My MacBook Pro 2009 (A1278) is having an issue. When I power it up it shows a blinking folder with a question mark. I have tried most of the options that I've seen, none of them showing any signs of doing anything:

  • Command and R just shows the missing folder
  • Command Option and R shows missing folder
  • NVRAM Reset doesn't do anything

The only thing that shows any sign of progress is holding down the option key after powering up. It shows a blank screen with a mouse cursor that I can move.

Very rarely, it shows a glowing globe with a sort of hard drive underneath it, but it just fades away into the mouse cursor again within a few seconds.

I have even tried putting an external hard drive that's formatted for Mac, but my MacBook doesn't recognize it at all.

Is it a problem with the cable that is plugged into another SSD while I have an external SSD? I have no clue.

I have another MacBook with me that has helped me reformat the external hard drive for Mac use.

How do I proceed to troubleshoot this?

marked as duplicate by Allan macbook Sep 11 at 6:06

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  • The flashing question mark at startup is an indication that the Mac can't find any a volume (/disk) to start up from. Does that external HD have macOS installed on it, or is it just Mac-formatted but empty? Anyway, my first guess is that you have a hardware problem, like a dead HD, or maybe a bad HD cable. – Gordon Davisson Sep 11 at 2:59
  • In addition to what @GordonDavisson said, when you see the globe what do you do? Do you wait a while to see if you get anything else on the screen, or do you just switch your MBP off? Also, what model is the other MacBook and what version of macOS is on it? – Monomeeth Sep 11 at 3:12
  • @Gordon Davisson The external HD is just Mac-formatted but empty. I have recently just bought that new HD and the external HD adapter to put it on. – SDNR Sep 11 at 3:44
  • @Monomeeth When I wait a while, it just disappears and goes back into a mouse cursor, so I switch the MacBook off. The other MacBook is a 2017 ntb running on Mojave. – SDNR Sep 11 at 3:46
  • Okay, so what version of macOS was on the original drive you had internally - before you replaced it with the one you bought? And do you have any Time Machine (or other) backups? – Monomeeth Sep 11 at 4:44

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