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Question: MacBook (White 2008) hangs unless in safe mode

I have an old MacBook Core 2 Duo 2.1 13" (White-08) that I'm trying to upgrade for my daughter to use for basic tasks such as going online and doing homework as it's been sat in a drawer for a few years doing nothing. It needs a new battery but is operating using the charger for now.


However, it will only boot in safe mode and hangs on the grey screen even when booting from external USB or DVD. I've tried both the 10.5 and 10.6 install disks and it appears to starting booting from them (eg. I can hear the DVD drive whirring) but it hangs at the same point and the spinner stops spinning.


In safe mode, I tried deleting the existing admin account and creating a fresh one but that didn't help.


I have also replaced both RAM modules from the original 2 x 512mb to 2 x 2gb so I know it's not the RAM causing problems. I also did some trial and error swapping modules around as well as running Apple Diagnostics and no errors where flagged.


I can boot in single user mode and perform fsck and it says the volume appears to be ok but when re-booting it hangs again and the spinner stops spinning at the same point. I've left it overnight and it doesn't progress past the grey screen.


I tried booting in verbose mode but it gets stuck on the line "airport: link down on en1". Because of that, I tried deactivating airport and ethernet whilst in safe mode and re-booting but that didn't help either.


I'm now out of options, can anyone think of anything else I can try? I was thinking I could run the MacBook in target mode and run disk utility on my MacBook Pro (retina, mid 15) but it doesn't have a firewire port to enable me to do that unless there's another way?


Any help would be much appreciated!

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Did you try resetting NVRAM as well as SMC which could solve the problem?

How to reset NVRAM on your Mac - Apple Support

How to reset the System Management Controller (SMC) on your Mac - Apple Support


If they don't work, you'd better make Genius Bar appointment or take the MacBook to Apple Authorized Service Provider to check by the special utility they have.

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Nov 17, 2017 7:38 PM in response to markbird In response to markbird

Did you try resetting NVRAM as well as SMC which could solve the problem?

How to reset NVRAM on your Mac - Apple Support

How to reset the System Management Controller (SMC) on your Mac - Apple Support


If they don't work, you'd better make Genius Bar appointment or take the MacBook to Apple Authorized Service Provider to check by the special utility they have.

Nov 17, 2017 7:38 PM

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Nov 22, 2017 4:38 AM in response to markbird In response to markbird

UPDATE: I spoke to Apple Support who, despite pointing out that this model was no longer supported, was pretty helpful. They reckoned that because I was able to boot in safe mode that it was unlikely to be a hardware problem which encouraged me to persist.


I managed to remove the HDD from the MacBook and installed it into a caddy where I was able to re-format it to a single GUID partition format and install a fresh version of 10.5. However, the MacBook will still only boot in safe mode. To rule out a problem with the internal drive I tried booting from a full installation of 10.6 on an external usb drive but encountered the same problems in as much as it would only boot in safe mode. Strangely, once in safe mode the mac runs pretty well but I don't think that's a long-term solution.


For the freshly installed 10.5 on the internal drive there were a number of updates available such as the 10.5.8 combo update and an airport update but having run the updates it automatically reboots and then hangs on the grey screen again and I have to re-boot in safe mode. Once re-booted in safe mode I can see that the updates have been successful and then have run the next batch in the same way. This time I actually get past the grey screen on a normal boot but I'm now stuck on a blue (pre-login?) screen! 😫


I feel like I'm making progress but just can't work out how to boot without safe mode. Please help!

Nov 22, 2017 4:38 AM

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Nov 23, 2017 5:34 AM in response to markbird In response to markbird

The blue screen usually indicates damaged or incompatible software OS X Yosemite: If you see a blue screen at startup

Are you restoring any data or are these problems happening with just OS X installed?

Regardless of what Apple Support says I'm betting that you have a hardware issue, namely a failing GPU.

Safe mode in OS X Leopard v10.5 or later also disables accelerated graphics. This makes the menu bar appear solid even if "Translucent Menu Bar" or "Reduce Transparency" is selected in System Preferences. Your screen might also "blink" or "tear" during login when your Mac is started in safe mode.

Use safe mode to isolate issues with your Mac - Apple Support

Nov 23, 2017 5:34 AM

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Question: MacBook (White 2008) hangs unless in safe mode