Sunday, 24 November 2013

Changing a failed mSATA hard disk in an HP Spectre XT Ultrabook

The hard drive on wife's HP Spectre XT Envy Ultrabook died last weekend. Once we ran scandisk on it we realised it had about 20% bad sectors. It was easy enough to replace, but I learned a few things that would make it easier for others, and I didn't find any info by others who had faced this.

Unscrewing the laptop's case's screws is easy.

First thing, the hard drive is actually an mSATA disk. I was expecting a 2.5" SSD when I opened up the case, but mSATA drives are only about as big as a matchbox, and a few millimetres high. And the trick to opening up the case is to use a small flathead screwdriver and twist it to cause the fastenings to unlock. Having two screwdrivers also made things easier; leaving one wedged between the top and bottom of the case in while levering the other made it easier to open the case.

Twist the screwdriver to quickly separate the laptop shell.
Installing the new mSATA drive in our HP Spectre XT.
Secondly we didn't have a recovery media. Things would have been a lot easier if we'd created one before the disk failed! We could have flashed either a DVD or a USB pen drive using the system recovery media tool that HP ships, but the internal drive was already too far gone by the time we tired to do this, so it failed. Also, when the tool says it requires a minimum of 16 GB free space on a USB drive to create a recovery media, it means it. We bought a 16GB pen drive, and ended having to go back to the store for a 32GB one (and then the recovery media creation failed because of the bad sectors on the laptop's drive). Moral of the story: create a recovery media before the disk fails, and don't buy a USB pen drive less than or equal to the specified minimum requirements when creating a recovery media. You'll have a bad time.

Thirdly I made the mistake of buying a replacement mSATA drive that was smaller than the original, the replacement mSATA I bought was 240GB, whereas the original 256GB. This meant that Clonezilla refused to clone the old drive onto the replacement drive, even though we had plenty of empty space on the disk. And I had to run Clonezilla with some special parameters to ignore the bad sectors, which would be intimidating for some people I'm sure). Moral of the story: don't buy a replacement smaller than the original. You'll have a bad time.

So since I couldn't clone the old drive, I opted to do a clean install. Luckily I was able to use a Win7 Home Premium x64 ISO image I had downloaded from my work intranet create a bootable USB Windows installer, and the install (using the product key on the bottom of the laptop!) went smoothly. I was able to easily find the drivers on HP's support website. Then it was just a matter of installing Windows Updates for hours...

All in all, replacing the drive was easy enough, I could have made it easier by creating a recovery media before the disk failed, and by buying a replacement mSATA drive that was not smaller than the original.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Just a quick note of appreciation, thanks for the extremely helpful post! I was quite surprised that Win7 couldn't handle the wireless adapter out of the box (especially since it worked fine with Ubuntu! [14.04]).