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iMac 27" sporadic hard drive issues--name/format changes?

by Jason8888--2008 / July 31, 2010 8:52 AM PDT

My 27" iMac is freaking out. It suddenly won't recognize the system on the internal hard drive, but only sporadically. It will display the flashing question mark folder, so I'll start it with the system disk. When I try to switch the startup disk, the internal hard drive doesn't appear. In Disk Utility, the internal hard drive appears as a disk named "Media", and my only option is to format it. After unplugging the iMac for a period of time, it will come back and start up normally--until today. Today, it hasn't started up normally at all. I installed 10.6 on an external hard drive, booted up, and was met with the, "This disk cannot be recognized blah blah blah" message.

My iMac is long overdue for a total reformat and reinstall, and I've been slowly backing up files (hundreds of GB of video projects). Unfortunately, I have a few important files left that I really need to rescue, or I would just format now.

Any ideas why my "Macintosh HD" would suddenly and inexplicably become unreadable "Media"? Any ideas of what I can do to at least rescue my last few files?

Mac OS X 10.6.4
iMac 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
500 MB hard drive
Attached peripherals: Wacom tablet & WD My Book dual 500 GB RAID drive

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The drive is dying
by Jimmy Greystone / July 31, 2010 11:28 AM PDT

The drive is dying, that's what your problem is. You'll need to take it somewhere, and if they're very kind, they will stick the bad drive into a device to see if they can coax it into letting you get the last of your data off, but at this point it sounds like it may be too late.

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by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / July 31, 2010 11:02 PM PDT
In reply to: The drive is dying

Apple has had problems with the 500GB drive in the larger iMacs, I've had 2 in less than 18 months.

Hopefully you have a full Time Machine backup so that the loss of this drive is just an inconvenience.



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Doesn't seem like a hardware malfunction...
by Jason8888--2008 / August 1, 2010 2:50 AM PDT
In reply to: Seconded,

I could be wrong, but it doesn't seem like the drive is physically failing. It's not making any unusual noises, and I have the option to format it with Disk Utility. It's behaving more like it has some sort of corruption in the boot commands or something. When it does start, it runs more or less normally.

Here are more details: The first two times it happened, it was right after a failed DVD burn. I was using Roxio Popcorn and some (apparently) flaky TDK double layer disks. On these two occasions, the burn failed, and the disk got stuck in the drive, forcing me to restart to get it to eject. That's when this trouble started. I kind of feel like the iMac was trying to boot from the defective DVDs, and got severely confused/corrupted. Now it's just stuck in limbo, not knowing how to wake up, or what boot sequence is reality.
After the first couple of times, I got worried, and I was able to transfer most of my files, before it happened again when I woke it from sleep.
I feel like everything is still there, and I just need to point the iMac in the right direction.

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A drive doesn't need
by Jimmy Greystone / August 1, 2010 5:38 AM PDT

A drive doesn't need to be making funny noises to be failing. I've had drives that pass the regular set of tests, but if you do a more detailed scan of the drive, it will fail.

And with the HDD positioned behind the display on the iMac, and there being a fan directly below it, it'd have to be making one heck of a lot of noise before you'd ever hear it.

Normally I like to just let my diagnosis stand on its own merits, but every now and then people like you need a little prodding to do what needs to be done. So does it make any difference if I say I'm an ACMT, or that I work in the warehouse of a national retail chain fixing all their Apple systems? That before that I worked at a small university where I was the "hardware guy". I know what I'm talking about.

Take the system in to get checked out, I'm betting they'll find a bad HDD. It's also possible the DVD drive is bad, which they can fix at the same time. But pretty much everything you describe says bad HDD to me. The latest bit of info just says that you might also have a bad DVD drive.

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