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Released June 2012, Model A1278. Intel processor with Turbo Boost, Up to 512 MB DDR5 Video RAM

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Booting to folder with a question mark

My macbook is intermittently booting to a folder with a question mark. At first I thought drive was bad so I bought a new ssd drive. After removing the old drive I was able to pull all my data off of it with no issues. I installed OS on the ssd drive and it worked for about a week before having the same issue again. I removed the ssd and was able to boot to it externally from a drive enclosure. I ordered a new sata cable from iFixit and am still having the same issue. It boots externally every time with no issues. The only think I can think of at this point is the connection on the motherboard that the sata cable plugs in to. Any ideas? Doesn't seem worth buying a new motherboard for this system.

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I see this exact issue all the time and about 90% of the time it is the sata cable w/ bracket. I suggest you get a replacement sata cable and this time put a foam connector pad on top of the connector on the logic board.

I don't yet know the contributing factor but I have replaced 30+ hdd cables of this model family.

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I completely concur. Do not get a used part for this. 50% of the time the bad cable will destroy the hard drive.

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Is the machine crashing/freezing before the failure to boot? A software issue that could occur after two weeks of forced or sudden shutdowns would be corruption of the drive and OS folder.

If there are no forced shutdowns then I agree that it could be either the cable or the connector.

Is there a possibility of the machine being squeezed or jostled in transport to cause the connector to loosen?

This is not iFixit customer support (just so you are aware). This is the volunteer DIY help forum, we are not affiliated with iFixit in anyway.

If you want to contact iFixit about possibly sending a replacement cable use the link at the bottom of this page.

If this answer is acceptable please remember to return and mark it accepted.

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This sounds a lot like an issue I have had with aluminum Macbook pros from 2010-2012 when installing an SSD. Works for a few hours to days, then question-mark icons leading to missing or corrupted files appears, and as time goes one they increase in number until booting no longer works. I read lots of threads about replacing SATA cables, which works for some, others not so. One article identified that this was almost always happening to people AFTER installing an SSD, and only AFTER placing the SSD into the machine. The writer suggested placing electrical tape on the flat aluminum part of the case so as to isolate the flat SATA cable from rubbing against the metal case, which they determined was causing data transmission issues leading to file corruption. I don’t know about the explanation, but after a very temporary success and then sudden, familiar failure with a newly purchased SATA cable, I did the tape trick and there was no corruption issues after that. About a year later, I had the same issues with a new SSD install on a 2012 Macbook Pro, installed that SATA cable from a few years ago, problem arose again, but after installing the tape…SUCCESS.

For whatever reason, SSD of at least two brands (Samsun and Corsair) have seemed to have a succeptibility to data corruption with the internal SATA cable directly pressed against the case.

Cable quality and newness may be a factor, but the issue can happen with some new and previously working SATA cables alike, well, I don’t consider a new SATA cable as a go-to solution in the future. All of my aluminum case Macbook Pro upgrades get the electrical tape treatment nowadays.

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