If you currently own a working PowerBook G4 or an iMac G5, a brief check on your purchase receipt should reveal that your Mac is most likely more than 2 years old. The fact that its still working and serving your needs is great but you may be in for a surprise soon enough.
This article is more of a reminder and caution for PowerBook G4 and iMac G5 owners, than guide. Most commercially produced hard drives have a lifespan of about 2-3 years, on regular usage. Anything beyond that duration is a bonus and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Hopefully, you already have a prudent back up strategy in place otherwise, we suggest that you start one immediately after reading this article.
To ensure that you do not lose precious data from a sudden hard drive failure, its probably best to send your PowerBook G4 or iMac G5 in for a hard drive replacement and whilst you’re at it, consider upgrading the capacity of your Mac’s existing hard drive because hard drives have gotten a lot cheaper compared to the time when you first purchased your Mac.
If you heed this advice, its probably best to only send your Mac to an Authorised Apple Service Provider (ASP) to ensure that your Mac receives the care that it deserves.
On the other hand, you can use Mac OS X’s built-in Disk Utility application to check on the current the health of your hard drive.
Disk Utility is an included application that comes with Mac OS X to manage your hard drive. One of the things it also does is, check the health of your hard drive. You can find and launch Disk Utility from inside your /Applications/Utilities/ folder.
Ensure that you have accessed the First Aid tab within Disk Utility, then select the hard drive you wish to check by clicking on it. To commit to a check, click on Verify Disk. You should quit all running applications before doing so, to facilitate a faster completion of the test. The duration taken to perform the test varies depending on the total capacity and speed of your hard drive.
If all’s well, the Disk Verification process should return an ‘ok’ message in green font. If however, it returns an alarming message decked out in red font, then its time for that last minute back up and dash to your local ASP to get the hard drive replaced. Before it completely fails and the data is no longer retrievable.
Most modern hard drives produced around the same time as the PowerBook G4 and iMac G5 come equipped with S.M.A.R.T sensors, or “Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology” initially, developed by IBM. Functioning as a predictive failure analysis mechanism, S.M.A.R.T. analyses many of the mechanical attributes; over time, some failures can be predicted by detecting if the hard disk drive is moving out of tolerance. While the S.M.A.R.T. technology can detect upcoming issues, not all hard drive failures are predictable. S.M.A.R.T nevertheless, gives a good indication of a potential failure.
If your hard drive is in good condition your S.M.A.R.T status should return as “Verified”. For the paranoid, you can download and install a copy of Julian Mayer’sSMARTReporter menubar application that constantly displays the S.M.A.R.T status of your hard drive on your Mac’s menubar. Warning you of a potential hard drive failure before it occurs. Its also open source, so its free.
Remember… preventive maintenance is always better than screaming and tearing your hair out when things go really wrong.