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


Apple (s aapl) 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.

25 Responses to “Complaint Desk: Whose MacBook Pro 7200RPM Drive Sounds Like R2D2?”

  1. Apple replaced my hard drive just the other day. So far so good. The only time it makes a noise is when I put the machine to sleep. Other than that it hasn’t made any weird R2D2 noises. Fingers crossed it stays that way.

  2. And here I was thinking of converting from PC to Mac. Everyone I know who has a MacBookPro has praised it, but since I’m a freelancer who travel a lot with my laptop I can’t really afford it to either breakdown or have HD issues.

    I would wish to believe that out of thousands of MacBookPro owners there are few unlucky ones who have this problem.

    Seems like Apple’s return policy is also very poor.

    I was planning to get a new 17″ MacBookPro but will wait now few weeks and read a bit about it online – unless any of you can recommend an alternative.

  3. My new MacBookPro will be delivered July 16. It has the 320 GB (not 500 GB) 7200 rpm HD, and we’ll see what happens. I have the resources to replace the HD myself if necessary, though I don’t know what that would do to the warranty.

  4. Yep I have this problem also. I have a 15″ Macbook Pro w/ 500GB 7200RPM. I hadn’t realised it was so wide spread. I thought I was the only one. I called up Apple Support to which they couldn’t tell me why it was making those noises so they arranged an appointment with an Apple Genius. The Genius said that they would order in a new HDD and give me a call when it’s in so that they can replace it. Not sure if this will actually fix the problem though.

    Also just to mention it’s not just the noise I experience but also when I copy files from folder to folder it can take up to 20mins for only 10Mb of data. My screen also freezes on me at random times and the machine gets very hot.

    I’ve told them that if replacing the HDD doesn’t work I want a full refund. Lucky I paid it on my credit card so they should be able to sort it out if Apple won’t.

  5. I have this problem on a 3-week old 3.06Ghz 15″ MacBook Pro w/ 500GB 7200RPM. Every 3-4 minutes, the drive clicks and all I/O activity stops for several seconds. It’s really problematic because it happens during Keynote presentations and looks really bad. It also makes the machine useless as a media player because music and video suffer horribly from stuttering, skips, and gaps. Who ever heard of an Apple machine that couldn’t play rich media reliably? Come on!

    I haven’t dealt with it yet, because I’ve been giving Apple time to figure out a fix. Hopefully it is a conflict between the Seagate and Apple drive head parking routines and they can solve it via a firmware update. If they don’t come up with a fix, you can bet I’ll be fully taking advantage of my AppleCare coverage and making sure that Apple fixes the problem for me.

  6. Got an instruction on how to return it. However it will take 1 to 2 months for full refund. Better than nothing I suppose, I spent close to US$ 4300 for this MBP and disappointed with the issue especially with the whole thing freezing. I upgraded everything to the max (CPU, RAM) and my 3 year old Thinkpad is faster than the MBP.

    I still have 1 problem with the return though. It’s registered under Apple care and Apple has not given me the clear information yet on how I can reuse it (if I ever buy Apple MBP again).

  7. I’ve had a new 15″ MBP / 500GB / 7200 RPM just a few weeks. When it first chirped, I thought it was an audio glitch coming through the internal speakers. Then I realized it was the drive. I’ve also noticed the OS intermittently freezing for a second or two several times per day, and that is definitely a frustration that demands attention from Apple. It does seem have the symptoms of the heads parking, and if so, they’re parking at inappropriate times – right in the middle of my priority processes.

  8. I have the 3.06Ghz 17″ MacBook Pro w/ 500GB 7200RPM. Just receive it last week. Loud, freeze a lot . And it’s unusually hot even I’m not doing anything disk intensive.

    Talked to Tech support, visited Genius bar and no resolution. Since it’s in 2 weeks window, I’m returning it and asking for a refund. Still waiting on Apple on it at the moment

  9. I too, am suffering from this. I have NEVER had so much trouble with a mac in all my days. Apple has blown me off about 46 times now… stlll trying to reach a resolution…
    Thanks for the article. Knowing I am not alone means maybe apple will handle this soon!

  10. Patrick

    My 500gb 7200rpm drive does not make the noises but my co-worker’s does. My screen is screwed up though so they are replacing the whole machine and I’m afraid I’m going to get a noisy replacement.

    Oh well. It’s easier to get them to replace the drive than it is to get them to replace the screen when you’re outside of your return window.

  11. Jason Montilla

    I got my MBP 17″ last week with the upgraded 7200 RPM drive which I use for multi-track recording and video editing and the like. That is the only reason I got the 7200 (plus I can’t afford an extra $600 for the SSD).

    I spent 4 or 5 phone calls back and forth to AppleCare. They told me the sounds were normal with these drives. After telling them its not the sounds, its the halting of the system while the sounds are happening, they called me back after the weekend of “getting an answer from the Engineers” and told me its normal… when the heads park, the system will halt.

    This is normal. Pausing in the middle of a video edit is “normal.” Pausing while playing music is “normal” pausing while even scrolling down a webpage is “normal.”

    I am very upset and willing to walk away from Apple on this one. Why should I have to go out and buy my own drive for something THEY won’t admit to or are willing to fix?

  12. Howie Isaacks


    Don’t let those guys push you off. Contact customer relations, or send an email to [email protected] which will get you to Executive Relations. Go above the MGs at the Apple store. Make sure to tell customer relations and executive relations that the store refused to fix the issue for you. Shit will roll down hill. I’m a former Mac Genius at an Apple store. If you had dealt with me, I would have made it right for you.

    • Adam Jackson

      Thanks Howie but I’m not concerned.

      As a former ASM at an Apple Retail Store, I know how things go and it all depends on who you talk to.

  13. I went through six (!) 5400 rpm 320GB drives in my MacBook Pro over four months. Apparently there’s _something_ in my usage pattern that kills them, or Hitachi sent a batch of bad 320GB drives to Apple’s manufacturing plant at one point.

    I got pretty sick of visiting the Genius Bar. :- Had the machine replaced twice during this fun four months, too.

    When the last one killed itself, I bought a similar 7200 rpm drive built by Seagate. End of problem.

    Still trying to figure out where I can send the last dead disk to (Apple? Hitachi? they both ignore my email). I don’t really want a replacement, but you can never have too much storage… I’d put it into an external case for backups or whatever.

  14. chatoyer

    In all seriousness, I have genuine sympathy for those affected by this. Had the same problem on 5400rpm drive that came with a Macbook C2D in 2006. I believe it was a Hitachi drive. Exact same symptoms (minus the ‘beep’). Local Apple dealer replaced it after several months of driving me crazy. I would urge those affected to absolutely insist that it be replaced.

  15. It does! It sounds like R2D2! And then it gets super hot and has practically burned the finish off of my lap desk. My husband just got a new 17″ MacBook and it is quiet and cool, but he hates the mouse pad.

    • Howie Isaacks

      It’s very much worth it. You can either suffer with the problem and talk about it on blog forums, or get it fixed. Why delay it?

  16. Adam Jackson

    Mine does it. I have the 3.06Ghz 17″ MacBook Pro w/ 500GB 7200RPM. It is loud, slow and crazy hot.

    I have extreme buyers remorse on the hard drive and wish Apple would replace it.

    Next paycheck, I’m ordering a solid state drive and ridding myself of moving parts.

    • Howie Isaacks

      Make them fix the problem. Why have you not done that already? I just got a new MacBook Pro myself, and you can bet your ass I would make them fix the problem if this were happening to me.

    • Adam Jackson

      Why are you the crusader of Mac user happiness?

      Why assume that I haven’t tried getting it fixed. I have to no avail. “When the drive dies I can get it replaced” That’s what I’ve been told.

      It’s a CTO MacBook Pro and it’s my only computer so replacing it or repairing it takes way too long.

      I’ll just continue running Time Machine every hour and wait to buy an SSD.

    • I’m glad I stuck with the 500GB 5400RPM drive in my new 2.8Ghz MacBook Pro. Knew the 7200RPM drive could get hotter and couldn’t see the extra value for the faster drive. Most users would never see or feel the difference in speed.