6 Replies Latest reply: Jul 16, 2008 8:02 AM by Kenichi Watanabe
maryj59 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
Hi - I have poked around a little hoping someone else might have had this exact problem, and I do apologize if this has been posted before. Anyway-

My sister had a hard drive failure on her ibook G4; the Apple store just replaced her hard drive. Her symptom was the grey spinning wheel, which just kept spinning for five minutes. When I got her computer back a couple of days ago, the extra memory chip I'd gotten from OWC had been removed. The Apple techs gave us a note stating this had caused her problems.

Of course, I got worried because my trusty g3 has a similar chip in it! I'd bought them both from OWC at the same time and had someone (who was rather rough - but I couldn't get it in myself) install them for us. So I grabbed the Techtool Deluxe disk from work, booted from the disk, and ran the tests. Everything passed except that there was some volume damage. I then elected to let techtool repair the drive - which took forever. Stupidly, perhaps, I aborted the repair about 3/4 of the way through and checked my email. (It was then after midnight, and the disk had been spinning away, between tests and repair, for close to five hours.) The machine rebooted and got my mail, but was extremely sluggish. I forced mail to quit, then shut it down. But I had a bad feeling.

This morning, I tried to boot up, and got the normal chime and then the spinning wheel - for five minutes. I could hear no sounds from the hard drive.

Fortunately, I have much of my data saved to my .mac com account and to an external firewire drive. So I haven't lost everything. But I'd really like to save this little machine if I can. I thought about removing the memory chip and trying to boot, but I can't remember if it's the upper chip or the lower one! Should I try to do this? (Taking out one chip at a time?) And should I take it in to have the backup battery replaced (I've owned it for nearly four years now, and, so far as I know, the battery has never been replaced.) Is there anything else I can do, or is this machine dead?

I have the original system disks, Jaguar, and a tiger DVD - not sure, however, if I can boot it from the external dvd drive, or any disk at all at this point. The only symptoms I'd had previously were a failure to shut down after I'd backed up stuff to my idisk and one previous cranky (but perfectly normal, once it got going) startup. I'm afraid I may have made matters worse by interrupting the repair in progress. It's a dual boot g3 700 mhz, running Tiger 10.4.11. Including the possibly defective chip, it has 768 megs of ram. It's been a great machine, and I was counting on having it for another year or two. TIA for your help!

iMac g3 SE 700mhz, Mac OS X (10.4.11), also, 2 eMacs 1.25 Mhz at work
  • Kenichi Watanabe Level 7 Level 7 (30,460 points)
    If it's been working with that RAM, I doubt it's the problem. Based on your description, I see no evidence that the RAM is bad.

    And should I take it in to have the backup battery replaced (I've owned it for nearly four years now, and, so far as I know, the battery has never been replaced.)


    A dead battery can cause startup problems, but I think your particular problem is caused by the disk directory damage that TechTool reported. Repair can take a long time, especially when running off a CDROM; if you stopped the repair process by force quitting it, that may have definitely made the situation worse.

    not sure, however, if I can boot it from the external dvd drive, or any disk at all at this point.


    Is your internal optical drive a CDRW? If so, how did you install Tiger on it, if your Tiger disc is a DVD?

    In the worse case, you should be able to reformat (erase) your hard drive, reinstall your the OS and apps, and restore your data. But there are some more trouble-shooting steps you can take. Here are two questions.

    Can you startup from the internal optical drive using the Tiger installation DVD or the Jaguar disc?

    Do you have access to another Mac that has FireWire ports?
  • maryj59 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Ouch! So I did make it worse. To answer your questions, I installed Tiger from the DVD using my firewire LaCie DVD/CD writer/reader. It's the same way I've installed other programs from DVD, but I never attempted to boot the machine this way. Should I?

    My sister's iBook, which is now working, has a firewire port. But even her new hard drive is rather small, and I wouldn't want to hog her computer?

    I was going to try to boot from the Jaguar CD and/or boot again from the techtool disk and let the repair run, if the machine will start. I'd let it run all night, if I had to. Alternately, I thought, if I can boot from the DVD drive, I might try a clean reinstall of the system. But there is some data (a couple of novels in progress) that I really want to save, if I can.

    Oh - my sister's machine ran just fine with this ram in in for a couple of months - just like mine. Then it failed to start - just like mine. The apple techs said the ram caused the problem. Strange, I know, but it's what they told us.
  • Kenichi Watanabe Level 7 Level 7 (30,460 points)
    RAM can go bad after it's been working, although it's not that common. I don't think it's ever happened to me. OWC has a lifetime warranty on RAM, so your sister may want to contact OWC.

    I installed Tiger from the DVD using my firewire LaCie DVD/CD writer/reader. It's the same way I've installed other programs from DVD, but I never attempted to boot the machine this way.


    Since you have to boot from the installation disc to install Tiger, you must have used that external DVD drive to boot the iMac before.

    If you can run boot from the Tiger DVD, do so. Then, at the first Installer screen (after language selection), go up to the Installer's menu under Utilities and select to run +Disk Utility+. Then, select the internal drive in the sidebar and run +Repair Disk+ in the +First Aid+ tab. Note if any errors are reported and, if so, see if Disk Utility was able to repair the damaged.

    If Disk Utility is not able to fix the error, you can let TechTool have another shot.

    Alternately, before any more repair attempts, you can do the following to try to save your data that was not backed up before attempting repair. Start up your iMac in +FireWire Target Disk Mode+.

    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1661

    This procedure turns your iMac into an external FireWire hard drive. Then connect it to your sister's iBook using a regular FireWire cable. The iMac's hard drive will hopefully appear on the iBook's desktop; disk directory damage sometimes prevents startup, but the drive may still be accessible if it's not the startup drive. If it does mount to the iBooks desktop, save off those important files right away.

    Once you have all the files you need, the best course of action may be to erase the drive and give the iMac a fresh start.
  • maryj59 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Kenichi, I just wanted to thank you for all that info. I will be happy if I can get my newest scrivener & appleworks and word files off the machine! Luckily, because of my sister's problems, I had backed up a lot of my stuff just a couple of weeks ago, so this situation isn't quite as drastic as it could have been. It's still upsetting though. I keep telling myself, "It's only a computer". But it has nearly ten years of stuff on it - mine and my sister's; work-related and personal -- and besides, these are such nice little machines!

    I will let you know what happens. Chances are this is my sign to upgrade. My sister chose not to, because, in her case, it was more cost-effective to simply replace the hard drive. What I do will depend on how much it costs to fix, I think.
  • maryj59 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    I just wanted to follow up. I followed the instructions you gave me and was able to boot the g3 in firewire target mode and get the files I was worried about onto my sister's iBook. Then I tried to boot from (1) the Tiger DVD using the lacie reader/writer. It didn't work. (2) My "original" Jaguar CD. It didn't work.

    At that point, I called up the repair shop that the Apple store had recommended, and they told me to bring it in. They suspect hard drive failure, and think it may not actually have been caused by anything but seven years of use. So they are checking the machine out now. If it is just the hard drive, or just the hard drive and backup battery, they think the machine will be both fixable and worth fixing. I am going to be calling them later in the afternoon to see what the diagnosis is. But I am hugely relieved that I could get the files off the machine. Thank you very much for the links!
  • Kenichi Watanabe Level 7 Level 7 (30,460 points)
    Glad you got your valuable files. No matter what happens to the iMac, I'd call that "having a good day"! Thanks for the followup post.