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The Signs and Symptoms of
Hard Disk and Solid State Drive Problems

A Guide for Mac Users


Many people take hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs) for granted because they're generally extremely reliable. When problems finally occur, a user may find themselves losing critical and personal information such as financial data, years of tax returns, and personal items such as photographs, music, and documents. It's important to know the signs and symptoms of a possible drive problem because if one is developing, the user will hopefully be able to take the steps needed to minimize potential disaster.

This web page is one page in a series of  five pages, with links to the other pages included a little further down. This page will identify and classify a host of symptoms typically associated with hard disk or solid state drive problems. Unfortunately, some of the symptoms often associated with HDD or SSD problems may also be caused by other sources not necessarily related to the drive. For this reason, we're providing information on them as well to help ensure that the proper source of the problem is identified. We recommend reading through the lists of general symptoms presented below and becoming familiar with the possible sources of the problems before assuming the problem is actually a drive problem or not. You will notice that many of the symptoms may have multiple sources. If you wish to find the actual source of the problem, you may need to review more than one of the sections associated with the applicable symptoms being observed.

General Symptoms

What appears to be a drive problem may be caused by any of the following sources:

A genuine drive problem - This is self explanatory. Something is wrong with the drive.

A problem with any of the system components  - This can include problems with the cables connected to the drive, the logic board, the system supply or in the case of external drives, a problem with the supply providing power to the external drive as well as some its circuitry.

Operating system bugs or other software related problems - Once again, this is somewhat self explanatory, but it may be difficult to isolate, particularly if the problem is related to a specific component, such as a bug existing between an external drive and the operating system.

User problems - User problems typically occur when the user is using a system in such a manner that they're causing problems that can emulate some of the symptoms associated with HDD or SSD problems.

In the set of lists provided below, we identify the typical symptoms of problems associated with the sources listed directly above. The items identified below are either real problems with an HDD or SSD, or they may be problems that emulate them. This is not an exhaustive list of every possible symptom or problem a user may encounter with a computer system, it's a list that's identifying symptoms related to HDD or SSD problems, or symptoms that exhibit behavior similar to an HDD or SSD problem.

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A genuine drive problem may have the following symptoms:


A problem with any of the system components  may have the following symptoms:


Operating system bugs or other software related problems
typically have the following symptoms:

User problems typically have the following symptoms:

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The following articles correspond to each of the possible sources of problems identified above. To gain access to each article, click on the icon to the left hand side of the brief write up. You can to navigate back to this page or any of the other pages making up this set of articles using an icon menu in the upper left hand corner of each page. The icon menu will use smaller versions of the icons shown below.

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          the Scannerz page

Drive Problems

This article will address the symptoms identified in the list above titled A genuine drive problem. This will cover problems with HDDs, SSDs, and will also identify of problems associated with external hard drives.

System Problems

System Problems

This article will address the symptoms identified in the list above titled A problem with any of the system components. System problems can include internal and external drive cables, logic board problems, supply problems, and problems with some of the system settings, to name a few. In some cases, problems of this nature may be serious, in others it may be something that needs nothing more than a specific system reset.

Software Problems

Software Problems That May Emulate Drive Problems

This article will address the symptoms identified in the list above titled Operating system bugs or other software related problems. The information will cover the most common problems of this nature in a somewhat generic nature because there are literally hundreds of thousands of applications available for Mac's, and we obviously can't identify or describe every single problem that may be present.

User Problems

User Problems

This article will address the symptoms identified in the list above titled User problems. Many people discard or ignore this article, but they shouldn't. Simple oversights, system upgrades, system changes, or operating system upgrades may present a user with problems that simply weren't present before, and yet they may lead them to think a drive problem exists when it doesn't.

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Supported Intel based systems include all variants of the MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro, and Mac Mini. Supported PowerPC based systems must be running MacOS 10.5 (Leopard) and include the iBook, Power Mac, eMac, iMac, Mac Mini, and PowerBook G4 Series.