I believe I had this problem based on the fact that I was getting a 4HDD/11/4000000 error message when running the Apple Diagnostic (hold D upon startup). This worked perfectly for my issue, and problem is resolved.
NOTE: This should not delete your personal files, BUT make some kind of BACKUP UP (directions below).
For the amount time you may be able to save, consider trying what I did. You’ll need an adapter or an enclosure that goes from Apple’s mSATA interface with a proprietary 7+17 pin Apple connector. I have included a photo to show the (likely PC only) associate at your nearest big box electronics store. Point out that it is Apple and won’t work with the PC adapter they hand you.
Once you get the adapter or enclosure try this:
- unplug the power, power off and remove back from the Mac
- disconnect the battery
- pull the hard drive carefully
- insert or attach it to the enclosure or adapter
- hold down command - option and R as you power on the mac. continue holding until the globe appears
- follow the prompts until you get to the Disk Utilities screen
- select Install Operating System to replace the existing (and possibly damaged/corrupted) MacOS with a new one. This is supposed to respect your personal content (documents, photos, pdfs, spreadsheets, movies, music … anything that you made or added, excluding applications). Follow the prompts and look for the hard drive in question. There should only be one drive.
- if you don’t see the drive, it may be shot. Quit the MacOS install program. Turn off the Mac, and disconnect the drive for replacement.
- if the drive does show up as the destination for the operating system to be installed, select it and follow the prompts. This may take a while depending on your internet speed. It’s pulling the files (I think) from the Net. Anyway, be patient.
- the Mac may restart a time or two. When it’s completed, it may ask for some basic registration info. Once you finish those, it should move along to the log in screen with your original account(s), ready to log in.
This worked for me. Of course that’s because this happened to be an issue with a corrupted install of the operating system. Mine did revert to the original OS, Mountain Lion, leaving me with a bit of OS upgrades to complete. At least I get further than the folder with the question mark.
To back up, you can connect the original hard drive (in the newly purchased enclosure) or (attached to the hard drive to usb adapter) to most any working Mac. The drive should appear on the desktop, but you may need to navigate to the drive. Make sure the computer you on has enough space to pull over your important folders, like Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Movies. If there’s not enough room, you may need to purchase an external hard drive for storing the important files before reinstalling the OS. Then when your Mac is happing and running again, you can use the new external drive as your dedicated TimeMachine backup drive.
for reference when purchasing the hard drive enclosure or blade ssd to usb adapter