So, my MacBook Pro packed it in over the weekend after I drunkenly vomited all over the keys. I brought it to the Apple store (without the hard drive installed) for an assessment. The results of this assessment indicated that the top case has to be replaced, however apparently for this to be done, they want me to reinstall any HDD (from any Macbook) - bit surprised they can't do that themselves.

Basically, I'm ultra anxious about leaving my personal data in the hands of others. Shortly after my visit, I decided it was probably time buy a new Macbook Pro for various reasons. I would, however, still like my old one to be repaired.

Now, on to the main question:

I've long suspected that by current Macbook Pro is infected with some sort of Malware (possibly a RAT). My new machine arrives tomorrow and I have several assignments due in the next week - many of which are stored on the old HDD.

I simply can't wait for the old machine to be repaired; Apple say it'll take ~week, so this is what I plan to do:

Remove the new HDD from my new Macbook Pro and install it in my old machine (which can then be sent of for repair), and install my old HDD in my new Macbook Pro so I can continue with my work.

I'll then switch them back when the old machine is repaired.

Is there any possibility that some form of malware could have infected my old machine's hardware or firmware, which in return would infect my new HDD? Last thing I want is for my new Macbook to start its life off with malware...

Likewise, is there a possibility that by temporarily installing my old, potentially infected HDD into my new machine that it might infect the new machine's firmware/hardware?

  • I'm pretty sure this isn't going to be possible at all, rendering the security question irrelevant. Modern MacBook Pro models have SSDs, not HDDs, and the interface specs change from generation to generation such that they aren't generally backwards compatible. – Xander Dec 10 '15 at 2:27
  • @Xander An SSD will read like just like an HDD to the computer for backwards-compatibility purposes -- It should be possible. Same form factors and everything. – Jonathan Gray Dec 10 '15 at 2:30
  • @JonathanGray Not if the interface isn't compatible. – Xander Dec 10 '15 at 2:32
  • @Xander Modern HDDs interface with SATA, and SSDs are no different. As long as the computer wasn't from the ages of IDE, it should be fine. – Jonathan Gray Dec 10 '15 at 2:33
  • @JonathanGray Modern MacBook Pros use SSDs blades with PCIe interfaces. That's going to be amusing to see someone try to install that an old MacBook Pro with a 2.5" form factor and a SATA interface. – Xander Dec 10 '15 at 2:36

Is it possible? Yes, technically.

Firmware is just software that's so low-level we give it a different name... And usually put some extra protections on it to make it harder to change.

The operating system can change it, thought the OS runs things in user-space instead of a privileged-space and requires a privileged-space task to make modifications to the firmware. However, if you have a virus which is running in a privileged-space, it could absolutely write to the firmware.

Is that likely? No, unless its target actually is the firmware. The firmware is more limited than the rest of the system, especially in the way of memory, but it does have the ability to modify anything.

Unless you have a virus that was written not just to infect a Mac in privileged-space (which is very hard unless you gave it admin rights) but to also hide itself in firmware just in case some insane user decides to replace their HDD, the likelihood of that happening is tiny.

It's far, far more likely that you'd copy a virus off in any of the files you copy off to your new computer.

  • I'm still incredibly anxious about all this, however I've decided to try it anyway. When I get the old machine back, do you think Apple would reinstall the firmware for me? Would that guarantee the removal of any lingering malware? – M-R Dec 10 '15 at 6:19
  • If they replace the logic board, then definitely. Apart from that, I don't know. – iAdjunct Dec 10 '15 at 14:51

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