Failed disc utility repair

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by Natebenn, Dec 15, 2013.

  1. Natebenn macrumors newbie

    Dec 15, 2013
    Hey all, I have run into a problem that is really stumping me and I am hoping the community can help.

    Macbook 13" 2009 A1278

    I used the Apple Disk Utility at startup to take a look at the disc and see if any errors/issues came up. I have never used this tool before but wanted to see what it was all about. I ran the Verify Disc function and the machine reported that it needed to repair the disc but could not do so in it's current live mode and that it would have to be restarted to repaired. I can't remember all fine details of what happened but when attempting to reboot the machine for the repair the Disc Utility hung, sat there for a while so I simply shut it down since it hadn't actually started any of the repair process. Apparently that was the wrong thing to do because when I rebooted I got the flashing Question mark box and couldn't move any further.
    I work on computers as a side business and troubleshoot PCs all the time so I wasn't too concerned about finding a solution. However I did some research and tried a number of things but the problem has only gotten worse. Initially I was able to use a boot disc to access the Disc Utility still but was unable to actually do anything with the internal hard drive with the software. I figured I would just re-install the OS and use my TM backup,easy enough. Well when I tried to re-install, the machine can no longer see the hard drive to install to.

    Attempted Solutions (and outcomes):
    -Reset NVRAM (no change)
    -Reset SMC (no change)
    -Remove battery (no change)
    -Command +R (only brings up box with question mark)
    -Burned copy of Lion in Drive and Hold C during startup (tries to read discs but ejects, box with question mark)
    -Hold Option during startup (system seems to hang with point on the screen)
    -Hold shift after boot sound to enter safe mode (box with question mark)

    I am looking for any direction that the community can provide. To recap I currently cannot get the system to boot in any way to the OS that is on the disc OR off of a burned copy of an OSX disc. It did work for a while but does not now.

    Looking forward to hearing something i may have overlooked. Thanks ahead of time.
  2. DeltaMac macrumors G3


    Jul 30, 2003
    You didn't tell us which version of OS X was installed on the hard drive.

    If it was Lion, then there should be a Recovery partition to boot into.
    That's the Command-R that you mentioned, which has Disk Utility to allow you to try to repair the hard drive.
    If Command-R doesn't work, the flashing folder/? means that the Mac can't find a valid system to boot to. It COULD mean that the system just needs to be reinstalled.
    BUT, you said that you get errors in Disk Utility - or maybe the hard drive doesn't appear at all in Disk Utility?
    The fact that you can't boot to the Recovery partition should tell you what you need to do: Replace the hard drive, it has failed.

    BTW, booting to a Lion Installer DVD does not work very well, and is incredibly slow. The better way is to burn the Lion installer to a USB flash drive. 8GB is a great size for that. I use the DiskmakerX app to do this, but there's several other methods to create an OS X installer thumb drive. (You have to make that from a Mac running Snow Leopard or higher)
  3. Natebenn thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 15, 2013
    Thanks Delta, I was/am running on Mavericks.

    In doing some more research I think part of my problem may be in the fact that I am trying to use burned DVDs of OSX that I have created on a Win 7 machine and I don't think it is burned in a way that the Mac understands. I am going to go borrow a Mac and try the app you recommended. Hopefully that'll get me on the right path. Will be back with updates later.
  4. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    I does not sound like you did anything wrong to cause this. What you are describing is consistent with a drive failure. What OS version were you running and do you have a Time Machine backup?

    First you will need to install a new drive then restore everything from your backup or reinstall the OS. But I think you are wasting your time trying to reinstall to this same disk.
  5. DeltaMac macrumors G3


    Jul 30, 2003
    I think it's possible to make a Lion installer from Windows - if you have a good procedure for that

    Much easier on the Mac.
    With an App (There's an App for that! )

    or there's other methods:

    this all assumes that you have a copy of the "Install Mac OS X" that you downloaded from Apple's App Store. If you don't have Lion on the App Store under your account, then you have to contact Apple directly to get a redemption code to use on the App Store to get that download again.
  6. trevm999 macrumors member

    Nov 5, 2013
    I hope I don't come off as condescending, but if you work on computers as a side business, here are some tips for where you are going wrong.

    It has been suggested to you, that your hard drive might be the problem, yet no where have you said you have tested the hard drive.

    Hard drive failure is the #1 hardware failure in computers. Hard drives ship from factory with defects, so most of the time it is just a matter of time until they fail.

    Since it is common for hard drives to fail, you should always check a customer's hard drive. Their data is important to them, and it is your job to handle their data with care.

    SMART data is your friend. Hard drives log information about themselves and you can access this to see if they are failing. Even if there are not any signs of failure in the SMART data, the drive still might be failing, but checking it can lead to a fast diagnosis if there are signs of failure in the data.

    In your situation, I would either pull the drive and connect it to a bench machine running Gsmartcontrol to check the drive or boot to a PartedMagic disc to check it (I haven't had any problems with macs booting to it).

    If it was a customer, I would go into data recovery mode right away if it was having any issues. The more time you spend messing around, the less likely it is to be able to cover data. I use gddrescue to do a full clone of the drive. If gddrescue has problems reading sectors, the hard drive is failing and it is unnecessary to do any other testing of the drive. Hopefully enough of the drive can be cloned in order to retrieve the data.

    Also, using disk utility to verify and fix disk is bad for a failing hard drive, so it is important to know that the drive is not failing before you use it.
  7. Natebenn thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 15, 2013
    Thanks for the replies all.

    I do have a secondary drive that I am going to be working as the indication is that the current drive is failing. I am currently setting up a usb drive with Lion right now and will attempt to use it to re install Lion, upgrade to Mavericks and then use my TM backup to restore.

    Trevm thanks for the info. My customer base is typically PC based and I have several tools I use to ensure hard drives are in good health before returning. Macs are new to me and a very small piece of my business; I'll be taking a look a the tools you mentioned and will likely be adding them to my arsenal for future use.

    I certainly take your comments as constructive and helpful, I am always game to learn something new so thanks. As a side note customer data integrity is an incredibly high priority for me. If I am at all suspect of the drive it is an immediate data dump before any real work is done. We are on the same page but I suppose I am a bit more relaxed with this system as it is mine and I know that I have current backups of all that is truly important.

    Hopefully going to attempt the re install shortly and hoping to return with good news.
  8. Natebenn thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 15, 2013

    Lion installed from USB. Upgrading to Mavericks now and will restore from TM. Thanks guys.
  9. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    I don't know how far along you are, but you are making more work then you need to. If you TM backup was made with Lion 10.7.2 or better, all you need to do it pop in a new drive then option key boot from the TM disk and restore. You don't need to reinstall the OS at all.
  10. mae.w macrumors newbie

    Jan 2, 2014
    Failed disc utility repair

    hi guys

    usually i'm ok with googling and sorting my computer, but now i can't even figure out how to start a new thread....since i had come to this one looking for an answer, i hope you don't mind if i hijack :-/

    a couple of weeks ago my hard disk crashed and i got a new one along with the new mountain lion os. i used my time machine once and retrieved some files, but was very busy and planned to go back and get the rest later.

    now it says it's broken. when i tried to repair it with disk utility it says it can't. any suggestions? my whole CS5 was on there and i really need it and can't afford to buy it new.....i'm a video artist.
  11. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    So your new internal disk is broken? Try a command-r boot to recovery and see if running a repair disk from Disk Utility while in recovery helps. If that cannot fix it, the next step is to erase the disk and try a reinstall, but that will wipe any data on the disk.

    If you are getting disk corruption messages in Disk Utility after trying to repair the disk, it is likely the disk is bad.

    If the data is critical, you may want to pay for a utility like Disk Warrior to try and fix the drive.
  12. Sun Baked, Jan 3, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2014

    Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    If command-S and running the disk repair fails, there is a method to force fsck to rebuild the btree catalog.

    Usually it'll work, but may make the drive non-bootable, and may give you enough time to recover files on the drive.

    Used it myself to recover the drive on the machine I'm currently using, then took it to Apple to get a new drive.

    Of course using SMART to find out what was wrong with the drive helped with the repair, and what is failing on the drives. Ran out of spare sectors to replace bad blocks, and drive just went downhill from there.

    Edit: You probably don't need the help beyond Smart Utility, but it'll be here as a hint for somebody to try an Apple Free HD repair versus paying money for Drive Recovery SW.
  13. mozambique macrumors newbie

    Oct 16, 2014
    Hard Drive Corrupted cannot boot

    Macbook Pro 2011 Mavericks OS X

    Hi there - similar sort of problem I cannot boot - it starts up then hangs and switches off - I can get into recovery CMD-R but disk utility cannot fix the problem and gives error Invalid Key length ; The volume Machintosh HD could not be recovered completely ; click repair disk then gives further error "Disk Utility cannot replair this disk... disk, and restore your backed up files"

    I live in north Mozambique so post in not option to get a bootable disk recovery in the post such as Disk Warrior (anyway to download as have a working Macbook Air)

    I also cannot reinstall Mavericks as says disk is locked?!

    Any help?! has all my work on it!

    Thank you


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