Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
I’m not having the best summer. Last week I recounted my iPhone’s woes and my three trips to the Genius Bar to resolve it. Then, with the iPhone calamity finally behind me, my MacBook Air (2014) began acting up.
At first it just ran a bit slower than expected. Apps took longer than usual to launch, and the spinning pinwheel of death appeared more and more often. So, I went through my standard first line procedure for shooting trouble:
- Rebooting didn’t help.
- Safe Booting (by holding down the Shift key during startup) didn’t help.
- Disk Utility’s First Aid (run from the Recovery Disk) reported no issues.
- Malwarebytes reported no issues.
At this point I suspected some part of macOS Mojave had become corrupted. So, I moved on to more drastic measures: I held down Command+R during startup and reinstalled macOS from the Recovery Disk.
Then, the Stuff Hit the Fan…
While I was able to select the MacBook Air’s SSD and install a fresh copy of Mojave, when it rebooted I got the prohibitory sign—the circle with a slash—where the login window should have been. Which meant my Mac couldn’t find a startup disk.
That puzzled me, since I had just installed a fresh copy of macOS Mojave on it.
So, I tried rebooting and safe booting again, just in case, but neither helped and I couldn’t get past the prohibitory sign.
I started up from the Recovery Disk again and launched Disk Utility, only to find that the internal SSD, which I had named “Mojave SSD,” had turned into an uninitialized disk named “Media.”
I’d never seen such behavior before but I figured I could just erase “Media,” reinstall macOS (again), and get on with life.
Sadly, erasing the drive failed with a message I’d never seen: “Wiping volume data to prevent future accidental probing failed: (-69825).”
I searched the Internet, and while I found several mentions of this error, I was unable to find a solution that brought the disk back to life.
At this point I would have ordinarily used Alsoft’s DiskWarrior to (with any luck) bring the disk back to life. But, because the disk was formatted with APFS, the current version of DiskWarrior couldn’t repair it.
At this point I couldn’t erase or repair the internal drive, and I needed to get back to work.
Time for Plan B…
That’s when I came up with Plan B: I went to Fry’s Electronics and bought the least-expensive 500GB USB external SSD available—a Samsung T5 for $89.99.
I went home, connected the little drive to my MacBook Air, and then used Disk Utility to erase and reformat it. I installed Mojave from the Recovery Disk, and then restored my data from my Time Machine backup.
Which is to say Plan B got me back up and running in just a couple of hours.
I might replace the damaged internal drive someday, but I’m not sure I could do it myself, and I’m not sure I’m willing to pay to have installed. Until then, the little replacement disk is smaller than the MacBook Air’s trackpad, bus-powered, silent, and works great.