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I'm trying to figure out if my Mac's hard drive could be failing, or that it could be some other component or the HD cable.

After transporting my Mac about a week ago it started beachballing a lot. I mean a LOT, like every time I try to change the window or do anything, it will beachball from anywhere between 10 seconds and a few minutes. I was using Caffeine before to stop the laptop from falling asleep and I am afraid that maybe I left Caffeine on during the transport, which could have damaged the drive, but I am not sure.

The most notable thing is that any operation that involves the disk itself seems to be very very slow.

I tried DiskWarrior for example and it took a day and a half to rebuild my directories from status 8 to status 10, which didn't help the performance of the computer.

I also tried DriveGenius to scan for physical errors. It took about 12 hours to get to 26% (and this was not the "extented test") and found two "dubious areas", after which I cancelled it cause it would probably take another two days to finish.

EtreCheck indicated some HD errors in its SmartREPORT.

Downloads and copy operations (such as the back-ups that I did) will sometimes be fast and then become very slow and/or freeze for a couple of minutes. Sometimes they will then continue, sometimes not.

Booting is no problem even though slightly on the slow side, except in safe mode which I left for 45 minutes and the percentage bar went all the way until the end but it never booted up.

The HD doesn't make any weird noises. I haven't had any messages about possibly corrupted data.

I'm basically trying to figure out if I should go through the trouble of buying a new HD cable, or if I should just replace the HD immediately, or perhaps try to low-level format the disk and reinstall everything to see if that might get rid of possible bad blocks.

Specs: Macbook Pro Mid 2012 with El Capitan Apple Toshiba 500GB drive with 45GB free disk space Recently updated 8GB non-Apple RAM

I updated my important files - I do however not have a HD at the moment big enough to clone my entire disk.

smartctl -a disk0

Copyright (C) 2002-15, Bruce Allen, Christian Franke, www.smartmontools.org

=== START OF INFORMATION SECTION ===
Device Model:     APPLE HDD TOSHIBA MK5065GSXF
Serial Number:    X2NZCESBT
LU WWN Device Id: 5 000039 45440633e
Firmware Version: GV201B
User Capacity:    500,107,862,016 bytes [500 GB]
Sector Size:      512 bytes logical/physical
Rotation Rate:    5400 rpm
Form Factor:      2.5 inches
Device is:        Not in smartctl database [for details use: -P showall]
ATA Version is:   ATA8-ACS (minor revision not indicated)
SATA Version is:  SATA 2.6, 3.0 Gb/s (current: 3.0 Gb/s)
Local Time is:    Sun Nov  6 11:42:10 2016 CET
SMART support is: Available - device has SMART capability.
SMART support is: Enabled

=== START OF READ SMART DATA SECTION ===
SMART overall-health self-assessment test result: PASSED

General SMART Values:
Offline data collection status:  (0x00) Offline data collection activity
                    was never started.
                    Auto Offline Data Collection: Disabled.
Self-test execution status:      (   0) The previous self-test routine completed
                    without error or no self-test has ever 
                    been run.
Total time to complete Offline 
data collection:        (  120) seconds.
Offline data collection
capabilities:            (0x5b) SMART execute Offline immediate.
                    Auto Offline data collection on/off support.
                    Suspend Offline collection upon new
                    command.
                    Offline surface scan supported.
                    Self-test supported.
                    No Conveyance Self-test supported.
                    Selective Self-test supported.
SMART capabilities:            (0x0003) Saves SMART data before entering
                    power-saving mode.
                    Supports SMART auto save timer.
Error logging capability:        (0x01) Error logging supported.
                    General Purpose Logging supported.
Short self-test routine 
recommended polling time:    (   2) minutes.
Extended self-test routine
recommended polling time:    ( 167) minutes.
SCT capabilities:          (0x003d) SCT Status supported.
                    SCT Error Recovery Control supported.
                    SCT Feature Control supported.
                    SCT Data Table supported.

SMART Attributes Data Structure revision number: 16
Vendor Specific SMART Attributes with Thresholds:
ID# ATTRIBUTE_NAME          FLAG     VALUE WORST THRESH TYPE      UPDATED  WHEN_FAILED RAW_VALUE
  1 Raw_Read_Error_Rate     0x000b   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
  2 Throughput_Performance  0x0005   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Offline      -       0
  3 Spin_Up_Time            0x0027   100   100   001    Pre-fail  Always       -       2075
  4 Start_Stop_Count        0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       11031
  5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct   0x0033   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
  7 Seek_Error_Rate         0x000b   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
  8 Seek_Time_Performance   0x0005   100   100   050    Pre-fail  Offline      -       0
  9 Power_On_Hours          0x0032   082   082   000    Old_age   Always       -       7379
 10 Spin_Retry_Count        0x0033   253   100   030    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
 12 Power_Cycle_Count       0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       8880
191 G-Sense_Error_Rate      0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       16387
192 Power-Off_Retract_Count 0x0032   097   097   000    Old_age   Always       -       1984
193 Load_Cycle_Count        0x0032   071   071   000    Old_age   Always       -       297692
194 Temperature_Celsius     0x0022   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       34 (Min/Max 12/46)
196 Reallocated_Event_Count 0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
197 Current_Pending_Sector  0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
198 Offline_Uncorrectable   0x0030   100   100   000    Old_age   Offline      -       0
199 UDMA_CRC_Error_Count    0x0032   200   200   000    Old_age   Always       -       13
220 Disk_Shift              0x0002   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       108
222 Loaded_Hours            0x0032   085   085   000    Old_age   Always       -       6352
223 Load_Retry_Count        0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
224 Load_Friction           0x0022   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
226 Load-in_Time            0x0026   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       303
240 Head_Flying_Hours       0x0001   100   100   001    Pre-fail  Offline      -       0
254 Free_Fall_Sensor        0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       1100

SMART Error Log Version: 1
ATA Error Count: 5
    CR = Command Register [HEX]
    FR = Features Register [HEX]
    SC = Sector Count Register [HEX]
    SN = Sector Number Register [HEX]
    CL = Cylinder Low Register [HEX]
    CH = Cylinder High Register [HEX]
    DH = Device/Head Register [HEX]
    DC = Device Command Register [HEX]
    ER = Error register [HEX]
    ST = Status register [HEX]
Powered_Up_Time is measured from power on, and printed as
DDd+hh:mm:SS.sss where DD=days, hh=hours, mm=minutes,
SS=sec, and sss=millisec. It "wraps" after 49.710 days.

Error 5 occurred at disk power-on lifetime: 7377 hours (307 days + 9 hours)
  When the command that caused the error occurred, the device was active or idle.

  After command completion occurred, registers were:
  ER ST SC SN CL CH DH
  -- -- -- -- -- -- --
  84 51 01 c7 da f1 40  Error: ICRC, ABRT 1 sectors at LBA = 0x00f1dac7 = 15850183

  Commands leading to the command that caused the error were:
  CR FR SC SN CL CH DH DC   Powered_Up_Time  Command/Feature_Name
  -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --  ----------------  --------------------
  35 00 00 c8 d9 f1 40 00      00:13:08.384  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 c8 d8 f1 40 00      00:13:08.382  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 c8 d7 f1 40 00      00:13:08.378  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 c8 d6 f1 40 00      00:13:08.376  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 c8 d5 f1 40 00      00:13:08.374  WRITE DMA EXT

Error 4 occurred at disk power-on lifetime: 7370 hours (307 days + 2 hours)
  When the command that caused the error occurred, the device was active or idle.

  After command completion occurred, registers were:
  ER ST SC SN CL CH DH
  -- -- -- -- -- -- --
  84 51 01 c7 1e f1 40  Error: ICRC, ABRT 1 sectors at LBA = 0x00f11ec7 = 15802055

  Commands leading to the command that caused the error were:
  CR FR SC SN CL CH DH DC   Powered_Up_Time  Command/Feature_Name
  -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --  ----------------  --------------------
  35 00 00 c8 1d f1 40 00      03:52:49.218  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 c8 1c f1 40 00      03:52:49.216  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 c8 1b f1 40 00      03:52:49.214  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 c8 1a f1 40 00      03:52:49.212  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 c8 19 f1 40 00      03:52:49.208  WRITE DMA EXT

Error 3 occurred at disk power-on lifetime: 7362 hours (306 days + 18 hours)
  When the command that caused the error occurred, the device was active or idle.

  After command completion occurred, registers were:
  ER ST SC SN CL CH DH
  -- -- -- -- -- -- --
  84 51 01 0f ee e3 40  Error: ICRC, ABRT 1 sectors at LBA = 0x00e3ee0f = 14937615

  Commands leading to the command that caused the error were:
  CR FR SC SN CL CH DH DC   Powered_Up_Time  Command/Feature_Name
  -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --  ----------------  --------------------
  35 00 00 10 ed e3 40 00      01:37:09.282  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 10 ec e3 40 00      01:37:08.756  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 10 eb e3 40 00      01:37:08.232  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 10 ea e3 40 00      01:37:07.708  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 10 e9 e3 40 00      01:37:07.184  WRITE DMA EXT

Error 2 occurred at disk power-on lifetime: 7268 hours (302 days + 20 hours)
  When the command that caused the error occurred, the device was active or idle.

  After command completion occurred, registers were:
  ER ST SC SN CL CH DH
  -- -- -- -- -- -- --
  84 51 01 af a8 74 40  Error: ICRC, ABRT 1 sectors at LBA = 0x0074a8af = 7645359

  Commands leading to the command that caused the error were:
  CR FR SC SN CL CH DH DC   Powered_Up_Time  Command/Feature_Name
  -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --  ----------------  --------------------
  35 00 00 b0 a7 74 40 00      03:45:55.590  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 b0 a6 74 40 00      03:45:55.590  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 b0 a5 74 40 00      03:45:55.589  WRITE DMA EXT
  aa aa aa aa aa aa aa ff      03:45:55.582  [RESERVED]
  35 00 00 b0 a4 74 40 00      03:45:45.580  WRITE DMA EXT

Error 1 occurred at disk power-on lifetime: 7259 hours (302 days + 11 hours)
  When the command that caused the error occurred, the device was active or idle.

  After command completion occurred, registers were:
  ER ST SC SN CL CH DH
  -- -- -- -- -- -- --
  84 51 01 6f 14 54 40  Error: ICRC, ABRT 1 sectors at LBA = 0x0054146f = 5510255

  Commands leading to the command that caused the error were:
  CR FR SC SN CL CH DH DC   Powered_Up_Time  Command/Feature_Name
  -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --  ----------------  --------------------
  35 00 00 70 13 54 40 00      01:28:44.723  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 70 12 54 40 00      01:28:44.721  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 70 11 54 40 00      01:28:44.719  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 70 10 54 40 00      01:28:44.717  WRITE DMA EXT
  35 00 00 70 0f 54 40 00      01:28:44.713  WRITE DMA EXT

SMART Self-test log structure revision number 1
No self-tests have been logged.  [To run self-tests, use: smartctl -t]

SMART Selective self-test log data structure revision number 1
 SPAN  MIN_LBA  MAX_LBA  CURRENT_TEST_STATUS
    1        0        0  Not_testing
    2        0        0  Not_testing
    3        0        0  Not_testing
    4        0        0  Not_testing
    5        0        0  Not_testing
Selective self-test flags (0x0):
  After scanning selected spans, do NOT read-scan remainder of disk.
If Selective self-test is pending on power-up, resume after 0 minute delay.
2

Your hard drive is failing.

One, very important thing that you said in your question is that...

EtreCheck indicated some HD errors in its SmartREPORT.

Also...

I also tried DriveGenius to scan for physical errors. It took about 12 hours to get to 26%...

and

Downloads and copy operations ... will...sometimes be fast and then become very slow and/or freeze for a couple of minutes.

and

Booting is no problem even though slightly on the slow side, except in safe mode which I left for 45 minutes and the percentage bar went all the way until the end but it never booted up.

A drive doesn't need to "make noise" as a symptom of failure - noise is usually an indication of a bad motor, bearing, or servo (mechanical parts) that are worn. Failing read/write heads or defects in the surface of the platter would make no noise at all.

Everything else listed that indicated slowness or non-booting are all symptoms of drive failure.

One quick way to check the SMART status of your drive, is to issue the following command in Terminal:

diskutil info diskX | grep -i smart

Where "X" is the device number of your drive. You can find out what the number is, if you don't know it, by issuing the command diskutil list and locating your particular drive. But, for a MacBook, it's more than likely disk0 since you only have one drive.

Is your cable bad?

Possibly, but not very likely. Cables don't go bad unless you do something to them. Unless you opened up your MBP and did something that required manipulating the drive cable, you can assume all is well.

Should you low level format?

No. You have a physically failing disk; low level formatting can't fix it. A lot of people like to "stress" the drive as an attempt to repair it; this makes zero sense. If you have a failing transmission in your car, would you drive it harder or tow a heavy load as an attempt to fix?

Your fix: Replace the Hard Drive

There's no way around it, you are going to have to replace the drive. There's also no convenient time for a drive to fail but it only gets worse the longer you wait, so replacing it sooner is always better than later.

The Good News

Now's an opportunity to install an SSD. Your particular MBP will support standard 2.5" SSDs which are not at all expensive. A 1TB SSD at the time of this writing is now under $220 and a 120GB is under $40!

enter image description here

You mentioned that you "updated" (I'm taking that to mean you "backed up") your important files; this is good. However, your drive wasn't big enough to do a full clone.

Get a USB to SATA Adapter to facilitate migration

If you do this sooner rather than later, you can use your old drive as an external drive and use Migration Assistant to move everything over. All you will need is a USB 3.0 to SATA adapter that will turn any SATA drive into an external drive. They're cheap and indispensable.

enter image description here

Replacing your drive

Replacing it is super easy. You basically remove the 10 Philips screws on the back cover to remove it and the two screws holding the drive bracket:

enter image description here enter image description here

When you remove the cable, just be extremely careful - meaning don't pull too hard. Ifixit.com has an excellent step by step guide to walk you through this procedure. Just reverse the steps to install your new drive.

Get an external drive for Time Machine

Last but not least, get an external drive to have Time Machine backups of your computer. Yes, it's another $60 or $70, but the question is, how much would you be willing to spend when your drive fails and you don't have a backup? That $60, in retrospect, would be super cheap.

Make sure you have everything you need before you begin

When you undertake this, make sure you have installation media, meaning a USB installer of El Capitan or Sierra. This means you would have to download it and create your USB installer before you do start this. Make sure you have:

  • The replacement parts (new SSD and USB to SATA Cable)
  • The right tools #00 Philips screw driver
  • 4GB USB flash for the USB installer
  • A fresh backup of your important files
  • Serial numbers (where applicable) of applications you wish to reinstall
  • The new USB drive to set up and do your first Time Machine backup

Once you do this repair and upgrade to an SSD, not only will you see increased reliability, but much, much higher performance than you previously experienced on your MBP.

  • The errors seemed to be quite old though (like after 1 year of use) and I found it hard to read the report and understand it properly. Also the SMART status of the disk is OK according to DiskWarrior and Disk Util but I understood fmor the internet that that doesn't mean a lot – joff19 Nov 6 '16 at 9:56
  • That's true, but it's a good indicator - sort of like the check engine light. Remember, you have a 4 year old drive and that's about the life span of them – Allan Nov 6 '16 at 10:12
  • Thanks for the extensive comment! REally appreciated! :) I've been looking at SSD drives on Amazon but I do wonder if the price difference makes it worth buying one. 120GB is really not enough I suppose...I have 500GB now and it's already quite small to be honest. – joff19 Nov 6 '16 at 11:10
  • 1
    I personally have the 1TB version and even though it was 3x the price of a spinning drive, it's been well worth it. You could even get a smaller SSD and replace the SuperDrive with a 2nd Drive Kit and make your own Fusion Drive if price is a concern. You will get the speed of an SSD, but the economy of a traditional hard disk – Allan Nov 6 '16 at 16:29

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