Complaint Desk: Whose MacBook Pro 7200RPM Drive Sounds Like R2D2?

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Apple users are dedicated defenders and evangelists of the products we love, but we also really like to get together and gab about the problems our devices have. I know I become obsessively detail-oriented whenever I pick up a new piece of Apple hardware, and am quick to overreact to every perceived imperfection I find by calling the Genius Bar and scheduling an appointment. Most of the time, my problems are more the product of a fevered brain and less concrete examples of design or manufacturing flaws, but some problems are all too real.

Case-in-point: Many consumers who ponied up the extra cash to get a faster, 7200RPM HDD vs. the standard, 5400RPM got more than they bargained for. Some of the drives apparently boast the unadvertised feature of making odd clicks and beeping noises while in operation. Maybe that’s just Apple’s way of making sure you’re paying attention to how much better your computer performs with the faster drive?

Seriously, though, the problem seems to affect quite a few users, with more reporting the same or similar issues every day. Reports indicate that in addition to audible clicking and beeping sounds, some of the drives are showing more serious performance issues, too, with the OS appearing to freeze for a brief second whenever a click occurs. While a vocal HD might just be annoying, a vocal HD that also seems to skip a beat is downright terrifying to anyone who depends on their MBP for work or for storing sensitive data.

Early theories on what’s causing the problem is the Seagate Momentus 7200.4 drive’s G-Force shock protection feature, which is probably redundant anyway, since Apple builds in its own fall detector and data protection system on every notebook it makes. Sadly, there’s no easy way to disable the special features for said drives. Users who’ve upgraded themselves with other 7200RPM drives seem not to be experiencing the issue, so the problem likely lies with the HDD and not with the MacBooks themselves. Cold comfort for those who’ve already paid for the Apple-installed upgrade.

The thread at the Apple support forums dealing with this issue is now 35 pages long, so I doubt it’s fallen through Cupertino’s nets. That said, no users have yet reported an actual drive failure as a result of the problem, so pressure for a response from official sources is not yet urgently required. I suspect they’ll play this one close to the chest and try to quietly issue a firmware fix before taking any more drastic action. For the time being at least, it looks like most appeals to the Apple Store for returns and exchanges are largely falling on deaf ears.

Is your machine one of those affected, and if so, has it become communicative? Describe your symptoms and discuss your experiences in the comments.

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