Is my hard drive cooked?

I got a flashing question mark on a 2013 macbook air.

Resetting the NVRAM gave me the extra chimes, but the question mark persisted.

Invoking Disk utility w/ command-R showed me only some “base system” drive but not the start up drive.

When I chose to reinstall the system, there was no hard drive to select to install on.

When I rebooted into an external clone, the internal drive did not appear in disk utility

I also booted it as external (Command-T) and it showed me the lightning screen, but I couldn’t connect it to my iMac to see if there’s a disk that would mount. (I have thunder bolt and USB ports on both machines but no cable with those on both ends)

I booted into online diagnostics (option-D I think) and it came back with “There maybe an issue with a storage device” and a reference code. And to call apple support.

Anything I missed? Is there any hope?

I don’t own any diagnostics tools. Last time I brought a computer from the dead long enough to erase the drive was with a 2008 macbook pro, but it was probably just luck. I’ve paid no attention to the tech of the last decade… never even looked at the Restore function before. (sigh)

I’d appreciate any insight.

Not really sure. I’ve had drive problems in the past myself and was able to resolve some of them. What concerns me here is that the drive doesn’t appear in disk utility when booted from an external drive. The fact that your drive has effectively disappeared seems to imply that it has given up the ghost. Of course, I’m no expert and others will probably have deeper insight into this than me. I hope things work out for you, come what may.

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I think you’re probably down to replacing that drive and reinstalling a backup.

There’s a range of disk utilities you could try if you have another Mac you could attach it to. I’ve had mixed experiences with all of them. Try the trials and see which bites.

  • Disk Drill Pro
  • Etre Check Pro
  • TechTool
  • Data Rescue

I’ve had results where all failed bar Data Rescue where files are recovered but without names. A nightmare.

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It does sound like the SSD is dead. On the plus side, it’s not difficult to swap it out on that model.

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Try Steve Gibson’s SpinRite, if you have a Windows machine to run it on. (Will run on Intel Macs soon.)

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Interesting, thanks! Do I need to have Apple swap it, or would it be possible for me to do it like in the olden days… Haven’t been inside these machines for more than a decade :upside_down_face:

Deemed moderately difficult by

I’m sure other repair shops local to you could also do it for less than Apple. That model is approaching a tenth birthday, you might consider moving on if possible, that’s a pretty good run.

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Thanks a bunch. Great information. The computer is my husband’s and he’s really attached to it… so waiting for him to decide if to move on.

Having done a few SSD and battery swaps of that era Airs, I’d rate it on the easier side of moderate difficulty. Biggest decision is whether it’s worth it to spend the money on the new SSD. New drive from OWC ranges from $70-300 depending on size and speed.

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Yeah, I’ve opened up a few MacBook Airs in that era and it’s really pretty easy. In this case, I’d put a new SSD in, partly because it’s an inexpensive solution and partly because it keeps the MacBook Air usable for someone else should you wish to upgrade to a new one in the not too distant future.


Thanks to all who replied. Super helpful.
Still mulling over if to try and fix it or move on…

If you’re reasonably detail oriented and have a set of small tech screw drivers (OWC will sell you a kit) it isn’t too hard.

FYI – Apple will do it but charge you a lot and only put back exactly what was there when the system is new.

Hi there,

I actually ended up taking the macbook air to apple and they said they weren’t repairing computers this old (it’s 2013) and gave me names of authorized repair people I might try.

They didn’t get farther than me in their diagnostics or at least didn’t tell me anything new. I plopped the laptop into the backpack I had carried it in. Didn’t occur to me to turn it off, it’s never been a problem, but a few hours later I went to pull it out and it was scortching hot. I’ve never experienced any electronic device this hot. It wasn’t sitting in the sun or anything, it generated all this heat by itself.

Anyway, I switched it off and left it on the shelf for a couple of weeks, figuring it was cooked, but the next time I started it, it actually showed me the log-in screen, NOT the flashing disk symbol. The thing is, the cursor was frozen. And the keyboard probably too, because when the screen went to sleep I couldn’t wake it up by hitting either the trackpad or the keyboard.

On a whim, I started it again with command/R and this time, the cursor worked fine. Disk utility showed me Macintosh HD (Unlike previous time when it only showed OSX base system). It shows 500 GB “shared by 4 volumes” (which seems odd to me as it’s not partitioned.)

I asked Disk Utility to repair and it came back with –

Running First Aid on “Macintosh HD”
First Aid process has failed. If possible back up the data on this volume.

Under DETAILS it read the following –

Repairing file system.
Volume was successfully unmounted.
Performing fsck_apfs -y -x /dev/rdisk2s1
Checking volume
Checking the container superblock
Checking the EFI jumpstart record
Checking the space manager
Checking the object map
error: (old Oxe8f2a) om: btn: dev_read (954154, 1): input/output error
Object map invalid
The volume /dev/rdisk2s1 could not be verified completely
File system check exit code is 8.
Restoring the original state found as mounted.
File system verify or repair failed.
Operation failed…

Forgive any typos, I copied it manually, I hope I got it right.

That being said, I have no idea what any of this means, and why the log screen looks intact, just not accessible.

I connected an external disk to see if I could maybe get a more recent backup from the one we have, but it did not show in the Disk Utility sidebar in Restore mode.

And kinda to cheer me up some more, tidbit-talk site tells me my browser is too old to log on…

We’ve done our own hardware repairs many times in the past (when the insides of the machines were more easily accessible) but because of this new scenario I am wondering if it’s not hardware and there’s another way to bring it up from the dead, i.e. should I try to reinstall the system, and/or should I just erase it and start anew or something else.

I asked at the apple store about a thunderbolt to thunderbolt cable (or some USB /thunderbolt combo) to hook it up as an external drive to my iMac (command/T) but they wanted $40, and I hesitated to spend $40 on a cable I might only use once given that at the time all I got was the flashing question mark and no Macintosh HD.

Thanks again,

That’s the line that jumps out to me, Brenda. There are certainly smarter/more experienced people than me on this forum, but to me that line says there is unrecoverable, physical damage to the drive. In other words, “she gone.”