Recently I started to run low on space so I decided to buy a new hard drive and although the speed increase from the faster drive was a nice bonus I still felt like something was missing, oh thats right an HD ACTIVITY LIGHT APPLE! I can see Steve Jobs making this call while saying something along the lines of it distracting from the cleanliness of the design and he probably called it an obsolete feature stating most disks are constantly active with modern search indexing and background tasks blah blah, I obviously don’t agree with this and many others don’t agree either. Even if I didn’t find this useful in OSX I do dual boot Windows and sometimes I find myself saying “what the hell is this thing doing”, its nice to know if it is doing something or if the OS is hung up on a task.
Anyway enough ranting let’s get into the mod. I wanted to keep everything stock looking so I needed a place to put the LED where it wouldn’t stand out or require any serious hacking. Originally I thought the sleep indicator light was the HD Activity light so it seems only natural that would be the perfect place to put the new LED. I wanted to keep the sleep LED so I knew some mods would be needed, one thought was replacing both LED’s with 3mm LED’s or I could use one of my RGB LED’s.
First I started with the hard drive and modded it by soldering a wire to pin 9 and pin 11 on the hard drive. Pin 9 is the 5 Volt Positive lead and pin 11 is the ground trigger, the positive lead is constant while the ground actually triggers the LED on and off. The thing I like about WD Hard drives is the solder points right on the drive which makes this mod much easier to perform. If the computer supplies ground to pin 11 on the hard drive then you must cut that connection, an easy way to do this is simply bend the pin up on the hard drive so you dont void the warranty (although the mod alone voids the warranty). You can see where to solder the wires and the bent pin in the gallery photos below.
You must add a resistor to the LED because the pin 9 on the drive is 5 Volt and the LED requires less voltage than that. You can use any resistor from about 400 ohm to 1k ohm, you can wire it to the positive or the ground. As a side note I highly recommend using one of those cheap 3in1 adapters or plugging the drive into a cheap power supply for testing just in case something goes wrong you will only be out of a drive and not a couple thousand dollars for a laptop too. After I wired up the drive and verified it worked I started looking into the sleep light on the Macbook. Unfortunately I found the sleep LED was positive triggered instead of negative so the RGB LED wouldn’t work and I couldn’t really fit two LED’s in the space needed so I would have to keep the factory LED. This actually wasn’t a problem once I removed the LED from the housing I found it to be very small and very bright, I was able to tape the LED in place just above where the new 3mm LED would be mounted. I drilled a hole for the new LED but did not affix it in place with any glue or tape because it would be fixed to the drive permanently.
I taped the LED wires up on the bottom of the drive so I would have some slack on the wires if needed later and to keep the LED in the relative position I needed. As a side note if you need small wire for a mod like this I found old ethernet cables to be perfect. I dissected an old programming CAT 5 cable from a Baystack unit that worked perfectly, I left the end on the cable to keep the wires in order for later use. After everything was put back together I tested the sleep light and hard drive activity light and both seemed perfect to me. I found the sleep light to be equal in brightness in comparison to before the mod and the new HD light was about as bright as I expected and desired. The light is just bright enough to be noticed but not distracting when your working, even in low light conditions the light isn’t distracting.
All in all I would say the mod was fairly easy but very time consuming because I didn’t have any guide to follow or know exactly how I was going to go about the mod. Everything turned out just as good as I had hoped and as long as your soldering skills are up to par I would say just about anyone could pull of this mod. I hope I included enough photos and later I will go through them and add some additional details to the photos to help describe the contents. I also included 2 short film clips of the sleep and HD activity LED in action so be sure to check those out as well.
Macbook Pro Modded Sleep LED Video 2