4 Replies Latest reply: Jun 5, 2010 4:29 AM by R C-R
Funmacmini Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
I have a Mac mini that seems to be on its way to the great computer graveyard in the sky. I hope you folks can help me bring it back from the dead.

When I start the mini the usual gray screen comes up and after about 15 seconds or so the dreaded blinking folder with the question mark appears. To date I have tried the following solutions recommended on this forum and by Apple itself. None have worked:

1) Resetted the PRAM by pressing Command-Option-P-R before powering on. I had a USB-based Apple keyboard plugged in. I held the keys as instructed but the mini never rebooted. Eventually the blinking question mark folder appeared.

2) Attempted to boot the machine using a Snow Leopard Installation DVD. I press and held the 'C' button before powering. After a few seconds the gray screen appeared and the DVD drive spun for about 10-15 seconds. As it stopped spinning the dastardly blinking folder appeared. Unfortunately the Snow Leopard disc now appears to be stuck in the drive - it won't eject.

3) Swallowed hard, pryed open my wallet and very carefully installed a new Hitachi Travelstar 500GB SATA drive using the instructions at iFixit.com. Crossed my fingers, made an offering to the computer gods and pressed the power button. BZZZZT. No luck, after the DVD spun for about a half a minute my old nemesis, Mr Blinking Question Mark Folder appeared on screen. I think he's laughing at me.

I'm thinking of trying a semi-desperate remedy. Slapping my new, unformatted drive into an external enclosure, formatting it and backing up my 13" aluminum MacBook to this drive using SuperDuper. Then moving this backed up drive from the external enclosure into the Mac mini. The MacBook is up to date with 10.6.3.

Will this work? Or is it a waste of my time?

Any other potential solutions? Advice?

1.66 GHz MacMini Core Duo, Mac OS X (10.6.3), 2GB Memory, 120GB Hard Drive
  • thomas_r. Level 7 Level 7 (29,915 points)
    The flashing question mark icon means that it can't find a system to boot from. The first thing that would spring to mind when seeing this is that the hard drive is damaged... either physically or just the data structures.

    2) Attempted to boot the machine using a Snow Leopard Installation DVD.


    If you can't boot from an appropriate Mac OS X install disk, then you've got bigger problems. Likely, you have a serious hardware problem and will need to contact Apple for assistance. I suppose that it is possible that your hard drive and either your DVD drive or your install disk both went bad at the same time, but it's unlikely.

    The big question is, should your computer boot from the disk you used. Did the Mini already have Snow Leopard installed, and if not, is it capable of running Snow Leopard? Is the disk you used a retail Snow Leopard disk (with a picture of a snow leopard on it) or is it a gray disk with the name of a specific machine on it? If it's the latter, and it didn't ship with the Mini, it won't work with the Mini.

    If the install disk you're using should work in the Mini, make an appointment at the Genius Bar at your [local Apple Retail Store|http://www.apple.com/retail> and take the machine in for someone to look at.

    Unfortunately the Snow Leopard disc now appears to be stuck in the drive - it won't eject.


    Hold down the mouse button while starting up.
  • Funmacmini Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    My mini already had Snow Leopard installed. It was installed using the retail Snow Leopard DVD (Family Pack).

    At the time my troubles started the DVD drive had been working just fine - earlier that same day I loaded a music CD into iTunes.

    My only problem with taking the machine into my Apple Store is that it is beyond its 3 year warranty period. Not sure what the Apple Store will charge me for an initial assessment.
  • thomas_r. Level 7 Level 7 (29,915 points)
    At the time my troubles started the DVD drive had been working just fine


    All that tells you is that, if it isn't able to boot from a valid install disk now, it's even more unlikely that you had two components fail, since they definitely had to do so at almost exactly the same time. This means that there's one component inside your machine that isn't working properly, and it's probably not one as cheap and easy to replace as a hard drive or DVD drive. Of course, that's a guess, and an Apple rep would be able to give you better information.

    My only problem with taking the machine into my Apple Store is that it is beyond its 3 year warranty period. Not sure what the Apple Store will charge me for an initial assessment.


    They won't charge you anything to take a look at it, try to boot it, run some diagnostics (if possible), etc. It will cost you some money to repair it, but they'll give you an estimate of the cost for free. Of course, it may be cheaper to just replace it than repair it, depending on what they tell you.
  • R C-R Level 6 Level 6 (15,030 points)
    Funmacmini wrote:
    My mini already had Snow Leopard installed. It was installed using the retail Snow Leopard DVD (Family Pack).


    Are you certain this is the DVD that is in the drive when the C key startup method fails to work?

    Also, try restarting with that DVD in the drive, but don't press the C key until immediately after you hear the startup chime, then continue holding it down until you (hopefully) see the Apple logo. This could take 10 to 20 seconds.