Life or Death: MacBook Pro failing to boot and Disk won't repair

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by jackmcgruer, Dec 7, 2013.

  1. jackmcgruer macrumors newbie

    Dec 7, 2013
    Hey everyone,

    First post and, selfishly, I'm asking for help. My girlfriend's MacBook Pro has seemingly given up the ghost. It won't boot up and is stuck on the Apple logo/spinning wheel grey page.

    I've tried to boot up in Safe Mode, but an hour later, nothing. I then successfully booted up into Recovery mode. I tried to verify disk permissions, lots of errors, but then stopped. Tried to Verify Disk, it told me it couldn't verify. I tried to Repair Disk, it told me the Disk couldn't be repaired.

    My girlfriend, sadly, isn't one for being organised enough to have a Time Machine setup to help with situations such as this. I happened to back it up a few months ago, just because, but there's months' worth of work that's not been backed up.

    I'm looking to back up again onto an external HD, if possible. Sadly, I haven't been able to mount the internal HD (Mac told me it couldn't be mounted) and I'm a bit stuck. What makes matters worse; I have only one USB cable, which is partially severed, but can just about hold a connection. It's also 1am here in Berlin, Germany and the computer stores aren't open on Sundays.

    I realise there'll be those of you who will say, "She should've backed up," and I'm more than aware of that. If anybody has any positive suggestions for a relative novice, I'd be really happy to hear from you.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. McGiord, Dec 7, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2013

    McGiord macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2003
    Dark Castle
    First do not despair.
    Maybe Saturn opens on Sundays?
    You have some things to try still:
    Run Apple Hardware test to see if anything is bad.
    Can you boot with the original Mac OS X disc the MAC came with (if it is old enough it may have it) hold C key while booting.
    You can also try booting in verbose mode and running some maintenance scripts, or try to create another user then try to boot it with it, if you can use unix commands.
    First of all do not erase the HDD.
    If you have access to another Mac you can try to connect to your girlfriend's Mac with a FireWire cable using Target disk mode( if both Macs have the ports).
    Another thing you can try is removing the hard disk from the Mac and put it in an external enclosure and try to recover the files from it with another Mac.
    Just some random ideas for you to explore.
  3. TheBSDGuy macrumors 6502

    Jan 24, 2012
    That could be a lot of things, such as a failing drive, failing drive cable, or just corrupt indices. A lot of drive tools on the market can test for scan errors, so anyone of them could tell you if the drive surface has problems. The only tool on the market that can detect cable errors and surface scan errors is Scannerz. I doubt any of this is of any use to you because to use any of those tools you first need some sort of working system, which I don't think you have. If the drive is failing or the cable and/or it's connections are faulty, that can cause some of the data on the drive to be corrupt, or interpreted as corrupt, so that's one possibility.

    If the system was having problems, particularly what seemed to be performance problems, you might want to check the link below because it might indicate that drive or cable problems were in the process of developing: Hard Drive Signs and Symptoms.html

    If none of the types of problems they describe are or were occurring, it doesn't mean it still isn't a drive problem, it's just less likely.

    Index files, which tell the OS where to find stuff on the drive can get corrupt from the following:

    • Sudden power outage
    • Turning the system on and off and on quickly while in its initial startup stage
    • Programs that some how or other mess up the index files (very rare)
    • Bugs in the OS itself

    Although Disk Utility may tell you the drive is not repairable, an option you might try is Disk Warrior:

    That's basically a recovery application that can rebuild the drive index. Sometimes it takes a very long time to do. To the best of my knowledge it will only work on native Apple file systems, and sometimes even it can't fix the problems. At $99 US it's also pricey.

    Some other things you could try are some system resets like the SMC and PRAM resets:

    The latter of the two above would be the most likely if drive information got hosed leaving the OS dazed and confused, but I wouldn't think you would be able to boot into recovery mode if that was the case. In any case, both those items are free and easy to do and cost nothing.
  4. jackmcgruer thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 7, 2013
    Thanks for all of this, lots to check out and look at! I've got around 16 hours before the girlfriend is back, so this should fill up some time nicely!

    I'm a little averse to DiskWarrior, because of the price. For $99 I could probably have the guys at the store look at it and I'd feel better if someone more capable than I was looking at it.

    I did read a little about replacing HDD cables yourself being relatively simple and cheap and that they very often do need replacing. It's something I'll be looking into for her. I think she's been wanting to upgrade for a while, so maybe this is an opportunity to. I just feel so bad, because it's gone kaputt on my watch!
  5. MacPoulet macrumors regular


    Dec 11, 2012
    Diskwarrior has saved my bacon several times in the past, especially on my power PC macs. It's quite handy to have around.

    Not sure if tech tool pro by micromat is still around. It was good too.

    Hope it works out.
  6. McGiord macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2003
    Dark Castle
    Check these:
    Do not erase the disk!!!

    If nothing's from above works, then try pursuing the recovery software.
    Disk Warrior is good and recently I did use this instead with good results:
  7. john123 macrumors 68020


    Jul 20, 2001
    Is this a Retina or non-Retina model? If it's the latter, my personal preference would be to open the machine up, remove the drive, and put it in an enclosure, and then to try accessing the drive from a working machine. If the drive itself is failing, all the various machinations around trying to correct problems potentially crowd out an increasingly narrow window that you have to get the data off. Additionally, putting the drive in an enclosure also helps you figure out whether the problem is with the disk or something else (like the cable).
  8. jackmcgruer thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 7, 2013
    Quick update for everyone (sorry, I've been juggling fixing it with various other work tasks):

    By now, my girlfriend has returned and we've tried a few more things. The hard drive became a lot more "vocal" last night and, it appears, whilst trying to verify disk permissions again, the hard drive finally gave up. It's now not showing up in Disk Utility (Command+R on bootup) and any other commands on bootup bring up the sadly apt "Folder With Question Mark" icon.

    At this stage, we're resigned to having lost 3 months' work, knowing it could have been worse. We have an (essentially) worthless shell now, so we'll probably try the "open up and see what you can get" approach, whilst having a go at maybe installing some new gizmos in there to get a cut-price Mac, whilst learning a new skill in the process.

    Thanks for your pointers and for responding to my panic, all greatly appreciated.

  9. Mac Write macrumors member

    Dec 16, 2012
    Vancouver British Columbia
    Don't give up hope yet. There is still hope to recover your data.

    You have a few options.

    If you have a PC, goto and buy SpinRite and run it on the drive via the PC (you will need a SATA (2.5 to 3.5) adapter (and power adapter), it is your best chance to recover the drive.

    Steve Gibson is the master of hard drives. Also if it doesn't work, he has a 100% money back guarantee. Don't give up on it yet. There is still hope.

    Wish I was in your country, I would love to help you in person.
  10. Gav Mack macrumors 68020

    Gav Mack

    Jun 15, 2008
    Sagittarius A*
    It's more than likely died, but I have seen drives that won't spin up in MacBook bay's because they are trying to draw too much power from the bay itself. Mac recovery jobs I usually stick the defective drive in my spare sled 4 in my Mac Pro to access the drive without going through a usb bridge like an external enclosure.

    If the 3 months work is worth spending out money for trying to recover it may be worth shelling out on disk warrior or data rescue for OSX..
  11. AlexMaximus macrumors 6502a


    Aug 15, 2006
    A400M Base
    If you have a Best Buy close by, the have a data rescue option through GeekSquad. Give them a call. Good luck!
  12. jackmcgruer thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 7, 2013
    Hey again everyone,

    More updates, no better news and, indeed, some worse.

    I've managed to boot up the MacBook with an external HDD, but I couldn't do so through the Time Machine option in Internet Recovery Mode. I instead chose it as a startup disk and it booted fine, aside from some loud protestations from the internal HDD - it appears to have developed the "click of death."

    Now, the external HDD had a partition with files from my iMac and my girlfriend's MacBook on each side. The side with the MacBook files is where I asked Time Machine to backup to. I remember monitoring it closely when I backed up in August, because I get paranoid about these sorts of things and a lot of it was important work.

    Sadly, I've ended up with an "in progress" file. I viewed the package contents and it's saved only our Adobe Applications. Whilst that's good to have, of course, Everything else is gone, which is bad.

    So, I sadly don't have access to a PC (though I'm beginning to wish I still did) and I don't have an external enclosure for the internal HDD. As well as this, I am more than happy to accept that I'm probably not the best person to be trying to recover this data, when the stakes are quite high. I'd prefer someone who's done this before and is good at it. My options are as follows: Gravis (3rd party Apple Reseller with branches across Germany) or the Apple Store. My inclination is Gravis. I'm genuinely unsettled by the Apple Retail Staff and Geniuses in Berlin, they seem pretty nonchalant about issues with the computers and I can't guarantee that I'll remain calm in the face of that.

    I'm against going down the self-fix route, purely because I don't trust myself to not screw it up, even with tutorials. My girlfriend is set in getting a new MacBook (probably for the best) but my concern now is getting as much off this HDD as possible. What (if any) experiences do people have with having a third party assist with this type of thing in general? Are there questions I should be asking and any red flags I should look out for?

    Thanks again, it's been really helpful to get responses on this. It's helped me refrain from freaking out!
  13. McGiord macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2003
    Dark Castle
    Before anything else you should try to put it inside an external case, you can buy one almost anywhere. You have to diagnose if the issue is inside the HDD or the connections to it, or the old Mac.
    Then try Disk drill or any other software recovery tool if you are able to see the content of the drive.
    I haven't used any of the services to recover data but I did have recover data with Disk Drill.
    Again if something went wrong with the media it requires different solutions than cables/interfaces things.
    For any service you hire get references.
    They will never guarantee anything.

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