The model I'm working with is a Macbook Pro A1278, Early 2011 design. This belongs to a friend, whose current drive, a 500GB SATA III which came with the laptop, was shown to be in poor health, having a lot of bad sectors.
First off, this drive still works; I have managed to reformat and do a clean install of Lion with no issues. However, problems arise when I tried to install it onto a new drive. This new drive is not an Apple drive, but to my understanding (from Googling), this should not matter.
When the new drive is installed internally, I couldn't even reformat the drive from Internet Recovery: I get an error in Disk Utility saying:
Wiping volume data to prevent future accidental probing failed
However, when I ran it as an external drive (using an enclosure via USB) and booted into Lion on the old drive (internally), I had no problem and could format the new drive. I even managed to install Lion on it, and it could boot as an external drive. But, after moving it into the laptop, it fails to boot. On the other hand, doing the exact same thing with the old, Apple-issued drive does work (i.e. install Lion on it as an external drive, and move it back inside).
I tried starting over anyway, erasing the new drive (by running it as an external drive, then moving it back into the laptop). Installing Lion again (tried twice, once via Internet Recovery, and again via the old drive's recovery partition, with no difference) gets to the end of the installation, where the log spits out these errors and keeps retrying:
Failed to move download assets into mutable product
Failed to verify InstallESD.dmg
From what I gather, that means the installer couldn't move the installation packages (in particular InstallESD.dmg) into the new drive. This happened with two drives: a 1TB and a 640GB, both also SATA III.
Finally, I also tried booting into the old drive externally, and attempted to format the new drive when it was installed as an internal drive, and got the error
Couldn't unmount disk
A (non-Apple) technician suspected a possibility it may be because the drives are too large, and therefore tried with another 500GB, but with no luck either.
I would deduce that this rules out the possibility that there is an issue with the SATA interface (and from what I understand, SATA III is backwards compatible, with either the motherboard or HDD running the older version anyway). Yet, something goes wrong when the system attempts to read the new drive as an internal drive (but is fine when reading as an external drive).
With all this in mind, the most plausible explanation I could think of is that the new drive doesn't work because it's not an Apple drive (perhaps missing some specific firmware or something), but this contradicts what I read on the internet, and also doesn't quite explain why the new disk can boot externally.
Any alternative explanation, or better yet, remedy, to this problem would be appreciated. Thanks!