace the board for much cheaper than the cost of a new machine. First I ordered this and then I realized that it is probably this that broke on the opposite face so I ordered that.

Creative Xmod is a safe way to get audio back if you break your Mac Mini orange ribbon.

But I canceled both orders and realized, hey you know what, I don't need no stinkin audio ribbon in this thing. I do need audio, but I'm quite content with my Creative Xmod which works fine on the Mac.

I used Disk Utility to copy the actual bytes over from one drive to the other. OS X booted on the new drive fine, but then I noticed that VMWare Fusion didn't see the Boot Camp drive, and of course Boot Camp itself didn't work.

I think I repartitioned and reformatted at least five times over the weekend. Googling didn't seem to help, forum threads mostly led to "You have to reinstall OS X and set up from scratch," which I thought was an awful notion. Nonetheless, after so much time wasted, I started down that path. The whole time my original hard drive was untouched so I had nothing to lose.

But then the OS X installer disc refused to install. Looking it up online, Apple's site said that I have to repartition the drive using a GUID Partition table. Buried in one of the advanced settings in Disk Utility (and easily overlooked), there it was, the radio button that let me choose GUID Partition table. The default was Apple Partition table, which is intended for PowerPC computers I suppose. (WHY IS THAT THE DEFAULT IF DISK UTILITY IS ALREADY RUNNING ON AN INTEL?! EARTH TO APPLE??!) I repartitioned again, then I realized rather than doing a byte-for-byte data transfer from my old hard drive I should restore all using my Time Machine backup. Time Machine literally backed up my entire system, something I didn't expect because the Time Machine backup consumed much less space on its drive than the data on the original hard drive (even accounting for excluded files such as VMWare Fusion VMs); I guess Time Machine uses compression, which makes sense.

The Vista partition did not have a backup, though, and attempting a byte-for-byte transfer from the original hard drive failed. Vista was there but it refused to boot. I tried using the Vista installer disc to "Fix startup", "bootrec /fixmbr", "bootrec /fixboot", "bootrec /rebuildbcd", etc. (I should have looked for this rather than just randomly flip switches LOL..) I also got stumped by another problem: Boot Camp refused to give me a boot drive selector when I held the Option key down. This ended up being caused by having too many USB peripherals and a race condition resulting, so I disconnected everything except for my keyboard and mouse and it worked fine. Ten or so reboots later, I gave up, deleted the Vista partition, and reinstalled Vista from scratch. It's okay though, I wanted to claim the extra space and get a fresh OS start anyway.

This blog entry is posted from my fresh Vista partition on my Mac Mini.

Finally, I had to manually restore my iTunes Music library, including the XML files. Somehow that didn't make it onto my Time Machine backup; might be because I had excluded it, I don't remember.



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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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