Macbook doesn't boot up. What to do? I may have a time machine external hard drive.

I really know very little about Macs.

A friend sent me this about his macBook laptop

I was updating my hard drive with my external hard drive this morning and the computer froze midway through. I turned the computer off and unplugged the external hard drive which may have been my first mistake. The entire hard drive seems to be deleted and I have no operating system. The computer starts up and goes to a list of OSX reinstallation options. At this point I don’t want screw anything else up. I last backed up in mid April so I won’t lose that much considering I send most files out by email.  Can you help get me going?

Anyone know where to start with this? He was using time machine - is that an  image of the hard drive / we restore the image and we're done?  Or is it just backup of certain files / folders? We'd have to install the OS, apps, configuration, .etc?  HGe talked of removing the external hard drive... not sure if he corrupted that too?

Would anyone care to share some advice where to start to get that machine going again?

The machine is only a couple years old.

Somehow, I have a 'mac os and install disk 1' for 10.5.4.  taht's copyright date of 2008.  (NOT from his machine, just a disk I have on my shelf.

And I have a bunch of USB disks if there's a place / need to download the OS.

But I have no clue where to start.

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That old Mac OS Install disk won't work.  

Reset the SMC, then reset the PRAM.  Then reinstall the OS with the Recovery partition if that's still coming up.

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BeGentleWithMe-INeedHelpAuthor Commented:
thanks for the info!

since the original post, I did some googling / tried some things.

I came up with that page you posted about the mac OS recovery. (press command R at boot). I got the globe and then the mac os utilties.

went into disk utiliity. it saw the internatl drive.  verify says it seems OK.

Going into startup - where you indicate what drive you want to boot from - and it was blank - it didn't see the internal drive.

I went into reinstall mac OS and it keeps saying searching for a drive to install to.

Same for restore from time machine - choose the april 17th / most recent time machine then it sits there saying searching for hard drives.

Back in disk utility, The only button on any screen for that drive and the partition is verify.all others are greyed out - erase, etc.

From all the apps searching for a drive to install to but not listing the internal, I'd think the drive was bad? but disk utility verify DOES see it and says it's OK.

Oh! Pressing D at startup gets the globe then it does some tests and says there may be a problem with storage VDH002.  MAY be a problem?  how about something more definitive : ) ???

Would you still think the PRAM and SMC resets would help with this??

Some googling and peoeple talked about similar issues and the cause was a bad cable going to the drive? This is acutally an A1398 model - from 2013?

Thoughts with this additional info?
I always do the SMC and PRAM reset first, just in case.  It may or may not help.  Your descriptions suggest that the drive might be damaged.  I don't believe that the more modern Macbook Pros with SSDs use a cable.  The SSDs look like RAM, while the RAM is soldered onto the motherboard.  You may have to replace the SSD before you can proceed.
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BeGentleWithMe-INeedHelpAuthor Commented:
I did the SMC and PRAM...same issues (I THINK I did the SMC... held the keys down but didn't get any kind of indication.

SSD is RAM form factor!? Well, I guess I can stop looking for a pentalobe tool to open it to swap hard drives : )

I am bringing it to a mac consultant.  I'll let him make the call if it's a hardware failure.

Thanks for your help!
BeGentleWithMe-INeedHelpAuthor Commented:
David AndersTechnician Commented:
A1398 Is the Case Model not Computer Model - a search for "everymac A1398" brings up these models Macbook Pro 2012 thru 2015.
All have SSDs and require a non standard interface (NOT SATA) OWC sells them has instructions for replacement.
The first model Retina 2012 came with macOS 10.7.4
*This system fully supports the last version of OS X 10.8 "Mountain Lion." OS X 10.9 "Mavericks", and OS X 10.10 "Yosemite" as well as OS X 10.11 "El Capitan." It is capable of running macOS Sierra (10.12) as well

It appears there is a Time Machine backup which is NOT bootable. The Recovery Partition appears to be missing and uses the internet version to boot. A bootable clone can be made with SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner.
Apple does not intend for one to upgrade the SSD after purchase, however it is quite possible.
Also see: How do you upgrade or replace the storage in the Retina Display-equipped "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro models? Is it even possible?
In the US (and many other countries), site sponsor Other World Computing sells storage upgrades for this MacBook Pro.

When a macOS upgrade is done, the installer is put in Applications folder, auto starts, does update and deletes itself.
It is advised to quit the update after download and move or copy the installer to another location for creating another boot device - hard drive, partition, or flash drive.
On another Mac you can download the older macOS installers under the Purchased tab with the Apple ID originally used to download.
A clean install will fit on a 16Gb or 32Gb flash drive. All models support USB3 and can use a bootable macOS flash drive for diagnosis and repair.

All models have a Thunderbolt port that can allow Target Disk Mode connection to another Mac with a Thunderbolt port or Firewire with the correct cable or adapter.
BeGentleWithMe-INeedHelpAuthor Commented:
David - thanks for your comments.

I'm a windows person and all those apps / suggestions are way beyond me, but i DO appreciate you taking the time to post!!!  I have to learn to not think I can fix everything / try to learn things to solve a problem which takes longer to get the solution, takes time I don't have too much of and is info I will not need again till long after I forget it : )
David AndersTechnician Commented:
I feel the same about plumbing and automotive repair.
Hope you find your solution.
BeGentleWithMe-INeedHelpAuthor Commented:
: )

The mac specific repair center said the unit was dusty inside, there's some corrosion (they thought it might have been exposed to water at some point). and the SSD failed.

Although again, the disk utility sees the drive and partition and verify says things are OK.  trying to reinstall MacOS, choose it for startup disk, restore a time machine image... none show the drive. they all sit at 'looking for target drives' / similar verbiage.

But it's 4 years old regardless.

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