Intel Mac :: 2009 20" Slow/Unresponsive Hard Drive Access

Mar 11, 2012

I stopped by a friends house to try and help them with an early 2009 20" iMac that started stalling on startup (sometimes before their login screen, and sometimes after).  The computer didn't exhibit this behaviour at all, then overnight, it behaved as stated and never once allowed them to get far enough to launch an application or open the Finder. 

When I arrived, rebooted and held down Command + Option + P + R, but it had no effect on the problem.   I then booted off the original OSX discs and ran Disk Utility.  At first it seemed slow to complete, but before long (a few minutes) the Verify Disk finished without any errors.  Next, I attempted "Repair Disk Permissions" and noticed that this was taking a very long time, +10 minutes.  That said, it did complete without any problems, albiet slowly. 

Unfortunately, this did not allow me to login, and I never made it to the login screen.  Being a close friend, I offered to take the computer home and try to copy as much data as I could through Target Disk Mode over Firewire. 

My first attempt to copy her Home directory got 25% of the way through the roughly 4 GB of data, then stopped.  I rebooted and tried again, with even less success than before (I could barely access Folders let alone copy after the reboot).  I attempted to recreate the "successful" attempt by unplugging the computer and letting it sit for a few hours.  Sure enough, I was able to copy data from the Target Disk Mode mounted drive, but after about 1 GB of copying the access to the hard slowed to a crawl (a few kilobytes per minute) then halted completely. 

I've repeated the above process to slowly but surely copy the entire 4 GB of home directory data, and am about to call it quits after salvaging what was important to her. 

Question:  Is this the sign of a failing hard drive close to the end of its life, or is this something potentially more serious with the logic board?  I've only come across a stubborn drive like this with an external drive that was close to failure, and assume this is the case. 

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