Recently, I opened my MacBook Pro to get some work done during a transatlantic flight. Low and behold I was greeted by the (never-before-seen) 'flashing question mark on the missing boot drive folder of death.' So much cuter than a blue screen, ain't it? Computer refused to do anything. Period. This was going to be an interesting business trip. Watched a movie, went to sleep.
As soon as I landed I jumped on the net and searched "macbook pro flashing question mark boot." Found a number of articles that gave me hope that it wasn't my HDD gone bad. One link directed me to ifixit, my go to source for repair advice and parts ideas. (Seriously.) Read similar success stories here about the replacement cable fix.
With this hope I purchased an external 2.5 hdd drive enclosure, removed the hdd from the laptop and installed it in the enclosure. Years earlier I had installed the SSD upgrade, so I knew how to do that. PS: it's easy!
Plugged in the USB cable, pressed the power button and... voila! MacBook booted! I knew this was a very good sign, at least the hdd was good, only like 999 other possible problems left to troubleshoot. After reading a number of the stories here I decided that the $50 or so investment was the best next step to take. Beyond that the repair would get pricey quick - ie for a new logic board or similar. Limped through the rest of my trip with my laptop running off the external drive.
The first day back, I ordered the part. It arrived quickly and in great shape. Brand new cable "with bracket." It installed very easily as per the repair guide. It is a bit nerve-racking in that the cable is soooo thin and you need to make a few bends in it to get it into position. Just breathe in, breathe out, take your time, and be gentle with it. Be careful especially concerning the two hold-down screws near the CD drive. They're microscopic and fidgety.
Speaking of fidgety, I'd suggest getting the "cable with bracket" option as I did. That wire connector on the bracket is minuscule. IMO it's worth $5 not to have to deal with it.
Success! My MacBook Pro is back in action and good as new!
ifixit's repair guides and parts are nothing short of amazing. Follow their directions, use their high quality parts and you stand a much better chance of a successful DIY repair. Also - make sure you have the right tools for the job. If you don't have the little spudgers and teeny tiny screw drivers, do yourself a huge favor and get them. It makes things sooo much easier. Thank you ifixit!