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MacBook hard drive failure epidemic

87579 Views 91 Replies Latest reply: Nov 7, 2007 3:40 PM by Kevin Duane RSS
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Kevin Duane Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
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May 15, 2007 9:52 AM
I'm an IT guy at a medium size ad agency and I've had 3 MacBook hard drives die in the a similar way in the past 3 months. I'm told that the computer was on low battery when they put the machine to sleep and the next day (or later) that machine failed to restart. Even with the power adapter a restart produced only a flashing question mark. All the user's information is completely gone and not retrievable.

Here are the troubleshooting steps I've completed with no positive results:
1) Reset PRAM and PMU
2) Startup from install disks and run Disk Utility. DU doesn't even see the drive! Even Target disk mode doesn't reveal the drive.
3) Archive and install; the installer doesn't see the drive
4) Swapped the drive into another machine; drive not recognized
5) Disk Warrior, Data Rescue, DDRescue, SpinRite can't see the drive.
6) Moved the drive to an enclosure and still doesn't not mount or appear for programs in item 5
7) Put the drive in the freezer for a weekend (thawed for 1 day) and tried again.
-- No I'm getting desperate... and ******
7) I buy a matching replacement drive (Fujitsu 2.5" 60GB SATA) and swap the electronics. No difference.
** all machines were fairly up-to-date (10.4.8-10.4.9) and we do have a backup system and plan in place but it's not always reliable with active email databases (Thanks Microsoft).

All three of the drives prviously mentioned exhibited this same behavior. It is probably a problem in the boot sector of the drive. But what could have happened to this drive that you can't even format the drive? It's not crashed heads or a few bad sectors. There has be a way to access these drives.

I have about 20 MacBooks in circulation and plan on getting more, but I won't be able to keep people's faith if their email and documents keep getting trashed.

MacBook Pro 15"   Mac OS X (10.4.9)  
  • Tombien Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 17, 2007 9:06 AM (in response to Kevin Duane)
    Odd- same thing happened to me this morning. Screen froze, I restarted, and got a folder with question mark. Started with Disk Warrior but my drive wasn't seen. Would like to try AppleCare CD but can't eject Disk Warrior.

    I'll keep trying same things you did and whatever else I can think of in the meantime. First time in 10 years and 5 macs I've ever had a problem, so I can't whine. Yet.

    MacBook Core Duo   Mac OS X (10.4.9)

    MacBook Core Duo   Mac OS X (10.4.9)  
  • Douglas McLaughlin Level 9 Level 9 (63,735 points)
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    May 17, 2007 10:40 AM (in response to Kevin Duane)
    Have you called AppleCare Support to get replacement hard drives? Since the MacBook was introduced just a year ago, it's doubtful any of yours aren't still under warranty. They should be aware of the issues you've encountered.

    -Doug
    2GHz Intel iMac 1GB RAM, 500GB HD Super Drive / 2GHz BlackBook 2GB RAM, 120GB HD, Mac OS X (10.4.9), AirPort Express / EyeTV Hybrid / 40GB iPod photo 2GB iPod nano
  • Tombien Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 17, 2007 11:58 AM (in response to Kevin Duane)
    Just got off the phone with AppleCare and getting a new hard drive tomorrow. He offered to send a drive but I need to go near an Apple store tomorrow so I'm getting one there. Good chance to talk about case discoloration & battery as well.

    It doesn't sound like keeping the old drive will be a problem, but if it is I'll just have a new one sent. I would like to try to recover what hadn't been backed up.

    I had a 160GB SATA 2.5 as an external drive which screwed up within 3 months this year. I doubt that SATA is the problem, but I WAS bummed to lose the music I had on there.

    MacBook Core Duo   Mac OS X (10.4.9)  
  • neonsox Level 2 Level 2 (195 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 17, 2007 1:09 PM (in response to Kevin Duane)
    Posted about this back in January (http://discussions.apple.com/message.jspa?messageID=3993207#3993207) so it's been going on for some time now. Personally, I think it's either the sudden motion sensor (useless POS feature) or a mainboard problem. Apple didn't know what to do about it at the time, they just wanted to replace the drive. But it's not the drive.

    This new update doesn't look like much of a screamer, so I imagine they finally addressed the problem in these new models (one can only hope).
    MacBook - Core2Duo 2.0 GHz, Mac OS X (10.4.9), No need to reward points. Knowledge is FREE.
  • Douglas McLaughlin Level 9 Level 9 (63,735 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 17, 2007 4:40 PM (in response to Kevin Duane)
    I have and am getting a replacement but it still doesn't answer the REAL question about what is wrong with these drives and why are they completely unaccessible/unusable.


    Apple isn't going to provide you with an answer like that. It's unlikely, without the drives, that anyone here could answer that question either. Most likely they want the drives to diagnose on their own to determine what's happening.

    -Doug
    2GHz Intel iMac 1GB RAM, 500GB HD Super Drive / 2GHz BlackBook 2GB RAM, 120GB HD, Mac OS X (10.4.9), AirPort Express / EyeTV Hybrid / 40GB iPod photo 2GB iPod nano
  • Tombien Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 17, 2007 5:42 PM (in response to Kevin Duane)
    No, I was using it for graphics work when I got the spinning beach ball. Thinking it was Photoshop I tried to force quit but the Finder froze too. Upon restart I got the folder/question mark. No flakiness, noises, or other indication of imminent disaster.

    MacBook Core Duo   Mac OS X (10.4.9)  
  • Nebula1400 Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 17, 2007 9:31 PM (in response to neonsox)
    Same thing happened to my MacBook this evening. It froze/locked up. I tried to reboot, and it will not reboot. I occasionally get the shadow-folder with the question mark, but that's it. It's also clicking and making odd noises, like something came loose inside. I tried rebooting from a disc, but it did nothing, and now the disc is stuck in the CD drive.

    I tried making an appointment at the Apple store to have it looked at, but it keeps telling me all appointments are booked. I guess I should call Apple Support now? I make much of my living using the MacBook.
    MacBook 1,1, Mac OS X (10.4.7), White
  • Ticky Calculating status...
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 18, 2007 1:54 AM (in response to Nebula1400)
    Yep same thing happened to me last night too. I managed to get the disk that was in there out in the end by putting the MacBook on a flat surface, then rebooting using the 'hold down trackpad button' method and also hitting the eject key a few times - can't say for sure which button did it as nothing happened at the start when I booted holding down the trackpad button. It came out eventually though. Booted up with the install disk and DU can't see the harddisk. Off to the apple store - what are my chances of recovering anything from this drive? I'm guessing not good
    MacBook 1.8Ghz
  • Tombien Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 18, 2007 4:54 PM (in response to Ticky)
    I just got back from the Apple store. I was told I couldn't keep the old drive so I'm going to install one I got from a friend when he installed a 160GB in his MacBook. The repair order noted that the drive was bad and I chose to do the work instead of them. I guess I'll see how it works out if it happens in the future and I try for a replacement MB.

    Now that I'm home I tried installing it in an external SATA case and it makes loud clicking noises. So much for getting my work off of it.

    And Nebula1400, sorry but what you hear is the hard drive death rattle.

    On the good side, Apple was willing to do the HD swap and while I was there swapped the battery and changed the discolored case.

    MacBook Core Duo   Mac OS X (10.4.9)  

    MacBook Core Duo   Mac OS X (10.4.9)  
  • dwb Level 6 Level 6 (19,695 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 18, 2007 5:24 PM (in response to Kevin Duane)
    Kevin - if the hard drive on your computers are dead then I don't see how Safe Sleep could be the cause. All Safe Sleep is doing is saving the computer's state to the hard drive so that if power is totally lost, you can start your computer with your programs launched and your files open just as they were when the computer was put to sleep. (I'm sure you already know this but others reading the thread may not.)

    Assuming the battery become depleted while the data was being written, the safe sleep would fail. Sure, I can see how this might cause a hosed directory resulting in data loss but not killing the drive altogether. What I do find very likely is that the users didn't wait for the computer to go to sleep before moving their computer and that this resulted in the death of their drives. It is also possible that the drive manufacturer had a bad run, though I've not heard any rumblings of this type.
    MacBook (black) / G5 Dual Desktop / Mac mini Core Duo, Mac OS X (10.4.8), WinXP, RedHat Linux, Nano, 4G iPod, Treo 680
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