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Is Your Drive Failing? A Replacement SATA Cable Might Be The Fix

A recent comment from a happy OWC customer pointed out that something as simple as a bad cable can cause an internal hard drive or SSD to appear to be failing. For this customer, the Mac’s system report (accessible from the Apple menu > About this Mac… > System Report) showed that the drive was failing, so it was time to replace the hard drive with a faster and larger SSD. When the replacement still didn’t fix the problems, the customer decided to replace the SATA cable as well — and that was the solution. Here’s the full comment:

(A real comment from a happy OWC customer)
(A comment from a happy OWC customer.)

If you’re considering swapping out the old drive on a MacBook Pro for a faster SSD — especially if it appears that the drive is going bad — be sure to replace the cable while you’re at it. They’re inexpensive and can ensure a positive outcome to your drive upgrade. Check our listings for a cable that will work for you.

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Contributing Author
Steve has been writing about Apple products since 1986, starting on a bulletin board system, creating the first of his many Apple-related websites in 1994, joining the staff of The Unofficial Apple Weblog in 2008, and founding Apple World Today in 2015. He’s semi-retired, loves to camp and take photos, and is an FAA-licensed drone pilot.
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  • Putting some electrical tape on the DVD optical drive were the SATA cable runs over it, fixed the issue for me. Over time the DVD drive can rub and burn through the cable causing it to short out, giving you all sorts of errors. My apps were acting funny, spinning wheel, CPU spikes, files disappeared, flashing question mark folders, unable to repair, partition errors, format errors, first aid errors, >>>input/output errors<<< this gave me clue, mounting issues, etc..The computer could see the SSD drive in First Aid mode, but if I tried to reinstall the OS in the install mode, the computer wouldn’t show the disk at all.

  • Great article. This just happened on one of my client’s machines — a 2010 MacBook Pro where we upgraded him to an SSD back in December. Great to know that you carry these replacement parts… I referred him to our local AASP (Apple Authorized Service Provider) as I thought they were the only channel for replacement parts. Will keep this in mind for next time. Good going OWC!

  • Good to know, and a good reminder that cables and connectors and “dirty” power tend to cause a majority of electronic failures.

  • Bad cables. I just had a similar experience with my brand new mac mini 2018. The mac mini 2009 worked fine with a firewire cable. The mac mini 2018 wouldn’t mount the drives at all. New firewire cable and all worked. I also hard a similar problem earlier with a firewire cable where my drive would disappear randomly. It took a while to figure out the problem. It came down to another bad cable. All these failures were weird especially the one where the cable worked with the mac mini 2009 but not with the 2018 machine. In this specific case, I had multiple drives chained and the bad cable was used to extend the chain. Just plugging in the cable caused ALL the drives to disappear, but only on the 2018 machine. Maybe shorted power distribution?

  • I had a failure of the Time Machine backup, an OWC On-The-Go from 7 years ago. Replaced the hard drive with SSD and still not working. Checked the circuit board and found the board dirty around the HD/SSD socket from soldering. Cleaned with alcohol and solder brush and checked okay, SSD and old HD. This drive failed several times loosing all data but able to restart by reformatting. The last time re-formatting was not available. Maybe now with a clean board, I won’t be reformatting the HD about once every few months to a couple years.

  • Can’t read quoted material that is in a smaller font, without ZOOMing.

    Eschew the poor style of making quoted material smaller. Its the fault of Gates, in the 1990’s they created an automatic style that shrunk the font size for every “layer” of outline depth.

  • That is valid – as long as that “TICK-TICK-TICK-SCRAPE-SCRAPE-SCRAPE” is not coming from the drive.

  • Your backup from Time Machine was grotesque. That’s why I use SuperDuper. I’ve used the SuperDuper Clone of my SSD or HD a number of times to rebuild replaced drives. When I carry my computer on a trip, I always leave a freshly updated Superduper clone in the SafeDeposit Box as insurance against losing the computer.

  • I encountered a similar problem but in my case all diagnostics indicated that the drive was ok but I would experience extreme slowness at times and the dreaded “beachball of death”. It would come and go but finally got to the point where the system was pretty much unusable event after doing a full system restore (which was also very slow) — however booting from the exact same drive mounted externally seemed to “fix” the problem and at that point I ordered a new SATA cable and everything was back to being great from a performance perspective.

  • I can’t remember if I have ever seen Mac “System report” indicate a failing hard drive.
    I usually use “SMART Utility”

  • I also installed the SSD and it is fantastic how fast the computer starts, BUT I have nevertheless a problem:

    The SSD would not allow me to install a VPN app from cutedgesystems! So far nobody could tell me why or even better what to do to install it!

    Karl Kulling

  • I have a 2009/10 15″ MacBook Pro. I replaced the hard drive with an SSD and I got a new battery, both from OWC. I’m not having any trouble with the SSD, but I thought it might be a good idea to replace the drive cable anyway. But OWC doesn’t have a cable for my model MBP, model identifier 5.3. I even checked in with customer service via chat. No joy.

    So I went over to New Egg. They don’t identify their cables with the model identifier. They use the model number, which I found using Mactracker, as the information isn’t in About This Mac anywhere in the system report—that I could find. So I used that to select the item to order. Free shipping, even on so small an order. I may have to check New Egg more often. Though their price on the 1TB Samsung SSD I bought through Amazon a month or so ago was more than I paid at the time. I caught a sale. So I’ll have to compare prices. Always a good idea.

    • The nice thing about ordering stuff from OWC is the people you talk to know the answers to your questions…big box stores are sometimes cheaper but you get what you pay for!