Can my Macbook hard drive be revived?
November 5, 2008 2:32 AM   Subscribe

Is my Macbook hard drive dead?

Last night my Macbook hard drive apparently failed. After a hard reboot, I got a flashing folder with a question mark, which indicates no bootable media found. When I booted with the install disk, there was no sign that the disk even existed in Disk Utilities. Is the disk totally dead or is there anything I can try to revive it? I'm comfortable with the idea of installing a new disk, and it's not like there was anything important on there, but it would be nice not to lose everything.
posted by salmacis to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds really scary, unfortunately!

It's a longshot, but it might not be the disk, and something like the controller, or even just a loose connector. Even though the Macbook harddisks are 2.5", they have a standard connector, so if you can get it out (not too bad on the Macbooks, it's behind the battery, see here for a PDF tute on hard disk removal direct from Apple), you could try plugging it into another machine and see if you can salvage some data off it.

Also, once you've got it out you can try all the tricky sh*t everyone recommends when you've got a dodgy hard disk, like sticking it in the freezer, or tapping the top to see if the heads are stuck (after you've tried reseating it as per the article above, of course!)

You're making me want to back up right NOW with this story, since I also have a Macbook that I'm typing the reply on! Where's my firewire backup disk gone?
posted by ranglin at 3:05 AM on November 5, 2008

Before removing the drive, try booting it in firewire target disk mode from another machine, and then running disk utility, or if you have it, DiskWarrior or Techtool.

But it doesn't sound good. Do you hear the disk spinning up, and any clicking/ticking sounds when it tries to access the disk?
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:40 AM on November 5, 2008

Disk Utility won't work, since there is apparently no disk there to fix.. It sounds like it's spinning, and no clicks.
posted by salmacis at 4:43 AM on November 5, 2008

Can you get your hands on a 2.5" USB external drive case? If so put the HDD in there and test it somewhere. This will tell you if the problem is with the drive or the drive controller.

If it's the drive itself, you may be able to recover some data from it, but even if you lose data you can take small comfort in the fact that replacement drives are cheap.

If it's the drive controller, hooray your data is safe but that means you may need some major repair work on your MacBook.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:14 AM on November 5, 2008

I have a macbook 13 inch white model, first version. I had two hard drives fail on me within a year. Apparently there was a bad batch of drives that originally shipped out with the early version of macbook. Not sure if this was ever officially acknowledged by Mac. I know when I went into the store, they told me I was SOL both times which makes me wonder if I will ever buy another Mac again. Is yours one of the first ones out?
posted by scarello at 6:18 AM on November 5, 2008

I had the exact same thing happen last March or April, and unfortunately the hard drive was completely dead. I wasn't able to recover anything on it, either... But if it's under a year old, the replacement will be free, if that's any consolation.
posted by Camel of Space at 6:22 AM on November 5, 2008

It's a white model, first version. That makes it 2.5 years old, so way out of warranty. It's looking like it's going to be new disk time. I'm looking at it this way:
1) I get to start again with a clean install, removing all the cruft that's built up over the years, and
2) I get to replace a 5400rpm 60GB disk with a 7200rpm 160GB disk

All for only £50.
posted by salmacis at 7:13 AM on November 5, 2008

No way! This happened to me 5 days ago. I just got my Macbook back tonight with a new drive.

Are you sure you don't have coverage? I was certain I was going to be buying a new laptop until I called to ask about my plan. Turns out my Macbook was under warranty with the AppleCare protection plan. They swapped out my drive for a new one, let me have the old one (I'm going to try to freeze it, put it in an external enclosure, and scrape just a few files off of it as a geek friend suggested I do since it can't hurt to try at this point), and gave me a new case. For $0. Mine is also 2.5 years old and the first version.

FWIW, I am told freezing works for getting 20-30 minutes of life out of busted drives, but that you need to freeze it for a while -- say 24 hours -- to have any time to get your files. I would definitely check all the nerd blogs for tips.
posted by pearl228 at 8:06 PM on November 5, 2008

I've fixed issues like this with a program called Disk Warrior. It might be worth a shot, especially if someone you know already has a copy.
posted by GS1977 at 8:23 PM on November 6, 2008

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