How-to: MacBook Pro hard drive transplant

I recently purchased a new Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro and wanted to share some of the intricacies of swapping out the hard drive.
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor
MeBook Hard Drive
I recently purchased a new Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro and wanted to share some of the intricacies of swapping out the hard drive.
Whenever I place an order for a new just-released machine from Apple I usually buy one of the stock configurations to avoid the potential delay of the Configure-To-Order (CTO) process. I also pay the extra $18 for delivery in "2-3 Business Days" (as opposed to opting for the free shipping) because it means that it ships via FedEx priority service and sometimes arrives several days early.
Since I purchased the 120GB configuration and my previous MacBook Pro has a 160GB drive (which is 80 percent full, mind you) it wasn't practical to use Apple's handy Migration Assistant to move my data over. Nor was it possible to clone one drive to the other with Mike Bombich's excellent Carbon Copy Cloner software.
My strategy was to physically swap the larger 160GB hard drive from the old MBP to the new one but you need to do a few things to make it work properly.

Note: I am shortening the hyper-polysyllabic C2D MBP to "MeBook" (short for MeromBook) because my fingers are starting to hurt.

Although the new MeBook ships with Mac OS 10.4.8 installed it is a different build (8N1037) than the build that is installed on my previous MBP (8L2127). For this reason you need to use the install DVDs that come with the MeBook and upgrade the OS on the donor HDD (still in the original MBP) before the swap. Allow about 30 minutes for this process and use the time to take apart the receiving MBP.

Swapping hard drives in the MacBook Pro is not a trivial task nor for the weak of heart. The difficulty level falls somewhere between the super-easy consumer MacBook, which only requires the removal of three screws, and the nightmare that is installing a HDD in any iBook. That said, it isn't impossible either.

I completed the double HDD swap (which requires opening both MBPs) in just over an hour and you should budget your time appropriately. Start by printing the Fixit Guide for the MBP from iFixIt.com. Then gather all the tools you'll need and an ice cube tray to store the screws. 

You'll need a fairly large table or workbench because you're taking apart two machines and you need to keep the parts separate. I label each MBP with a small post-it because once open they're almost indistinguishable. My last piece of advice is to stay seated the entire time (especially in the dry winter) to avoid electrostatic discharge (ESD) and take your time.

Once the HDD is transplanted into the recipient you'll be greeted with the comforting startup chime of your new MeBook. Good luck!

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