Introduction: Upgrade Your Apple MacBook: Data Backup and Preservation.

Picture of Upgrade Your Apple MacBook: Data Backup and Preservation.

My Mac hard disk got really fat and full, it was disgusting. This problem is happening to many people who have bought the original MacBooks. They are feeling the distinctly tight pinch of a small hard drive. I bought my macbook ~2 years ago and it came with a 60Gig hard disk, clearly not enough for our information-dense age. I quickly filled up and had to erase and re-erase old information. I lost an entire instructable after erasing a folder of pictures to make room for more.

Here's how I upgraded my hard drive to 320 Gigs while upgrading to Mac OS X Leopard and installing Time Machine. All while keeping all my old applications and data safe.

If you follow these instructions:
Your past work will be fossilized .
Your present work will be preserved..
And your mac will become a spacious palace to contain all your work.

Step 1: Gather Materials

Picture of Gather Materials
For the amount of an upgrade you will wind up with the ~$150 price tag is pretty small. I had been deleting things every day trying to make room for daily activities. I'm now making many more videos and my programs run without "clogging up" by filling scratch disks.

Here's what you'll need and the links show you where you can find them:

Optional Bits:

Step 2: Prepare the Newbie

Picture of Prepare the Newbie

Open up the package your new hard drive came in. Cute isn't it? It's like a newborn beast of burden, ready to do your bidding. Now you must put on its harness.

Now open up the hard disk enclosure and insert the hard disk into it, it should just plug in pretty simply. When everything is closed back up well screw in the two screws and you should be ready to plug it in. Or is it....

Step 3: Test and Repair Drive Virginity

Picture of Test and Repair Drive Virginity
Your new hard drive is a clean product just purchased from whatever retailer you've chosen. It's as pure and blank as freshly fallen snow, right? I'm sorry to disappoint you, but you can't take that for granted. As innocent as it looks, it may have its dark side.

What you need to do is completely Zero your drive, which will completely erase everything on it and find the locations that may be damaged and demarcate them as such.

You should first plug in the new hard drive enclosure with the new disk in it . Now you should open the Disk Utility. You can find it in Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility. You should see the new hard drive icon up on the right.
  • Click on it and then select the Erase tab.
  • Click the Security Options button
  • Select Zero Out Data and click OK
  • Now press Erase

This process will take a while. Go make some coffee.

Step 4: Clone Your MacBook

Picture of Clone Your MacBook
To ensure that you will have all your files and applications you will need to clone your mac. Get this program: Super Duper, it's free and it will help you create a disk image that you can store on your new hard disk that you can boot from later. With Super Duper and your new drive this is incredibly easy on your mac.

  • Download & Install Super Duper
  • Open the program
  • Select your current hard drive on the left, and the USB external new drive on the right
  • Select Backup - all files
  • Click Copy Now

This too will take some time, it took mine 3 hours to run. Perhaps this is a good time to make dinner.

Step 5: Gut Your Book

Picture of Gut Your Book
Now you are ready to remove that nasty over-packed gut from your MacBook and leave a spacious cavity ready to fill. This task is fairly simple, but it involves operating on your MacBook, so if you want to preserve any notions that there's anything except white candy and creamy macbookness you should have someone else extract your old hard drive.

Here's the how goes, and as always, the images will show you each step.
  • Gather your jewelry screw driver set, computer and external hard disk
  • Remove the battery.
  • Unscrew the two screws that hold the memory and hard disk. These face the back of the laptop, check image three.
  • Remove the metal bracket.
  • Pull on the plastic tab on the left to extract the hard disk.


Now we need to install the new disk:

Step 6: Awaken the Beast - Insert the New Drive

Picture of Awaken the Beast - Insert the New Drive
You now have two duplicates of your disk sitting outside of your computer--they are both bootable, too. This means that you may take the new disk and put it into your computer and have it run just like it used to... except you will have much more space now.

What you should do though is:

  • Take old drive; unscrew it from its casing.
  • Screw the casing onto the new drive.
  • Reinsert into the hard drive bay and push till it doesn't go any further.
  • Rescrew the metal bracket.
  • Reinstall the battery.
  • Flip the laptop, open it and push the ON button.

IT'S ALIVE! Your computer should now be fully operational and with many more gigs of space for whatever it is you need to save.

This is 3/4th's of the backup procedure. I promised you more though. To truly fossilize your mac you need time machine to create an image of your mac at the current time. This will prevent problems with losing data in the future.

Step 7: To Infinity and BEYOND! - Installing Leopard

Picture of To Infinity and BEYOND! - Installing Leopard
We're close to completely revamping your Mac and protecting your data for infinity and beyond. The last steps we need to do are install Leopard and set up Time Machine. With the addition of thee two items, your system will be protected for the future and will also have the past preserved.

First you will need to have the DVD and some time. Other than that it's a fairly straightforward process which involves putting the DVD into the bay and following the directions.
  • Restart the computer
  • Select archive and install. Don't fresh install.
  • Select your language you prefer.
  • Then select the drive you just installed.

This upgrade process takes about two hours. Go have a snack.

Step 8: Be a Time Traveler.

Picture of Be a Time Traveler.
One of the neatest things about the operating system you just installed is a new application called Time Machine. This continually takes snapshots of your computer's drive and saves them so that in case you ever have a problem and lose some data... you can simply look back in time. To do this you will need an external hard drive.

$99 500 Gig Drive

Once you have this drive the setup for Time Machine is very simple:

  • Plug in your portable drive
  • Select the drive in the pop-up window as your backup disk.
  • If the window doesn't pop up, plug in your disk and click the clock on the upper bar near the wifi icon.
  • Toggle the switch to on and it will start to back up your entire disk.

Step 9: Celebrate Data Safekeeping

Picture of Celebrate Data Safekeeping

If you completed both steps your data is now living in a nice large house and you have an old version of your computer that you can boot from at any time.

Booting your old drive:
Plug your old hard drive in the enclosure into your USB drive and restart your computer. When you see the gray screen hold the alt/option button down and it will give you the option to boot from the other disk.

So your past is preserved forever.
Your present is constantly being backed up.
And you have loads of space for future projects.
:. Go crazy and make stuff!



nycciscocompany (author)2015-09-28

Wow!! This is the great information of MacBook updation.

laptop_keys (author)2015-09-27

Nice guidance on upgradation of Apple Macbook.

vincent7520 (author)2011-03-05

Great Instructable !!!…
The problem is the comments from other instructablers : they get me all confused and I'm stuck where I was !…

knex_mepalm (author)2010-04-25

 I would eat my virtual cement hat then wear the apple logo.

M4industries (author)2010-02-15

 Shameless fanboy-ism

Solderguy (author)2008-08-20

You can also get Nero 8 and back-up your information by burning it on several Dvd's.

Aquilla (author)Solderguy2008-08-28

True, but this hard disk approach has the advantage of editting data. The burned DVDs are read only. Plus this means less stuff to carry around, and for a laptop that can be a real help.

altaria1993 (author)Aquilla2008-08-30


Aquilla (author)altaria19932008-08-30

"Plus this means less stuff to carry around, and for a laptop that can be a real help."

Holden_vy_s (author)Aquilla2010-02-15

You can leave your backup discs at home...

DVDRW doesn't mean you can use it like a hard drive, it just means you can erase it and reuse the disc. They are usually a waste of time because by the time you use the disc more than 5 times they are scratched to hell already...

i know that..

lupinesoul (author)2008-10-13

That is disgusting... I mean, the poor guy has to wear the Apple logo!!!

Gamer917 (author)lupinesoul2009-08-10

i know right, i would rather eat a rubber waffle

Gamer917 (author)2009-08-10

one thing you forgot: how to install windows

funnelhead (author)2008-08-28

There is no need whatever to zero the data - but what you DO have to do is repartition the disk. This is because if the disk has the wrong partition type, your Mac will not be able to boot from it. You can repartition as a single partition; that will erase the disk and ensure bootability, and it only takes a second or two. Assuming that this MacBook is Intel-based, you need to ensure that it is partitioned using GUID. See for more info.

nsanjana (author)funnelhead2009-01-17

GUID is vital since the Instructable also does a Leopard upgrade at the end. I did the whole thing (hours of work!!) just to have it fail at the end since the drive was not partitioned correctly. GUID is necessary for Leopard to install.

It is ridiculous that this guy mentions zero'ing the HD (a process that took 6+ hours on my 500gb drive), which is totally unnecessary, and yet omits the REQUIRED step of selecting GUID.

This instructable should be fixed or better yet, see this web page, which is far better:

tastewar (author)funnelhead2008-09-02

Indeed! Partition type is key. I had done a very similar project on my Intel iMac: bought a new disk, put it in an external enclosure, formatted the disk, backed up the current HD to the new one (I used Carbon Copy Cloner), then attempted to boot from it and it wouldn't. Had to re-partition to get the right partition type (not something you can change after the fact!) and run the backup all over again. Then everything was fine, though getting to the HD in a 20" iMac was a challenge. You might want to amend the instructions to mention partition type.

Derin (author)2009-01-16

I have a 160 now and it is totaly full.I can't free more than two gigs on it,no matter how many stuff I erase.

Derin (author)Derin2009-01-16

Also,I like Macs.I never used one,but I would like to.

pvinh (author)2009-01-01

Great instructions. 80GB for video editing is a joke. Quick question, is it possible to use the old HD in the enclosure as the external backup drive for Time Machine? It's a perfectly good drive, no need to waste it, right? Is the space too small? I presume TM uses some sort of compression during backup.

jackass1 (author)2008-12-31

for the love of god,! what possessed you to wear a one piece bathing suit with an apple logo on it?

acaz93 (author)2008-10-22

One more thing (no pun intended ...) Don't forget to format the drive as GUID or else the leopard installation may fail , (believe , It's experience )

jlpryan (author)2008-09-14

Great article. Thanks. Please confirm this drive should work...
Western Digital Scorpio Hard Drive - 2.5", SATA, 320 GB, 3 Gb/s, 8 MB Cache, 5400 RPM - Internal Hard Drive,


mvladivostok (author)2008-09-03

Thanks very much for this instructable, worked like a charm. Just did it to my MacBookPro. A few diferences with respect to opening a MBP, there are a lot more screws (19!, you literally have to lift the hood of this thing), and the hard drive has a sort of damper screws on its sides (to absorb vibrations, I'm assuming). But apart from that, all worked just like you said it would. Thanks very much!

smuzta (author)2008-09-02

Is 250GB the largest HD you can get right now? I have filled up my 160 GB HD and am concerned that I'll fill up the 250GB pretty quickly. It seems like a lot of space, but I just have a ton of graphics, etc. that are memory hogs.

joejoerowley (author)2008-08-31

Is there a size restriction on the hard drive? (not physical size like size as in memory) Great Instructable! Thanks Joe

nitrox027 (author)joejoerowley2008-08-31

the limit would be the limit of technology i don't believe there r 2.5" sata drives over 500gb at the moment

joejoerowley (author)nitrox0272008-08-31

Thanks for the speedy reply. So will a mac be able to read a drive that big. I am running leopard. Thanks Joe

nitrox027 (author)joejoerowley2008-09-01

all macs new then 2006 have no drive limits

joejoerowley (author)nitrox0272008-09-02

Thanks for the info!!! Great news to here! Thanks Joe!

Richiepoo (author)2008-09-02

I have a first gen Macbook and I'm definitely doing this! Great Instructable!

thewineguy (author)2008-08-29

Very good, well-illustrated guide overall. Just a small correction:
Yes, SuperDuper! is free, to try. But, we who continue to use it buy it for, at present, $27.95 with free upgrades for life. As a frequent—often daily—user of SuperDuper! for more than five years, I assure you it's well worth it. It's simple, flexible, fast and very easy to operate. And, when you're not sure about what you're trying to do, you can expect to receive a detailed answer to your email within a couple of hours, if not a few minutes.

drips (author)thewineguy2008-09-01

And when you buy SuperDuper! you get access to the 'SmartClone' feature which only copies files that have changed since your last clone, so you can finish the process in a relative blink of of an eye (20 minutes vs. several hours in my experience).

thewineguy (author)drips2008-09-02


winexprt (author)2008-09-01

Hi. Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but the third task above in step 4 confuses me.

"Select your current hard drive on the right, and the USB external new drive on the left"

Which, the way I'm reading the menu fields would mean I'm copying a new, blank hard drive onto my existing one? How does that help me??? Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Please clarify...

lamedust (author)winexprt2008-09-01

Yes, it should. Sorry I flipped them, picture 3 shows you the correct way, I'll fix the text. -bg

larwe (author)2008-08-29

This method of doing things is a bit rigmarolish and not SOP. The easiest way to achieve exactly the same net effect is: 1. Place the new blank drive in your MacBook. 2. Place your old hard disk in the SATA enclosure. Don't connect it to the computer yet. 3. Install OS on MacBook. 4. Plug in the SATA drive and copy across anything you need from your old hard drive.

The Eck (author)larwe2008-09-01

How about after you install the OS on the new internal drive you use the Migration Assistant to copy everything you want from the old drive (that is now in an enclosure). Be sure it's hooked up via firewire. It ought to show up as a "partition" or other volume, but not as another Mac.

lamedust (author)larwe2008-08-29

That surely would work if you wanted a back up. But you would have to individually copy everything while not copying any of the operating system. This way all your programs and files are there and your computer seems the same, but larger. -bg

rbanker (author)2008-09-01

One thing to note... I did this myself on my first-gen MacBook a few months ago and the screws holding the hard drive into the casing on my system work were torx #9s. I found a set of torx keys at the local Lowe's hardware, but #9s are typically only used in electronics, and so weren't the easiest things to find.

Evermorian (author)2008-08-30

You can also accomplish this with Carbon Copy Cloner. CCC is donationware - free to use, donations appreciated.

dogzy99 (author)2008-08-30

any problem doing this to a G4 iBook? Any limitation to hard drive size?

da_punx (author)2008-08-29

That isn't a swimsuit, it's a Mac OS X LeoTard. AAAh why did I type that?

Thunderexpress (author)2008-08-28

Little off topic but do you require an administer password to install leopard?

lamedust (author)Thunderexpress2008-08-28

Don't believe so.

Thunderexpress (author)lamedust2008-08-28


jongscx (author)2008-08-28

I think your DVD is missing a "P" on it... might wanna be sure you're getting the right OS. Kidding. Great 'Ible.

acaz93 (author)2008-08-22

More than great instructions , especially , since like 12 people got a better macbook than me (i bought it like 1.5 year ago) , theyre annoying ,believe me 5 stars BTW

garrettmikesmith (author)acaz932008-08-28

oh yes they are

About This Instructable




Bio: Bilal Ghalib is interested in doing things that surprise him and inspire others. Let's create a future we want to live in together.
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