Blinking "?" mark folder icon at boot, Safe Boot Mode doesn't work, Disk Utility doesn't see drive

maccer99

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Original poster
Aug 31, 2015
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This has happened two months ago and was fixed, so I know the drive isn't dead. But I resolved the problem by using Safe Boot Mode (hold Shift at boot) and then repairing the OS X structures in Disk Utility.

Now, Safe Boot Mode doesn't work. It just skips right to the blinking ? icon. Running the OS X Install Disc, Disk Utility won't find the startup disk. Resetting PRAM did nothing but make the loud boot chime come back.

How it happened: Startup disk (Macintosh HD) was running low on space. I went to the Fast User Switching (Login) screen (did not log out) and came back and the Mac was stuck with beach ball mouse pointer, crashed. Powered off then when turned back on, blinking ? mark icon. I presume something went corrupt because of the low space and it not being able to resume from Fast User Switching.
I am unsure if the drive is failing, or if I made something become corrupt by running the startup disk to almost nothing (under 1 GB remaining) while trying to resume.

What are my options to get everything back to normal, or at the very least get my data? I have read about tools like Disk Warrior but people with this problem have said nothing gets listed in that just like nothing is coming up in Disk Utility for me.

I have tried reconnecting the RAM sticks and even in different slots and no luck. Have not tried reconnecting the SSD cable connections but there is no way that just all of a sudden went loose. It seems tightly in the slot.

Can the SSD be placed in an external enclosure and connecting to another computer (Mac only?) and I can view and back up the data as if it's an external drive? This may be more difficult than usual because the drive is a PCi-e drive (https://eshop.macsales.com/shop/SSD/PCIe/OWC/Mercury_Accelsior/RAID). I bought the Mac Pro used with this inside of it (most other components were replaced with new ones though).
Is Target Disk Mode the only way to see these files if you can't put that in an external enclosure/bay (have not tried yet).
If I am able to put that in an external enclosure/bay, will there be permission problems to see the drive's contents? I do not really want to have to install a fresh OS X, redo all of OS X's settings and app settings but if my only choice is to get the data and reinstall to a new SSD then that will have to be. I have no Time Machine backup.
 

maccer99

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Original poster
Aug 31, 2015
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The drive may be failing or already dead. What model is that computer?
I was willing to give it this one more chance but I think you may be right. I'll be switching to a new install on a new drive once I am able to get the data off of the problem drive.

I don't remember exact model but it is a 2010 or 2012 Mac Pro.
 

T'hain Esh Kelch

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Failing SATA cables are a common thing. I would check if that's the case first, since you write that your drive failed one but was magically repaired.

Just take out the drive and test it in an external exclosure.
 

maccer99

macrumors member
Original poster
Aug 31, 2015
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Failing SATA cables are a common thing. I would check if that's the case first, since you write that your drive failed one but was magically repaired.

Just take out the drive and test it in an external exclosure.
Is the linked drive even connected with SATA cables, though? It's PCi-e (it was already installed like this from the seller).

I will do that, but I am going to take a good bet the files are all there and the drive seems fine. Something seems corrupt on the software end, with OS X itself and the files it needs to boot, for some reason. It may very well be a drive issue though.
 

T'hain Esh Kelch

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Is the linked drive even connected with SATA cables, though? It's PCi-e (it was already installed like this from the seller).

I will do that, but I am going to take a good bet the files are all there and the drive seems fine. Something seems corrupt on the software end, with OS X itself and the files it needs to boot, for some reason. It may very well be a drive issue though.
Ah, I am terribly sorry. I didn't see the PCIe part. In that case no, it is likely to be a failing drive, and in that case you are likely out of luck, also with regard to files you haven't backed up. SSD's are notoriously bad to extract files from when they fail.
 

maccer99

macrumors member
Original poster
Aug 31, 2015
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Ah, I am terribly sorry. I didn't see the PCIe part. In that case no, it is likely to be a failing drive, and in that case you are likely out of luck, also with regard to files you haven't backed up. SSD's are notoriously bad to extract files from when they fail.
How are you sure? Like I mentioned before, this has happened before and was fixed with no data loss. I think everything is still there but something became corrupt in OS X's boot file structure somehow. What are my options?
 

Intell

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I concur that the drive is likely failing/dead. It could be the adapter card, but I'm guessing it's the drive itself.
 

maccer99

macrumors member
Original poster
Aug 31, 2015
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How can I at least get to the data? I am not sure this can easily be placed into an enclosure or portable bay because it's a PCI-e card.
 

maccer99

macrumors member
Original poster
Aug 31, 2015
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0
If you are using the OWC PCIe card, OWC (sometimes) has good tech support, and might be worthwhile chatting from their support page - https://eshop.macsales.com/shop/SSD/PCIe/OWC/Mercury_Accelsior/RAID
Scroll down to the Live Chat link.
Are the next steps really such a mystery to resort to that already? I will try that, but I want to know what my options look like first. Can PCIe cards be put in enclosures? Is Target Disk Mode the only way?

When I fixed this with Safe Boot Mode before, I think there was a possibility it only randomly let me do that. It doesnt look like this will randomly just start working this time, though.
 

DeltaMac

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Jul 30, 2003
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Are the next steps really such a mystery to resort to that already? I will try that, but I want to know what my options look like first. Can PCIe cards be put in enclosures? Is Target Disk Mode the only way?
...
I think the answers are:
Maybe, if you can't get results another way, then contacting the folks (at OWC) who sell the card might get you the information you need.
Yes - all you need is an enclosure that will accept the (m.2?) SSD card that sits on your PCIe card. OWC will help you with what you need for that.
No, not if you can get the card to work in an external enclosure that supports it.
 

maccer99

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Original poster
Aug 31, 2015
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I think the answers are:
Maybe, if you can't get results another way, then contacting the folks (at OWC) who sell the card might get you the information you need.
Yes - all you need is an enclosure that will accept the (m.2?) SSD card that sits on your PCIe card. OWC will help you with what you need for that.
No, not if you can get the card to work in an external enclosure that supports it.
I've talked to OWC and they only had me go through the steps I've already detailed, and clean the connectors. No results.

Can the drive really be put in an enclosure? The product is actually 2 SSD drives in RAID 0.
I'm thinking Target Disk Mode may be the only way...
 

maccer99

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Original poster
Aug 31, 2015
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If the drive does show up in Target Disk Mode, is it possible to make a Time Machine copy of the drive's contents then restore on a new drive? I am hoping to do something like this rather than redoing all app downloads and settings.
 

CoastalOR

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Jan 19, 2015
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If the drive does show up in Target Disk Mode, is it possible to make a Time Machine copy of the drive's contents then restore on a new drive? I am hoping to do something like this rather than redoing all app downloads and settings.
Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) might be a better option since it handles copy errors better than Time Machine (TM). CCC continues to copy what it can if there are some files it can't read. TM tends to stop when there are errors. CCC has a fully functional 30 day trial.
 
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hallux

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I don't remember exact model but it is a 2010 or 2012 Mac Pro.
Is the linked drive even connected with SATA cables, though? It's PCi-e (it was already installed like this from the seller).
If it's a 2010 it DEFINITELY isn't PCIe, and if it IS, it's still connected using the SATA cable that is commonly failing. If it's a 2012 there's a possibility it's a PCIe, but I thought the retina models used an mSATA connection in the first year, and with a 2012 you could have a non-retina model that uses a similar SATA cable as the 2010. Does the system have a slot-load CD drive on the right side?
 

CoastalOR

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If it's a 2010 it DEFINITELY isn't PCIe, and if it IS, it's still connected using the SATA cable that is commonly failing. If it's a 2012 there's a possibility it's a PCIe, but I thought the retina models used an mSATA connection in the first year, and with a 2012 you could have a non-retina model that uses a similar SATA cable as the 2010. Does the system have a slot-load CD drive on the right side?
The OP is using a Mac Pro not a MacBook Pro.
 
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DeltaMac

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OP also stated (in post #1) that the drive is a Mercury Accelsior E2 from OWC.
Has two SATA blade SSDs, in a RAID-0 configuration, on a PCI-E card. (At least, it ships like that)
 

maccer99

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Original poster
Aug 31, 2015
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Target Disk Mode (Firewire) is not working. Nothing is showing up on the other Mac. Pretty sure I'm not doing anything wrong. I read that waiting may make it magically appear but it's been about 30 minutes now.
Also does not appear in Disk Utility on the other Mac while connected by Firewire.

Here are some questions:
  • Is there a chance Disk Warrior will work after all of the previous things haven't worked? Like I said before, I think something just went wrong with the startup files of OS X. That may not explain why it's not even showing up anywhere though.
  • Are there are special enclosures that I can put the Mercury Accelsior E2 PCI-e drive (actually 2 SSDs in RAID 0) into to retreive the files if all else fails?

  • Any way to verify is the drive is even powering on? It feels hot to the touch but that may just be the graphics card under it (which goes into overdrive shortly after being in Target Disk Mode or sitting on the ? mark screen). I did take it out and even put it into different slots, same result of not being found.
 

DeltaMac

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If you boot to Target Disk Mode, do you see the floating Firewire icon on that Mac Pro display?
If you go to the OTHER Mac, where the other end of the Firewire cable is attached (the one that you want to try to see the MacPro drives), do you see anything in your System Information, looking in the System Report, specifically at the FireWire tab? You should see any storage devices attached to your MacPro, either internal or external, in that Firewire tab.
What model is your OTHER Mac?

However, I don't know if the PCI-e card will appear, or is even supported by Target Disk Mode. That's not something that I have ever tried (but, if the card is working, it SHOULD appear either under the Firewire tab, or maybe in the Storage tab.
I'm just not sure.

Do you have other drives, in the normal HDD slots on your MacPro? Do those appear in the Firewire tab of the System Information? If not, I suspect that you still don't have Target Disk Mode connected correctly.
But, you can also pull the SSD blades from the OWC card, and insert those in an external blade enclosure. They should be standard M.2 SATA blades, nothing special like the proprietary connectors that Apple uses on their own SSDs.
So, should be fairly easy to find an external case, such as this one.
 

maccer99

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Original poster
Aug 31, 2015
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If you boot to Target Disk Mode, do you see the floating Firewire icon on that Mac Pro display?
Yes, but I was also able to see it before even connecting anything yesterday, so it doesn't confirm anything is even working.

If you go to the OTHER Mac, where the other end of the Firewire cable is attached (the one that you want to try to see the MacPro drives), do you see anything in your System Information, looking in the System Report, specifically at the FireWire tab? You should see any storage devices attached to your MacPro, either internal or external, in that Firewire tab.
Yes, two things show up in System Profiler (is System Information different?) under FireWire Bus: Unknown Device and Target Disk Mode.
Does this mean the drive is being at least detected somewhat?

What model is your OTHER Mac?
2011 MacBook Pro. Using this because it has the same FireWire port as the Mac Pro.

Do you have other drives, in the normal HDD slots on your MacPro? Do those appear in the Firewire tab of the System Information? If not, I suspect that you still don't have Target Disk Mode connected correctly.
No, there are no other drives connected to the Mac Pro. I was going to connect another to test if it shows up, like you said here. I will go ahead and try that now.
Edit: I connected a test HDD (in addition to the problem drive of course) and started Target Disk Mode again and the test HDD shows up on the Desktop/in Finder. The System Profiler FireWire tab has no changes, same items as I mentioned above. This confirms Target Disk Mode was working.

But, you can also pull the SSD blades from the OWC card, and insert those in an external blade enclosure. They should be standard M.2 SATA blades, nothing special like the proprietary connectors that Apple uses on their own SSDs.
So, should be fairly easy to find an external case, such as this one.
I tried to pull them out before, but they are drilled down with some kind of plastic pieces, one at the end of each. I can't remove them with my fingers and it may need a tool. But even if I am able to disconnect the SSD blades, those enclosures are only for 1 blade at a time. This is 2 blades in RAID 0. Wouldn't both need to be in RAID to be able to show the data? Or would they show one half each of the directories on the drive?
 
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DeltaMac

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Ah, you are using an older Mac, older than 10.7
The System Profiler was renamed as System Information in 10.7 and later.

Anyway, if you look at the System Profiler, then click on the Target Disk Mode line, what information, if any, appears in the lower right part of the profiler window? SHOULD be lots of information about the drives, and the drive bus in the Target system (which is your MacPro.)
If it says something like :No device found, or No Information available, or something like that, then I suspect that your drive card (the PCIe card that those SSDs mount on) is bad. Be sure to try reseating the card in the slot.
Pretty easy to add another drive to your MacPro. SATA drive (3.5-inch) will attach to any of the slide-out drive mounts.
Slide the drive into place. That should appear in the system profiler on your other Mac. If you suspect that the PCIe card is failing, you may need to completely remove the PCIe card with the SSDs, before another drive might be visible in Target disk mode.

To answer your last question about RAID-0 - that means you have two devices with data split between the devices. If one fails, then you lose the data on both. There's no redundancy, no fault tolerance, like there would be on different RAID levels. That's one of the disadvantages of RAID-0 - if one device fails, the data is not retreivable. It's also one of the reasons that RAID-0 should never be used to back up files. It's not a reliable backup medium, and a very unstable media to use as a system boot drive.
So, yes, you would need a way to have both blades connected (maybe with two enclosures). I THINK I have seen two-blade enclosures, but I don't remember where. If both are connected, the RAID configuration should be usable (unless it is only the PCI-e card that provides the hardware support for the RAID-0, which would leave you stuck, unless OWC will ship you a replacement card.
You may want to call OWC tech support, and see what they have to say...
 

maccer99

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Original poster
Aug 31, 2015
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Anyway, if you look at the System Profiler, then click on the Target Disk Mode line, what information, if any, appears in the lower right part of the profiler window? SHOULD be lots of information about the drives, and the drive bus in the Target system (which is your MacPro.)
If it says something like :No device found, or No Information available, or something like that, then I suspect that your drive card (the PCIe card that those SSDs mount on) is bad. Be sure to try reseating the card in the slot.
Pretty easy to add another drive to your MacPro. SATA drive (3.5-inch) will attach to any of the slide-out drive mounts.
Slide the drive into place. That should appear in the system profiler on your other Mac. If you suspect that the PCIe card is failing, you may need to completely remove the PCIe card with the SSDs, before another drive might be visible in Target disk mode.
There was a lot of information for Unknown Device and Target Disk Mode (under the FireWire Bus tree) but nothing concrete. Please let me know if I should go back into Target Disk Mode and retrieve the information for you. I could also share screenshots.

If you look at my previous post, I edited in the mention that I did put another drive into the computer and it did successfully show up in Target Disk Mode as an external drive in Finder. Still nothing for the PCIe OWC drive though.

To answer your last question about RAID-0 - that means you have two devices with data split between the devices. If one fails, then you lose the data on both. There's no redundancy, no fault tolerance, like there would be on different RAID levels. That's one of the disadvantages of RAID-0 - if one device fails, the data is not retreivable. It's also one of the reasons that RAID-0 should never be used to back up files. It's not a reliable backup medium, and a very unstable media to use as a system boot drive.
So, yes, you would need a way to have both blades connected (maybe with two enclosures). I THINK I have seen two-blade enclosures, but I don't remember where. If both are connected, the RAID configuration should be usable (unless it is only the PCI-e card that provides the hardware support for the RAID-0, which would leave you stuck, unless OWC will ship you a replacement card.
You may want to call OWC tech support, and see what they have to say...
Special external enclosures are going to be my last resort if Disk Warrior does nothing. I would appreciate if anyone could help me find a RAID-0 M.2 dual SSD blade enclosure. But like you said, it may be the OWC PCIe card that controls the RAID.

From my talks with OWC so far, it doesn't sound like I could get a replacement because I'm not the original buyer (this was included in a second hand Mac Pro; I should have went with my gut and used a brand new drive instead of assuming this was fairly new because the card only had recently released).
But even if I could get a full replacement, I am not interested. Like you said, PCIe RAID 0 drives are not reliable for storage nor as a boot drive, making them completely useless maybe save for a temporary scratch disk in certain apps.

Any marginal speed gains are null compared to the kind of random failure/unavailability I'm going through now. There has also been many cases of crashes at Fast User Switching screen when returning while logged in, or resuming from sleep, which I am going to assume is the drive's fault.

These Mac Pro models were not made with this kind of tech in mind, this is pretty much a hardware hack and a failed experiment. Knowing this, it becomes much easier to understand why everyone has been largely baffled by this and thinking the drive is dead. I do not think it's dead, just the hardware-hack nature of this is not letting it be picked up by conventional means like Target Disk Mode which were designed with traditional storage devices in mind.

A few of the comments on the following page have echoed your sentiments about PCIe RAID 0 being unreliable, and even known to be prone to failure.
http://www.thessdreview.com/our-reviews/owc-accelsior-e2-pcie-ssd-review/
Amazon's page for the drive has a bad average review score and one review also cites Disk Warrior working:
https://www.amazon.com/OWC-480GB-Mercury-Accelsior_E2-Express/dp/B00CH9RNWA

In both above links, Disk Warrior is cited as being able to rectify the situation and get the drive back to normal at least temporaily (to perform a backup). Do you think this would work, or are there other things to try while I wait to give Disk Warrior a try?

I really can't wait to get my data off of this thing and trash it for good. A lot of Mac Pro power users and professionals seemed to have been duped into thinking this was the cream of the crop and cutting edge when it released in 2013, but only now do we see the horrible reliability and negligible speed gains over a traditional high-end SSD (some even say performance is worse in some areas).
 
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Fishrrman

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Feb 20, 2009
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OP:

First off, you need another way to boot and run the Mac Pro. It could be either:
- a second internal drive, or
- an external drive
Doesn't matter, so long as it's "bootable to the finder".

Get the MacPro up and running again, and THEN focus on the failed card/drive.

I going to -guess- that the OWC PCI-e drive has failed.

It looks to be some kind of a "non-standard" setup (2 blade drives on a PCI card, running some kind of RAID?). If so, conventional repair options probably won't work.

Perhaps if you returned the card/drive to OWC, they might be able to revive it for you, or at least get some of the data from it. There -might- be professional data recovery firms that could work with it, but even they might have problems. And if they were successful, you would probably have to pay upwards of $1,500-2,000 for their services.

You also wrote (in reply 21):
"But even if I am able to disconnect the SSD blades, those enclosures are only for 1 blade at a time. This is 2 blades in RAID 0. Wouldn't both need to be in RAID to be able to show the data? Or would they show one half each of the directories on the drive?"

Old saying:
RAID -IS NOT- a backup.
As DeltaMac said above in #22:
"...means you have two devices with data split between the devices. If one fails, then you lose the data on both. There's no redundancy, no fault tolerance, like there would be on different RAID levels. That's one of the disadvantages of RAID-0 - if one device fails, the data is not retreivable."

When it fails, then you NEED "a backup".
You've already told us that you don't have one.
So I'm going to guess -- and it's ONLY "a guess" -- that the data on that OWC drive is probably "gone for good".

My advice:
1. Get another bootable drive working with the MacPro (this is absolutely necessary).
2. Once you can boot the MPro again, see what you can do with the OWC drive.
3. If nothing can "see" it, pull it out, write it off, and start over.
4. And WHATEVER you do, learn something about the concept of "backing up". It sure helps when things go wrong...
 
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Plutonius

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Feb 22, 2003
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4. And WHATEVER you do, learn something about the concept of "backing up". It sure helps when things go wrong...
No reason not to back up on an older Mac Pro with all the internal space it has for hard drives. Install a backup drive and configure time machine to automatically do the backups. I threw in a 6 TB drive just for backups.

For a replacement SSD drive, I highly recommend the Samsung 850 Pro. With a cheap adapter, it slides into one of your drive bays. It also comes with a 10 year warranty.
 
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