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MacBook Pro 4,1 SSD Failure? Replacement Required?


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dalinian

 
Member Since: Oct 28, 2012
Posts: 5
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I have an October 2008 vintage MacBook Pro 17-inch*, which had been running fine from its factory-fitted customised-to-order 128GB SSD. But now it fails to boot up: when switched on, it eventually leaves a flashing question mark inside a folder icon in the middle of the screen.

* Model ID: MacBookPro 4,1 – Order No: MB766LL/A – Mfg. Part No: A1261 – full spec at EveryMac:
» MacBook Pro "Core 2 Duo" 2.5 17" (08) Specs (Early 2008, MB166LL/A, MacBookPro4,1, A1261, 2199) @ EveryMac.com

I can boot up from an OS X 10.6 installation DVD-ROM, but...
  • when I run Disk Utility, the only drive that appears in the left hand column is the optical Superdrive (MAT****A DVD-R UJ-875) and the “Mac OS X Install DVD” it contains – the 128GB Macintosh SSD is significant by its absence;
  • similarly, System Profiler shows, under Hardware > ATA, both the optical Superdrive (MAT****A DVD-R UJ-875) and the “Mac OS X Install DVD” it contains; but under Hardware > Serial-ATA, it shows only the bus controller chipset (Intel ICH8-M AHCI) – the 128GB SSD does not appear at all;
  • if I try to run the OS X installer, the box below “Select the disk where you want to install Mac OS X” is blank – the Macintosh SSD is absent;
  • if I try to “Choose Startup Disk”, only the install DVD and Network Startup appear – the local Macintosh SSD is missing.

This error state appeared overnight, with the computer sitting still and closed on a table, so no physical trauma could be to blame. I haven't got the appropriate Apple Hardware Test software to run, but I gather it would only indicate a drive's presence/absence, and all of the above already illustrates the 128GB Macintosh SSD's absence.

Given this evidence, I'd like to ask for some help in answering these three questions:
  1. Would I be right to assume that the factory-fitted customised-to-order 128GB SSD has just failed completely?
  2. Would it be worth my while to take the MacBook Pro to an Apple Store for diagnosis?
  3. Or should I just order a replacement SSD (such as an OWC Mercury Electra 3G SSD » OWC Mercury Electra 3G Solid State Drive (SSD) Solutions - High Performance, Reliability, and Endurance ) and get by local computer repair shop to fit it?

Thanks in advance for your attention and assistance.
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bobtomay

 
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I'd check first and make sure the cable hasn't somehow become unattached.

And replacing a hard drive is not all that hard a task, especially if you have ever been inside a computer case. For step-by-step w/pics see here.

I'd go in and remove/reattach the cable first prior to ordering a new drive unless you're ready for an upgrade to a larger drive anyway.

I cannot be held responsible for the things that come out of my mouth.
In the Windows world, most everything folks don't understand is called a virus.
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dalinian

 
Member Since: Oct 28, 2012
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Hey folks – many thanks for your encouraging replies. I posted my plea for community assistance in four forums, and this reply gathers responses from all four places.

“May as well take it in to the apple store for a diagnosis before you buy a new SSD. After all, the diagnosis is free.”
~ clyde2801

“If you have an Apple store near you, then a trip there would certainly confirm/deny you initial diagnosis.”
~ mrmacfixit

You’re right, Clyde and mrmacfixit. So this morning I booked an appointment at the ‘Genius Bar’ of the Apple Store in Kingston. Once there, my MacBook Pro was plugged into an ethernet cable, successfully booted from their network, and a diagnostic software suite showed all was well – except there were no disc drives. In an unhurried discussion with the Apple employee, our Q&A resolved as follows.

Q1. Has the factory-fitted customised-to-order 128GB SSD just failed completely?
A1. Yes.

Q2. Is the Serial ATA bus and connector hardware functioning correctly?
A2. It’s overwhelmingly likely indeed that these parts are functioning just fine (although the case wasn’t opened up).

Q3. If I buy a replacement SSD (eg: 512GB Crucial M4 2.5-inch SATA), would it work in this MacBook Pro?
A3. Yes, it would. Apple could replace the knackered 128GB SSD with an identical but functioning 128GB SSD for c. £420, but since a 512GB Crucial M4 SSD can be had for £272.53, I certainly won’t be availing myself of Apple’s offer.
» CRUCIAL M4 Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) - 512 GB - WAE+

Q4. Is there a firmware upgrade available to raise the speed of the SATA bus from its current 1.5 Gbit/s (SATA rev.1) to 3.0 Gbit/s (SATA rev.2) or 6.0 Gbit/s (SATA rev.3)?
A4. No. So that’s going to set an upper limit on SSD operations of 1.5 Gbit/s, or 192 MB/s (according to Google calculator).

“Wow. Those OWC SSDs are expensive. Plus, they're Sandforce based drives, which have had trouble in the past. I'd wait until you see a good deal on a Crucial M4 or Samsung 830.”

~ T5BRICK

Thanks for the pointers, T5BRICK. Now I’m committed to buying a 512 GB SSD, tomorrow will be dedicated to further and detailed pre-purchase research.

“You didn't mention what Factory fitted the SSD.
[It was Apple’s factory in Changhai, China, following my custom order instructions, which were posted through the Apple Store UK website, back in October 2008]
But that is probably a moot point right now.
As for a replacement, the Macsales one should do and competent shop, preferably one who deals with Apple gear, would be able to install it for you.”

~ mrmacfixit

“I would just go for option #3 and replace it yourself. If you don't feel comfortable going the DIY route, any shop should be able to replace it but OWC offers excellent videos and step-by-step instructions on how do DIY.
Since SSDs have been out on the market for such a short time, and since you've had yours for 4 years, I think it's safe to assume that it's just dead. Order from OWC - their 3Gbps drives would be perfect for you. A bit pricey comparing similar drives from Crucial but they've actually better Mac support than Crucial.
Good luck,”

~ Clinton

“The Apple Genius will tell you exactly the same thing: The SSD is toast. [Indeed he did]
If you're good with following directions and OK with small screws, replacing the SSD isn't rocket science. Print out 2 copies of the instructions from iFixit.com (or just have it put in somewhere)
Use one of the print-outs to tape the small screws to, exactly as you take them out. Putting them back in is in reverse, just make sure you don't leave any screw still taped to the print-out.”

~ Idefix

Thanks for the encouraging suggestions, mrmacfixit, Clinton and Idefix. I’m getting by using Ubuntu on a donated 2001-vintage Compaq notebook, but it was impressively easy to plug in a Bluetooth adapter and set up Bluetooth printing to my HP Deskjet 460 – so Idefix’s lovely ‘taping the screws to the pix’ recommendation is a possibility. However, at the moment I’m more minded to get my local computer repair shop to do the new SSD fixing and fitting.

“I'd check first and make sure the cable hasn't somehow become unattached.
And replacing a hard drive is not all that hard a task, especially if you have ever been inside a computer case. For step-by-step w/pics see here. [ifixit link]
I'd go in and remove/reattach the cable first prior to ordering a new drive unless you're ready for an upgrade to a larger drive anyway.”

~ bobtomay

Hmmm... I realise I’ve been putting off solving this hitch until I could afford “an upgrade to a larger drive anyway” – so that’s the route I’ll be taking, since the 128 GB SSD had been feeling too small for quite some time anyway. In the vanishingly unlikely scenario that the old 128 GB SSD isn’t toast, has just become detached, and does still in fact work, I can always convert it to an external USB 2 drive with the likes of a 2.5-inch SATA hard drive enclosure:
» StarTech 2.5" SATA Hard Drive Enclosure with.. | Ebuyer.com

With any luck, I’ll be posting a final thread-closing message from a revitalised MacBook Pro in there near future.
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dalinian

 
Member Since: Oct 28, 2012
Posts: 5
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I Can Haz a DIY Suckcess!

I'm very pleased indeed to report that I have resurrected my MacBook Pro with a fresh 512GB SSD – and a spot of lens cleaning inside its SuperDrive.

Detailed SSD research led me to choose this wee powerhouse:
• OCZ Vertex 4 – 512GB
Info » OCZ Vertex 4 SATA III 2.5" SSD - OCZ
Review » OCZ Vertex 4 256GB SSD Review - TechSpot Reviews (8 webpages)

Given that the the original, factory-fitted, and now defunct 128GB Samsung SSD which Apple chose to fit in 2008 lasted no longer than the spinning platter hard drive in my previous G4 PowerBook, the three most important aspects of the OCZ Vertex 4 that led me to choose it are:
• FIVE year warranty (whereas the norm from most other SSD manufacturers is a three year warranty)
• Ndurance 2.0 Technology – Advanced suite of NAND Flash management to increase durability and reliability to expand the NAND's lifespan.
• Indilinx Infused Everest 2 platform – Leading edge dual-ARM controller architecture enables faster performance like nothing else you've experienced.

The best price I could find in the UK was £316.43 (inc. VAT) from:
• Buy-HP.com
» OCZ VERTEX 4 512GB 2.5" SATA III MLC

The most useful research resource I found for helping to choose a new SSD was:
• ‘Sean’s SSD Buyers Guide & Information Thread’, by Sean Webster, storage editor at Overclock.net
» Sean's SSD Buyers Guide & Information Thread

With many thanks to...
• encouragement from forum posts by Clinton, Idefix, and bobtomay to Do It Myself
• a Rolson 28296 Precision Screwdriver and Bit Set (plus tweezers and reading glasses)
» Rolson 28296 Precision Screwdriver and Bit Set (33 Pieces): Amazon.co.uk: DIY & Tools
• wonderfully accurate, detailed, and fully illustrated How To’s from iFixit: The free repair manual , specifically:
— MacBook Pro 17" Models A1151 A1212 A1229 and A1261 Hard Drive Replacement
» MacBook Pro 17" Models A1151 A1212 A1229 and A1261 Hard Drive Replacement - iFixit
— MacBook Pro 17" Models A1151 A1212 A1229 and A1261 Optical Drive Replacement
» MacBook Pro 17" Models A1151 A1212 A1229 and A1261 Optical Drive Replacement - iFixit
— Technique: Optical Drive Disc Removal Technique
» Optical Drive Disc Removal Technique - iFixit
...I replaced the original, factory-fitted, and now defunct 128GB Samsung SSD which Apple chose with a 512GB OCZ Vertex 4 SSD of my own choosing.

Unfortunately, attempting to install OS X from a 10.6 Snow Leopard DVD-ROM failed, with these messages in the installer log:
Oct 31 11:38:17 localhost OSInstaller[143]: error processing data: Input/output error
Oct 31 11:38:17 localhost OSInstaller[143]: Retrying file://localhost/System/Installation/Packages/BaseSystem.pkg after 1 failure(s)
Oct 31 11:38:30 localhost OSInstaller[143]: reading from /System/Installation/Packages/BaseSystem.pkg: Input/output error
Oct 31 11:38:30 localhost OSInstaller[143]: error processing data: Input/output error
Oct 31 11:38:30 localhost OSInstaller[143]: Retrying file://localhost/System/Installation/Packages/BaseSystem.pkg after 2 failure(s)
Oct 31 11:38:43 localhost OSInstaller[143]: reading from /System/Installation/Packages/BaseSystem.pkg: Input/output error
Oct 31 11:38:43 localhost OSInstaller[143]: error processing data: Input/output error
Oct 31 11:38:43 localhost OSInstaller[143]: Retrying file://localhost/System/Installation/Packages/BaseSystem.pkg after 3 failure(s)
Oct 31 11:38:56 localhost OSInstaller[143]: reading from /System/Installation/Packages/BaseSystem.pkg: Input/output error
Oct 31 11:38:56 localhost OSInstaller[143]: error processing data: Input/output error
Oct 31 11:39:00 localhost OSInstaller[143]: Failed to retrieve file://localhost/System/Installation/Packages/BaseSystem.pkg (Error Domain=NSPOSIXErrorDomain Code=5 UserInfo=0x1299518c0 "The operation couldn’t be completed. Input/output error")
Oct 31 11:39:00 localhost OSInstaller[143]: Failed to download package from file://localhost/System/Installation/Packages/BaseSystem.pkg and no alternate source.
Oct 31 11:39:02 localhost OSInstaller[143]: Install failed: The Installer could not copy the necessary support files.

A Philips DVD lens cleaner disc didn’t fix the read error, but here’s what did: removing the Matsu****a UJ-875 SuperDrive, opening it up, and wiping its lens with a glasses cleaning cloth. All subsequent disc reads and writes (CD-R and DVD-R) have worked perfectly.

On Sunday, I was the depressed owner of a bricked MacBook Pro. By Thursday evening, I was back to using my much-beloved OS X from a blisteringly fast and hopefully long-lived 512GB SSD (with the added bonus of now being no stranger to DIY repairs inside its case). Thanks again to all the respondents mentioned above for the helping role you played in making this magnificent tech resurrection happen.
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