8 Replies Latest reply: Apr 3, 2013 7:44 AM by ChicagoAl
ChicagoAl Level 1 (0 points)

I'm sure this is going to go over familiar territory.   We have a housefull of Macs and have had for a long time, and I'm fairly used to hunting down issues.  This particular one is a problem I've fortunately not seen before.  I suspect a serious hardware problem, but only got a look at it once it was fairly advanced.


My teen son was using this computer, a 21"  iMac, I think from 2007 (it was a hand me down from his Mac-savvy Grandma).   He says that it was freezing on him for the last week or two, and he'd have to restart.  Then a couple of days ago when he restarted he got a folder icon with a ?, so he took the install discs and reinstalled the OS, which was 10.4.   Yes, at this point he'd already goofed, because he'd gone over his data, and though he had an external HD, he had not used it with Time Machine for several months.  I don't know what he was thinking, but he's 16...he probably was not. 


This was where I finally came in. Yes, get old Dad involved once an issue has reached the crisis stage. :-\


At that point his desktop showed a fresh install of 10.4, which we wanted to update at least, and possibly retrieve his last Time Machine, but I figured there was likely an underlying problem.   Disk utility showed that the disk needed repairing, but I figured that needed to be done from an install disk, and for good measure, I should probably run the Hardware Test as well. 


Now things got complicated, because I have been unable to get the computer to start from any install disk I've tried.  We have two sets of original install disks from this generation of iMacs (two similar computers), and complete install discs for 10.5 and 10.6, as well as Disk Doctor.   The computer refuses to start up from any of them, with either 'C' or 'D' held down, nor will it start up in Safe Mode.  And now the fresh install of 10.4 has disappeared as well.


All that occurs on restart, after the 'bong' is a grey screen. If a disk is in the optical drive, there is a brief sound of it spinning up, then silence for a good while, maybe 2 mins, then the disk is spit out.  Nothing more.  I have zapped the PRAM or whatever it's called these days, with no change.


We did have an external DVD drive somewhere and I'd like to try that, in case there's a problem with the optical drive itself, but I am thinking this computer may have both disk and hardware issues.  


Any advice welcome...thanks in advance!

MacPro, MBP, many Macs in the house, Mac OS X (10.6.8)
  • BDAqua Level 10 (121,630 points)

    Hi, sounds like the Hard Drive is dying, & that can prevent booting up.


    Hold alt key on bootup, what shows as boot choices?


    Have you unplugged all peripherals, cords, & AC power, let sit 30 minutes & try just with AC connected?


    If you don't know the model, find the Serial# & use it on one of these sites, but don't post the Serial# here...






    How to find the serial number of your Apple hardware product...




    Tough without the Install disc, but some things to try...


    Does it boot to Single User Mode, CMD+s keys at bootup, if so try...


    /sbin/fsck -fy


    Repeat until it shows no errors fixed.


    (Space between fsck AND -fy important).


    Resolve startup issues and perform disk maintenance with Disk Utility and fsck...



  • ChicagoAl Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks, BDAqua.  I'll try those.  It has definitely sat for periods unplugged, and I've also tried different keyboard and mouse in case something was wrong there.  Today I bought a cheap ext DVD drive and tried the install disk there.  It spins up when the computer's turned on, but nothing further.


    Doubt it will boot to single user as safe mode doesn't work, but I'll try that too.


    Really, thanks for anyone with suggestions.  My son is resigned to the computer being dead, not too upset at loss of data, as all school assignments were turned in through a web portal, and his music was on his ipod.  It's not like he has his tax records on it! 


    Actually he says he doesn't mind not having it in his room and it's encouraging him to read more, so kind of a good thing!

  • ChicagoAl Level 1 (0 points)

    I spoke too soon! It turns out the computer would start up from the install disk in the external DVD player; it just took a long time (> 5 mins).  Having done that I tried to coax it into starting up in AHT (holding down the D key) but no go on that.  So I restarted with the C key down, again it took several minutes to come up, ran disk utility, showing that it needs repair, and am running that now.


    BTW BDacqua, the last link in your post just takes me back to the main Apple support page.

  • BDAqua Level 10 (121,630 points)

    Sorry about the link, thanks, Apple moving furniture again!


    Good luck on the repair!


    For AHT on the external, try holfing the alt key?

  • ChicagoAl Level 1 (0 points)

    Well, the problem has found a solution.   With the external DVD drive and original install drive, I was able to boot up and run Disk Utility.  Repairs were needed but actually appeared to be minor.   I ran that, then ran it another couple of times just to be sure. 


    Having done that we restarted the computer (teen son having joined in for this part) and were offered the choice of the 10.4 install disk or...10.6.8, which is what was on the computer before the crash.


    It booted up! 


    And, amazingly, there was my son's original drive, music, documents, everything intact.  We had written that completely off.


    I will run AHT just to see if there's an underlying problem.  For one thing I'm suspicious of the optical drive. 


    And, of course, son is now running Time Machine to get a current backup.  I'm pretty sure he will not let that lapse again.


    Thanks for the help, BDacqua.


    These stories don't have such a happy ending usually, glad this one did.

  • BDAqua Level 10 (121,630 points)

    Whew, great to hear, thanks for the report!

  • ChicagoAl Level 1 (0 points)

    Ah, well, here I am back again...the problem has resurfaced.  I am starting a fresh thread though.

  • ChicagoAl Level 1 (0 points)

    Just to give a final report here for anyone who finds this thread:


    I went through a bunch of different things: Disk Utility multiple times, TechTool Pro, Drive Genius, Disk Warrior, re-install of system, in every possible variation.  The computer would seem like it was back to normal, then would just get stuck again within a short while, either grey screen on startup or if it got past that, spinning beach ball on desktop, no functions on anything.  One repair program would report it had fixed problems, but then DU would say it couldn't be repaired, and so on and so forth.   At one point I had Drive Genius do a Surface Scan, and it was up to 4000 errors when I cancelled the test.


    So, finally, teen son and I replaced the HD.  Three days now and it's working fine.  It took an hour or so, and was a painstaking process, but there are clear instructions on the web, and we had no problems but a Torx #6 dropped in the chassis, which son cleverly retrieved.   With the new HD in, we re-installed 10.6 from disc, restored his data from Time Machine, ran the 10.6.8 updater, and everything is back as it should be.


    This took a lot of time to resolve, and I could have saved most of that by just replacing the HD in the first place, but I did exhaust every option, and now I have a battery of tools to deal with any future problems with our house full of Macs.