macbook pro with two hard drives

How to replace the hard drive in a broke ass MacBook Pro

No matter how much you take care of your good buddy the MacBook, something is bound to break as the years go by. For me, it’s many things: a bad optical drive, dead USB ports, a loose screen and a malfunctioning trackpad. It may sound bad, but those were easy to work around. My failing hard drive, however, is not.

Thing is, I can’t blame the damned thing; it’d been through a lot even before I started my freelance career. At the same time, I can’t give my partner a pass this time. It’s impossible to ignore the screeching, clicking, anguished cries of a hard drive about to die.

Thankfully, the threat is no more.

Despite my inability to connect an external drive due to dead USB ports, and my inability to install OS X  via disk due to a bad optical drive, I found a simple way to at least fix the hard drive problem on my broke ass MacBook Pro. If you’re in the same boat, hopefully I can help you, too.

Hard Drive Replacement Shopping List
Step 1

Shut down your laptop and disconnect the power cord. Flip it over and unscrew the case. Be sure to place your screws somewhere safe.

unscrew bottom of macbook pro

Step 2

Disconnect the battery, using these instructions from iFixit.

Step 3

Remove your optical drive (directions can be found here). You’ll notice mine is already missing because, of course, it broke a couple of years ago.

inside of macbook promissing optical drive macbook pro

Step 4

Remove your old hard drive by unscrewing the four screws holding it in place. This also involves removing the black plastic bar on its left side.

remove hard drive macbook pro

Step 5

Disconnect your old hard drive.

disconnect hard drive macbook pro

Step 6

Remove the screws from the sides of your old hard drive and screw them into the sides of your new hard drive.

Step 7

Insert your old hard drive into the new second hard drive caddy, and screw in the side screws.

macbook pro hard drive caddy

macbook pro hard drive caddy

Step 8

The connections that run over and around your optical drive should still be loose from step 1. Carefully move them out of the way just enough to insert your hard drive caddy beneath them.

Step 9

Turn your hard drive caddy face down and connect it to the old optical drive’s connector. Then place it and secure the connections.

optical drive connector macbook pro

2nd hard drive macbook pro

Step 10

Connect your new hard drive and screw it in.

macbook pro with two hard drives

Step 11

Reattach the back cover.

bottom of macbook pro

Step 12

Boot up your laptop. It will boot to your old hard drive by default.

Step 13

Open up disk utility. Select your new hard drive, then click “Erase.” You will see the following pop-up:

disk utility

Pick a name for your new hard drive. There’s no need to change the format or scheme. Then, click “Erase.”

Step 14

Shut down your computer, then restart while holding Command + Option + R. This will start OS X recovery utilities, from which you’ll select “Reinstall OS X.”

Recovery Mode OS X

Step 15

Choose your new hard drive for as the destination disk and follow the on-screen instructions.

Step 16

On restart, set up your laptop as usual. (My computer restarted and booted to the new installation. If yours does not, on restart hold Option and select the new disk.)

Step 17

When everything is up and good to go, make sure your system is set to use the new hard drive as the startup disk.

Open the settings panel and click “Startup Disk.”

mac settings

Unlock to make changes, then select the new drive.

macbook utilities

Step 18

Transfer needed files. If you need to move files from your old hard drive, it will appear as a drive in the side bar of the Finder window. You can then explore the files on the drive and find what you need. It’s as easy as drag and drop!

From this point forward, you can choose what to do with your old drive. If you did this to install a second drive, then feel free to erase the old one and use it to store files or as a time machine backup. If your hard drive was failing like mine, you can always replace it with a new one or just leave it until you decide. I was lazy, so guess which I picked.

All in all, the process was not hard. Although I thought it would be a pain, especially since I have so many problems with my laptop, it wasn’t even time-consuming. Hell, I didn’t even have a Torx screwdriver, and improvising with pliers was only slightly more difficult. There was no frustrated hair pulling, no throwing things, and I did not break anything on my laptop during the process. It was actually–dare I say it–kind of fun!

So here’s a lesson for the day: Even when everything seems stacked against you, use your thinker, consider a new idea and dive right in! You’ll be amazed at what you can do when you finally try.



Krista's a freelance proofreader and writer who spends most days eyeballing medical texts, others crafting stories for teen games. Sometimes she even makes a few bucks with photography. One thing's always true--she's got a hot geek streak for historical and scientific discovery.

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