Same issue here, second time around now, on a late 2009 unibody MBP, now out of warranty.
First time, about 6-8 months after purchase I think, the verdict was a failed cable - not sure how a cable can fail in service, but I guessing it expands and contracts as the macbook heats up and cools down. It's a very delicate looking ribbon to be carrying 3GHz signals.
Like the OP, I removed my drive and established that it worked fine in an external enclosure (to my relief - there's always something you haven't backed up...)
At the Apple store, a "Genius" was initially most unhelpful - refused to remove my drive and give it back to me before sending computer for repair. My MacBool carries quite a bit of the work I do for clients, which I'm contractually forbidden, by non-disclosure agreements, to hand over to third parties - something the "Genius" seemed completely unable to grasp, so I had to go back later having swapped it out for a fresh install on another drive - unsurprisingly, this one failed to work inside, too, and worked perfectly outside (and inside, after Apple had swapped the cable).
I should emphasise that the macbook had been working fine prior to this, and swapping drives is not something I do unless I have to - the cable failure did NOT coincide with any dismantling on my part.
Anyway, now out of warranty I think, and without my having touched the drive or other innards since this first repair, the exact same symptoms - ungraceful stalling crash followed by a refusal to boot, with all signs of drive failure.
Once again, with some trepidation I removed the drive and attached it to a firewire/SATA adapter, and, once again to my relief, it booted from that without hassle. The interesting difference this time is that when I swapped in the "bare install" drive (remembering the hassle I had with the "Genius" the last time) the thing wouldn't even show the "folder" icon or whatever, nor put up the alternate boot options when switched on with external drives and ALT held down.
Removing said drive, it boots fine from either in caddies - perhaps the bare install drive initializes at full speed while the regular one initializes at 1.5GHz, perhaps it takes more power, who knows. Both drives work fine externally, and the one which has been in there since the first cable swap works well enough internally to either show as missing, or to cause a kernel panic a few seconds in, while with the other (which is actually the original Apple-supplied one) it freezes completely.
I have a strong hunch that it's the cable again, though - will update when I know.
I wonder if I should try to lay in a stock of these cables, if it's gonna fail yearly? I use my MacBook a *lot*, it travels with me to work and back every day, and it gets used every day for a fair number of hours, but I do look after it and treat it gently. I don't like being without it, so the turn-around time to get it looked at and fixed by Apple is a pain, but I'm not quite ready to stump up 1800 quid for a spare one...
Thanks for your post Crl. It sounds like you are my twin in a parallel universe. I had no idea about the external enclosure. What a relief that works. I was sick all day thinking about a $1k repair on a still great, but aging, laptop. I frankly would have spent $2k on a new one rather than poor $1k into an aging device. But now I am thinking I should do what you do and save a stock of cables with me.
The only odd thing where I differ is I had my 1st replacement 9 months ago, my 2nd replacement 6 days ago, and last night it failed again. I will spare you the details, but it is the same problem you describe.
I am in the same exact boat. My MBP was purchased in August 2008 and the hard drive cables have given me **** twice. The first repair was covered under warranty but the second time wasn't...luckily the Apple Genius ordered the hard drive cables and repaired my MBP free of charge the second time. A few months later and my MBP is acting up again! I don't know if I should take it in to Apple again or just order the parts online and do it myself since I'm now a pro at this. This is clearly a defect and it's ridiculous that I have to replace the hard drive cables for the 3rd time now!
Just adding my 2 cents: I have the exact same problem since yesterday. Mid 2010 13 inch MBP suddenly stopped finding the hard drive (the drive is fine, thoroughly tested outside MBP, and the problem persists with equally fine drives that are placed inside the MBP). The logic board and SATA driver also don't give any errors. I can still boot the MBP without any problem from the original drive via a USB interface. Clearly the cable between internal HDD and logic board fried...
I called Apple, and also mentioned this discussion page (since clearly more people are affected by this), but they say there is no program in place to replace the cable free of charge, and furthermore only official service providers can file a report about it.
It seems a lot of people affected by this problem have ordered the cable online (part nr 922-9062), and installed it themselves, which is very easy to do. This might be the reason why both ifixit and powerbookmedic have run out of stock at the moment. This is the cheapest approach, so I will follow it too, but I also wish there was an official way to tell Apple that I have this problem, without having to hand in my MBP to a service provider, who will charge me extra for something I can do in 5 minutes.
In the hope that Apple also reads this forum
Update: I spent some time wrangling with Apple on the 'phone, who said that they were unaware of any issue with these cables. I tried arguing that they were supposed now to provide a 2 year, rather than 1 year warranty on electrical goods sold within the EU, by virtue of an EU law. According to the person I spoke to, Apple's position on the EU 2 year warranty seems to be that it doesn't apply to them. Eventually, Apple agreed to grant an exception in my case as a goodwill gesture, and issued a ticket against my machine so that I could get it repaired free of charge by a qualified Apple repairer.
The place I'd originally bought the machine repaired it, on a couple of days turn-around, which wasn't too inconvenient. Unlike Apple's "genius" referenced above, they didn't care whether I removed the hard drive, though they wanted some kind of drive to test it with - I put the fussier original equipment drive in with a bare install. The repair consisted of replacing the hard drive cable, as expected. The machine has been fine since, though I've switched my main activities to a 17" model now, so the 15" has had very much lighter use.
If it's indeed possible to buy these cables, as people are suggesting, then I will get one to keep in stock, a strategy I strongly recommend - they only cost twelve quid or something, but the cost of leaving the machine for repair can be quite high if you're out of the (1 year) warranty. However, I was told that an Apple qualified repairer will not sell you spare parts, even if your machine is out of warranty, because Apple don't allow this, so online purchase from somewhere is the only option. Your repairer may vary.
Surprise! Having the same issue. The folks at apple were utterly useless and it seems that every vendor on the web and all the local repair facilities are out of stock on this cable. Not the kind of snap-to support I would have expected from apple. Many people choose Macs becasue they are absolutely dependent on their computers working. Someone has dropped the ball.
I have had some problems similar with yours: My 13'' MBP required 3 replacements of HDD cable within 2 years. It's strange for a strong built product like MBP. After 3 times of fault HDD ribbon, I reported this issue for Apple as I suspect it would be result of systemic fault on production line.
It's frustrated to have to buy and replace the cable on yearly basis.
apple should provide free replacements. bought mine may 2010. just now i just replaced the cable for the 4th time! i was out of town when it happened 2 days ago. totally out of the blue. i missed my class assignments submission yesteday, so i official failed 2 subjects. my clients are yelling at me coz i havent delivered my works i promised 2 days ago!
honestly, i dont mind paying for the replacements. but the downtimes have been causing me time and money coz the part is hard to come by. i took a weekend diploma class. now i have to wait additional 4 months to graduate. thanks to apple!
If that's the case, why don't you try replacing the bad connector cable with the working connector cable in your old computer? I'm having the same problem as you, but I went and bought a new hard drive, thinking it was the hard drive that died but even after replacing the old hard drive, the folder icon still comes up, so that wasn't the problem. Did you manage to fix your mac?
Like all of you, I've been having the same problem for a while. The macbook pro has gone through 5 or 6 hard drive cables thus far. I even sent it into apple with instructions not to replace it again but to find the root cause. They simply replaced the 15 dollar cable and perfectly good hard drive and charged me 400 dollars for it. As i expected, it broke again. Somebody suggested that the logic board may be killing the cable. It is the only possible problem, since I've replaced hard drive and cable so many times. Has anyone tried replacing the logic board? It is a stressfull life not to know when your computer might freeze up and shut down.
I've got the same problem. I have MBP 13'' (2009), and about a year ago my cable died. Same symptoms - HDD does work (I'm still using it). I had no warranty so I had to pay about 50$ for the new cable and it's replacing. The new one died in 1-2 weeks. I've replaced DVD-ROM with Optibay and now my HDD is in Optibay, which works fine with the same hdd. I'm sure, that it's a defect of MBP, because 2 dead cables in 2 weeks - that's too much. We shouldn't pay for that. And, as I see, I'm not the only one.
I've ordered 2 cables from Ebay, because I want to use SSD now, and this time I'll try to pack somehow the cable to isolate it from the case.
I own a MBP 2010 and I have been breaking my brains on wondering y after my kernal panic came on, my drive went bad, so I replaced the drive now My logic board does not read the new drive,all I get is a folder with ? mark. But connecting it via external in reads it fine so I am in the process of ordering this hard drive cable, I never had any issue with this MBPin the past , my ? is will this keep happening to me ?