I bought a new 750GB hard drive for my MacBook Pro. It’s the “second-generation” MacBook Pro which means the hard drive is easily accessible inside the battery compartment. You need a #00 phillips head screwdriver, and a T6 torx driver. It takes a typical 2.5″ laptop SATA drive. This article helped to convince me it would be pretty easy. However, that article also oversimplified the process of booting from the OS X install DVD and doing a full system restore from a Time Machine backup (which was / is my plan).
The magical requirement that I failed to meet initially, and which has inspired this post, is that, besides the installer DVD that came with the system, a MacBook Pro will only boot an installer DVD that contains a version of OS X that is newer than the one that shipped on it. (This forum discussion helped me to realize this.) Simple enough requirement, but if you fail to use a suitable disk, the failure mode is pretty opaque.
Power on the system, hold ‘C’ or ‘Option’ or some other key combo that you like after hearing the chime to tell it to boot from the DVD, and then watch as the screen turns black and the system reboots itself. Without a bootable hard drive installed (e.g., if you just installed a fresh-out-of-the-box hard drive), the system will actually sit there in a loop of reboots with the DVD spinning the whole time. Anyways, I was using the wrong installer disks because I incorrectly remembered the system as shipping with OS X 10.4 (which does not support Time Machine and thus would greatly complicate my data restoration plans). In fact, my MacBook shipped with 10.5.5, and I was trying to use a very early OS X Leopard (10.5) install DVD that I bought back when it was first released.
I was able to boot from the DVD that came with the system on the first try. Right now the restore from Time Machine is in progress, showing about 6 hours remaining. Fingers crossed that everything goes as planned.