MacBook Air with flashing folder / question mark icon at boot

Hi,

I have a MacBook air - underside shows it's model A1466, but not sure what year it is.  When I boot it, I hear the sound as normal but after a few seconds, I get a flashing folder icon in the centre of the screen, with a question mark on it.  I've tried resetting SMC and PRAM.  The PRAM reset seems to work fine except that the progress bar shows it's only halfway through after about an hour.

Any ideas as to what could be wrong? Does this mean it needs a new disk?  If so, does this need a special SSD or will any SSD disk suffice?

Thanks in advance
mark_D74Asked:
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Etienne ErasmusCommented:
Do you have another mac with a thunderbolt port and cable? you can then look at recovering your data first and then re-installing the OS.
if you have a backup already then let me know and we can get going on steps to refresh that mac of yours :-)

i wrote an article on how to do just that...

http://www.experts-exchange.com/articles/22979/How-to-erase-and-reinstall-Mac-OSX-Yosemite-el-capitan.html
strungCommented:
Try this first. Boot while holding down Command-R. Choose disk utility, then First Aid. Select your disk, then select Repair Disk. If your disk can be repaired then reboot normally.
mark_D74Author Commented:
I've tried booting with command-R. Eventually I'm asked for WiFi details.  When I input them, I'm either brought back to the original WiFi selection screen or the MacBook freezes.  

I've a feeling this might be something to do with shutting down while resetting PRAM. I did that as it was only about halfway through after nearly 2 hours, so I wanted to try again.  Might not have been a smart move...  I'm currently trying to reset PRAM again and as before, it's getting to the halfway point after 15 minutes and then freezing.

@Etienne do you mean this cable:http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/mac/Thunderbolt/DSC_4162.jpg
Using another Macbook, how can I save the data from this Macbook Air?
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Etienne ErasmusCommented:
that is correct Mark.

you can use the following steps (see link below) to link the 2 up and recover your data 1st before doing a fresh re-install.

http://www.econtechnologies.com/chronosync/guide-direct-connect.html

all of the best. let us know how it goes
serialbandCommented:
Your symptoms suggest a failed hard drive.  If the drive was working, it would have booted from the Recovery partition.  If you held down command option r, you'd get the behavior you got where it asks for WiFi details to download and install your initial OS version from the internet onto a blank disk.  I suggest that you purchase a new disk to install your Mac.

You'd only be able to save the data if the drive was visible.  These SSDs fail in a much different way than a spinning disk.  I suspect that your data may no longer be accessible to you.  With SSD drives, you must back up your data before the eventual disk failure.  All drives are going to fail.  There isn't an easy, cheap consumer way to recover data from failed SSDs.  It's going to cost more than recovering from a spinning disk.  http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/data-recovered-failed-ssd/

You should figure out which model year it's from so that you can get the correct type of SSD.  They've actually changed over the years.
http://www.everymac.com/ultimate-mac-lookup/?search_keywords=A1466

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David AndersTechnician Commented:
There is an Apple extended warranty for MacBook Airs with certain SSDs  (3year extension)
Apple has determined that certain 64GB and 128GB flash storage drives used in the previous generation of MacBook Air systems may fail. These systems were sold between June 2012 through June 2013.
http://www.apple.com/support/macbookair-flashdrive/
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