How the ##%* do I make my MacBook Pro boot?

I super, duper need help.

I have the early 2008 17" Penryn MacBook Pro MB166LL/A.

I recently upgraded to Lion without a problem, no issues whatsoever. Machine runs like a bomb for what I do (web design & development) and I have never had an issue with it in the 3 years that I have owned it.

Until, today.

I have a Blackberry and it has a holster that has a very small magnet inside of it. Today I put the BB, holstered, on the bottom right hand corner of my open MacBook Pro. Meaning the very small magnet was right where the hard drive sits. I was also opening a large file at the time. I ran off to have a drink of water and when I came back, I heard the hard drive making some interesting sounds.

It was giving the good ol' whiiiiirrrrr.... click! sound repeatedly. I immediately removed the magnetic holster from the corner of the Macbook Pro, but alas, it was too late. The hard drive was spazzing out with this clicking sound.

I switched off the machine and switched it on again. It starts up and then you hear the hard drive spinning - and then you can hear the clicking, and then it gives a loud CLICK and then goes silent.

My machine gets as far as the grey screen - no Apple logo.

So, what have I tried?

Booting from CD - doesn't work.

Booting from an external usb - doesn't work.

Target Disk mode - doesn't work.

Holding down D while booting - doesn't work.

What I mean by "doesn't work" is that it stays on the grey screen.

The only little bit of hope I have left for the ol' chap is that when holding down Option during the chime, it does give me a cursor, but there are no drives to select. Even with a working bootable Ubuntu USB key and the Snow Leopard install disk inside of it.

If anyone has any suggestions, I would be more than welcome to hear them. I am about to start dissecting the machine and removing the HDD entirely and replacing it with a SSD... but I really don't want it to have to get to that point!

Cheers,

Calvin

Update

Thanks guys.

What I did was eventually get it to boot from my Snow Leopard DVD, took about 30 minutes of clicks and whirs for it to finally do it, and I have INSTALLED Snow Leopard to my Seagate External Drive... which I am booted off of now and using Data Rescue 3 to clone my internal drive to see what I can salvage.

It has been going for about 22 hours and it is 19% complete.... ouch! But it has salvaged 50 gigs so far and only 400 megs are unrecoverable...!

Cheers,

Calvin

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Yes, a bad hard drive can prevent booting. Also you machine will usually not boot from a USB drive, however it will boot from a firewire drive. I would plan on replacing the drive with something like a Western Digital Scorpio Black 320 GB. After the drive has been removed, it should boot from your 10.6 system installation disk, "C" key. Hopefully you have a Time machine backup. Remember to format the new drive before trying to install your system. Put the old drive in an external firewire enclosure to see if you can recover anything. If not reformat it using the "write zeros" option and install a system on it, then use it as a Time Machine backup drive.

UPDATE

Research now shows that Intel machines WILL boot from USB drives but Power PC machines need a built in firewire: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1948

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Plain Grey Screen with no Apple usually means either there is no hard drive, the hard drive is shot and needs replacing, or the hard drive cable is not connected to the hard drive. You probably need a hard drive, because the computer doesn't seem to see it anymore.

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Thanks - and that would stop it from booting from any other media as well?

Regards,

Calvin

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That's not true ABCellars. I have booted from USB before. USB connected drives, as well as Bootable USB Drives. As long as the device connected via USB is bootable, it will boot. I have successfully booted this way with a Macbook early 2009 as well as my new 2011 Macbook Pro.

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Any bootable devices can be accessed by holding the option key while booting. USB connected devices usually take longer to be recognized, as well as Firewire, but the system will recognize these devices. I don't think there are any device specific firmwares that prevent USB boot, but please correct if I'm wrong.

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Thank you for the heads up Majesty, it is always nice to learn something new. Maybe the no boot to USB only applies to early 2008 and prior.

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Congratulations. It is marvelous that you are able to retrieve most of your data. Fortunately, the hard drive is an inexpensive and relatively easy repair for a do it yourself type (appx $50 - $100, depending on the size of drive you choose and where it is purchased). In the future, I would refrain from allowing any type of magnets to be anywhere near the computer, or hard drive.

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Yes - as I said, I am *running* from an external HDD via USB while I am recovering my internal drive (it's been going 50 hours, and is 45% done!).

Super slow for anything that requires reading and writing to the HDD - but overall not as painful as you would think (thank God I have a decent amount of RAM!)

And yes, now I know about magnets! But I think that I will be getting a SSD this time round... once bitten twice shy I guess.

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Calvin Anderson will be eternally grateful.
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