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Model A1297 Unibody: Early 2009, Mid 2009, Mid 2010, Early 2011 & Late 2011

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MacBook Pro crashing immediately when booting from El Capitan USB

I have a 17” MacBook Pro from Mid 2009.

The previous owner removed the hard drive, so all I really have to do is reinstall OS X El Capitan.

When I boot up, hold option, and select the USB flash drive, the Apple logo appears. A progress bar appears shortly after before the screen goes black and the computer turns off.

My flash drive is detected in my Mac Mini, and all of the contents of the installer are there.

I opened the computer, and put in a new hard drive. All the components are there and there is no water damage or graphics anomalies.

Since these “not booting” issues are so vague, it’s hard for me to troubleshoot. Any help is much appreciated.

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What is the drive you are trying to use? Make and Model.


@danj I'm just using a standard SATA 500 GB 5400 RPM hitachi drive. I tried 2 different hard drives, one Toshiba( mq01abd050) and one Hitachi (Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500). My model is the Mid 2009 2.8 GHz model.


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I reset the SMC by holding Shift+Control+Option and Power and it’s working now. Thanks to all those who helped.

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Boot from the USB drive on your MacMini to confirm it works and we can go from there.

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Flash drive works.


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Both the Toshiba MQ01ABD050 and Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 are SATA II (3.0 Gb/s) drives. Either should work here once they are formatted and the OS is properly installed.

The rub you are facing is the limits of the USB port. If I remember correctly this series won’t boot from it.

So you’ll need to prep the drive from a second system that can be booted from the USB drive.

Here’s the best guide on setting up the needed USB OS installer drive: How to make a bootable OS X 10.11 El Capitan installer drive

Using your Mac Mini you’ll need to get a SATA to USB adapter cable to connect the drive StarTech 2.5" SATA to USB adapter cable. Then using the other USB port plug in your OS installer drive. Now reboot your system but you want to hold the Option key of your keyboard to gain access to the startup manager. Then select the USB OS installer drive. Make sure you reformat the external drive GUID with a Journaled file system using Disk Utility and when the installer asked you which drive make sure you select the correct drive.

Once done, transfer the drive to your 17” MacBook Pro it should work this time. Go into system preferences altering the Startup Disk to your new drive.

Reference: Mac startup key combinations

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Eric Zhang will be eternally grateful.
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