7 Replies Latest reply: Oct 19, 2013 4:26 PM by Kinsett
Kinsett Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

Any help would be greatly appreciated with a problem I am having.

 

I have a Mid 2009 2009 MacBook Pro that is showing a flashing question mark against a grey background when I try and start it up.

 

If i remove the HDD and place it in a USB caddy the system boots and runs just fine but the same drive does not appear in the list of bootable drives (in fact no drives appear)

 

I have tried with several known good HDDs from other Macs.

 

I have tried resetting the NVRAM with Command-Option-P-R but each time the same grey screen and flashing question mark remains - no options appear.

 

I have tried to resting PRAM via Terminal - refuses to recognise command.

 

I have removed hardware password using System disk.

 

I have pulled my hair out.

 

None of the above have worked.

 

Does anyone have any clues as to anything else I can try?

 

Many thanks.


MacBook Pro
  • 1. Re: Flashing Question Mark on Boot-Up
    Kappy Level 10 Level 10 (226,760 points)

    Question (?) Mark, Blinking Folder, or Gray Screen at Startup

     

    These are related but not identical issues. Their causes are outlined in Intel-based Mac- Startup sequence and error codes, symbols. Solutions may be found in:

     

    A flashing question mark appears when you start your Mac

    Mac OS X- Gray screen appears during startup

     

    In most cases the problems may be caused by:

     

    Problem with the computer's PRAM - See Resetting your Mac's PRAM and NVRAM.

    Boot drive's directory has been corrupted - Repair with Disk Utility.

    Critical system files are damaged or deleted - Reinstall OS X.

    The disk drive is physically non-functional - Replace the hard drive.

     

    Repair the Hard Drive and Permissions

     

    Boot from your Snow Leopard Installer disc. After the installer loads select your language and click on the Continue button. When the menu bar appears select Disk Utility from the Utilities menu. After DU loads select your hard drive entry (mfgr.'s ID and drive size) from the the left side list.  In the DU status area you will see an entry for the S.M.A.R.T. status of the hard drive.  If it does not say "Verified" then the hard drive is failing or failed. (SMART status is not reported on external Firewire or USB drives.) If the drive is "Verified" then select your OS X volume from the list on the left (sub-entry below the drive entry,) click on the First Aid tab, then click on the Repair Disk button. If DU reports any errors that have been fixed, then re-run Repair Disk until no errors are reported. If no errors are reported click on the Repair Permissions button. Wait until the operation completes, then quit DU and return to the installer.

     

    If DU reports errors it cannot fix, then you will need Disk Warrior and/or Tech Tool Pro to repair the drive. If you don't have either of them or if neither of them can fix the drive, then you will need to reformat the drive and reinstall OS X.

     

     

    The main difference if you are using Lion or Mountain Lion is that you must first boot from the Recovery HD:

     

    Boot From The Recovery HD:


     

    Restart the computer and after the chime press and hold down the COMMAND and R keys until the menu screen appears. Alternatively, restart the computer and after the chime press and hold down the OPTION key until the boot manager screen appears. Select the Recovery HD and click on the downward pointing arrow button.

     

    Reinstall Snow Leopard Without Erasing The drive

     

    1. Repair the Hard Drive and Permissions

     

    Boot from your Snow Leopard Installer disc. After the installer loads select your language and click on the Continue button. When the menu bar appears select Disk Utility from the Utilities menu. After DU loads select your hard drive entry (mfgr.'s ID and drive size) from the the left side list.  In the DU status area you will see an entry for the S.M.A.R.T. status of the hard drive.  If it does not say "Verified" then the hard drive is failing or failed. (SMART status is not reported on external Firewire or USB drives.) If the drive is "Verified" then select your OS X volume from the list on the left (sub-entry below the drive entry,) click on the First Aid tab, then click on the Repair Disk button. If DU reports any errors that have been fixed, then re-run Repair Disk until no errors are reported. If no errors are reported click on the Repair Permissions button. Wait until the operation completes, then quit DU and return to the installer.

     

    If DU reports errors it cannot fix, then you will need Disk Warrior and/or Tech Tool Pro to repair the drive. If you don't have either of them or if neither of them can fix the drive, then you will need to reformat the drive and reinstall OS X.

     

    2. Reinstall Snow Leopard

     

    If the drive is OK then quit DU and return to the installer.  Proceed with reinstalling OS X.  Note that the Snow Leopard installer will not erase your drive or disturb your files.  After installing a fresh copy of OS X the installer will move your Home folder, third-party applications, support items, and network preferences into the newly installed system.

     

    Download and install Mac OS X 10.6.8 Update Combo v1.1.

     

    Reinstalling Lion/Mountain Lion Without Erasing The Drive

     

    Boot to the Recovery HD: Restart the computer and after the chime press and hold down the COMMAND and R keys until the menu screen appears. Alternatively, restart the computer and after the chime press and hold down the OPTION key until the boot manager screen appears. Select the Recovery HD and click on the downward pointing arrow button.

     

    Repair the Hard Drive and Permissions: Upon startup select Disk Utility from the main menu. Repair the Hard Drive and Permissions as follows.

     

    When the recovery menu appears select Disk Utility. After DU loads select your hard drive entry (mfgr.'s ID and drive size) from the the left side list.  In the DU status area you will see an entry for the S.M.A.R.T. status of the hard drive.  If it does not say "Verified" then the hard drive is failing or failed. (SMART status is not reported on external Firewire or USB drives.) If the drive is "Verified" then select your OS X volume from the list on the left (sub-entry below the drive entry,) click on the First Aid tab, then click on the Repair Disk button. If DU reports any errors that have been fixed, then re-run Repair Disk until no errors are reported. If no errors are reported click on the Repair Permissions button. Wait until the operation completes, then quit DU and return to the main menu.

     

    Reinstall Lion/Mountain Lion: Select Reinstall Lion/Mountain Lion and click on the Continue button.

     

    Note: You will need an active Internet connection. I suggest using Ethernet if possible because it is three times faster than wireless.

  • 2. Re: Flashing Question Mark on Boot-Up
    OGELTHORPE Level 7 Level 7 (25,720 points)

    Kinsett wrote:

     

    If i remove the HDD and place it in a USB caddy the system boots and runs just fine but the same drive does not appear in the list of bootable drives (in fact no drives appear)

     

    This strongly suggests that the connection cable is an issue and should be replaced or the connections checked. 

     

    Where are you looking for boot drives?

     

    Ciao.

  • 3. Re: Flashing Question Mark on Boot-Up
    Kinsett Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Many thanks for your guidance. I am looking for the drive when starting up and the Option key held down.

     

    I shall get my multimeter on the connection cable to check for faulty connections but as I best recall the laptop packed up after XP crashed under Boot Camp. I don't know if this is a coincidental or indiates a possible source to the problem.

     

    Thanks again

     

    Pete

  • 4. Re: Flashing Question Mark on Boot-Up
    OGELTHORPE Level 7 Level 7 (25,720 points)

    When you have the external HDD connected, does it appear in System Preferences.Startup Disk?

     

    Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 6.45.36 PM.png

     

    Ciao.

  • 5. Re: Flashing Question Mark on Boot-Up
    Kinsett Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Many thanks for the screenshot. No the drive does not appear - just the external HDD.

     

    Thanks.

  • 6. Re: Flashing Question Mark on Boot-Up
    OGELTHORPE Level 7 Level 7 (25,720 points)

    The external HDD is a boot drive so it SHOULD appear!  If the cable is faulty or the internal HDD is dead, then the internal HDD would not appear.

     

    Ciao..

  • 7. Re: Flashing Question Mark on Boot-Up
    Kinsett Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    OK - many thanks for your guidance - I'll follow up on the faulty cable hypothesis as I know the internal HDD to be good.

     

    Thanks again!

     

    Pete