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By the way, I can't believe I've forgotten to mention this, as I've been working on the problem off an don for the past week or two:

I have an external USB drive attached to my MBP for Time Machine backups at the office. Recently, my MBP slowed essentially to a crawl or even stopped responding every once in a while, and I discovered it happened when the Time Machine backup started each hour. When I unplugged the drive (not even unmounting it), the MBP started responding again. I couldn't do any kind of Mac-based surface scan at the office (my Techtool Protogo flash drive is at home), so I mounted the drive to my Ubuntu machine and did a badblocks scan instead.

And yes, it found lots of bad blocks.

I've been trying to map out the bad blocks for a few days to see if I can make the drive usable, but at this point, I'm getting ready to give up on it and discard it.

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