MacBook Pro 2012 hard drive cable issue?

posted in: Hardware problems, Laptop, Repair | 51

Just in the past two weeks I had to replace three failed hard drive cables in three different MacBook Pro (13″ Mid 2012) laptops. I’m not sure if there is a known issue with these cables but the failure rate seems to be unusually high.

 

The cable failure might have one of the following symptoms that look like a “regular” hard drive failure or OS corruption:

– The laptop boots to a flashing folder with a question mark.

– The Apple logo appears on the screen but the OS doesn’t boot any further.

– It gets stuck at a white screen and doesn’t boot any further.

 

In order to troubleshoot this problem you will have to go thought the following steps.

1. Remove the hard drive and test it on a PC with HDTune utility. The free version should be enough to run the Error Scan test on the drive and make sure it’s not failing.

Alternatively, you can test the drive on another working Mac with the Drive Genius utility. Again, the demo version should be enough to scan the drive for bad blocks.

You can connect the hard drive to another PC or Mac using an external USB enclosure or SATA to USB cable.

2. Test your MacBook Pro with another known good hard drive and try reinstalling the operating system.

If the laptop fails the same way with another hard drive, most likely you have a failed cable and it has to be replaced.

 

Instructions for replacing the hard drive cable.

Remove two screws securing the rear mounting bracket. Remove the bracket.

Remove hard drive bracket



Lift up the hard drive from the case and disconnect the SATA cable.

Disconnect hard drive cable

Remove two screws securing the cable.

Remove two screws securing the front mounting bracket.

Unplug the cable from the logic board.

Remove hard drive cable

Peel the cable off of the case and remove it.

Install new hard drive cable

You can search for a replacement cable using the part number printed on the original cable: 821-1480-A.

UPDATE: The newer cable part number is 821-2049-A or 923-0741. If you are replacing it, find the newer one.

HDD cable part number

There’s the tricky part. The new cable has the IR sensor attached to it but the sleep LED is located on the front mounting bracket.

HDD cable IR sensor

It will be necessary to disconnect the failed cable from the sleep LED and here’s how you do it.

Work carefully, the cable connector is very small. Lift up the right side of the cable retainer until it opens up at a 90 degree angle.

Unlock sleep LED cable

Pull the sleep LED cable out of the connector.

Remove cable from connector

Start separating the IR sensor from the mounting bracket. It’s glued with double sticky tape.

Separate IR sensor from bracket

Peel the IR sensor off.

Remove IR sensor

Now you can glue the new IR sensor to the bracket, install the sleep LED cable into the connector and lock it.

Make sure the cable seated properly, all the way down into the connector.

Connect sleep LED cable

 

Finally, install the new cable into the laptop and connect the hard drive.

Do you have the same problem with your MacBook Pro 13-inch Mid 2012 laptop?

51 Responses

  1. i’m having the same problem with macbook pro 13′ mid 2010.

  2. Danny Dullin

    I’ve seen many failed cables on MBP 2009-2011 models. In Mid 2012 the cable is a little bit different, it’s wider. I though they fixed the problem by changing the cable design. Apparently not.

  3. Marty Tennant

    There is a comment here from Lucas Godfrey:

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1756227

    that indicates Apple came out with a new cable to replace the obviously defective older one.

    The original cable is 821-1480-A or 923-0104 and the newer one is 821-2049-A or 923-0741.

    I’m already on a second cable that has failed, and now I’m trying to find the newer version that will hopefully WORK!!

  4. Danny Dullin

    @ Marty Tennant,
    Thanks for the newer cable part number. I edited the post and mentioned the cable number in there.
    I found the newer cable available on PBParts site (Mac parts supplier) for $34+shipping.

  5. Marty Tennant

    Yes, I saw that cable on their eBay store, but the photo of the cable they included shows the old part number. I have a question into them now that has not been answered to clear up the confusion about the availability of the newest version of the cable.

  6. Danny Dullin

    @ Marty Tennant,
    PBParts is a good reputable store. I buy lots of parts from them. If you order 923-0741 cable though the store, most likely you’ll get it.
    If in doubt just call them and verify.

  7. Zakaria

    Thanks for this good job.
    Can you explain to me, please, the difference between 821-2049-A and 923-0741 ?

  8. Good piece on replacing the HD cable, cheers. I would like to add: put some insulating tape on the metal parts (directly under where the cable goes) & also over the stepped part where the cable is secured (the two screw holes under where the mounting bracket goes). I have read that the rough texture of the metal casing & the cable chafing against it might have been the cause for it shorting.

    I was able to boot my HD when I couldn’t before. Although, my cable is damaged & spinning wheel of doom appears again (HD works fine on USB). YMMV of course, depending on how bad your cable is. It is certainly a good idea to insulate the area underneath the HD cable when buying a new one to [hopefully] prevent the problem appearing again.

    I think new cables are sold with the sensor / sleep LED attached? That makes it even easier to replace.

  9. Charlie

    I carried out these steps and it all worked fine except the sleep LED is not working. Do you recommend re-connecting the LED cable further inside the connector?

  10. Hi, I had the same problem in macbook 13 2012. I’ve replaced with the one I bought on amazon for 20€. It worked for just one month and the problem is here again. So I placed my ssd into the CD bay. And thinking if I should buy another cable or spent 100€ in the official  service. Macbook is just 1,5yrs old…:/

  11. Now I know why my son’s new Macbook Pro was so unstable over the past 2 years.
    The information is very useful, thank you so much.

  12. Marc Francis

    Thanks for this. I have had the very same problem. I removed my hard drive and have been running my laptop via USB for a few weeks. My problem was finding a new cable opposed to putting in another faulty original. This has put me back on track. Cheers!

  13. I just ordered the new p/n from PBP. Hopefully this solves my issue! Thanks for posting this on your blog! :)

  14. Wow, thank you so much for the instruction, my friends macbook a1287 mid 2012 suddenly wont boot and stuck on folder icon, he start buying new hdd as he thought the hdd was the issue.
    After reading this, i order the cable and change my friend cable. and now it running well again

    so thank you very much

  15. David Hayes

    I just came across your site trying to find a way to possibly repair a broken cable versus buying a new one. It couldn’t happen at at worse time, since I’m unemployed I’ve been unemployed and trying to save every penny. I also own a 2012 MacBook Pro 13″ laptop. My system also gets extremely hot. There has been times registers 90 degrees on the Activity Monitor.

  16. Ian Davis

    Great article and the photos were extremely helpful. For as long as I can remember my MacBook Pro was slow loading some applications. Coincidently, given the relatively low price of RAM I decided to upgrade from 8 GB to 16 GB. Then a really odd thing happened after the RAM upgrade everything started loading quite fast.

    A couple of weeks later the HDD appeared to have failed so I put in a new SSD, which worked for a while but also stopped. Of course the problem was the disc cable. I think removing the cover to install the RAM must have moved the disc cable, which then temporarily made better contact. I checked the continuity of the old cable and found a break on the right angle bend.

    The only cable I could get quickly was the old style and I had a real problem getting the LED cable to fully insert. I think this is probably the problem Charlie is having with his LED not working.

    Just in case, I have also ordered the new cable type for next time.

  17. Edmundo Munguia

    Get the instructions from iFixit for the LED cable re-insertion (it’s a little bit tricky since it’s a very tiny piece of hardware).

    Also some other good videos on Youtube for better zoom-in on the cable re-attachment.

    BTW Thank you for the article, I am now in my 3rd cable. Will definitely give a try to the PBParts one

  18. Thanks for this post Danny. Very helpful. I just implemented this fix with a cable ordered from PBParts. It was the new part number.

    I can confirm that the cable came with both, the sleep LED and IR sensor installed in the bracket. So it was a very easy replacement.

  19. Riasat Abir

    I took my macbook pro to apple store and they told me the hdd is faulty.
    So I bought a SSD and plugged it to the macbook and it was not working as well.
    I went to apple store again and they said the SSD might not be supported or possibly it’s corrupted too.
    Then I did some searching and found that the problem might be with the cable.
    Then I went to a different apple store and asked them to replace the sata cable and now everything works!

    I am surprised with the lack of knowledge from the apple store technicians who costed me buying another storage drive :(

  20. I’m not sure the xx-2049 cables are much better. Our office has already replaced several 2049 cables that were ordered as replacements for previously failing 1480s. In some cases, it was months. This issue is so ubiquitous with multiple models and types of these MBP SATA cables that I do not believe the issue has ever been truly fixed. I have begun to place electrical tape under the cabling on any replacement and when we replace cables on machines, we must routinely warn users that the part will likely need future replacement.

  21. Adrian

    many thanks for this post Danny – it just never occurred to me it could be a hardware issue – anyhow the inside of my Macbook Pro was real dirty and dusty after 4 years, I gave it a good clean, then isolated the ribbon cable with electrical tape, put it back together and it booted up just fine – thank you so much!!!

  22. How do you do this?
    Lift up the right side of the cable retainer until it opens up at a 90 degree angle.

  23. Cristian

    Just wanted to say thanks Danny! My Macbook Pro showed a circle with a line/slash across it (prohibited symbol), and so I initially thought it was my SSD. I ordered a new wire and my issue was totally fixed 😀

  24. HEY GUYS,
    I have run into this problem ever since i replaced my original hdd for a samsung pro 850 ssd, i’m on my third cable now in three years, it seems that the flat cable fails more often wit this particular ssd according to the store where I replaced my flat cable the last time. anyone else here using this drive? or any other drives? I’m wondering if this is really true or just a way to try and sell me a new different brand of ssd drive?

  25. Hi there,

    I had the same problem with my Mid 2012 MacBook Pro 13″. It suddenly failed to boot up with no warnings before. My first thought was a failing of the installed Samsung SSD 850 Pro drive, because the System worked with an installed hard drive (the original one wich the MacBook was delivered with) without any problem. I also tried it with another SSD (Samsung SSD 840 Pro) but with the same result. Replacing the cable and isolating it with electric tape does solve the problem only a few days. It is now failing again.

    Does anyone know if the newer cable (821-2049-A) is really more stable than the older one (821-1480-A)?

  26. Hey guys and Li,

    I had the same problem too! On today, I’m going to order my fourth cable, the cable is super easy to fail. But I found out that I can’t fully blame the cable, because SSD is very sensitive in data transfer, hence the cable have to be perfect working condition. If I use the old failing cable with the traditional hard disk, it’s just working fine.

  27. Great information and directions. Thank You!!

    Failed HDD replaced with SSD, required new ribbon cable. Created OS Boot USB, newest OS X, fast install c20 minutes, done via SATA-USB to new SSD.

    Before converting to SSD, validate check SATA III compatibility, EFI and SMC firmware.

  28. The flatflex cable is routed ontop of the DVD drive … put in a CD/DVD and the whole thing will be vibrating possibly causing some mechanical stress on the SATA cable as well.
    I’ll try to scratch off the plastic now and add some solder to the SATA cable, the whole system is already running via USB 3.0 now and the cable won’t recognise any harddisk anymore.

    Apple should better route the cable ontop of the battery instead over the CD/DVD drive.

  29. Juan Mora Bermeo

    Hellos guys, I have a MacBookPro (13-inch, MID 2012), and I had the same problem, today I decided to go to an apple store and they told me that on these macbook models it is very normal for this to happen, (Factory error), then his response was: “We changed it for a new one, it does not matter that you no longer have any guarantee of the product, and will have no cost.” So I recommend that if your case, approach the nearest Genius Bar, and fix the problem in less than 15 minutes.
    Best regards

  30. Think my mid 2012 pro has just suffered from this problem too. I put the original HDD in the optical bay and an SSD in the HDD bay. It made the mac feel like new, but the SSD appeared to fail at just over a year old. When I take it out, it works fine connected to USB, but when I put it back in the mac it fails. I don’t have another disk to see if the cable works with it (really cannot be bothered with extracting the original from the optical bay!). I was worried there was something seriously wrong with the mac before I found this article!

  31. So ,(IT Pro) get a cd caddy put in your hard drive and it all works.

  32. Robert (ITpro)

    So, the case is the problem ,Ruff casting where the cable is rooted and where’s away on the insulation exposing the wire then shorting it. Before installation of new cable insulate it. so the cable isn’t in contact with the case, tape , thin rubber even a piece of a anti static bag cut to fit under the hard drive compartment cable will help.
    I did it and it works, 5 years so far no problems and took out cd drive and installed a 2nd hard drive caddy 9.5mm. Never a problem with hard drive cable again. My MacBook Pro 2012 has 2 Samsung 850 Pro SSD drives and it cooks.

  33. Robert– I ordered a cable from iFixit–> didn’t work(iFixit claims it is OEM as well). Everyone seems to have such ease putting the cables in, but I struggle with the step-part. I also used electrical tape to insulate anywhere the cable was running. Can someone explain to me why I keep failing this repair? I’m very gentle with the parts and everything. Also, anyone care to share how exactly to bend a STRAIGHT cable into the stepped shape you find your original one? Thanks!

    P.S. I swapped out my HDD for an SSD about a year ago, and then ordered a cheap (12$) part from amazon next, which ended up not working. I went to iFixit’s part which is supposed to be legit(not denying it is), but still didn’t work and now im getting a swapped part from them.

  34. Nick gardner

    Very helpful. Thanks. Can I ask are you having to bend the replacement cable into the right angles round the optical drive – where the two screws attach or are you using a prebent cable?. I have done this repair twice on my MacBook each time with two replacement cables which came flat. Each time despite bending as carefully as I can I have apparently introduced a fault. Straightening the cable and mounting drive loosely it boots and works absolutely fine. Bending it into place and mounting drive properly doesn’t boot. Same issue with two new cables. Not sure how to avoid it, as I can’t seem to find any cables which come prebent. Or am I missing something? Any advice appreciated!

  35. PBparts.com (as mentioned here) sells the cable for US$ 56 (and plus almost $20 extra for the cheapest shipping method, as I’m outside the U.S.) while you can get it for between $10 and $14 through eBay. Are these inferior fakes or the same original cable (everything is made in China anyway) but without the IR-sensor and sleep-LED?
    And what’s the difference between the newer 821-2049-A and 923-0741 cables? Which one should I get?

  36. Danny Dullin

    @Hal,
    If you buy from eBay, I would suggest a used GENUINE cable. From my experience all cheap cables are fake. They will work for 3-4 months and fail.
    PBparts sell genuine cables, that’s why they are expensive.

  37. arhiblack

    Where can I buy the connector?
    Thanks

  38. Bonnie Prince Charlie

    This is hilarious — a thread that’s been going for almost three years. Why hasn’t Apple come out with a recall on this? The fix would be cheap for them. At least it’s not the bad-capacitor issue on old iMacs or the bad soldering that was done on old iBooks.

    Yes, I’ve bought cables from Amazon that failed fairly quickly. The packaging on them was terrible too, and two out of the six that I ordered were too bent to use. I have another machine in need that I’m taking to the Apple Store tomorrow, thanks to what I read here. Hopefully this is Apple policy and not a rogue Apple Store that decided to do the right thing. Now, where did I leave those Apple-labeled conventional drives? I don’t want to have them send me on my way because I have an SSD installed.

    By the way, very nice pictures/instructions on the replacement. Very nice indeed.

  39. Magnetis

    Thanks, you have encouraged me to swap the Hdd sata flexicale on my MBP 2012 13″. (821-2049-A) .I have long suspected it because the Hdd worked perfectly through USB adaptor. I couldn’t comprehend that the buzz in all the MBP forums on the internet with the same repeated fault has not initiated a fault bulletin from Apple, and the reason to the fault in the flexicable.

  40. I had this problem with MacBook Pro 13-inch (mid 2012) brought it into an Apple Store in Chicago and had it fixed for free as it is a known fault and covered under there customer quality care program.

  41. Chris Gaber

    Question… I’m having a heck of a time putting the sleep sensor LED yellow cable back into the ir sensor ZIF. Do I really need the sleep sensor? I never put my Mac to sleep. I don’t care about the little breathing light. There is absolutely no way to reinsert this cable. I’ve check all the websites, everyone passes this little detail. Do I need the light????

    Thanks in advance.
    Chris.

  42. Danny Dullin

    @ Chris, this is IR sensor cable. Most likely you will never use it. Just keep it unplugged.

  43. Thanks for sharing your experience Danny. I know you see failures with both but do you think the 2009-2010 hard drive cables are worse than the 2012? The reason I ask is I’ve read the 2012 cable is fully compatible with 2009-2010 MBPs: https://www.ifixit.com/Answers/View/145094/Using+new+hard+drive+cable+in+older+machines+821-1480-A

    Do you know if that’s true? I’ve read conflicting reports it doesn’t exactly fit? If the 2012 cable is fully compatible and better designed than the older model cables, I’d use them in 2009-2010 MBPs as well if they need to be replaced.

  44. Danny Dullin

    @ Joe,
    You will not be able to mount 2012 hard drive cable into 2009-2010 model properly. The screw holes in the middle of the cable will not align with holes in the body of the laptop.
    You can mount 2012 cable for 2011 laptops, but not 2009-2010.

  45. Other than the screw holes in the middle, it would fit? I’ve read that about the holes, it was recommended to just screw one side in only to get around that. Also given the bracket goes over the cable, that’s another thing securing the cable.

    BTW I’ve thought about not screwing that part down at all when doing this repair to give it more flex. The cable might be getting damaged when people drive replacements if they pull too hard since the cable is held down there.

  46. Danny Dullin

    @ Joe,
    Other than the screws, it should work. By the way, if you want to buy it on eBay, search for a genuine used cable. Most “new” “genuine” cable are fake Chinese junk.

  47. Great blog Dan. Wish I’d seen this before some of the Youtube videos, as your explanation is way more thorough! Ok so I replaced the Unibody cable with a brand new one off ebay (probably not the newer cable – need to check). I reinstalled the Operating System & all worked perfectly for 5 hours then screen went white mid use and I am now back to flashing ? File. What would you recommend I try now??? I am in the UK. Shall I try my luck at the Apple store??

  48. Danny Dullin

    @ Stevo,
    1. Try reseating the cable on the logic board side. Maybe it’s not plugged in correctly.
    2. It’s possible your new cable is defective.
    By the way, from what I see on eBay, all “new” cables are fake Chinese cables. A while ago I ordered 6 of them and all failed within 3 month. Since then I buy only genuine cable, even though most of them are used.

  49. Cesar A

    I have the 821-1480-A replaced twice. The hard drive itself works good in a usb case.
    Covering the cable with tape wont do the job, nor even covering every surface that could touch the metal case. Some times it would work with the MBP standing aside with lower cover removed, some others not, but it is for sure that wont work with the lower cover mounted. Cleaning with alcohol and dust remover wont do it too. Also I disassembled the sata part of the cable to test with a multimeter, but I need to find some schematics of the connector to test from one connector to another.

    My MBP 2012, 12GB RAM is currently running OSX from an external thunderbolt hard drive and is even powerful than a more recent MBP retina with 4GB RAM. This is the reason I’m persistent in giving maintenance to this defective cable. And after recently buying a new high speed sata 6 drive for this mac, due to decency and economy I cannot spend money each 45 days or 12 monts after the next cable gets broken. Please, tell us what cable is good, also tell us if you found something using some microscope or testings the broken cable.

  50. Jamie Yang

    I have solved the problem by completely eliminating the S-ATA cable and by using a HDD caddy which the booted HDD is in now. Apparently this is the only way to fix it.

  51. Margaret Gorman

    My mid-2012 MacBook Pro 13″ went two years before having a problem that looked, as mentioned in your article, like a disk problem. I was told by a Genius that it was the SSD cable which had come loose. I’m not sure any part was replaced at that time. The repair cost $56. Today I took the same computer to the Genius Bar for another apparent disk problem (flashing question mark folder) and it too was the cable or more precisely the SSD bracket. This repair cost $95. Item #923-00975 Hard Drive Bracket, Front, with IR/Sleep/HD Cable. When I asked if only the bracket was replaced, I was told “yes” but it seems to me if the parts all come together they should all be replaced but perhaps that would require a higher repair labor fee. The Genius indicated that the mid-2012 computer had the original or one of the first SSDs used by Apple and it is known for this particular problem – cable, bracket or some combination. Apparently the later SSDs are more hardy (at least in that respect). So to those users out there, if you weren’t having any prior problems and you don’t have a back up, don’t erase your drive because that won’t help!

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