If you're having trouble formatting a new SSD in a Mac, it could be the cable

tl;dr: If you see weird errors when using or formatting a drive internally on a Mac (especially after upgrading to a newer and/or faster SATA hard drive), it could mean the SATA cable needs to be replaced.

Mac mini mid-2011 lower SATA hard drive cable with connector
Who would've thought such a tiny cable could cause so many problems?

I have an older Mac mini (mid-2011 i5 model), and I use it as a general media server and network backup. It handles Time Machine backups for two other Macs, it has about 20 TB of external storage connected, and I also use it as a 'home base' to store all my Dropbox, iCloud, and Photos content locally, and store an extra Time Machine backup of all that. I'm a little nutty about backups... but I haven't lost a file in two decades and I don't want to start now ;-).

Re-gripping a Nikon D700 DSLR

The Nikon D700 holds a special place in my heart. I started getting serious about photography right around the time digital SLR cameras (DSLRs) were overtaking film cameras in terms of quality and sales quantity. My first non-snapshot camera was a manual-focus Minolta X-700, and I'm sad I sold it years ago. The D700 was the first 'semi-pro' level DSLR I used; though I never owned one until recently.

Nikon D700 60mm 2.8 Macro lens Hero image

I rented and borrowed the Nikon D3, D3s, and D700 a number of times when they were the state of the art, and I still love the way the D700 renders images. The fact that it shoots at 12 megapixels means it's more forgiving with handheld photography at slower shutter speeds (since motion blur gets much worse as resolution increases). It doesn't do video at all... but as a photographer's camera, besides maybe the Nikon Df, there isn't a DSLR that I've enjoyed using as much for as long.

Fixing a 2011 MacBook Pro booting to a Grey Screen - AMD Radeon Video Glitch

I've been a Mac user for years, and I've repaired hundreds of different Macs, from the early II series to the latest 2015 and 2016 model MacBook Pros, iMacs (and other Apple hardware to boot!), and there is almost never a hardware situation where I've thrown in the towel and told someone to ditch their Mac.

The 2011 MacBook Pro has, for almost a decade, been the exception to that rule. There was a major flaw in the AMD Radeon GPUs included with that model year's logic board which seemed to cause GPU failure either due to overheating, internal chip problems, BGA solder joints getting broken, or a combination of the above. The problem was so rampant, Apple was forced to set up a free repair program for affected MacBook Pros—though the 2011 model has since been dropped from that program. I've handled three 2011 MacBook Pros (none of them my own—I had an Air back then), and all three of them were scrapped because of the GPU issue.

Refurbishing a classic microphone - the Electro-Voice RE20

In the world of radio and professional podcasting, there are fewer than a dozen 'go-to' microphones. Each of the classics (e.g. the Shure SM7B, the Neumann U87, or the EV RE20) has it's own advantages and a few marquee users, but one mic seems to rule the roost when it comes to versatility and ability to color almost any voice with the 'talk show' sound, and that's the EV RE20.

Electro-Voice RE20 classic black and white mounted in shock mount microphone EV
The RE20 mounted in the 309A shockmount.

Rebuilding an Electro-Voice RE20 microphone

The blog has been a little bit Drupal-heavy the past couple months, as I've been stalled a bit in terms of my 'maker'-style projects and other hardware-based projects. The main reason for that is this guy:

Electro-Voice RE20 microphone repair and rebuild

I'm halfway through rebuilding/re-foaming an old Electro-Voice RE20, beloved by many a radio personality, and the process has taken a bit longer than I expected!

I've been doing a lot more screencasts lately, and as part of my retooling of my downstairs office for better screencast quality, I'm also trying to get the best possible audio recordings. The RE20 is one of the best mics I've ever used in terms of taking a not-professional-voice (like mine) and making it sound halfway decent.

Replacing the foam speaker surround on my JBL speakers

About ten years ago, I bought a pair of used JBL J520m bookshelf speakers. They have nice, wood cabinets, a great-sounding woofer and tweeter, and a classic look (they don't really look dated, like 90% of 80s and 90s-era speakers).

JBL J520m speaker wall mounted with grill cover next to TV
Doesn't it look stately?

Whenever you buy used speakers, you should check the woofer cone and foam surround, as these are usually the first parts to deteriorate and cause terrible distortion in certain situations. In my case, the speakers had been stored in someone's garage for a few years, so I knew the foam wouldn't last long. When purchased, the foam flexed okay, but this year I noticed both speakers started making funny noises during explosions or low bass notes during movie and music playback.

Replacing the hard drive in a (non-unibody) MacBook Pro

A friend of mine had an older 2008 MacBook Pro (the kind that does not have the modern 'unibody' construction), and he noticed it was getting slower. He upgraded the RAM to max it out at 4 GB (I think it might be able to go to 6 or 8 GB if needed). But a lot of things took a long time to do, even though the Mac had a 1.86 Ghz Core 2 Duo processor (not a slouch by any means).

He asked me to replace the hard drive with an SSD, so I did. I followed this iFixIt guide, and put in a new OCZ Agility 256GB SSD, which is way faster (especially for random access, like when you boot the computer or launch an app) than the old disk drive that I removed from the MacBook Pro.

Computers are amazing

In a break from the typical kind of writing I do here, I'd like to mention a few thoughts I've had after reading some opinion pieces on the reparability (or lack thereof) of the new MacBook Pro with Retina display.

Early PCs and Macs

The first computer I owned was a scrap-parts 386 DOS-based PC. I found a working 386 processor from a broken computer, scrounged 1MB of RAM from a couple dead motherboards, found a small hard drive and floppy drive, and slapped it all together inside a huge metal case. It ran great, except when one of the components failed—which seemed to happen on a monthly basis.

My First 386 PC - Gutted
My first PC - and all the tools necessary for PC repair!

While using early PCs, I had to deal with IRQ addresses, serial port driver conflicts, floppy drive cables malfunctioning, hard drive errors, and power supply fuses breaking... not to mention the myriad software incompatibilities with various bits of hardware (and I couldn't just Google "<device name> + <windows 3.1>"!).

I even spent quite a bit of time hardware hacking with the first few Macs I owned (a Mac IIci, a PowerBook 180c, and then a few other Mac desktops and towers—more history here).

Throughout high school and college, I helped a few hundred people repair or upgrade their computers, first through 'Jeff's Computer Service' (as a side/hobby job), and then through Midwestern Mac, LLC (this site's company). I loved working on computers, and still do! From the earliest computers until the past five or so years, most computers required some level of technical knowledge to be used effectively, and required repairs and upgrades at least once or twice a year.

But times have changed; I've since dropped 'computer repair' from the services I provide, because the only service requests are for Windows users who have found some way to clutter up their computer with strange search toolbars and other junkware.

New Article/DIY Guide Posted: How to repair your Intel iMac

Over in the Articles section, I posted a detailed tutorial/guide on how to replace the hard drive inside a 24" Intel iMac with an aluminum enclosure (the process is similar on other aluminum iMacs). It's a rather intricate process, so in addition to a few illustrations, I posted a video of the process on YouTube (it's embedded in the article as well!).

Intel iMac Teardown and Hard Drive Replacement - DIY/Guide

Have fun repairing your iMac! (Please be sure to leave comments on the guide post, and not here).

How to Repair Your Intel iMac — DIY Guide from

Over on, I posted a detailed tutorial/guide on how to replace the hard drive inside a 24" Intel iMac with an aluminum enclosure (the process is similar on other aluminum iMacs). It's a rather intricate process, so in addition to a few illustrations, I posted a video of the process on YouTube (it's embedded over on as well!).

Intel iMac Teardown and Hard Drive Replacement - DIY/Guide


iMac - Intel - Guts exposed

Have fun repairing your iMac! (Please be sure to leave comments on the post, and not here).

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