Your Hard Drive Cable Is A Ticking Time Bomb

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Owners of a Unibody MacBook Pro laptop are probably already aware that failure of the hard drive flex cable is a common issue. While it affects just about the entire Unibody lineup, the Mid 2012 MacBook Pro 13″ (Model A1278) is especially prone to this type of failure.

What is it that makes the Mid 2012 release special in this regard? A design flaw in the flex cable that seems to be compounded by the properties of the aluminum housing.

Our repair services department noticed this issue when they’d replace a bad cable, only to have the customer return a few months later with another bad cable. And possibly again with yet another bad cable. It didn’t matter if we used a used cable or a new cable in the replacement. Customers kept returning with the same persistent issue. We had to figure out what was causing the issue and find a solution.

If you’re in need of one of these notorious flex cables, we guarantee our cables with a lifetime warranty. So if it ever fails, we’ve got your back.

MacBook Pro 13″ (Mid 2012) Hard Drive Cable

Analysis Of The Flaw

The cable runs from the logic board SATA connector, across the optical drive and then underneath the hard drive, finally connecting to the SATA connector of the HDD.

Though this keeps the cable nice and secure, it also sandwiches it between the hard drive and the metal casing. In theory, it seems great, but unlike the exterior aluminum surface which is machined to an extra smooth finish, Apple skimped on machining the interior surface to match. This hasn’t been an issue with most of the MBP Unibody laptops, but the 2012 MBP 13″ hard drive cable was made a bit too thin. Flat flexible cables (FFCs) are supposed to be thin, but the 2012 hard drive cable doesn’t quite have enough of the plastic film base which surrounds and protects the internal wires.

Any time the computer is moved around, minor shifts of the hard drive and hard drive cable create friction between the cable and the coarse aluminum. Over time, this can result in exposure of the wiring embedded in the cable. Even a microscopic tear can be enough to ruin the cable entirely. And I do mean microscopic. We had to look through our microsoldering microscope with the highest magnification lens just to see evidence of the damage

Not All Cables Created Equal

This MacBook’s cable originally was manufactured with part number 821-1480-A printed on it. Apple offered this particular laptop (order number MD101LL/A) for a whopping four years due to high demand for the Unibody series of notebooks, and at some point wised up and began shipping computers with a revised version of the cable.

The new cables now included a different part number; 821-2049-A and later 821-2480-A. These cables were designed with a thicker plastic film and offered more protection to the wires. We verified the difference while examining some cables we’ve come across in used computers.

This is great news if you were able t get Apple to replace the cable, but new condition cables widely available on the internet may have these part numbers printed on them, but are not the revised cable design.

Manufacturers caught on to the fact that the new part numbers were more sought after and they simply started producing the same old cables with the new part numbers. To date, we’ve never been able to find new condition cables with the improved design. And believe me, we’ve been searching.

Bummer? Yes, but luckily there’s an easy preventative measure that only requires some supplies you probably already have lying around.

All you need to do it yourself is a Phillips PH000 screwdriver and some ESD safe tape. You probably have some common electrical tape which will be perfect for the task.

If you need a screwdriver:

How To Perform The Preventative Procedure

1. Remove the ten Phillips #000 screws which secure the bottom case and remove the bottom case.

Hard drive cable replacement step 1

4. Disconnect the hard drive from the hard drive cable and set the hard drive aside.

5. Gently lift up the wide segment of the hard drive cable (the segment not adhered in place) to expose the aluminum underneath and apply tape to the aluminum surface where the hard drive cable will rest.

6. Apply a strip of tape to the top and bottom of the wide segment of the hard drive flex cable.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully prevented your Mid 2012 A1278 hard drive cable from catastrophically failing when you’d least expect it. Strip a screw in the process? Check out our stripped screw solution.

Now we can’t guarantee your hard drive cable will continue to work forever. Remember, these flex cables fail with some frequency in all of the Unibody MBP laptops. The internal wires are made especially thin and sometimes fail for seemingly no reason at all, but this procedure takes only minutes to perform, costs almost nothing, and gives your cable the best chance at surviving for the long term.

About The Author

Jase Fasiano

Jase is into all things tech, but some might say he's a bit of an Apple fanboy. He also comes up with the best answers when the beetstech staff plays Quiplash.

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Laurinda

Way cool, some valid points! I appreciate you
making this post available, the rest of the site is also high quality.
Have a fun.

Guest
JohnyFdz

I have a question, it’s kind of weird. I own a Macbook Pro ’13 mid. 2012 A1278, I repleaced the SATA cable a few months ago (the original cable failed), and today I’m trying to install an SSD; everything works flawless when I start the computer with an external adaptor, but when I put the SSD in the internal, it just doesn’t work, but with my HDD it does work. What do you recommend, should I change the SATA cable again? Same model, or an upgraded model?

Guest
Paul

I have a question about my MacBook. I recently had my girlfriends hard drive cable replaced after her machine wouldn’t boot up and it works like new again. I have noticed my MacBook to be slowing down and constantly getting the spinning wheel when performing multiple tasks, and takes forever to boot up. I am curious if my hard rive cable is beginning to fail or if there is another issue. I am going to have a SSD put in and add more RAM so I want to know if this is something that should be fixed first. So I… Read more »

Guest
Nina Merchant

Can you post more pics because I’m not clear as to what to do

Guest
SamSol

It’s working solution. My macbook is working now without issue after this fix. Thanks a lot my friend.. 👌👍🏻✌️👏

Guest
David

Bought a replacement cable from Beetstech (at the link above). Works great and fixed my problem of a HD that took forever to erase, and would not accept a fresh OS install. I followed the directions here, https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/MacBook+Pro+13-Inch+Unibody+Mid+2012+Hard+Drive+Cable+Replacement/10379

Guest
Fred

Thank you. Can you clarify exactly what kind of tape qualifies as ESD safe tape? I have old-fashioned black electrician’s tape, the kind that’s shiny on the non-stick side, but I don’t know if it can take the heat or if my MacBook will like it. I see a variety of ESD safe tapes for sale on line.

Guest
bob

Does this mean the 821-2480-A cable sold by Beetstech also does not have the thicker insulation?

Guest
Abdull inuwas

HI Guys. I really appreciate you tips. kind regards.

Guest
Abdull inuwas

Mac bookpro mid 2012 Hard Drive Cable fix

Guest
Randolph

Does this cable fit a 15” MacBook Pro ?
I’m assuming intervals are the same with a bigger screen. Also my MacBook is 2012 ??
Thanks !

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