Question: Diagnosing MacBook Pro Hard Drive Cable Failure
I've been fixing Macs professionally (not through Apple) for well over a decade now. By far the most common thing I do is replace failing hard drives. While Apple's own tools (hardware test, Disk Utility) do almost nothing to positively confirm a failing hard drive, there are several other tools (SoftRaid, SMART Utility) that can read the SMART data and tell you for sure that a drive is failing. So unlike the Genius bar, I can quickly diagnose a bad hard drive without having to infer the problem through symptoms.
But one problem that I've noticed really being on the rise lately, is a failing hard drive cable in MacBook Pros. That's the little flat ribbon cable that connects the hard drive to the logic board. It also connects the sleep light. This is a much harder problem to diagnose, because it generally acts just like a system with a failing hard drive, but the drive will pass a real SMART test with flying colors. You might think "come on, how often does a simple cable really go bad?" Well, I've never had a traditional desktop style SATA cable go bad. But I've replaced a lot of these drive cables and I'm doing another one tomorrow. I never really know if it's going to fix the problem or not though...
... because, there's no way to directly confirm the cable is the problem. I know all about Apple service procedure. I know the official way to diagnose a problem is to start replacing parts until the computer is fixed, and that last part was your problem. But that's not how things go in the out-of-warranty world of independent Mac repair.
So I got to thinking. Computers with bad cables don't crash, or freeze. They just hang for a while randomly, then come back. JUST like a hard drive with lots of bad blocks. So what could be causing this? The only thing I can think of is SATA bus errors that only happen intermittently (on a scale relative to the amount of i/o calls a hard drive does). If that is the case, then there must be SOME kind of utility somewhere that can see these errors? There are plenty of utilities out that that have fancy 3D interfaces, but do absolutely nothing (tech tool etc). But there are a few tools that the Pros use that actually DO stuff. DiskWarrior and SMART Utility are the main tools. If I could find something that can somehow easily and definitively sniff out these bad SATA cables, that would make my life a whole lot easier.