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I have a MacBook Pro (early 2011) and recently the laptop boots to a white screen that flashes a folder with a question mark. I know that means the laptop cannot detect an available startup disk.

I confirmed the disk is valid by removing it from the laptop and connecting it externally to another MacBook Pro and it's immediately detected and I can browse the file system.

On the faulty MBP I have:

  • Booted in to the recovery console (Cmd+R at startup) and Disk Utility does not even detect the internal hard drive.
  • Cleared the CMOS (I think that's what it's called) by holding Option/Cmd/R/S at startup for three consecutive reboots.
  • Removed the harddrive and reseated the connections to the drive itself as well as the logic board.

I am out of ideas on how to resolve or continue troubleshooting so please let me know if there is anything else I can check or how to pivot? My next action would be to make a Genius Bar appointment because I'm worried to logic board is somehow faulting.

edit: I tried another test with mixed results. I swapped the hard drive cable from my functioning MBP in to the faulty MBP and the laptop booted successfully. However, a few moments after login the screen switched to white with the flashing folder/question mark.

I moved the faulty hard drive cable in to the functioning MBP and the laptop failed to boot successfully.

My signs are kind of pointing towards a faulty hard drive cable. $45 for a replacement on iFixit seems kind of steep...

  • You could try putting the drive in an external enclosure. hold down shift key to boot into startup screen. – historystamp Aug 6 at 19:44
  • Very handy about the external startup disk boot. I was not aware. – rodey Aug 6 at 19:54
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The problem was a faulty hard drive connector cable. I ordered a replacement from iFixIt and the laptop is functioning again.

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