MacBook Pro Logic Board Failure?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by poisondart90, Oct 15, 2010.

  1. poisondart90 macrumors newbie

    Oct 13, 2010
    I am trying to diagnose my MacBook Pro 13" Unibody which I bought in 2009, a little over a year ago. I got the infamous flashing question mark folder and ended up buying a hard drive enclosure to see if the hard drive was the problem, or something else. Anyway, I ended up being able to boot up from the hard drive when used in the enclosure yet when running the Apple Hardware Test, both the simple and in depth tests, it found nothing wrong.

    My fear is that this means the Logic Board has suffered some sort of failure. Has anyone here experienced this or have any ideas of if I'm right or if I'm overlooking something? I've searched the forums but wasn't able to find anything.
  2. movieboy23 macrumors regular

    Jun 3, 2007
    I'd say that a significant majority of the time the flashing question mark means a bad HD. And while I know you moved the HD into a separate enclosure and you were able to boot from it, did you continue having any problems when running the computer? If so, what were they?

    Were you getting any kernel panics when the computer was running or were there any moments when the machine started to hang at the spinning beach ball? How bout any weird display issues on the screen?

    I need some more information for you about what was happening with the computer before I can tell you with any certainty that it's a bad logic board. And while bad logic boards aren't uncommon in MBPs, they are relatively uncommon to see in MBPs that are less than 3 years old.

    I would also try running off a completely separate HD (if you have one around) and seeing how the computer performs when you're using it under normal circumstances for at least a couple hours. Because if you don't encounter any problems there, then I would focus my energies on the HD.
  3. poisondart90 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 13, 2010
    Thanks for responding! I'm an idiot for not mentioning other details in the first place.

    I bought two other hard drives and tried them both. Brand new, one WD and one Samsung. Neither showed up in Disk Utility or could have the OS installed, obviously.

    So three different hard drives aren't recognized internally, but the original Hitachi that came with it works flawlessly in the enclosure. The only difference is that it's noticeably slower than when it's internal. This is no surprise though...

    I found one other instance of this exact thing happening to someone else. The thing was that people suspected Logic Board but no one ever had a definite answer and he never posted the result.

    Does it sound like it has to be the SATA part of the Logic Board? If so, that's really aggravating. Failing 14 months after getting it, only two months after the protection expires...
  4. movieboy23 macrumors regular

    Jun 3, 2007
    Just to clarify, you installed the new drives in the machine, booted off the OS disc (or an external drive) and the internal drive still wasn't recognized in Disk Utility, right?
  5. Heilage macrumors 68030


    May 1, 2009
    The 13" MBP has a notoriously bad hard drive cable. I would suggest trying that before a logic board replacement. Especially if your drive was recognized in the external enclosure.
  6. poisondart90 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 13, 2010
    Exactly. There is only one hard drive with the OS on it, which is the original HDD. This one boots automatically in the external USB enclosure when it is connected to both USB ports (it's one of those double USB cables, for more power I believe.) I didn't try the other two in the external because I didn't see the point since none of them were recognized by the Disk Utility.

    Trying what? I mean the same hard drive works externally but not internally... and brand new hard drives from reputable companies aren't recognized internally.

    That being said, running Apple Hardware Test comes up with no problems. I know the test is by no means an "end-all-be-all" for finding problems but I'm stuck wondering what to do next. Install OS X on the new drives using the enclosure and seeing if either works internally?

    Any advice on a next step would be great. I have an appointment with the Genius Bar early next week but I'd really prefer to not have to go.

    The hard drive I got with the MBP was the 500GB Hitachi. I know, I know. I'm an idiot for paying ~150$ more for them putting in a hard drive that's 40$ more expensive than the base hard drive. I just didn't know it was so easy to swap out at the time.

    EDIT: I'm an idiot and didn't read that you said Hard Drive Cable. How would I go about testing the cable? Thanks a ton for responding by the way.
  7. benwizkid macrumors member


    Sep 10, 2010
  8. Heilage macrumors 68030


    May 1, 2009

    That's the correct part for your MBP. Try buying one and testing that, would be a hell of a lot cheaper than a logic board, that's for sure. :)

    EDIT: Are there no service providers where you live?
  9. poisondart90 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 13, 2010
    What do you mean by that? I looked up gentoo but have no idea why that would help. Would you be willing to elaborate a little? Thanks

    What do you mean by service providers? As in Apple Stores with Geniuses? Or a third party store who will do the same thing? Yeah I actually have an appointment on Tuesday with the Genius Bar and hope that they can tell me the problem. If not, I'll definitely try the ribbon/cable. Thanks!
  10. Heilage macrumors 68030


    May 1, 2009
    Service providers (AASP for short) are places where you can get your Mac fixed. It can be Apple themselves or a third party (often a part of a Premium Reseller store then, but that's more common in countries without Apple Stores).
  11. poisondart90 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 13, 2010
    Thanks a ton! I will report back if Apple cannot determine the problem. On the topic of getting it checked out, should I possibly mention that it is either the hard drive cable or the logic board? I don't want them to not find anything wrong and send me on my way, ya know?
  12. Heilage macrumors 68030


    May 1, 2009
    Tell them that you took the hard drive out and tried it in an enclosure, and it worked just fine. That's very helpful information for the technician and can cut the troubleshooting time drastically. :)
  13. poisondart90 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 13, 2010
    Thanks so much! I took it there and while my genius seemed very intelligent, I cannot say as much about the others around there. They sounded like robots just trying to get through the day.

    I told him about a minutes worth of relevant information which narrowed the likely problem down to two choices, we agreed. Either the cable was bad or the Logic Board SATA connector was shot.

    He ran some basic tests on the hard drive to confirm that it was fully functional. It was. Next he tested the cable and found that it was not working fully. Apparently it was working enough that they could actually perform a hard drive test THROUGH the computer, using the crappy cable. He trusted my guidance and tested the cable somehow and found that it was indeed not working much at all. He replaced the cable for free in about ten more minutes, and required absolutely no paper work. He was the man, I must say.

    With HDD failure and Logic Board failure as the other two most likely causes of my problem, escaping with a fairly cheap new setup for backing up my hard drive and the repair service for the actual problem being free, I can say that my experience was quite the lucky one. Other than the stress I went through, no damage has been done whatsoever.

    Thanks again for all the help! Couldn't have done it without you!
  14. ljonesj macrumors 6502a


    Oct 20, 2009
    Kingsport TN
    sounds like my experience yesterday when i got a time capsule to backup my mac mini and macbookpro i told the guy who checked me out what i was going to do with it and how i was going to set it up and he looked like wow i did not know u could do that with a hub off the back of it pluged into the usb port
  15. redsockeye macrumors newbie

    Nov 3, 2010
    I have an identical problem and have posted about it elsewhere. My disk utility refuses to recognize my original HDD or a new HDD, but the drives will boot using an external casing. I also narrowed it down to the logic board or the SATA cable. I too hope it's the cable since that's about 600-700$ cheaper! My system is also a 2009 13 inch macbook pro unibody.

    Thanks for the posts.
  16. redsockeye macrumors newbie

    Nov 3, 2010
    Bought a used SATA cable off ebay. Installed it and instantly my computer was back to normal. Nothing looked wrong with the old cable either but I guess the mid 2009 13 inch macbooks must have internal HDD cables that are prone to failure.
  17. juanomatic macrumors newbie

    Jan 6, 2010
    New York City
    Just as another data point, I had the exact same problem.

    • At startup, computer would flash the blinking folder and question mark icon.
    • Hard drive would not show up in Disk Utility, when I booted with the Mac OS X Install disc
    • I replaced the hard drive, thinking it was dead, and that did not solve the problem, leading me to believe that the drive was still good
    • I too feared that it was the logic board that went bad.

    I took my MacBook Pro to the Apple Store and the Genius bar replaced the cable for $60 USD, including labor and 90-day warranty. That solved the problem.

    In short, the cable seems to have gone bad without any warning. I would try replacing the cable first. I first thought it was the hard drive, which wasn't the problem, but now I doubled my hard drive space to 500 GB. Not the worst upgrade, I guess.
  18. ZachMatthews macrumors newbie

    Mar 15, 2006
    I am having the exact same problem. I recently had a hard drive failure in an iMac so I assumed that was the issue. I ordered a new 160GB 5400rpm hard drive (WD Scorpio Blue), and swapped out the drives. I don't have an enclosure for a 2.5" SATA drive so I didn't have a way to test my original drive, although it never made the click-click-click sound of a failure hard disk.

    Installation of OS X on the new drive hung at weird times and the system failed to recognize that there was a hard disk on several reboots. Finally, after removing and replacing the drive again, I was able to complete installation of OS X, but after less than 15 minutes of use the system hangs and I get the spinning beach ball.

    I ultimately installed OS X on another old laptop hard drive I had laying around, which I think was an IDE drive; it does have a USB enclosure and I have now been running OS X on this same mid-2009 Macbook Pro 13" without issue.

    I think it's probably the cable as well and I'll call our Apple Store here to set up a genius appointment. I bought this computer in November 2009 so it is about 4 months out of warranty.

    Just as another data point, the system hung for the first time when my wife was handing me the computer; who knows why that might cause a hard drive SATA cable to fail but I suppose it could.

    Can anyone confirm what I suspect, which is that being able to run a separate disk via USB without issues would mean that the logic board is fine? Does a USB mounted external hard drive still have to route through the main hard disk controller board?


  19. ibmford macrumors newbie

    Apr 1, 2011
    would that mean the logic board is fine?

    Can anyone confirm what I suspect, which is that being able to run a separate disk via USB without issues would mean that the logic board is fine? Does a USB mounted external hard drive still have to route through the main hard disk controller board?



    No, booting from USB does not mean the disc controller on logic board is fine, the USB subsystem is a separate entity than the SATA controller. However, I had the same problem yesterday on my MBP after APPLE replaced my logic board due to failed 8600GT card, the problem was with the cable (the connector wasn't sitting flush firmly against the logic board, coming loose easily.) I was able to identify it based on years of experience in IT, but when I held my thumb firmly on the cable connector, MBP would boot, if I did not apply pressure with my thumb on the connector, MBP would not recognize the drive and flashing question mark would come up. If I removed my thumb from the connector after the os have booted, osx would start to crash with bunch of error codes within minutes.

    Solution: Replaced the cable for $10, with extra tape applied over the connector on the board, it's been fine since then.

    Having said all that, I run windows 7 exclusively and I just had to use osx for demonstrating the problem I was having otherwise apple geniuses wouldn't care or listen to non of what I explained. They have the general attitude that if you use windows, you're a moron or you're with the enemy and that they're the only ones in the universe who are "genius" enough to work on apple products. Don't even ask why new Macs don't have USB 3.0, just eat what APPLE puts in front of you. Apple knows what's best for the "idiot consumer". I say; see Magnuson-Moss warranty act of 1975.:cool:

    Sorry, i had to went some steam as Apple Geniuses have been grinding my gears past couple days, all because I use windows 7 on MBP.
  20. octotod, Jun 1, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2011

    octotod macrumors newbie

    Jun 1, 2011
    May I ask where you found one for $10? My sleuthing is bottoming out at $29. In my case, holding my thumb on the connector does not allow the drive to boot from the internal SATA, though it boots fine when connected to a USB enclosure. Since I'm not sure about the underlying issue, I'd like to test the cable to make sure it's bad before buying one (unless it's only $10!); do you think the genius bar will test it for me (even though I'm out of warranty)?
  21. Trumpetblast macrumors newbie

    Jun 23, 2011
    Same problem, twice now, same machine

    This is my first mac. I had the same problem. They replaced my hard drive just saying it was a bad hard drive. Worked for a while, but then hard drive failed again. I couldn't get it to recognize the hard drive, and then figured out that it was probably the hard drive cable. The new cable worked, but then last week started having problems again. The hard drive went bad, and now the new drive isn't recognized. I am able to run it through the usb, but the hard drive cable is bad again.

    I purchased my machine at the same time as everyone else in the post in July 2009.

    I think we've basically bought lemons. This makes me very sad. I really like how the mac runs and operates, but I've had to invest a lot into fixing over and over again. I've had to pay shipping and importation fees into Peru. I am also on my 4th charger.

    Apple has lost me as a customer. My first experience has not been a good one.

    This sounds like a bigger problem.
  22. MIDI_EVIL macrumors 65816


    Jan 23, 2006
    Sorry to raise an old thread, but I'm having the same problems on the same machine as you guys. Mid 2009 13.3 MBP.

    I've replaced the hard drive cable today, and still nothing... I've ordered a caddy to replace the optical disk drive so I can use my SSD with that connection instead, as the machine is still good when booted via USB.

    I'm guessing the same, the SATA port on the logic board for the HDD has gone kaput... do we know if this is a widespread issue?
  23. KUguardgrl13 macrumors 68020


    May 16, 2013
    Kansas, USA
    Sorry to again drag up an old thread. I thought I was one of the only ones with this issue! I've been posting about it for months in other threads.

    My issues started a little more than two years ago. Same thing as others have described: flashing folder on startup. I would usually get it after having to do a hard restart from a non-waking issue I have that may or may not be related. I still had AppleCare, so I took it to the nearest Apple Store first where they replaced the SATA cable. Then it happened again, and I went to an AASP instead because it was closer. They replaced the SATA cable twice before also replacing the HDD on the third time. That was early summer 2012. I went almost a year with few problems and then decided to go back to Apple to get the sleep issue checked out again. They replaced the cable and HDD because of "imminent" failure. I was fine through most of the summer until the flashing folder came back. Went back to Apple because it was only a week or teo past the 90 day repair guarantee. This time they took it in the back for a few minutes and came back saying the cable needed to be reseated and that it was fine now. Then the flashing folder came back maybe two weeks later, but I got it working by "reseating" it myself. Then it came back a few days after that, so I went back. That Genius just wiped my HDD and reinstalled OS X after my MBP decided to be temperamental through the whole testing process. I took it home and restored from my Time Machine only to have it fail again the next day. That was mid-September. Since then it's been a giant paperweight on my desk while I waited for and got a new rMBP.

    Since I got a replacement machine I would toss this one away, except that I'm sort of attached to it. It was my first computer that was just mine, and it got me through most of college. It also has an optical drive and a 500gb HDD :rolleyes: I've tried offering it on craigslist for parts, but no one wants to offer much for a four year old machine that needs a new battery and has the SATA cable issue.

    So do you think it's worth going back to Apple again? I'm still within the 90 day window from the last time I went in. I also traded out my Crucial RAM for the original 2gb. The HDD is one they installed. Now that I have a working machine on hand I'm willing to give my 2009 another try. Perhaps if it sits on a desk now instead of being taken around town it will be fine.

    Thanks! Anybody still have their mid-2009? How's it faring?
  24. Swampus macrumors 6502


    Jun 20, 2013
    I'd absolutely go back to Apple. If you're still in the 90 day window, it would be foolish not to. If it turns out to be unrelated to the previous diagnosis (even if that diagnosis was incorrect), it might not be free. But I think the odds are in your favor that something can be worked out to your liking. The Apple stores really do err on the side of pleasing the customer most of the time.
  25. Billywiz1307 macrumors member

    Jul 7, 2009
    Knutsford, UK
    My mid 2009 MBP is still running great, never missed a beat. I think it started out with a 160Gb hdd so I soon upped it to a 500gig drive and 8Gb RAM and then about two years ago I installed a 250gig SSD from Crucial. Mavericks went on with no problem and it has not a blemish on the case or screen, it's immaculate, just like new. It was my first MBP and I love the usability of the Mac.

    As it happens,I've just ordered another 13" MBP with retina, 16Gb and 512Gb pci flash drive. Should see me ok for a while and I will Ebay my mid 2009 MBP.

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