Released June 2012, Model A1278. Intel processor with Turbo Boost, Up to 512 MB DDR5 Video RAM

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Hard drive frequently disappears. Drive, cable or poltergeist?

Summary, my MacBook Pro frequently forgets where it parked the hard drive. I can't figure out its a bad drive or a bad cable or a gremlin.

I was recently given this MacBook Pro* by a friend I help by fixing his PC's and Windows problems. The MacBook was used by his daughter in high school and now in college.

About a year ago, the hard drive died and the Apple store replaced the drive. (HGST 500gb) A month ago, it died again and the Apple store would not diagnose the issue without a charge so they bought her a new MacBook Pro as this one was already 3.5 years old and out of warranty. She needs a reliable computer.

The first time I booted it, it came up with no problem. I didn't have her password so reset the password and tried to boot again. It the booted to the blinking folder indicating it couldn't locate the hard drive.

Since then I've booted into Internet recovery (Ethernet cabled directly to the router) and reinstalled the Lion five or six times. Sometimes it completes some times it hangs while installing. If it does complete the install, usually within 24 hours I've got the blinking folder on boot again. Some times another reboot and it's back. One time I installed, upgraded to El Capitan rebooted once with it working and then a second time and the drive was MIA. I've booted in to Internet Recovery mode many times and if it sees the hard drive, Disk Utility finds no problems with it. Sometimes it can't find the drive.

I've read about abrasion on the HD cable so I taped it up carefully and again reinstalled Lion. No difference it still frequently forgot where to boot from. Convinced it was a bad drive then, I then put in a new Toshiba 1gb drive earmarked for my wife's Dell, reinstalled Lion and it's been running fine for two days. To verify that it was a bad drive, I put the drive in a portable case and ran HGST advanced diagnostics from my PC (Windows) and it came up clean.

So here's the real puzzler. I attached the USB portable case with the old drive in it to the MacBook and after another clean install on the old drive it's been running from external drive perfectly for two days!!! WTH? I've got no problem buying a new drive or a new cable but want to be sure whatever I do actually fixes it.

*I've wanted a newer MacBook as the only one I have now is a circa 2006 32bit dual Core that won't run a newer OS X than Lion.

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Well I replaced the cable tonight, and it's running the install of El Capitan now. Disconnecting and reconnecting the IR sensor was a bit tricky but I did it without breaking it. The cable was about a half inch too long so I stuffed the extra down between the dvd drive and motherboard and taped it down. Not fond of the bend in it but it's not worse than the other bend around the DVD drive. I may order another cable and put it away, just to keep from having to replace it again. :)

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So you got the 15" systems cable not the 13" systems cable. Over time the bends will crack. I would recommend you get the correct cable for your system.

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Dan this is the cable I ordered: http://amzn.com/B004VSZCL4. It claims to be for the 13" but I wonder if it is for the 15". The description doesn't mention if it is SATA II or SATA III. How can I determine if the port is SATA III? I'm assuming I can look at the drive and see which it is.

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Here is the IFIXIT version: MacBook Pro 13" Unibody (Mid 2012) Hard Drive Cable - Apple P/N: 923-0104. Note the size differences (don't get confused by the bracket which is at the bottom of the image on the IFIXIT site). Here's another source I use which lists out the different versions and there P/N's: Hard Drive Cable w/ IR Sensor for MacBook Pro 13" Unibody (click on the compatibility button).

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My experience has been about two dozen of the 2012 cables failing first then corrupting the hard drives to the point that they can't be saved.

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I've got a new cable on order. (Amazon Prime) I wanted to support ifixit but it was twice the cost and I doubt I could have it in one day. It will be here tomorrow.

I was wondering why the bad cable worked with the new drive. One of the reviewers on Amazon said their cable wouldn't work with his SSD, but his old drive did. So maybe some drives are more sensitive than other.

Thanks again for the response!!!!!

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@ Paul - Apple produced two versions of the cable one is spec'ed for SATA II (3.0 Gb/s) the other SATA III (6.0 Gb/s). The rub here is Apple didn't alter the design, so without seeing them side by side its hard to tell the difference visually. Make sure you use the newer SATA III cable as the older one also had fatigue issues (breaks down). Just remember if the system has a SATA III port and the drive is also SATA III you want to get the SATA III version.

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You ever see those optional bay drives in place of the dvd drive ? You can slide a SSD in just run it with one hard drive I have had better luck with that with the 2011-2012's

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I don't recommend using the HD/SSD optical carriers. Review this ones notes at the bottom: OWC Data Doubler. It makes no difference who's as they all have the same issue. Many of the Unibody systems have issues running SATA III (6.0 Gb/s) or Auto sense drives. I also don't recommend moving the HD over as you then loose the head crash guard protection the HD SATA port offers. Either go with a SSHD or a SSD replacing your primary HD drive and be done with it!

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Paul Tiemann will be eternally grateful.
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