Blog Post

Apple Admits MacBook Hard Drives Defective, Offers Free Repair Program

In a move reminiscent of the warranty extension Apple (s aapl) 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?

52 Responses to “Apple Admits MacBook Hard Drives Defective, Offers Free Repair Program”

  1. I purchased my white macbook in july 2007. The summer of 2009 the harddrive crashed (the ? folder). Now, just a year and a half later I’m thinking the harddrive needs to be replaced again. Sometimes its relatively functional but it freaks out and just “quits unexpectedly” any and everything I attempt to open all the way down to mac osx quitting and displaying the restart your computer message in multiple languages. The wireless is also not working anymore. This has been progressing since December but since my 3 year warranty is up I’m reluctant to pay for a diagnosis and repair. So I’ve purchased a harddrive very cheap and believe I’ll give the replacement a shot myself. Wish me luck. I wish I could get this POS replaced with a new one. I know it has to be something wrong with it that keeps killing the harddrive.
    Has anyone else had the constant unexpected quits problem? Just wondering if its due to this same situation.

  2. Why didn’t Mac contact us about this fail? I’m only reading about this now – NOW that my drive just failed without warning. I’m pass the warranty as well but am mad no one contacted me about this drive failure. I’ve been to the Genius Bar before regarding this laptop – they could have mentioned it before.

  3. Late 2009 white model just failed… no warning just faint clicking death noises from drive (250g) took in on APP and a new HD was replaced along with the rubberized bottom (it had started to come apart at edges… got all back today and is working. Too bad someone (besides Apple) isn’t able to track this… as likely applies to all models. Could be fundamental design flaw of white macbook… too little ventilation… just my guess.

  4. anne Stephenson

    im sick of my macbook the mousepad stopped working after 2 weeks and now the cd player is broken the 3rd time i used it what a waste of money im so sick i cant get anything going on bit of kit its spent Moe time in the repairers since i bought it but i only paid 250 for the guarantee so i cant get a new one if id paid another 100 quid!!!!!!!! what a rip off im fuming

  5. Zach Holder

    It just happen to me and unfortunately i am 6 months past their extension. Im pretty upset because i had purchase apple care and had absolutely no problems during the first three years.

    • I can only suggest you talk to them. I tried the genius bar first. They offered a new HD which I said no and asked for new macbook. The store manager said no to this and I said I wanted to escalate the complaint. it was customer relations that authorised a new one. tell them how you feel. good luck

  6. I have black macbook bought 2007. This is the 4th hard drive I’ve had.. It really is starting to piss me off now….. I have to say Apple have never charged me for new hard drives. However they keep breaking down on me. first one 14 months after i bought it, second one 9 months after it was replaced and the third one was a year after that and now 14 months on AGAIN…. Can i get a replacement macbook?

  7. White refurbed macbook purchased Jan 08 is going back to genius bar tomorrow for 3rd time. 2nd hd fail of this fault has happened today. I’ve also had a new logic board top casing and keys. They replaced hd for this fault in Oct 09 so I take this as acknowledgment that it is covered by this extended program. I am going to ask for a new macbook.

  8. Andre Dallaire

    Black macbook bough in 2006;
    Replaced the HD (by apple) in MAY already
    Yesterday the question mark came up again…
    The HD extension program says “Maybe reviewed and extended beyon AUG15th” … whatever, they’re making an ‘exception’ and replacing my HD again… but they should consider that extension futher as the problems keeps popping up.
    I doubt its just the HD

  9. Steve Smith

    I’ve had failed Hard Drives four times on two different models of 17″ MacBook Pro. After three failures on my previous computer I asked for, and got Apple to give me a new machine. Just had it happen again on the new one though. Argh!

    In my experience this is a major issue with the Apple laptops. Apple has been good to replace the Hard Drive each time, but its a pain as you must give them your computer for a week or more. And they don’t offer a warranty computer, so you’ll have to borrow someone else’s.

    Definitely would like to know how Apple plans to address this going forward, as I am not optimistic that replacing the Drives is addressing the core problem.

  10. the macbook i purchased in july ’07 just bit the dust this week…the HD went bad. i tried to research the problem and came across the extended warranty, however it’s been longer than 3 years and only by a few months! well, here’s the question: apple says this–‘This program covers affected MacBook models for 3 years from their original date of purchase or until August 15, 2010 whichever provides longer coverage. Apple will continue to evaluate the repair data and will provide further repair extensions if needed.’ i’ve already taken my computer to a local apple service provider to go ahead with replacing the HD and recovering the data ($400). is it worth a shot to attempt to get a reimbursment from apple? after all, they did say they would consider repair extensions.

  11. scott morgan

    This has been a widely known defect for the last 4 years!! Although apple did not create the hard drives they are responsible. A company was taking the broken hard drives and I believe was going to start a class action suit or something. I bought my macbook in 06 and the hard drive failed exactly 13 months later. 30 day’s out of warranty. I needed to use it so I went right out and replaced it at my own cost. Then I read in a couple forums about the problem, with many anger macbook owners like me. I still have the old hard drive. This is good for some, but for me this it is a little to late.