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Recovery from catastrophic disk failure



Dr. Mac's Rants & Raves
Episode # 342

I'm not having the best summer. Last week I told about my iPhone ears and my three trips to the Genius Bar to fix it. When the iPhone crash finally hit me, MacBook Air (2014) started acting.

Troubleshooting 101

At first, things went a little slower than expected. It took apps longer than usual to launch, and the spinning wheel of death appeared more often. So I went through the usual first line procedure for shooting problems:

    1. Reboot didn't help.
    2. Safe Booting (holding down the Shift key during startup) did not help.
    3. Disk Utility's First Aid (run from recovery disk) reported no problems.
    4. Malwarebytes reported no problems.

At this point I suspected that part of the macOS Mojave had been destroyed. So I moved on to more drastic steps: I held down Command + R during startup and reinstalled macOS from the recovery disk.

Then Stuff the Fan struck …

While I could select MacBook Air's SSD and install a fresh copy of Mojave when it restarted, I got the ban sign ̵

1; the circle with a slash – where the login window should have been. Which meant that my Mac couldn't find a boot drive.

It amazed me, since I had just installed a fresh copy of macOS Mojave on it.

So, I tried to restart and safely restart, just in case, but none of them helped, and I couldn't get past the prohibition sign.

I booted from the recovery disk again and launched Disk Utility, only to find that the internal SSD, which I had named "Mojave SSD," had become an uninitialized disk named "Media."

I had never seen such behavior before, but I figured I could just delete "Media", install macOS (again) and move on with life.

Unfortunately, deleting drive failed with a message I had never seen: "Wiping volume data to prevent future accidental probing failed: (-69825)."

  I had a good day until I saw this ...

I had a good day until I saw this …

I searched the Internet, and while I found several reviews of this error, I managed Not finding a solution hat brought the disk back to life.

At this point, I would usually have used Disk Disk Warrior to (successfully) bring the disk back to life. However, because the disk was formatted with APFS, the current version of DiskWarrior could not repair it.

At this time, I was unable to delete or repair the internal drive, and I needed to get back to work.

Time for Plan B …

That's when I came up with Plan B: I went to Fry's Electronics and bought the least expensive 500GB USB external SSD available – a Samsung T5 for $ 89.99.

I went home, connected the little drive to the MacBook Air, and then used Disk Utility to delete and reformat it. I installed Mojave from the recovery disk and then recovered my data from the Time Machine backup.

That is, Plan B got me started in just a few hours.

I can replace the damaged internal drive someday, but I'm not sure I could do it myself, and I'm not sure I'm willing to pay to have it installed. Until then, the small replacement disk is smaller than the MacBook Air's trackpad, bus-driven, silent and works well.

  MacBook Air boot from an external SSD

Dr. Mac's MacBook Air boots from an external SSD


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