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MacBook Pro mid- 2009 will NOT startup with SSD

UPDATED, DETAILED QUESTION

I have done everything a tech, of 22 years, can do on this one. I am in need of new thoughts, and ideas. I hope you can help. I try to help keep e-waste to a minimum, and assist low-income Mac users afford an older MacBook Pro, that is still worthy of use with modifications developed to the OS by smarter people than me. I also assist our underpaid and overworked teachers to afford a totally refurbished MacBook Pro, at my cost for parts. I'm not in this for profit, and I rarely post for help on here. I am more likely to add ideas to help others.

That said, here is my frustrating issue. Thanks, in advance for your help. Any suggestions encouraged. Sometimes, it's the simple things we miss, like changing the selection for the startup drive in system preferences (which I have done).

My current situation, after doing everything that should enable any system drive with efi, to successfully start this MacBook pro. Another fact, that I may have not mentioned. It starts fine with any rotational drive, with efi signature, completing the exact same build procedures, used with an SSD build. This is what is leading me to believe that it must be one of these issues. But, I need assistance on firmware, and advice of all types, please.

Which of these do you believe is causing a MacBook Pro, mid-2009, C2D at 2.53ghz, 4g ram, 240g ssd from booting from any SSD device, and showing the “prohibitive" circle with slash icon. NO APPROVED EFI version found supporting this system year/cinfiguration. (Not flashing folder, which indicates no usable system at all, or device found)

  1. Damaged or missing firmware that supports booting from an SSD device.
  2. Intermittent communications with the bootable ssd device. I.E., a bad/damaged/shorted drive cable, This would also explain the Slash-0/Apple Logo flashing. It establishes communications for a split second, then drops off, and repeats without booting. 3rd new cable being tried, today. I also lined the bottom of the chassis with insulated electrical tape to shield the cable. I have read on these forums, and others, that this can be problematic with improperly shielded drive cables. I wanted to eliminate this as a factor. Unlikely, due to rotational drive working perfectly
  3. Bad or damaged SATA system board connector. Unlikely, or the rotational drive would not be seen, or enabled. A Logic Board connector, in my experience, is either working or has failed. I've never experienced intermittent drive connector errors from a logic board. I have used a cotton swab and 91% IP to thoroughly clean the connector to eliminate any issues from a faulty connector, or debris blocking a contact. The connector is in perfect condition, and the cable “snaps" onto the connector without any obstruction or unnecessary force.
  4. Unsupported Sata III drive. I've tried 3 different drives, all of these brands (Kingston, Crucial, Adata) have all worked, in the past, with 2009 models, including this C2D 1286, without issue. The current, installed, Crucial 240g SSD is built properly and will start properly if used with a USB to Sata drive cable, and using the boot menu (option key at startup) to select the drive as the efi (boot) device. It runs at USB 2 speed, however. But, does operate normally, and boots normally.
  5. Back to firmware. If I hold down the shift key during boot, to attempt a safe boot procedure, the SSD works and boots. But, not in safe mode, with the red “Safe Mode Enabled" indication in the menu bar. Safe mode bypasses the SIP check, and software version detection. Why is this method working? Bad, incorrect, or damaged firmware version? That would be my diagnostic answer, after hours and days of trial and error.

Now, the biggest question for the brilliance of the gathered experience of this site. WHERE DOES ONE FIND THIS FIRMWARE? It may be 2 files. One would be firmware to erase and update/rewrite the SMC. One would be firmware updated to erase and rebuild EFI, to allow SSD to be used in the EFI list of approved device signatures.

If someone knows where these files are located and the proper version for this year/model (without bricking the logic board), and how to properly install, I believe this would be invaluable to users who come across this same issue going forward.

I have done all of the lengthy dignostician-related tasks. Now, I am out of ideas and sincerely hope you see the error in my description that I must be missing?

It must have happened, in the past, to someone - somewhere.

This post should now contain every detail of troubleshooting. I would appreciate any help and guidance.

Update (11/09/2021)

Well, I'm still struggling. I've never seen something so stubborn and frustrating.

I still have the same issue. I went with a PNY drive, this time, because the specs said backward compatibility with Sata II.

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Same issue. I checked the cable, removed the tape on the case to prevent shorting. I checked for pinches or sharp creases, and it's all good. It's so sporadic, and unpredictable. Is it still the SSD? Is it the logic board connector? If so, why do rotational work? 12 years of rebuilding, this one has to be the most frustrating.

I guess I will try an Evo, and then search Ebay for a replacement logic board. I have just run out of reasons, aside from the full Monty - the logic board.

Is there any software to totally clear the SMC and EFI so it starts fresh with an install from the OS build? Maybe, there is corruption at that level? I'm reaching now. I also thought of connecting it via a caddy in the DVD slot, and use that Sata connection?

I'm ready to try anything. Thanks.

Update (11/10/2021)

This is the drive I have always used, Kingston. 240. No issues, ever. Backward compatibility.

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Did you access the Startup Manager to select the drive? Restart the system and then press the Option (⌥) key to enter it

Reference: Mac startup key combinations

Also, how did you prep the drive?

Update (11/06/2021)

As far as firmware while your system may need an update for other reasons, thats not your issue here. Your system is limited to OS-X El Capitan (10.11.6). It’s been awhile, I do believe the OS installer will check and download the needed firmware updates if required.

Your issue is strictly hardware based!

Your drive list is not encouraging! Most of these drives are fixes speed SATA III (6.0 Gb/s) ADATA drives (early versions) had issues with their controller chip. I would review the drive space sheets to see if they have SATA II (3.0 Gb/s) listed as being compatible.

The fact your drive/s work via a SATA to USB cable tells me the OS is properly setup which is a good sign! So the issue is strictly the cable or the drives I/O spec.

Kingston had a mix of Fixed Speed and Auto Sense drives, Crucial is strictly SATA III, ADATA new ones only and you still need to check the spec sheet if its compatible.

As a reference here is Samsung 860 EVO spec sheet Note the Interface Line SATA 6 Gbps Interface, compatible with SATA 3 Gbps & 1.5 Gbps interfaces Make sure your spec sheet lists it if not move on!

The Standards group did a dumb thing dropping the Roman number to ID the I/O speed spec the issue is the spec level is also using the same number Three! SATA Revision 3.0 Specification And as you can see we have a I/O speed of 3.0 Gb/s so which Three are we talking about? The USB group is currently facing the same confusion today!

So for clarity I stick with the Roman numbers with the speed to ID the I/O speed spec: SATA I (1.5 Gb/s) SATA II (3.0 Gb/s) and SATA III (6.0 Gb/s). But we also have some drives which are fixed speed only one of these I/O speeds (we call them Fixed Speed) and some offer support for muliple speeds (either a jumper or Auto Sense) Sometimes its only two speeds and other times its three! Without reviewing the spec sheets it can be confusing! If its not stated clearly I would move on to a different drive.

OK, what about the cable?

Sadly, these are delicate! You can’t bend them by creasing them! This damages the foil wires inside so make sure you don’t do that. I use a old BIC pen ink straw as a forming brake to curl the cable for the bends it needs. I don’t want the bend to exceed the radius of the straw. Also don’t over do the tape! As we don’t want to have a sizable build up a single strip that is placed under the wider SATA side is all that’s needed.

The SATA III versions are more sensitive! And the given data flow HDD vs HDD also is a factor as a SDD will push the cable harder than a HDD so its common for people to scratch their heads jumping between the two drives seeing the HDD work and the SSD not! To make this even more confusing Apples cables needed an upgrade the cables when they started using SATA III drives and even then they needed a few updates Your Hard Drive Cable Is A Ticking Time Bomb so do be careful on what you are using.

Update (11/09/2021)

@thomhemler - I promise you, your firmware wouldn't cause this. For the sake of argument lets say it did, then every boot up would be the same. Not working!

Sporadic conditions like you are encountering is data flow issues! Bad cable drive which won't run properly in a slower SATA II (3.0 Gb/s) system like yours.

Are we sure we are going down the right path?

Maybe you are hitting a logic board issue within the NVIDIA Intergraded GPU chip. This was a common issue in this series.

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I went into Disk Utility from El Cap boot usb, formatted the drive, as normal. Jounaled, and it showed fine. Ran installer from USB, it installed to the SSD an updated the SSD fine while running from usb. Once you restart after build, right to the circle with the slash. It blinks between Apple, Circle with slash real fast. I've changed the startup drive from USB to SSD in system prefs, too. I loaded the system drive from a usb to sata cable, too. It starts fine from that method, just slow. I got one last new drive cable, today, too.

Can I try it from the CD drive connector?

da

Thanks for the great insights. The new cable fixed 1 issue, but now it is intermittent. It's like a crap shoot, turning it on. Sometimes booting, sometimes the lovely prohibitive icon. After reading your post about Sata II compatibility, do you recommend the Evo as a good Sata II compatible ssd for this old girl?

When it does boot, it runs very smooth, just unreliable startups. I don't want a teacher to be locked out of her work.

Thanks again

da

@thomhemler - Thats one possible SSD, I personally use Samsung SSD's.

da

Still at it, still same results. It's starting to point to the logic board connector. But I have an evo coming and a 3rd cable, today. Never give up!

da

@thomhemler - Let’s get a better view of things, install this gem of an app! CoconutBattery take a snapshot of the apps main window and post it here for us to see Aggiungere immagini ad una domanda

da

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Thom Hemler sarà eternamente grato.
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