One year macbook pro – issues after upgrade to 500G travelstar hitachi drive – solved

I was happily surprised to find that the 500G hitachi travelstar 7200rpm / 16M cache costs only $99 at Since I had been wasting too much time deleting old stuff on my 250G drive to make room for new photos and videos, I tried to upgrade.

For that I did some google research first, and most people recommended an extra (free) software called superduper that allows to clone out the existing installation onto the (external USB chassis assumed) new harddisk before swapping the two out for each other. This was a good tip, as it made sure the cloned disk was also bootable. The process took about 5 hours, using an external usb drive bay device which I picked up for $25 over lunch at Frys.

Since I had a fairly new macbook pro 15″, it was very simple to replace the existing drive, a 5 minute job.

The first impression after swapping out the two drives, was that I almost doubled my read speed, very impressive, however then also the problems started: hangs with the colorful beachball waiting for some timeout before the app would react again.

Especially using slideshows with iphoto now provokes the problem. A disk test with the diskutil claims the drive is fine.

Turning off the motion sensor that autoparks the drive via pmset was not the solution to the problem, so I turned it back on.

This is very annoying, and I have spent hours researching all the different speculations of people on what it could be. The root cause turns out to be that the EFI upgrade to allow 3Gbps SATA speeds that apple rolled out in support of their SSD’s does create this problem for normal SATA drives that support 3Gbps. Some people seem to be able to downgrade from EFI 1.7 to 1.6 to fix the issue, and some report it does not work for them.

Others mention ftool from hitachi’s support website, which allows to disable the 3Gbps / SCC support, which was turning out to be the fix that works for me. Of course the boot image you download is useless when booted on the intel mac, for some reason the keyboard is not working, and attaching an external keyboard did not help either.

The PDF with the documentation for ftool of course only talks about how to use the tools interactive menus, but I suspected there must be a way to use it with command line parameters instead.

So I ended up copying the iso-boot image to a linux machine, mounting it, using ‘strings’ on the ftool.exe executable to discover that the command line parameters I want are: ‘/ALL /SS LOW DISABLE’.

Since you can’t just mount the iso read-write and modify it, I had to use a different opendos boot floppy image that that fits into the floppy boot area of a cdrom, and then recreate the iso with mkisofs. This caused me quite some grief and after 2 hours of trial and error between trying to get real work done  and 4 coaster cdr’s later, I finally got it to work. Funny enough the keyboard works when booting that opendos image, but only until you start ftool, then the menus again are not navigable.

And after typing it in, it adjusted the drive firmware settings and it all works now !

A dd read/write of a 10GB file about in the middle of the platter performed with about 64MB/s write, 73.6MB/s read. Not too shabby, I think the 5400 rpm drive I had in earlier was reading with more like 40MB/s.

Finally live is nice again, iphoto presentations play without interruption, and I can stop worrying about it all.


21 thoughts on “One year macbook pro – issues after upgrade to 500G travelstar hitachi drive – solved

  1. Hi Michael,
    I have exactly the same MBP and Hitachi as you and sadly the same problem. It’s possible to you put somewhere(megaupload, rapidshare etc…) your custom iso? Ill really appreciate. Thanks!

  2. Wow! Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. I have spent hours and hours trying to figure out why I get beachballs in my late 2008 15″ MacBook Pro when I install a Hitachi 7200 rpm disk. I even RMA’ed the drive and had the same problem.

    The ftool solution sounds challenging. I had messed with it briefly but gave up. I will give it another shot. Thanks again for posting!



    MacBook Pro (15-inch, Late 2008)
    Hardware Overview:

    Model Name: MacBook Pro
    Model Identifier: MacBookPro5,1
    Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
    Processor Speed: 2.4 GHz
    Number Of Processors: 1
    Total Number Of Cores: 2
    L2 Cache: 3 MB
    Memory: 4 GB
    Bus Speed: 1.07 GHz
    Boot ROM Version: MBP51.007E.B05
    SMC Version (system): 1.33f8
    Serial Number (system): 73916***1G0
    Hardware UUID: C2245778-BF17-5663-9FDA-3B9F68A25D27

    NVidia MCP79 AHCI:

    Vendor: NVidia
    Product: MCP79 AHCI
    Link Speed: 3 Gigabit
    Negotiated Link Speed: 3 Gigabit
    Description: AHCI Version 1.20 Supported

    Hitachi HTS725050A9A364:

    Capacity: 500.11 GB (500,107,862,016 bytes)
    Model: Hitachi HTS725050A9A364
    Revision: PC4OC70E
    Serial Number: 100202PCE***G6Y5C
    Native Command Queuing: Yes
    Queue Depth: 32
    Removable Media: No
    Detachable Drive: No
    BSD Name: disk0
    Rotational Rate: 7200
    Medium Type: Rotational
    Partition Map Type: GPT (GUID Partition Table)
    S.M.A.R.T. status: Verified

      • Yes.

        See Apple Discussion:

        I solved the beachball problem with my HITACHI Travelstar 7K500 7500 rpm. Actually credit goes to Michael Will who figured out the problem and solution:

        “One year macbook pro – issues after upgrade to 500G travelstar hitachi drive – solved”

        “The root cause turns out to be that the EFI upgrade to allow 3Gbps SATA speeds that apple rolled out in support of their SSD’s does create this problem for normal SATA drives that support 3Gbps. Some people seem to be able to downgrade from EFI 1.7 to 1.6 to fix the issue, and some report it does not work for them.

        Others mention ftool from hitachi’s support website, which allows to disable the 3Gbps / SCC support, which was turning out to be the fix that works for me.”

        Disabling the 3Gbps and SCC (spread spectrum clocking) is what fixed it for me. I put the disk in a PC, and ran Hitachi’s ftool to make the change. No more beachballs. I have not noticed if it is running any slower.


        Yes. I do not remember the complete details but basically:

        1 – Took the Hitachi disk out of the MacBook Pro
        2 – Connected the Hitachi disk to a SATA cable and power cable in a PC running Windows Vista
        3 – Ran the Hitachi ftool from a bootable CD in the PC to disable the 3Gbps and SCC (spread spectrum clocking) on the drive.
        4 – Re-installed Hitach in MacBook Pro

        I wasted an incredible amount of time trying to figure this out but now all is well. No more beachball problems!

        I hope this helps,


  3. I no longer need the ISO. Here’s what I did: On Windows XP, I made a bootable 3.5″ disk with the ftool files. Then I used Nero to burn the disk onto a bootable CD. The keyboard still did not work once you start ftool but thanks to your research I ran the ftool with the parameters in your post. It’s all working now. Thanks for your post!

  4. Hi Michael,
    I didn’t see that you had to change ftool. Did you have to change ftool or you just ran ftool with the params you mentioned.


  5. It would be great if you can post the ISO someplace or give out the incantations to mkisofs and the boot image you used. I’m having the same issue and would like to get this fixed.

  6. You can get ftool to run directly from the original CD image by bypassing the autoexec.bat execution. You’ll need to keep F5 pressed during DOS boot, then run ftool from the command line with the parameters Michael found out. It’ll still lock up the keyboard after running, but you won’t need it again anyway. I had exactly the same problem and got things working nicely with this trick.

    • Could you please be more specific for a command line newbie? 😀

      After keeping F5 pressed during DOS boot, how do you “run ftool from the command line with the parameters Michael found out” ? I mean, I’ve got kind of a syntax problem here. Could you please lend me a hand? Thanks.

      A frustrated MBP i7 owner 😦

      • Ok, managed to type the right command… Only to find I can’t execute the same operations on my Hitachi. I have a 5400 rpm, that must be why. Anyway, I’m still getting these freezes and it’s annoying (just replaced my old mbp for the same reasons, this issue just follows me everywhere).

  7. You sir, are a GENIUS! Thank you so much, seriously. I spent hours tearing my hair out, trying to figure out how to fix this damn hard drive problem…and THIS blog post was the solution.

    I have a late 2008 unibody Macbook Pro and ever since I tried upgrading my hard drive, I’ve been experiencing lots of hang, lag, spinning beach balls, etc. My first hard drive was a WD Scorpio 500gb 5400rpm and it suffered all those problems (not to mention spinning up and down so loudly and often enough to drive me crazy). So then I did my research and believed that a Hitachi 500gb 7400rpm drive would work fine instead. You should’ve seen my face when I installed the Hitachi…only to discover that the lag/stalling was EVEN WORSE then the WD Scorpio.

    I was about to give up and crawl into a hole when I came across this blog post. At first, all the tech talk of “parameters” and “strings” almost scared me off, but then I saw EdoftheMountain’s solution using my dad’s Windows laptop. Here’s my process for other tech newbs who don’t know how to mess with parameters:

    1) Go to Hitachi’s Download page and download the Feature Tool CD Image (

    2) Open up Disk Utility and burn the .ISO cd image to a blank CD.

    3) Insert the burned CD into the Windows Laptop.

    3) Take out the Hitachi hard drive and swap it for the hard drive in the Windows laptop (make sure the laptop hard drive uses a SATA connection. Laptops older then 3-4 years might not be SATA compatible)

    4) Turn on the Windows Laptop and boot from the CD Drive (for my IBM, you have to press F12 when turning on)

    5) Once Feature Tool loads, click on FEATURES and then SATA SETTINGS. Click on “Up to 1.5 GB/s” and “Disable” for Spread Spectrum Clocking.

    6) Hit “OK”, turn off the computer, swap your hard drive back into your Macbook Pro…and voila! Annoying-as-hell hard drive problem solved.

    I can’t believe this is a problem that hasn’t been addressed by Hitachi or Apple yet. I’m sure there are a ton of people who have late-2008 Macbook Pro’s and Hitachi Travelstar’s who are experiencing these exact issues. Seems like something they could easily fix with a simple software update. C’mon guys, let’s get with the program!

    But thanks again Mr. Michael Will, really really appreciate this blog post of yours, and I’m sure a ton of other people do as well. Oh and btw, for people who don’t have an extra Windows laptop laying around, one of you guys should upload the custom ISO file you guys made. I guarantee there’ll be plenty of grateful people. Thanks!

    + Jaemin

  8. Hi, I seem to have exactly the same problem using the new WD Scorpio Black 750GB. Anyone here knows of a solution that might work with this drive? I’m surprised this obvious bug doesn’t get fixed by Apple.

    Any help appreciated!

  9. I am so happy I stumbled upon this — thanks for the post! I am on my second Hitachi 500GB/7200RPM on my mid-2009 MBPro 15″ thinking the first was defective. About to try your method but I have a question —

    Out of curiosity, did you run SMART Utility on the drive when you were troubleshooting? I am experiencing the same stalling/beachballing you describe and SMART Utility has told me that both the old and new HDDs are “Failing” based on some generic I/O errors. Could the EFI 1.7/3Gbps issue be causing these types of errors? I would hate to take the time to track down someone with a Windows laptop willing to let me open it up only to find I am suffering a different issue. Thanks in advance!

  10. I just bought a 500GB Travelstar to replace the drive on my Mac Mini. The issue I think I have is that the Mini works at 1.5Gb/s. So although not exactly the same problem, it is similar. I am going to use the Ftool software on my PC to change the speed. I just hope my drive is compatible with the software!

    I will point out that the PCs described here probably won’t work with a USB keyboard when the MSDOS Ftool program is booted from floppy disk. This is because MSDOS predates USB. That is my assumption anyway, I would think that an older keyboard should be OK.

  11. Tried the Ftool software and it couldn’t change ths speed on my model. So still have a Mac Mini that is slowly dying. Am now using the Hitachi drive on my PC. If anyone knows of a drive that definitely works at 1.5Gb/s then I would be interested as long as the price is right.

  12. Saved me.

    The new location for the feature tool (2.15) is in the legacy downloads:

    I did the following steps:

    1) Downloads the CD iso
    2) Burned CD from Disk Utility from iso file
    3) Booted CD from affected Mac using C startup command
    4) Once CD was booting (and it’s quick, so before black screen) issue F5 key:
    the F5 key is to stop the CD boot into the util
    on laptops, make sure to fn 5 (function key 5)
    5) from DOS command line:
    ftool.exe /all /ss low disable
    (copy the above do you see the spaces)
    6) IT WILL HANG! (it’s ok)
    7) give it a little time (just to show who’s boss)
    8) Power off. Let settle. Restart.
    9) Problem is fixed… Xbench shows it!

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