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Summary:

In a move reminiscent of the warranty extension Apple offered to MacBook Pro owners affected by NVIDIA-gate, the Mac maker announced this week that it would offer a similar consideration to some MacBook owners whose hard drives are crashing. Eligible models (black and white MacBooks sold […]

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In a move reminiscent of the warranty extension Apple offered to MacBook Pro owners affected by NVIDIA-gate, the Mac maker announced this week that it would offer a similar consideration to some MacBook owners whose hard drives are crashing. Eligible models (black and white MacBooks sold between May 2006 and December 2007) affected by the problem will be repaired at no cost.

On the support page created to describe the problem and the resulting warranty extension, Apple doesn’t mention which brand of hard drives are affected by name, which could mean that the problem doesn’t lie with the hard drives themselves, but with some other system components. Another indication that this is indeed the case is that all capacities of hard drive are also affected.

If you’re wondering whether or not you have an affected unit (Apple says only a “small percentage” of users will experience problems), it’s very easy to identify. Your MacBook will just stop working altogether, and any attempts to boot it will result in a screen that displays a folder icon with a question mark over top of it, as in the image below. As someone who’s seen this screen many times while fixing up old PowerBooks, I can tell you it isn’t a heartening experience.

Apple describes what you should do if you’re greeted with such a screen:

Please take your MacBook to the Apple representative most convenient for you:

  • Apple Authorized Service Provider – Find one here.
  • Apple Retail Store – Set up an appointment with a Genius.

If Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider confirms that your hard drive is affected, Apple will replace it with a new hard drive. You will need to have the original OS installation discs that were shipped with your product in order to re-install your operating system, other applications, and any backed up data.

If you need assistance finding the best service option in your area, you may contact Apple Technical Support for more information.

It sounds like any data you may have stored on the drive will be irrevocably lost if this does happen to you, so if you have one of the affected models and you haven’t yet implemented any kind of backup system, you should probably consider doing so.

If your machine has already had this problem, and you’ve already paid out of pocket to get it fixed or replace your drive, you can contact Apple Technical Support and inquire about a reimbursement process. No word on whether that extends to at home HD replacements, which is how I would’ve tried to solve the problem, but if you haven’t kept your old faulty drive, I highly doubt it would. Mostly I expect this will apply when people have taken their machines through official Apple repair channels to correct the problem.

The extension period covers affected Macs three years from the date of purchase, for this specific problem alone, or until August 15, 2010, whichever comes last, so you still have about six months in which your HD can fail and you’ll still be covered. It may seem like an arbitrary window, but Apple does include a caveat that it will be evaluating the repair need on an ongoing basis and extend that deadline if circumstances require.

Anyone experienced the symptoms Apple is describing with this model MacBook?

  1. I’ve had this happen twice to me and was told that I’d receive a new MacBook if it happened again. Apparently three times is when they finally give you a new unit. I’ve also had the DVD/cd player replaced three twice. Something tells me there was someone not paying attention when they built my laptop

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    1. Yup, my optical drive has been dead quite some time.

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  2. Exactly! A white MacBook from summer, 2006. When I brought it to the shop last year, they merely said my HD had died. They added it happens. So I replaced it and threw off the old one. Ah.

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    1. ah yup… same thing happened to me and my sister in law… hard drives died and we had to replace them. I had apple care and she didn’t. This is kind of a empty gesture by Apple because I imagine a lot of people’s HD’s have already died/been replaced or people out grew them and upgraded. I doubt they’ll have to pay for much with this new policy.

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  3. Hey!!! Why this post was not put up 5 months back!!!

    I am really furious. I have a mid 2007 MB (black) and some time in October I did face that issue one fine morning. My hard drive was dead & I was greeted with this ‘? with a folder’. I had to spend close to $100 to replace my old hard drive for a new one. Also I lost all my data. I didn’t back up my system. A hard lesson indeed.

    What is the way out, now that I have changed my hard drive in Oct 2009.
    Also I am not on APP. Does this extend only to those who use APP?

    I am from India.

    Best

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  4. I just got off the phone with Apple Support. My 2006 white macbook’s 60GB drive died in Nov 2007. I replaced it myself with a drive I bought from Newegg. Apple said that they could not reimburse me because I did not buy the replacement drive from them.

    BUT they did offer to send me a new drive (do they even stock 60GB drives anymore???) for free. They wanted to put a hold on my credit card for the cost of the drive ($180 for a 60GB drive? I don’t think so.) but I balked at that, so they gave me a case number and said I could just take care of it in person at any Apple store or authorized third party repair shop.

    All-in-all not the best experience, but it’s still a free drive that I otherwise wouldn’t have.

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  5. The first Macbook model had a lot of issues. Mine got : 2 DVD drive failure, mother board failure, top case coloration (white to red/pink), HD failure (lost all data), all within the first year.
    Apple finaly replaced it by a new and better Macbook2,1 – working almost great since (webcam is dead, battery failure)

    All my friends who bought a Macbook in 2006 had their HD fail after a few months. No exception.

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  6. Just confirming: I had this happen to me 3 times! Total failure of the hard drive in my MacBook Pro. I learned to love Time Capsule! The last one fixed it and it also seemed to be caused by the cable that’s connecting the hard drive. Everything cool now.

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  7. About friggin time. This is a huge problem and has been for a long time.

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  8. This happened with my wife’s macbook a couple months ago and I replaced the hard drive with a brand new one. A couple weeks later it happened again. Maybe I’m not understanding everything, but doesn’t this seem like a problem with the computer and not just the drive?

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  9. I had this problem on May 2008 after I bought my Macbook White on June 2007. I thought it was human-error and I had it repaired at no cost. Unfortunately, it was still under 1-year global warranty and since then I’ve never had such icon on my screen again.
    I terribly recommend backing up data regularly.

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