How to save your MacBook Pro hard drive

Isn’t it beautiful when using your MacBook / MacBook Pro, you just close the lid and the computer instantly goes into the sleep mode? Even better, you just open it and in a few seconds you are where you were before.

And the coolest of all is when you’re in a hurry, you just shut the lid, put the computer into the bag and run downstairs, or jump on your bike and off you go. Right ?


What I just described above is a big no-no if you have a MacBook, MacBook Pro or the very last model PowerBook (late 2005).

The reason for this is SafeSleep, a technology Apple introduced to all portable computers since October 2005.

What happens when ‘normal’ computers are put into sleep mode is that the memory is supplied with a very small amount of power to keep its content ‘alive’. When you wake up the computer, it will be in the state you left it before. But in case of a power failure, or battery going completely flat, the memory will lose the power and therefore your data is gone. Game over.

Apple’s SafeSleep works similar to this but it has something else for when the disaster strikes. When you close the lid the computer goes to sleep mode, but not instantly. Firstly, it copies entire content of its memory onto the hard drive, and then goes to normal sleep mode. Once you wake up the computer, the memory is already loaded and you can use it straight away.

If you lost the power/battery, once you power on the computer again, the memory content that was stored onto the hard disk will be loaded, so you take it from where you left it before. You will see the black and white screen while this is happening, so don’t panic, your display is just fine.

And this is exactly where the problem is. You must not move your computer while the data is written to the hard drive. You have to wait until the sleep light on the front starts pulsing. This may take anything between 10 and 30 seconds, depends on the amount of memory you have installed in your computer.

This is what Apple’s MBP manual states:

Warning: Wait a few seconds until the white sleep indicator light on the display latch starts pulsating (indicating that the computer is in sleep and the hard disk has stopped spinning) before you move your MacBook Pro. Moving your computer while the hard disk is spinning can damage the hard disk, causing loss of data or the inability to start up from the hard disk.

So, you wonder – what difference does it make, Apple notebooks have the Sudden Motion Sensor and will prevent any data loss or disk damage ?

Wrong again! The Sudden Motion Sensor has no effect in this situation, so you’ll be better off to leave your computer to finish the job it has to do.

Update 03-Aug-2008: There is a glimpse of hope that you can still save your data and get your hard drive running again, read my article How to revive a dead hard drive.

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102 thoughts on “How to save your MacBook Pro hard drive

  1. George says:

    Thanks for this important information. I move room to room frequently and could see this (data corruption) happening to me. My new rule: It (MBP) doesn’t move until the light pulses.

  2. Tom says:

    Also another thing you have to watch out for – turn AirPort OFF before sending your computer to sleep. If it is left on it damages the card and will eventually break it.

    To iTux,
    I have an iBook G4 and I never had the problem mentioned in the above article. When I shut the lid it immediately starts pulsing. If you have a problem maybe you should get your computer checked out (mine is brand new).

  3. Noah says:

    I’ve had my new MacBook Pro (C2D) 15″ unexpectedly restart a couple times after putting it to sleep. I think I may have moved the machine right after shutting the lid. Perhaps SafeSleep is the cause of the restarts?

  4. abh19 says:

    I’ve had the same thing happen that Noah had. Put my macbook to sleep, then immediately put it down beside me. It restarted immediately with the lid closed. Anybody know why this is? I think it might be because the SMS sensor is getting activated but it can’t stop the drive in this procedure… and the computer figures it will be better to scrap the memory than return from safe-sleep with potentially corrupted memory.

    How do you know that the SMS has no effect during this situation? Is it educated guess or is that what apple says?

  5. joe says:

    Someone posted a nice article on disabling Safe Sleep:

    My MBP now sleeps instantly, like a PowerBook! The only problem is that the Energy Saver preferences pane will overwrite the Safe Sleep settings back to the default, turning it back on. So I guess I’ll have to re-apply the fix after making any changes in Energy Saver.

    Many people have reported overheating of MBPs that either wake up in their bags or, perhaps more likely, never went to sleep in the first place. By disabling Safe Sleep, you may avoid problems that cause an MBP to stay awake after being closed. It’s nice to know that your computer is actually asleep before putting it in its bag, and it’s really nice not having to wait 20 seconds for it to sleep!

    To Lucas: With the default Safe Sleep mode on, the display dims to black and the sleep light goes on steady while the memory is copied to the hard drive. After the data is written, the sleep light starts pulsating to show that the machine is fully asleep. It is not really asleep until the light is pulsating.

  6. Bob says:

    I recently formatted my PC with my external hard drive connected at the time of formatting. I am pretty sure that it should have not affected my external hard but as soon as i was done, i noticed that my next. hard drive wasn’t showing up. I go into Computer Management then Disk Management and it shows up. It does not have a Drive Letter assigned to it. I right click on it and all that shows up is the “help”. I cant change drive letter or even open it from there. Its a FireLite Model#USBFLB60-C 60 gig. I have had it for a few months now. Please help.

  7. Nicholas Thompson says:

    Interesting article. My Mac Book Pro recently died of hard disk failure after only 6 weeks. I wonder if this is what happened as my previous laptop was an iBook G4 which went to sleep instantly. I shall bear all this in mind when I get my laptop back! I’ve blogged about by failing gem of a laptop on my site:

    I really hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else – its really annoying!

  8. Enoc says:

    my new (brand new) MacBook has just lost the ability to start up from its hard drive…in fact the hard drive does not appear at all when i’ve tried to restart it from my software start up dvd… i have just read this article and am almost 90% sure this is what happened… is there any way i can start up from my hard drive again or is it permanently damage??? any help i welcome… i never had this type of problem with my older iBook… it went to sleep immediatly…

  9. Nicholas Thompson says:

    When you power the MBP up, can you hear the hard disk making clicking and/or buzzing type noises? Thats what happened to mine. I powered it up and I got the “Dong” noise Mac’s make when they proudly power on, but then the hard disk made weird noises. It couldn’t be seen to boot off and the Disk Utility on the restore disk couldn’t see it either.

    I’m going to pick my laptop up today, took them 1 week to order the hard disk and fit it – it was the 100Gb 7200rpm option when I bought it. There seemed to be no way of retrieving the old drive.

  10. abh19 says:

    You may have corrupted your safe sleep file. Try resetting the PRAM. I read somewhere that it tells the computer to start up without looking for the safe-sleep image. Not sure if this is the case for all models… not even sure it works, but I thought I’d mention it. Start up using command-option-p-r, wait for two chimes and then release the keys. (that might only work for powerbooks with safe sleep enabled… since safe sleep is default for macbooks)

    If that doesn’t work, you can try resetting the PMU.

    Also, not sure if this will work for your macbook, but check out under the heading of “Troubleshooting” (the part about open firmware commands).

    Don’t know anything about these, maybe something will work.

  11. Shift says:

    My trusty iBook G4 died after 3 years of rather violent use. Gradually the hard drive started making buzzing/scratching noises as opposed to the normal “click whirrr click click”. One day it just showed the awful “file not found” symbol when booting up. I’m positive that this was caused by the needle of the hard drive jamming against the disk. So, i went through the extremely complex process of changeing the hard-drive on my iBook and and like magic, everything was fine again (exept for the fact that all my docs were gone, along with 7 gigs of music).

    The moral of this story: be gentle to your mac when the hd is spinning, even with your new-fangled sms doohickies.

  12. Teri says:

    Help. My mac died. Well, sort of died… It will boot up, but will not completely turn on. Older G4. I have restarted by holding down control, fn and shift, and also reset power supply thing in the back – no go. Does anyone have any ideas? On deadline and did not back up this job. If it is the HD I will just, well… just cry. Call me with ideas on 407 702 1211. Thanks in advance.

  13. Friedrich says:

    Teri – Take your battery out and put it back on after a few seconds. Plug the power cord ’till you see the battery lights glow. Hope that helps.

  14. Curt says:

    I purchased a MBP with great excitement! I was so excited about my new machine, I pulled office work out of my computer bag so I could take it on a business trip along with my Win notebook. I loved it … that is until it failed hard after less than ONE day of ownership. After talking to the nearest Apple Store they said that they would need to send it in … AMAZING. Less than one day old, the MBP dies and I have to WAIT to have it repaired. This is nuts … not at all what I expected from Apple. First class service when I want to spend money … second class service after the fact.

  15. Curt says:

    Update … I went to the Apple store, spoke with the manager and explained the situation. He apologized for the experience and immediately told me he would go get a new MBP. I was in the Apple store with a co-worker and he was very impressed with the awesome service I received.

  16. Ned says:

    Amazing that apple would not write the data onto some type of flash memory, just like a 1 meg and shut down the hard drive instantaneously .

  17. AA says:

    Had similar problem and lost all data. hard drive failed after a few months and 2 days before I left london. Went to apple store first thing the following morning and explained the situation. I was accommodated even without appointment and had the hard drive replaced within the same day. nice service!

  18. Aceh says:

    I bought a MBP in June 2007 (because it was beautiful) and it had a hard drive failure within 10 days. Boy, was I disappointed! I had a bit of a run around with tech support, but ultimately the Apple store gave me a new one. They even called the Applecare to switch machines for support. If the sleep issue is the failure mode, it would be useful for tech support to inform people of this so that a second machine does not also fail. Now I will be watchful _and_ I am going to back up regularly. Seems like a lot of people have problems with the power supply too. I thought Apple machines were reliable.

    I have to say thought, I never had any issues with my HP laptop in over 3 years of use. The MBP is nice to use but I can’t believe how delicate it is.

  19. KAS says:

    How about if you are running WIndows Vista or some flavor of Linux. Will the sms still be working, or should I be very careful to never move the computer when running one of the alternative OS’s. (Please don’t bash me for having Vista too, part of working in a Windows based shop…)

  20. Mikael says:

    I’ve experienced 6 hard drive failures with 2 macbook pros and 1 macbook during the last year. First I experienced 3 crashes on my work MBP during last autumn, got a replacement that failed me within a month on the airplane to an extremely important business meeting.

    I read this article and disabled safesleep on my work MBP and home MB. Last july my MBP crashed again and now my MB did the same yesterday! I left in the morning after having checked schedules on the MBP and when I came back in the evening the machine was on the desk with fans screaming and not reacting to anything. Force shutdown + reboot led to just clicking noises and folder icon with question mark, DiskUtility cannot even find the hard drive.

    The machines are not abused, I’ve had several Powerbooks and iBooks without any issues. The home MB was mostly used as a desktop (i.e. rarely moved) .

    ARGH! This is extremely frustrating, during this year I’ve learned to take backups so data losses have not been an issue (OK, I just lost 2 days worth of work on the MB for a paper that I started writing this week and that has a deadline next wednesday). Although I LOVE Macintosh (been using them for almost 20 years), I have no use for hardware that I cannot rely on when I need to get work done. In this era of cell phones, music players, set-top-boxes, has Apple forgotten that some people actually use their hardware also for work where reliability is a key factor?

  21. quill 2 says:

    Interesting to find all these problems with macbook + macbook pros. I just tried to help a friend with a year old macbook. The machine has not been abused and the hard drive has gone AWOL. Utilities and system profiler can’t even see the hard disk. It does the clicking sound at start up then continues but the clicks are more spaced out and there is a grey screen… Anyone know how I might pull some of the data off the drive?

  22. Ali says:

    Wow, it’s finally interesting to find a place where people are having the same problems as I have with my macbook and it’s hard drive. Mine has had dead drives twice over the past six months and I never abused it! I didn’t try disabling the SafeSleep feature here though, but who knows. I’ve ordered another drive from Hitachi under their HD warranty , but if this one fails too, I’m afraid that I’ll have to ditch my Macbook altogether(already out of its 1 year warranty, no Applecare, etc). I really don’t have the time with my work to have shoddy hardware even though I love Macintosh. I’ve lost data and time due to this issue and Apple hasn’t been helpful. Who has time to ship back and forth with contracted HD manufacturers employed by apple? I sure as hell don’t.

    It seems like this is one of the few places where this issue is taken seriously. I was reading a thread on Macrumors and some kid was laughed at by everyone else for voicing his problem. Fortunately, the Apple Service Forums site has people who actually voice constructive points. Sadly, the only thing is to replace and pray. Maybe third times the charm?

  23. mike says:

    OMG, i am having this problem right know, half the time i restart (which is rare) i get a flashing kernel, i tried re-installing OSX however it does not seem to even recognise that there is a Hrad Drive, any useful comments on fixing this will be helpfull. All i want to do is reinstall Tiger, i have a MBP.

  24. Georgina says:

    I don’t understand why you’d want to disable the safesleep. Doesn’t that mean it would only be in normal sleep and thus still have the possibility that the hard drive would be spinning while you moved it? Isn’t it better to just wait for the light to start pulsing before you move it? On mine, with 2GB of RAM, this happens quite quickly…

  25. eddie says:

    I recently had the same problem. I was updating itunes when I got the spinning beachball. The computer was unresponsive. I held down the power button and shut it down. When I tried to power back up I got the grey screen with the flashing folder and question mark. I’ve tried to reset the NVRAM with no luck. Installer does not see a hard drive in the system any more. I don’t know if this is related to safesleeep.

    Does anyone know of an effective way to recover data from a failed hard drive?

  26. joe says:

    My MB is almost 3 months old and this is my first MAC. I also have the 2G Intel version and have had the restart when I slode the lid every few days but was unsure why before finsing this discussion.

    What should I be doing besides periodically backing up? Should I be at the MAC store asking for something or writing Apple a complaint? I hate to just wait to see if I’m one of the ones who’s gonig to lose everything in a crash.

    This is also the only MAC I have and my desktop is a PC. Will I be able to access my backed up files while I’m waiting for replacement parts?

    Should I make this just a for-fun computer and buy a DELL like I’ve had till now?

  27. rob says:

    Add me to the list. I bought my Blacbook in May ’06 and it has worked quite well except for the failed battery (replaced by Apple despite being beyond the 1 year mark). I ran down the battery to 8% last night and went to bed. When I connected the power cord and opened the macbook this morning it had gone to 0% and started charging again. About a half hour into using it, the machine froze and is now making a clicking noise (probably the hard drive), leaving me with only the welcome tone and the folder with the question mark.

    It seems like this is happening to a lot of people lately. And two months since my last backup…

  28. sysengr says:

    Here’s another one – MBP 17″ worked fine for first 5 months, was sitting on table with screen saver running and all of a sudden it started to click. It doesn’t have to be a MBP to recognize that sound – head retraction. Now it won’t get past the first beep.

    What I want to know is if there is a hard drive recovery service anywhere, and if Apple care will let you keep the crashed drive to try to recover it but still give you a new one. Any experience?

  29. macrashed says:

    my first hard drive on my macbook died one day 2 months old with no warning. i never thought about the above warning. now i read it and i still have a really hard time not just closing the lid and getting up and going. i have 2gb or ram and it takes usually 20 seconds for it to start blinking. i mean its a laptop. normal people shut it and stand up..that means they have to move it. waiting 20 seconds to move is annoying. and i seem to always forget. i just got up and put the laptop on the bounced..and then i remembered the hard drive. was still solid light..15 seconds later it started blinking. great.

  30. miishie says:

    Bought a new macbook pro w/160gb, 7200rpm in September. Had it 2 1/2 weeks when, while checking my mail, it just died. The blinking folder with the question mark came up when I rebooted. Needless to say I was slightly freaked out! Brought it to the apple store and, after a week, got a call saying my hard drive was dead. Completely. They gave me the old one back to take to a data recovery place. Unfortunately, the data could not be recovered. I was told that the plate (sorry not a techie so he put it to me in simple terms!) was so scratched up from the spindle that nothing could be done. He said think of a scratched up cd. Slightly miffed as I had 2 1/2 weeks worth of work on it! Unfortunately, I was away from home when it happened. I do have a desktop external drive that I back up to …and now I own an external portable one. No reason was given. Just that “hard drives die sometimes.” Must say, with all my old macs I never had a dying hard drive problem!

  31. macrashed says:

    hey, by the way, what is the simplest way to back up everything to an external hard drive, something sort of automated. all the external hard drives come with one touch back ups for pc’s, but don’t know of a simple solution for mac. seems like they want you to use .mac for $99 a year. any ideas?

  32. macbeliever32 says:

    Macrashed should get 10.5 and use there new backup applications

    after reading all these threads It seems to me the issues are the Hardrives themselves
    several years ago I worked for a company who deployed new dells for this petroleum company. the next year I was back at the same place replacing all the Hard drives in these new machines. This seems to me Just like the batteries catching fire that apple, dell and sony had to deal with just a year ago. I have a PB g4 1.25Ghz and reciently upgraded my hard drive. besides my backlit keys no longer work its been a great machine I move it around all the time wile its working. Ive set it to render at my desk, carry it out to my car and drive to work while its still running and put it on my desk at work; still working!

    My hard drive will not fit in the new MBP I’m currently shopping for; its a completely different interface. I would imagine these new drives are more delicate than there predecessors. Back up Regularly, be aware and more careful blame the drives and not apple : )

  33. Dancingtotheclick says:

    MBP giving me the constant clicking and is freezing up 2-3 times a day. After reading these posts (thanks) I have gotten everything to a trusty external drive. I have extended warranty which hopefully covers replacing the hard drive. Apple support wait time is over 1 hour and before I drive 1 hour to my local apple store – can they replace the drive at the store or is this something I/they need to send it out?

    I am assuming he drive is covered under the warranty which might be wrong, I am just trying to minimize my downtime.

    My old macbook has been dropped several times and has never skipped a beat.

    BTW – The store I am talking about is Schaumburg, Illinois if anyone has experience with that store.

  34. Jay says:

    Very interesting thread. Many thanks to all those offering insight into the MB and MBP hard drive problems. The Hitachi 160 GB HD on my 3-month old MB died suddenly two weeks ago. Been using Macs for 20 years, and never experienced this before.

    Thanks to this thread, I’ve learned that my habit of moving the MB before it was probably truly asleep may have contributed to the failure. Most stuff was backed up, but not music and outgoing email, and oddly not documents created in the past two months (can’t explain this).

    An expert local shop was unable to recover the data through software. I investigated several fancy recovery services (Drive Savers, Gill, others), but decided not to use one, as they’re very expensive: $800-3000. The Apple store manager gave me a new computer, not just a new HD, which was cool. But he would have insisted on keeping the bad HD.

    iTunes customer service authorized a special re-download of the 150 or so songs I had purchased, so kudos to them, although about 10 songs are no longer licensed to them, so they’re gone. eMusic permits redownloading as a matter of policy, so no problem there.

    Regarding email, I learned that ISPs do not keep copies of outgoing messages sent through them from a computer using an email client like Mail or Entourage, so going forward I’ve added email to my backup protocol.

    Bought a new eternal HD, a Seagate Free Agent 240 GB with USB 2.0 only, for $79 at Office Depot. It works fine so far. Now using Apple’s Backup 3 software, which is pretty intuitive, and when I upgrade to Leopard will use Time Machine.

    All in all, a huge hassle, but not a disaster. I’ve learned my lesson regarding doing comprehensive and more systematic backups. Thanks again to those posting info and suggestions on the dangers of moving a MB before it’s fully asleep.

  35. ST3W13 says:

    Just to add to the list, I was just browsing the web on my 15 mo. old MacBook when the screen just froze & the spinning wheel cursor started spinning. I could hear a faint click-click of the hard drive but it stopped spinning & I could not get it to restart. The darn thing just died with NO prior issues. That’s the odd part–after some 15+ years of tech work, I’ve never encountered a drive that just inexplicably died without some data failure, noises, or some indication before failure.

    I tried the usual fixes (unsuccessfully)& ultimately popped the drive into an external enclosure & it cannot be recognized. It’s dead, dead, dead. Great!!!

    And yeah, it sure seems mighty suspicious that Apple would close down the thread discussing this very same problem.

  36. Jason says:

    Okay, add me to the list as well. I have a MB with 2Gigs of ram and Hitatchi 160 gig hard disk. My MB is only 5 months old and I’m waiting for the second drive replacement from Apple (sigh).

    My habit is to never shutdown, and occasionally reboot. I often use my MB in my lap (not at a table) and I always put my MB in sleep mode when I’m done- oh such a fool was I!

    I’ll try disabling SafeSleep when I get my new hard disk. However, if this keeps up I’ll exit stage left and by some other laptop- and that would be a real tragedy for me and Apple!

    Thank you for the enlightenment!


  37. John MacInnes says:

    Hi everyone.

    here’s my problem, and if anyone can shed any light on it I would be eternally grateful.

    Bought a MBP 15″ 12 months ago, warranty expired 15 days ago. Worked fine at first and then late september 2007 a prog froze, the spinning beachball appeared, and I could not force quit. Had to power down using power button.

    When restarted white screen with flashing file icon displaying a question mark. Spent over an hour on tel with Apple who finally decided HD was knackered.

    It was replaced on 1st October 2007, and guess what……last night exactly same problem, working away fine, a program freezes (different one from first crash) couldn’t force quit again so had no option but to power down, and at this point you bare all ahead of me…Yes wouldnt boot again.

    Spoken to Apple tonight and once again because HD is not being recognised they tell me it needs another new one, 2 hard drives in 6 weeks, surely this must be a record ? – anyone have any ideas what the hell is going on here?

  38. Nick G-T says:


    I bought a MBP 15″ 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo four weeks ago and I have the following concern: When the macbook falls into sleep mode whilst the screen is open, when I press the space bar to wake up the macbook, it tends to respond (I hear the clicking sound) but the screen does not come on until I press a key several more times. Could this be the start of the issues discussed above?

    I was not aware that I had to put the macbook to sleep before moving so I have not been as delicate as perhaps I should. I had no idea – being portable I would not have thought moving a laptop whilst awake would be an issue.

    Any comments would be appreciated.

  39. Tiffany says:

    I have been using a Mac since 1986. I have NEVER had the issues with any of them like this before. In the mid 90’s there were some system issues. But this appears to be hardware. I have had to erase and reinstall three times. I have lost countless hours on the phone with AppleCare. Every few months I begin having catalog issues, and from there it’s all down hill. Disk Utility can’t fix it.

    Maybe Apple needs a class action to wake them up to the obvious problems they are not addressing.

  40. John says:

    Ahh, MacBook pro drive just died, i closed the lid and put the machine on it side next to my bed, although fairly carefully i heard a funny clicking sound start coming from the box, yep the hard drive is screwed.

    I got 10.5 but turned time machine off 4 days ago because of another issue, so i lost alot of work, i been putting in long hours this week for a deadline.

    I have never actually had a hard drive die on me like this ever. maybe i have been lucky, not this time.

    Just swapped the drive out for another, the one that died was hitachi.

    So like the man says, dont move it until the power goes off, no safety mechanisms working here.

  41. ssent1 says:

    Unfortunately, I have to add to this list. I’m a first time Mac user who really wants to feel the same sense of pride that users from earlier generations felt; now that my hard drive failed on my, I feel a sense of shame.

    I’m writing this from my external backup — thank God, I backup frequently — (I’ve been happy with Carbon Copy Cloner).

    In my case, I left my computer on to drain and calibrate the battery. First thing in the morning, I turned my MB on and guess what? You guessed it–flashing folder with a question mark and clicking noises. I was on the phone over an hour with Apple’s tech support, who ultimately told me to go to my Apple store and have them check it out. I did. Dead hard drive.

    Since my MB is 2006, my AppleCare has expired. I’d like to think that if this is systemic issue that Apple would stand behind their products. Wish me luck.

  42. neel says:

    Add me to the list guys. 8 months ago made the swap from pc to mac. barely had it two weeks HD crashed inexplicably, had it replaced and now yesterday was retrieving mail, spinning wheel could not force quit, powered down and bang only grey screen and question mark folder with clicking sounds from the hard drive. This is beyong ridiculous reading the thread above and yes a class action suit is needed. This is unacceptable. nobody waits 20 seconds to power down and put their laptop in the bag when on the move

  43. dave says:

    Same problem though mine did last a little over a year. I was in the middle of downloading battery died on connecting power suppply BAM grey screen blinking icon with question mark. My first mac with all due respect after reading this MY LAST MAC!

  44. Sonny says:

    I’m writing this from my Treo because my 9-month old 17″ MBP died. I got beachballed while checking mail, powered down, then after powering back up I get the grey Apple logo for several minutes and eventually a circle with a slash through it (like a DO NOT ENTER sign).

    I have an old Titanium Powerbook that has never had a single issue. I can’t believe how many others are having the same problem.

    I expect the issue is with the Hitachi drives rather than the MBPs. All the failed drives appear to be Hitachis. Hmmm…

  45. Aaron says:

    Looks like I’m not alone. It’s amazing how perfectly terrible the timing of my wifes MB harddrive failure was. Bought it for her Dec 3 last year as Christmas present, gave to her on 25th, failed this year Dec 10…less than a year of use (good for Apple), more than a year after purchased = I lose. Sadly my wife had not backed up any of her documents, which was 8 months of papers for her Masters in Teaching, all gone now. I agree with the mob, class action seems neccessary and prudent. Regardless of the level of consumerism in a country, something that costs hundreds to thousands of dollars must last more than a year. I am going to try replacing with new Hitachi drive, but reading the above posts, I’m skeptical this will fix much. Sorry for all of your issues, I feel your pain.

  46. Gary says:

    Well it looks like I will have to join this distinguished list. I have had my 2.4 Macbook Pro 17″ just over 8 months and have treated it with care – anyway 2 hours ago while doing nothing more than browsing the web it suddenly went into beach ball mode and wouldn’t respond to any commands. It started to also overheat? Anyway had to power down, tried various resets, startups/utilities with system disks and external drives – nothing. A disk with 140MB of data on just stopped working! This is absolutely my worst experience with a mac simply because there was no warning or sense that the drive was about to fail – it had been on a desk all day without any movement at all? I do back up but will lose about 3 weeks data and hundreds of hours of installing and fine tuning the many apps I use. This is often overlooked – it will take me probably 3-4 weeks to get the apps and data back to where they were, it is not just about copying a bunch of docs, pictures and music (which I think apple sometimes think thats all we do with these machines – to me it is a professional tool and goddamit they can’t sell them as such (price tag and supposed reliability) if they know the main component (the one that holds the content) can just die like this…Even though I have 3 year protection I frankly couldn’t give a monkey’s that I get a hard drive replacement (which they buy in bulk at $50 or less per 160GB unit), I would like Apple to give me back 4-5 weeks of my life!!

    Sorry 2 hours and the pain is still pretty raw…I am writing this on a trusty Pismo Firewire Black mac BTW circa 2000 before Apple cared more about its MP3 players than loyal computer buyers…grits teeth…

  47. Ron says:

    I convinced a Japanese friend of mine to buy a MacBook a little over a year ago. He just called up and said it died this morning while he was web-browsing using Firefox; he’s bringing it by for me to look at, but it sounds like the disk has died. (I talked him through start-up using the installer DVD, and neither the installer or Disk Utility sees the disk, evidently.)

    This particular machine has had its share of problems. It crapped out in the middle of a firmware update a few months after he got it and had to be sent in for repairs. We just updated it to 10.4.11 last week. (I noticed then that the reboot took an unusually long time, but he says it’s been working fine since then. Until this morning.) This isn’t really what I wanted to be doing today.

  48. John says:

    Joining the list as well πŸ™ … My macbook hard drive died last night and got replaced this afternoon for 100 euros. I am going to follow through with the advice regarding the sleep mode, however, and call me paranoid (because i lost 80g of data that wasn’t backed up), does anyone think using firefox puts the machine into any danger? or (yes i know, geeky) world of warcraft? It’s just that firefox crashes at least once every day, and also i started playing world of warcraft just last week and the macbook seemed to be a bit burdened by the whole thing.

  49. Bret says:

    My wife’s MacBook HD bit it this morning – the blinking folder with a question mark… rebooting from disc (10.5.1, recently upgraded) could not find any hard drive which, by the way, was making those infamous clicking sounds. I am feeling bad because I was just getting ready to get her into a backup routine. She lost over a year of kid photos ++ unless I can get them recovered. One question… last night I tried cleaning up her desktop by copying everything into the documents folder and then dragging the files to the garbage. I noticed that the desktop files didn’t move and realized the hard drive was among the things I selected with the “apple A” command. At this point I dragged only the data files to the garbage and then proceeded to empty the garbage. There were 1700 files here which seems impossible and it seemed to take forever. I am wondering if somehow I did erase her hard drive in this process but that would not explain our inability to see the hard drive when trying to boot from disc, would it?

  50. lucas says:

    me too. dead dead dead. tried all fixes. can’t find my HD anywhere. data recovery quotes over 1grand. maybe 2. considering sticking the HD in the freezer now. anyone have any recovery luck? or more reasonable prices? must back-up.

  51. lucas says:

    i reset PRAM, power, tried target disk mode, used external enclosure, ran disk warrior, used disk utility, safe-mode, single user mode, fsck. everything. apple servicer said he couldn’t do anything either. any idea how much apple charges for data recovery? apl care guy said they would quote me if i sent it to them…but then i may just lose the drive to them too…

  52. John says:

    I have been asking around and apparently there’s a faulty Hitachi hard drive production line that apple full well know about, but will do nothing to sort out, or to make it public. This is just ridiculous… never heard of something like this happening before.

  53. Bentley says:

    At the risk of adding a “me too.”

    Me too.

    13″ PoweBook, 10.4.9. Eudora was giving me a spinning beach ball, and it was getting late. Stupidly closed the lid, and was rewarded with the blinking question mark folder the next day, along with some nasty clicking sounds. No apps recognize the drive. But in the original drive from six months ago, which I’m using now, attempted to recover from bad drive with a USB-SATA cable, no luck, lots of scary clicking sounds.

    So it’s not just a Hitachi issue as my dead drive is a WD Scorpio (WD1200BEVS) . Gillware ( has recovered NTFS drives for me and co-workers before, and their price for that format is reasonable. It doubles for Mac OS however! Ouch.

  54. Bob says:

    My 2006 15″ MacBook Pro has segued from perfect working order on Monday evening through grey screen perpetual loop, through archive and install but then with the slowest performance I’ve ever experienced, through blinking question mark with no hard drive found (today wednesday 8:39 am)

  55. Vladimir says:

    I’m not sure if this is normal or not, but I would love if someone could tell me the answer. It seems that every time my computer is asleep and I awake it, the computer will momentarily access the CD/DVD drive, it sounds like it is trying to eject the disc, and then you can use the computer. It does this when I start the computer, or when I open the screen. Is it supposed to do this or can I change this somehow?

  56. Goffredo says:

    Well, hello everyone… It seems I am in for a hard lesson too: yesterday my 2006 macbook freezed for no reasons and then at restart I got the question mark icon. HD invisible to all external sources and installation disks… All data seem gone for good. Please don’t ask about the accuracy of my backups πŸ™

  57. Blaine says:

    Same here. Using the browser getting ready to go to the airport. Open the macbook at the airport and it was frozen when I opened it. Power down and back up and nothing will see the drive it would start to boot and using cmd v was able to see the HDD was timing out. When I got home I used a boot disk to get to disc utility. It found tons of errors and then never came back. Nothing will see the drive now. I guess my disc check scratched the whole piggy. Luckily for me this is not my primary machine. It does piss me off. How long can it take to write out 2GB to the drive. Heck do it while I am using it. Apple care 3 year. Whew!

    Pain in the drain!

  58. Tim says:

    Sounds like I got you all beat!!

    Bought MacBook Pro 08/06 Hard drive died 12/06. Replaced. Died 12/07 replaced. Died 2 days later. Called Apple they sent me a new computer. Very nice I thought. Died 2 weeks later. Apple store replaced. Died 2 days later. Apple store replaced. Died 3 days later. Apple store replaced. Died again 3 days later which is today. Apple store replaced. I am affraird to start this computer. There was not a scritch on any of them. I take very good care. This is a real problem and each time they replaced they did it witha smile and said I just got unlucky with a bad computer. Unluck is 2 times. This is unbelievable!!

    Add my name to the class action suit. Though they replaced every time, I have spent many hours with this and those hours should have been spent at work. If I am going to play hooky, let it be with my family and friends!

  59. Titus says:

    Welcome me to the club of pissed off MB owner….I’m not sure but it seems that Mac has set their devices a specific time to conk out…it usually conks out after the 1 yr warranty…pretty impressive timing…that’s why they are so agresive to sell the 3yr warranty…same thing happened to my ipod when a sad face suddenly appeared…another hard drive problem…a big BOO to MAC!

  60. Gary says:

    An update to my (raw) post of 2 Jan 2008. So after reading this thread I decided that not to play around trying to recover the drive myself (remember this was 140GB of data – at least 50 was important documents) – and a so called backup was actually not one, so this left me with 6 months of ‘life and work’ data lost. I sent it back to local apple dealer in Sydney, warranty (I have 3 years) and they checked the hard drive – they said oh it looks initialised we will just get you a replacement – HOLD ON! So I spent days finding a reliable data recovery place. Eventually one in Auckland offered a drive rebuild and recovery and send back for approx $700 US. I went for it and they recovered around 95% of data, still in the mac heirarchy. The mac is back with the new warranty drive in, guess what an Hitachi. Endless web updates, at least two weeks of apps installs to get it where it was, rebuilding iMail, address, calendars, iTunes and digging out those all so important prefs files with hours of configuration from the recovery drive.

    So semi-happy ending BUT this took over 7 weeks from failure to starting to get it back together and probably around 10 weeks before it would be where it was. My only real problem now is planning a robust back-up regime and having to check back-ups (a big time hit) and the knowledge that at any point (and I do a lot of world wide presentations) the mac could just die at any second. This has really affected how I see portable macs from now on and the off-hand, “sorry we are not responsible for data” line really jars with me. This is a bit like selling cars and saying “sorry we are not responsible for safety in the car if something bad happens” ridiculous. Portable computers are in the majority of sales now, beating desktop sales, yet we are expected to just live with the most important component failing regularly suggests we have not come a very long way in the last 10 years. Obviously solid state memory is appearing in laptops and that will change that and I for one will ditch all my hard drives when we have useful sizes.

  61. John says:

    My MB died two weeks ago. Out of the blue the laptop froze up. Tried to reboot and file folder with flashing question mark appeared on screen. Bought it in the US last August. Living in the Netherlands now. Took it to a certified apple repair shop. Supposedly they were able to save some of the data. Just waiting for a new hard drive now.

  62. Ursula says:

    my 17″ MB is just over a year old. Got the clicking noise and grey folder. Found that with the charger plugged in, could get it going. Spoke to IT at work, repaired permissions. Will get an external hard drive and back up everything then call Apple. Do have the 3 year warranty. So glad I found this place. Wish I found it BEFORE I bought this. Need a Mac for work,

  63. John says:

    Reading through this, I’ve come to the conclusion that Hitachi hd’s are crashing. My MBP has a FUJITSU hard drive. I can’t say that I’ve had any problems with it. It seems like all the macs from 2006 are the ones having the problems. I bought mine in September of 2007. Does anyone know for sure if they switched hard drive makers in 2007?

  64. Kurt says:

    Well, after having owned and used Mac for 22 years I had my first hard drive failure. Yep, in a MacBook Pro. Same symptoms everyone has reported. I bought a new Seagate hard drive and installed it myself. Everything works fine EXCEPT the hard drive will not stop spinning unless I go to the menu option and force the Mac to sleep. If I just let the Mac go to sleep on its own, based on the Energy Saver options, the screen goes to sleep but the hard drive does NOT stop spinning. Makes me wonder if this is what killed my old hard drive. Does anyone know how to stop the hard drive (I HAVE selected “Put the hard drive(s) to sleep when possible in Energy Saver options)?

  65. Plantologa says:

    I guess that is how I killed my HD a Hitachi one, and the worst, is that I did not have a backup. I have tried everything, first Utility Disk (wrong, I should have started with Disk warrior), then I tried to put it in target mode and see what could I rescue using a PC with McDrive (wrong I should have waited for my Diskwarrior to arrive). Now I have Diskwarrior but seems that too many things happen to the poor HD and now Diskwarrior can not even see the HD (first it recognize it and said that the HD was bad and I should do a backup from the preview. So I tried and it did not work, it give me an error and then said that I should restart the machine and try again… well I tried and Diskwarrior could not see the HD. I am wondering now if I should spend more money and buy Data rescue II. Has anyone tried Data rescue? (I just found it online, I wish I could found it before I found about DiskWarrior, seems that I should have tried that one before).

  66. Rivereka says:

    Add me to the long list. My MB HD died on Monday night. I have an older backup, but not recently enough to include my recent dissertation work and my wedding photos. Thank goodness the wedding photos are on CDs elsewhere, but the dissertation work is not.

    I’m looking into data recovery now (the “life and work” that someone else mentioned a few posts back)…

    I’ve been a loyal Mac user for twenty odd years, too. This is most unfortunate…

  67. phoenix says:

    Unfortunate indeed. I just lost my 10-month-old MB this weekend – and naturally, hadn’t gotten around to backing anything up. The screen locked up when I was in iMovie, and when I forced a shut-down and restarted, it gave me the terrible blinking question mark and nasty clicking noises from the hard drive. I took it in to an Apple Store yesterday and learned that my hard drive was dead. Ten months of photos, research, writing, and family video footage…all gone.

    In reading this post, I’m struck by the sheer number of people who’ve experienced the same problem! And yet my Apple genius didn’t seem to know what might have caused it – or at least, wasn’t saying. I’ve been a loyal Mac user since I was old enough to use a computer but I’m really getting frustrated with Apple. My last computer, also a laptop, lasted five years before it pooped out. The one my family had before that, a desktop, is probably fifteen years old and still operating. Ten months is unacceptable.

    At least I’m lucky enough to still be under warranty. Has anyone had success with professional data retrieving companies?

  68. Will says:

    Another one down … clicky clicky question marking HD. Luckily I’d been warned about this when I first bought my MB, and I was sure to back up regularly with time machine, so nothing’s lost. But gah. Yeah, not cool.

    Off to the Apple Store ….

  69. mikraas says:

    My 18-month-old MB just died this weekend. Exactly the same thing that you guys are talking about. I’ve gotten some quote for data recovery that aren’t too horrible ($500 starting). But here’s a question:

    Has anyone had successful data recovery with this MB HD problem? Please tell me that all of my photos and music aren’t gone forever…

  70. JoelA says:

    Another one down, only 8-month-old MB. Add me to the list. I was trying to back up using time machine when the laptop just froze. I had to reboot and the next thing that appeared on my screen is the blinking folder with a question mark. I tried to spend the whole afternoon to recover files but with no luck.

    I am now thinking if i would suggest a mac to all our faculty users asking me for suggestions with regard to laptops.

    Off to the apple distributor next thing in the morning…..arrggg

  71. BryanB says:

    Apple user since 1989. Worked 10 years at Apple. Still use only Apple products. Had a 2006 MacBook with a crashed hard drive (Seagate) 4 months after warranty. Apple agreed to replace it – with a different manufacturer:). Another member of my family has a MacBook 2007. 11 months after purchase hard drive (Seagate) crashes nearly without warning. Apple replaces under warranty. Is the problem wit Seagate drives? I have heard others having similar problems with other drives. Or is the problem with “SafeSleep”? I wish Apple would come out in the open with a problem that is clearly affecting alot of users! Is that why they developed Time Machine – to try and protect them from these faulty hard drives? Back up my friends, back up!

  72. Philippa Cochrane says:

    It’s just happened to me. For the first time in 11 months I used sleep mode today and guess what? This evening my MacBook froze and now I have the white screen and flashing question mark. I have an external hard drive, but it’s been faulty recently so I haven’t backed up for a couple of weeks…

  73. trying to make toast says:

    Crashed while printing this morning. Spinning beach ball. Had to power off to get it to stop. Made the friendly noise on restarting, fan spins, but a blank pale gray screen. Less than a year old; looming deadlines, of course.

  74. Felix says:

    Beachball………Restart……….Gray……..Bad Noises…..Flashing Folder…….Hard Disk Dead…

    The whole ‘safe sleep’ thing is an eye opener. I have been closing the lid and picking up the macbook straight away. I’ll be waiting for the flashing sleep light from now on.

    I’ll be getting a replacement drive and will be gutted if this happes again.

  75. Javier says:

    Crap, add me to the list. Three hard drive failures in two years on my MB Pro. This is pretty pathetic. My old Toshiba still has the original hard drive and after 5 years is still kicking.

    Why has no one sued Apple over this yet?

  76. Boo Boo says:

    AAAAARRRGGHHHHHHH!!! My MBP just dies. No gray screen, no flashing question mark, just plain ol’ dead. Won’t turn on. This has happened before a few times. Taking the battery out and putting it back in worked a few times, or waiting a while, but this time it’s just dead.

    Thank goodness I kept my old Dell desktop, although it has none of the stuff I’ve done for the past 5 months since I paid $2,000 for my very first Mac. It is unbelievable how many people are having problems with mbp. The tech guy had me unplug it, replug it, try a different outlet. That was it!! Now I have to send it in. I homeschool my kids and run my own business and USE IT ALL THE TIME. This is so FRUSTRATING!!


  77. peter r. says:

    Add me to the list. I have been keeping pretty good back ups of my data by hand every few days and my photos whenever I empty the camera’s chip. This time, I was downloading a movie from youTube and the machine locked up. It would not come back to life. I wish I had heeded the signs this was coming when last week, the HD made weird noises. But alas, I was not reading the signs. MacBook Pro that had just been overhauled by Apple. Its still under the 90 day warranty. But it makes me wonder why everyone is so plagued and Apple appears to not care about it (or indicate here what they think about it all?). I go to the Genius bar in moments to see if they can get the drive back online.

  78. Esperanza says:

    same thing happened to me last wednesday. im really really worried. is there any hope to have it work. i just have a gray screen and a flashing question mark/folder icon. there are faint clicking noises. has anyone had this problem but recovered their data? or if your hard drive dies completeley, is there any way to get some data back? can professional companies do this? im willing to pay a lot as long as i get all my pictures and music back! someone please help me…i’d appreciate any support

  79. Irene says:

    Ack. I have a 13 month old Black Macbook. On Hitachi Drive #2. When it was 7 months old I had the beach ball of death, followed by clicking sounds and the grey question mark folder. Had not gotten a back up drive yet so lost everything apart from photos. (Although lost around 40 really great ones from a recent trip.)

    Then got a new drive, last weekend I was beachballed mid back up (!) and when I restarted I got the circle with a cross through it. Tech guys keep saying there is no chance for data recovery, had to force them to try. (But it will take a long time, almost two weeks! they said. Who cares? I want my stuff back you morons).

    Will be getting it back with, I presume, yet another Hitachi drive. I have a case file with Apple now and they said next time it happens I will get a new unit. But really, after reading this thread, I am thinking why bother?

    Ever since I had this Macbook, it has been problematic. Consistently freezing, spinning beach ball on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Runs hot hot hot. Does not go to sleep properly, and often hard to wake up from sleep. Needs rebooting all the time.

    ALL of the above are specifically stated to not be a problem with Macs on their bogus, ‘PC to Mac’ pages of the website.

    I adore Mac, but am now beginning to get a bad taste in my mouth. It’s like finding out your sports hero is a doper. Hard to believe but it means you cannot trust them any longer.

    I was planning to get a MBP but now I think I will get a Sony Vaio. More bang for my buck, and a whole lot less frustration.

    The absolute worst part of this? Mac simply refuses to listen to anyones issues. It’s like a religion almost, they completely deny that there is a problem, that there even could be a problem, subtly infer that it is a user error and that you ‘should have backed up’ (what every freaking HOUR?). I am deeply, deeply, unimpressed. And to be honest I feel a little idiotic for all the years of Mac fandom I have indulged in.

  80. Scott says:

    Hey all,

    Let me take this approach to this problem. And I am having the same problems with my fiance’s macbook 1st release. Originally I pulled the Seagate hard drive after she came to me saying the clicks, screen etc. Her MB had the infamous hot power adapter failure. I wonder if that may have contributed to it since the power adapter issue came first.
    I replaced Seagate with WD Scorpio. Re-installed 10.4 (with factory discs that Apple sent me even though I bought MB used on Craiglist without any discs). She is now getting the reboot upon moving her MB. It is rebooting quickly and all is fine so far. So basically I got on her butt a little to basically put it to sleep before moving it and when moving it while on, hold it with both hands supporting it from underneath. I have noticed that it reboots for me when I test it by picking it up like she does which is with one hand (usually the left side) as it has for her also and I believe that because of the plastic body that the body “gives” or “bends” therefore either enabling the sudden motion sensor to shut it off preemptively or possible loose contact somewhere inside causing a short and making the MB reboot. Either way, it is obviously not good for the hard drive or the computer in general to have sudden loss of power. And it has happened with and with out the power adapter plugged in.
    One other thing I am stabbing at here is regarding the mentioning of heat involved with most of the reports of this problem. I have really just begun looking. I am about 2+ hours into this at this point.
    So at this point, the trick seems to be to gently move and fully support the underneath of the laptop OR go to the Apple symbol and sleep manually and close lid THEN move.
    I will update with further developments.

  81. Scott says:

    Oh yeah,
    My thought on the heat issue I didn’t follow through on. (Sorry my 1 1/2 year old son was distracting me while typing first post)
    Anyway, the issue of heat has me concerned a little. I am wondering where and how this heat is being generated. It is starting with the hard drive? Or is it something with the processor? Or is there a program or app on OS X Leopard and Tiger that is constantly running and writing to the hard drive, therefore never letting the hard drive breath or take a break? And yes I know that it will write every so often when idle. Though I would like to know where the source of the heat is and how it relates to the dying hard drives. What would cause a hard drive to die prematurely other than constantly being worked and then moved while writing and I don’t know possible head contact to the disc surface?
    Any way, it would be nice to know if anyone else has ideas on this or the angles I pose?
    I think Apple is partially responsible and the end user the other. I know that some of us have poor computer habits, though just because my fiance is rough on her automatic transmission on her car, doesn’t mean I am going to fault the manufacturer for her poor driving habits. So just beware that it takes two to tango and I think that we should look at both parties. I know a lot of people said that they were gentle and didn’t do this or that. Well, how we all handle our computers, kids, cars – whatever is subjective. I can say I handle something gentle and someone else might think that I am being rough. Again, all subjective.
    Yes, laptops are meant to be portable but not handled roughly. Would you handle your desktop tower roughly while running a program or app? No, probably not. Remember just because your laptop is mobile, doesn’t mean it is meant to be in motion while in use. Especially rough motion. That is WHY Apple uses Sudden State Motion protection.

  82. Chris Lee says:

    I use a lot of computers and have had many hard drives die on me. The whole technology of hard disk storage is pretty incredible — but fragile. When you first use it, it gives you the impression of perfect infallibility. But this is an illusion! It’s not a question of IF your disk will die, but WHEN.


    I can easily understand everyone’s pain here, since I myself have experienced no end of headaches due to hard drives dying, usually at the most inconvenient times possible. But talk of class action lawsuits seems like a way of distracting yourself from the hard lesson you should be reflecting on — your own responsibility for the disaster: “Next time I’ll back up my data religiously!” PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE PEOPLE — take the time to save yourselves from ruin. Just get SuperDuper, and it will make a bootable backup for you — that means, if your hard disk dies, you can just boot from the backup and continue working as if nothing had happened!!

  83. Justin Flavin says:

    You can add me to the list – MacBook Pro thats only 2 weeks old!

    Same symptoms – spinning beachball freeze, power off button, power on – white screen of death.

    tried everything. now i’m in disk utility via the install disk and its seeing the 250 gig drive as “unformatted” (!!!)

    in all my years of using Linux , even with hardcore kernel panics , i’ve never lost data. there was always a way to recover. not impressed at all.

  84. Jak says:

    Writing from Jakarta. I got flashing question mark on my macbook screen. Reseller here said they would provide a replacement hardisk for free as long as i give my current hardisk to them. Is that kind of requirement also being used by other reseller outside Indonesia? Btw, i reject their offering since i believe this broken HD is mine!

  85. Mac Doctor says:

    Hey Jak, Chances are you cn recover the data. Might just need a new system. BUT if drive is dead, YES it is normal to give it back and get a new one. If you are worried about data and identity issues… then buy a drive and call it a bad day!

  86. Karen says:

    I am joyining the list of HD failures with the MBP. My HD died two days ago and it was Fujitsu. Fortunately, the computer was still under warranty and I has done a back up in an external hard drive 6 days ago. Because my Mac is almost 1 year old, I have the chance to buy the 3 year Apple care but I am thinking of doing that. I know that after reasing these creeping stories many of you wont even blink in buying this extended warraty that they want to sell with eagerness. But the price is 428CAD and the cost of a hard drive replacement is around 150CAD. I am wondering if it will be better off working with an external hard drive plugged in at all times so, work in there and have inmediate back up and pay whenever the HD fails again or pay for the pricey Apple care program. I will only recover the amount paid id the HD died 3 or more times within 2 year-period. What would you recommend?. I am waiting for the replacement of my HD but the first year of warranty will expired in less than 5 days.

  87. Lexworth says:

    Never had a mac die on me been a mac user for 17 yrs. I make a external bootable startup and do periodic backup and maintenance.

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