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HT1366 How to fix Flashing Folder with Question Mark on Mac

10301 Views 12 Replies Latest reply: Mar 4, 2014 9:38 AM by Dibenkorn RSS
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Nov 15, 2013 6:21 PM

How to fix Flashing Folder with Question Mark on Mac

  • frederic1943 Level 6 Level 6 (9,970 points)

    That folder with the question mark icon means that the MacBook can't find the boot directory. That can either mean it can't find the hard drive or the Operating System data on the hard drive is somehow corrupted.


    With 10.4, 10.5 or 10.6 put your install DVD into the optical drive (CD/DVD drive) and reboot. Be sure to either use the disc that came with your Mac, or, if you installed a later Mac OS X version from disc, use the newer disc. As soon as you hear the boot chime, hold down the "c" key on your keyboard (or the Option Key until the Install Disk shows up) until the apple shows up. That will force your MacBook to boot from the install DVD in the optical drive.


    Or if you are running 10.7 Lion, 10.8 Mountain Lion or 10.9 Mavericks, boot from the recovery partition (Command +R on boot) and use Disk Utility to repair your OS 10.7 or 10.8 partition.


    When it does start up, you'll see a panel asking you to choose your language. Choose your language and press the Return key on your keyboard once. It will then present you with an Installation window. Completely ignore this window and click on Utilities in the top menu and scroll down to Disk
    Utility and click it. When it comes up is your Hard Drive in the list on the left?


    If it is, then click on the Mac OS partition of your hard drive in the left hand list. Then select the First Aid Tab and run Repair Disk. The Repair Disk button won't be available until you've clicked on the Mac OS partition on your hard drive. If that repairs any problems run it again until the green OK appears and then run Repair Permissions. After repairing use Startup Disk from the same menu to choose your hard drive for restarting from your hard drive.


    If your hard drive isn’t recognized in Disk Utility then your hard drive is probably dead.

  • raajbrar Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    None of these solutions worked for me.  I am running 10.9 Mavericks.  And I just updated to 10.9.2 developer update and when it went to restart, well, it wouldn't, but it did in safe mode.  Where I went to Disk Utility and tired to do a repair, but it came up with a message, saying something like, "It can't do live update or repair"  something like that, I didn't write it down.  Then the spinning circle kept spinning and then it froze.  So I had to manually turn off the machine.  And then I unplugged it and tired to reboot again, and that is when I got the flashing folder at startup.  I tired all the solutions from this thread and others, and I can't get it to boot in any other way. 

  • hands4 Level 4 Level 4 (2,215 points)

    raajbrar,

     

    It sounds like your disk is failing.  Let’s see if you can get it back on its feet long enough to backup the data and see if it is healthy from there.

     

    Were you running Disk Utility from Safe Mode?  You cannot repair the system disk while it is in service. 

     

    Instead boot from the Recovery Partition.

    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4718

    Follow Frederic’s instructions in his second to the last paragraph above to repair the disk.

     

    Then boot the Startup Manager.

    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1310

    Select the internal system drive and see if it will boot from it.

     

    If it does then  > System Preferences > Startup Disk > Select your system disk.

     

    If you can’t get this far post back for emergency data recovery instructions.

     

    Once your system is running backup your data.  Your disk is at best fragile and your data is a lot more valuable than the cost of an $80 external disk.  Time Machine is an excellent backup program. http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1427

  • KGT117 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    hands4,

     

    So riddle me this:  I have a late-2009 MacBook Pro 13in offering up the "?" file folder on startup, and the computer - seemingly to save its life - cant find the OS disk.  Now, that being said, I can pull the hard drive and connect it to another MBP via USB adapter and read all the information just fine.  I attempted to Verify and Repair the disk, both operations completed successfully, still wont recognize the disk.  Boot into the Recovery partition and launch Disk Utility, no sign of it.

     

    Is it possible that I have an issue of physical connection between the drive and computer for some reason?

     

    Any suggestions greatly appreciated!!

  • hands4 Level 4 Level 4 (2,215 points)

    Good sleuthing.  It indeed sounds like the internal connecting cable.  You can confirm this further by plugging it into your sick computer externally and booting from it (Boot-option).  Bad cables are not that infrequent.

     

    I suspect your Mac is a mid-2009 MacBook Pro.  They made mid-2009 and mid-2010 models and the ribbon cable appears to be the same for both.

     

    You can check ifixit.com, Amazon, or elsewhere for the part.

  • Skimpi90 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Hello,

     

    Im having the same problem as this, but when it gets to the part about repairing the disk, when I go into disk utility my HD appears on the left, but I can repair or verify it. The S.M.A.R.T status reads verified, but there is no Mac OS partition, I assume it would be directly underneath the HD on the left? The only thing popping up with OS in it, is Mac OS X Base System which is underneath Disk0, but I do not have the option to repair or verify this either. Is the HD deceased? I have a fairly recent backup but I would obviously prefer if I could get everything back. I was thinking of erasing the HD, would this be of any help or do I just need a new one? If I then get a new one do I just need to restore from time machine (or migrate from time machine I think it is Im not sure) and then everything will be back as it was before?

     

    Thanks

  • RichardEL Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    You're HDD is absolutely failing, I also experience same problem, just replace the HDD with a new one.

  • RichardEL Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    Also, with your HDD -- it is absolutely failing, try replacing it.

  • hands4 Level 4 Level 4 (2,215 points)

    RichardEL is probably correct.  I’ll go through your questions.

     

    > there is no Mac OS partition, I assume it would be directly underneath the HD on the left?

    I have not seen this particular condition where the hardware disk icon appears but the system volume that is supposed to be below it does not.  The System Disk partition would be below the HD icon indented to the right.  It is usually called “Macintosh HD” unless you renamed it.

     

    > when I go into disk utility my HD appears on the left, but I can repair or verify it

    Odd.  It appears but you cannot manipulate it with Disk Utility.

     

    > The S.M.A.R.T status reads verified

    If it did not say Verified then it would indicate a problem.  Saying Verified does not rule out problems but I think it indicates it is still breathing.

     

    > Is the HD deceased?

    If you booted the Recovery Partition (Boot, Command-R), which it sounds like you did, then at least part of the disk is still breathing.  If it took a long time to boot then that may have been a Network Recovery boot which would indicate the disk is very sick or dead.

     

    >  [If I] restore from time machine [will] everything will be back as it was before?

    Yes.  That is the beauty of Time Machine.  All your data, applications, and system preferences will be as they were as of the last backup.

     

    > I was thinking of erasing the HD, would this be of any help or do I just need a new one?

    Given what you reported from the Disk Utility steps you took it is unclear to me if there will be a way to repair the current volume, if you can erase and install from scratch or if you need a new disk.  Before proceeding it may be useful to have an expert at an Apple store look at it for you.  They may be able to revive it without a clean install or new disk.

     

    As was the case above, it could be a good disk with a bad cable in which case a new disk is not going to help.  To test this you can purchase an inexpensive external enclosure, remove the internal disk, place it in the enclosure, plug it in and then use Boot-Option to attempt to boot from the now external disk.  Here are links to the screwdrivers and enclosure you would need.

    $5 Toolkit: http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/TOOLKITMHD/

    $22 USB 3.0 enclosure: http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/ES2.5BU3W/

     

    If you attempt a clean install, use the Partition tab to repartition the disk, selecting one partition and with “Options…” electing a GUID partition.  Then use the Erase tab, select “Security Options…” and set it to write a single pass of zeros.  This will write to every sector to map out bad blocks.  (If you have an SSD do not write a pass of zeros.)

     

    If you do need to replace it I recommend an new inexpensive (~$100) and super-fast hybrid SSHD drive that has an 8 GB SSD cache that makes the data fly.  Google “Seagate 1 TB hybrid SSHD”.

  • Skimpi90 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks for the swift replies guys.

     

    Yeah I have an appointment booked at the store for friday, so I think I will wait till then and see what they say, but I think upgrading to one of those HDs you are talking about might be a good idea anyway.

     

    Thanks!

  • lyeh Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    hands4, I'm having the same problem with the flashing folder and disk utility not recognizing my drive. I don't have time machine or any other recent back ups. Do I still have a chance to do an emergency back up before I take my macbook in to the apple store?

  • Dibenkorn Level 2 Level 2 (405 points)

    The disk is either dead (you need a new disk) or there is an  outside chance it is a good disk with a bad cable in which case a new disk is not going to help.  To test this you can purchase an inexpensive external enclosure, remove the internal disk, place it in the enclosure, plug it in and then use Boot-Option to attempt to boot from the now external disk.  Here are links to the screwdrivers and enclosure you would need.

    $5 Toolkit: http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/TOOLKITMHD/

    $22 USB 3.0 enclosure: http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/ES2.5BU3W/

    See ifixit.com for tutorials on replacing (in your case removing) the disk.

     

    If you do need to replace it I recommend an new inexpensive (~$100) and super-fast hybrid SSHD drive that has an 8 GB SSD cache that makes the data fly.  Google “Seagate 1 TB hybrid SSHD”.

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