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I am attempting to do a fresh re-install of El Capitan on my girlfriend's MacBook. She called me the other night claiming the battery died and her macbook crashed, and when she restarted and went to login, her normal password stopped working at login. I confirmed this by coming over and trying myself. Restarting also occasionally yields a flashing folder with a question mark, or a prohibition symbol. But most times it goes to the login screen (with her profile picture), and entering her password does not work. She does not care about backing up local data and she does not have a time machine recovery.

Here are all the steps I have taken:

  1. I made sure her keyboard layout isn't Dvorak or some other language, it is indeed U.S and her regular password does not work anymore on login (if it gets there without the prohibition sign/flashing folder)

  2. I booted to recovery and checked out Disk Utility, where the only disk listed is the 2 GB OS X Base System underneath the Apple disk image. This raises some red flags, as her internal 256 GB hard drive is nowhere to be found in disk utility.

  3. I booted into internet recovery and attempted to re-install OS X El Capitan, however going through the prompts I reach a dead end where it asks me to "Select the disk where you want to install OS X". There are no disks listed. Disk Utility in internet recovery also does not list any disks.

  4. Clicking Startup Disk underneath the apple sign further confirms that there are no available startup disks.

  5. I held the option key on booting, (not sure the name of this mode), pressed Macintosh HD and was greeted by the flashing question mark folder.

  6. I held 'D' on booting, which I believe diagnoses any hardware issues. No issues were reported, however looking at the logs it was apparent it was only troubleshooting the 2GB OS X Base System disk. So again, it looks like the internal hard drive (256GB) is not visible.

And at this point, going through all the SO threads I feel like I am in a loop. Running diskutil list from terminal in internet recovery returns 14 disk images (disk0-->disk13), but the total size adds up to a little over 2 GB so that's not too promising. Disk0 is the only one with a name and it's OS X Base System.

Are there any terminal commands I may find useful? Should I get my screwdriver out and dig in to the laptop? Thank you in advance.

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