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Apple Mac Laptop - 250GB Hard Drive recognised as 1.8TB and won't format

Posted on 2011-03-24
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Last Modified: 2013-11-24
Hi

I've got a Macbook laptop (Model A1181) in front of me, which doesn't boot.  Booting from the original install cd shows that there is no hard drive being recognised by the system.  I've purchased a new SATA hard drive, installed in and booted back into the install CD.  The hard drive is now recognised correctly in the System profiler.

When I look in Disk Utility to format the disk, it's size shows as 1.8TB even though the drive is only a 250GB drive.  It won't let me format it, even if I set the size to 0.1TB (i.e. 100GB) as a test.

I then tested further by plugging the hard drive into a Windows PC, and it works fine.  I added a partition, and moved some data to the drive.  I then removed that partition, tried it back in the Mac but same problem exists.

Does anybody have any advise about how to solve this issue?

Thanks.
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Question by:markusdamenous
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by:lloydforth1
ID: 35205436
Rather than format it have you tried to partition it from Disk utility ? There could be an underlying partition in MS-dos format or other format that is causing the issue
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by:markusdamenous
ID: 35205503
There are no partitions on the drive.  It is partion that I'm trying to do from Disk utility, apologies for the confusion.  The drive is recognised in disk utility as 1.8TB before a partition is applied.

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by:lloydforth1
ID: 35205525
Go To Disk Utility select the drive in the right hand window, on the tabs at the top select partition, under the options button make sure that GUID is selected

Change the volume scheme to reflect your wishes 1/2 spaces.

Make sure the format is set to Mac OS extended Journaled and apply
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by:markusdamenous
ID: 35205588
Yep, tried all that.  It is set to GUID, and all I'm trying to do is "1 Partition" with Mac OS Extended (Journaled).

Still no joy.
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by:markusdamenous
ID: 35205627
Here are some screenshots to aid explanation.
IMG-0432.JPG
IMG-0433.JPG
IMG-0434.JPG
IMG-0435.JPG
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lloydforth1 earned 250 total points
ID: 35205649
It would be easy to say this drive has some sort of error but you said it's ok in a widows machine??? if that is the case i would install back to a windows machine and re-partition again. There's something very screwy going on that will either shift through working from a windows machine or the drive has a fundamental problem.

I/O erros are never a good prognosis for drive issues.
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by:markusdamenous
ID: 35205659
Does anybody know what the BIOS in this Mac will support?  Its almost like the issue you used to get with old pcs, whereby they couldnt properly address large hard drives.  It must be recognising something like the number of sectors incorrectly, to get to the figure or 1.8TB.

The hard drive itself if brand new, and works perfectly in Windows.  This is purely a mac problem.  And, the error message I/O problem is just a symptom of the issue.

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by:lloydforth1
ID: 35205694
What OS are you running ? And what processor is it ?
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by:markusdamenous
ID: 35206624
Its and Intel Core 2 Duo, tryin to install the original OS,   OS X 10.4



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by:lloydforth1
ID: 35206716
Should be fine, i have no idea why this is happening now
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by:nxnw
nxnw earned 250 total points
ID: 35206935
See if there is a firmware upgrade.
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by:markusdamenous
ID: 35207013
how and where do I look for a firmware update for mac?
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by:lloydforth1
ID: 35207021
Apple menu (toip left) softwsre update
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by:markusdamenous
ID: 35207170
is there a way in mac to update firmware from a bootable cd or something?  my problem here is that i cannot get mac os x installed, so i can't possibly go to software update!
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by:lloydforth1
ID: 35207197
Only by booting to an external drive with a preinstalled OS

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by:nxnw
ID: 35207453
No, firmware for the HD, NOT software update under the apple menu.

Go to the manufacturer's web site for the update. If they don't have a mac updater, you can use the same PC you previously used to format the drive, right?
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by:markusdamenous
ID: 35207717
but I've never in all my time had to update the firmware on a hard drive to get it recognised by a system, much more likely is having to upgrade the BIOS/firmware on a motherboard to get it to recognise a newer drive - because the drive is 2010/11, the mac (model A1181) is 2006.
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by:nxnw
ID: 35207852
If it is not worth the effort to try updating, I suggest that you just exchange for a different drive.
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by:strung
ID: 35208238
Try reformatting it as FAT32 from a PC, then stick it back in the Mac and see if Disk Utility will now let you format it in Mac format.
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by:lloydforth1
ID: 35208244
I can tell you now it won't be a firmware issue with the MAC, i have literally changed hundreds of drives and NEVER had a firmware issue on the Mac hardware. I can guarantee this is an issue with the drive.
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by:strung
ID: 35208898
That would be my assessment too.
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by:mmoore82
ID: 35214865
If you have one available, try formatting the drive on a Mac (can even be from a different Mac) while it's in an external enclosure.  If you can format the drive while it's in an external enclosure, it could be that you have a bad hard drive flex cable, or a bad main logic board.  If you run into the same issues while the drive is mounted externally and you tried formatting from a different Mac, then you will know for sure the drive is the issue and you'll want to RMA the drive and get another one.

Hope this helps, best of luck!
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by:mmoore82
ID: 35214895
P.S.  It's highly unlikely there would be a firmware issue with the Mac, as a previous poster mentioned.  If anything, it would be bad MLB, bad HDD flex, or bad drive itself.
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by:markusdamenous
ID: 35215182
run through the extended tools on the drive, nothing wrong with it.  I need to get hold of another smaller drive, do the OS X 10.4 install, then do all the software/firmware updates on the Mac, then I will try this drive in it again.  I want to get to the bottom of this issue.
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by:mmoore82
ID: 35215533
If another drive works in the same Mac, you know the 250GB drive likely is the issue, despite what Windows says on the other machine.  If the issue is something else (HDD Flex, Logic Board), it will happen with any drive you put in the Macbook.
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by:nxnw
ID: 35216484
"I want to get to the bottom of this issue."

Why? You say it is a new drive. Return it, because it isn't working correctly, get your $40 back, and buy a different model to install.

"I need to get hold of another smaller drive, do the OS X 10.4 install, then do all the software/firmware updates on the Mac, then I will try this drive in it again."

In my view, almost certain not to work, and a huge waste of time even if it did.
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by:strung
ID: 35216507
Did you try reformatting as FAT32 or NTFS in a PC , then trying to reformat on the Mac?
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by:markusdamenous
ID: 35222034
right.  I got a smaller HDD (120GB), worked first time without issue.  This was double the size of the original drive, so I've left it installed.  Did all the updates on OS X 10.4, and it didn't find any firmware update.  Looking at the site below, it is a really old spec laptop.  It is stuck back at revision 3 BIOS, all other machines are at 7.  For some reason, that laptop looks to have been dropped from the update cycles.  

In PC world, a BIOS update would have solved this kind of issue for sure.  There is definately nothing wrong with the drive, done full checks etc.  I'd be happy to use the drive in my own pc laptop, no issues.

http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1237

and its the model called "MacBook (13-inch) MacBook1,1 MB11.0061.B03 (EFI 1.0) 1.4f12 (SMC 1.1) "

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by:markusdamenous
ID: 35222446
I will leave this question open another day or so to see if anybody wishes to add further explanation.  Otherwise, I propose to accept my answer as solution but will split points between people who have contributed their time.
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by:nxnw
ID: 35224058
If your answer is that this is a problem with the macbook firmware, it is not reasonable. It is not "stuck back at revision 3". The newer firmware was written for newer models with different hardware. Macs may have 1 or 2 (or no) firmware updates.

Multiple more likely causes:
1. The OS you are using is ancient. Could be a driver issue. Could even be a problem with the old version of Disk Utility;
2. The drive may not be compatible with the SATA controller;
3. There could be a problem with the drive interface that simply does not show up in Windows.

If you are saying that a "smaller HD" is the answer: Also incorrect. Your computer certainly supports a 250 GB drive.

If your answer is to try a different drive rather than waste time trying to figure out why this specific configuration failed: Makes sense. Glad you thought of it.
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by:mmoore82
ID: 35231633
Glad you got it working on the other drive!  That means there likely isn't any issue with your system itself.

Just curious.. what brand was the drive that had issues?
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by:strung
ID: 35231689
Looks like a Western Digital from the screen shots.
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by:mmoore82
ID: 35231795
Ha.. good call.. WD2500.. I've installed dozens of those in Macbooks.  It's definitely a bad drive, despite any indication that it's not.  Again, glad you got the system working, RMA that WD for sure!
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by:markusdamenous
ID: 35232268
I don't disagree that you that I should have been able to just plug this hard drive in, and it work straight away.  HOWEVER, this is an old mac that blatently doesn't like playing with this drive.  There is NOTHING WRONG with the drive itself.  Like I said above, it has tested fully OK with a Windows PC.  I would bet money that plugging it into a newer Mac, it would also be absolutely fine.  

Unfortunately I've sorted the machine and given it back to its owner, otherwise I would have tried a larger hard drive in it.  My suspicion would be that it would also mis-recognise that too.  

Here is an extract from a website describing the thoeritical limits of hard drives:

The ATA Interface Limit (128 GiB / 137 GB) Barrier

In order to avoid previous disk barriers and limitations, other than those imposed by the operating systems themselves, today's hard drives no longer rely upon discrete geometry (specific cylinder, head and sector numbers) and instead use logical block addressing and a sector number. Unfortunately, even when we move away from bit addressing in favor of head and sector numbers, we still reach the limit of our ability to address all of the bits when taken together. Let's take a look at the ATA interface. There are 28 bits used for the sector number interface with the operating system, BIOS and the hard disk. This means a hard disk can have a maximum of 2^28 or 268,435,456 sectors of 512 bytes, placing the ATA interface maximum at 128 GiB or approximately 137.4 GB.

http://www.dewassoc.com/kbase/hard_drives/hard_drive_size_barriers.htm


If the Mac in question is not using LBA addressing, then it would be up against this limit.


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by:nxnw
ID: 35233271
It is NOT the size of the hard drive!!! I am almost 100% sure that every mac has been able to address more than 128 GB since long before the first macbook.

If you search http://forums.xlr8yourmac.com/drivedb/search.drivedb.lasso I bet you will find several first generation macbooks with >120GB drives installed. In fact, I bet you will find one or two WD scorpio blues (the drive you were unable to install).

Seriously, your analysis is unsound. You don't know why the 160 GB drive didn't work, you can't rule out a defect simply because it tested out OK on another machine, and the theory you keep coming back to is incorrect.
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by:markusdamenous
ID: 35233528
It was a 250GB Drive that didn't work, a 120GB worked fine (below my limit in the doc above of 137GB, hence furthering my assumption - whether this assumption is correct or not!)

I'm still open to further proof either way!

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by:strung
ID: 35233646
Your article is way out of date. All Macs built after 2003 have been able to support drives larger than 137 Gigs.

http://forums.xlr8yourmac.com/action.lasso?-database=faq.fp3&-layout=FaqList&-response=answer.faq.lasso&-recordID=33772&-search
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by:nxnw
ID: 35234028
">120GB" means greater than 120GB. I know exactly what didn't work - a 250 GB WD Scorpio Blue HD. You have been advised, not only by me, that the size of the drive was not the problem, but to help you overcome your fixation on this incorrect analysis, from Apple Support:
The BootROM of Power Mac G4 (Mirrored Drive Doors), Xserve, Power Mac G5, and any other model introduced after June 2002 can accommodate these larger drives.
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by:mmoore82
ID: 35306825
I think everyone who participated in this thread deserves credit for trying to tell OP what the real issue is.

I gave very clear steps on determining the issue.  
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by:markusdamenous
ID: 35308821
mmoore82, the feeling I got from your responses were frustrating, because you kept repeating the same issue.  I know that the hard drive is not faulty, so it would be wrong to accept your answer that it is.  It would be misleading to anybody reading this thread once it is closed.
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by:nxnw
ID: 35310015
I agree that a misleading and incorrect answer should not be shown as the solution. As such, the author's definitively incorrect solution should not be marked as the answer. While replacing the drive was a good solution, saying it had to be a "smaller" drive is misleading and incorrect — this is documented above by at least two posters.

Further, the author's assumption that the original drive is perfect is also unfounded, for reasons also already set out above.
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by:mmoore82
ID: 35310118
I gave specific steps to troubleshoot the issue; not exactly a "repeat" of other answers.  If you look at the previous answers, they were all stuck on formatting using the same machine or a Windows machine.. or firmware.  Neither of these solutions were "solutions".. I don't think you tried my solution specifically.. If you tried my troubleshooting steps and they were wrong, then I'm sorry I was not able to help, but I do work on dozens of these machines a week ;-)

I second nxnw's last comment.
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by:nxnw
ID: 35310190
I hope anyone reading this thread for help makes it down to the more substantive discussion, as the answers marked as solutions (mine included) have been selected arbitrarily in order to assign points.
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by:markusdamenous
ID: 35310616
I fully appreciate what you've all said with regards this drive should work, and I'm also very confident it would work in my newer MacBook pro without issue.  BUT, it just won't play nice in a 2006 MacBook.  Unless you have a model a1181 to test with, then you have to accept my findings.  I also tell you 100%, the hard drive itself is not faulty.  The only things it can be are;

Incompatibilty of the mac firmware to correctly identify the drive

Or

The original mac os x DVD that I used has an old version of the disk utility tool.  I was not able to test an alternative DVD.
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by:RobertL39
ID: 38947333
I can clarify this for anyone else who has this problem. I had the exact same problem; same computer (MacBook 1,1), same new hard drive (WD Scorpio Blue 250Gb). markusdamenous pointed out that a smaller drive worked fine in the MacBook and that the WD drive worked fine in a PC. markusdamenous guessed at the answer in his last post and he was right on the money. The problem is the version of Disk Utility on the MacBook 1,1 install disc. The OS that came on my install discs was 10.4.6. I put in a 10.5 install disc, booted up and used the newer version of Disc Utility. The drive was recognized as the correct size and formatted perfectly. For some reason the older version of Disc Utility doesn't work with this particular WD drive, and perhaps with other drives of similar or larger size? But the slightly more recent version works fine. Problem solved!
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