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howwow Level 4 Level 4 (3,500 points)
Hello all.

I think my sister's Mac mini Intel seems to be "cursed", first it lost its audio and have to had that fixed, then it doesn't seem to connect to the USB HK Soundsticks well...

And now...

My sis was just MSN-ing, but was leaving her mac idle, then she said the screen went black all of a sudden; So I just tired restarting the Mac but it shows a Question Mark folder, when I try to restart again trying to zap the PRam, it only gets zap once, after that, if I keep pressing the keys only grey screen.

Tried a few times still the ? Folder...

Help, what is wrong with the Mac mini? This is the 1st time I've encounter a ? Folder since using OS X for so long. Do I have to call AppleCare again, or is something I can do myself?

Thanks and cheers

iMac G5 20" (ALS), Mac OS X (10.4.8), MacBook Core 2 Duo (2.0GHz White), iPod 60Gb, iPod nano 4Gb
  • Douglas McLaughlin Level 9 Level 9 (63,740 points)
    The question mark means that the Mac mini can't find a system folder to startup from. There could be a simple fix, or you may need to startup from the Mac OS X install disk. First, restart the Mac mini and hold down on the "option" key (this may be the "alt" key on a non-North American keyboard). You will be presented with a Startup Manager that should allow you to select a startup disk. If no hard drive appears in the window, then for some reason the Mac mini can't see the hard drive inside or the system folder has become corrupted so it's no longer bootable. If you can see the hard drive, just click on it to select it and then click the right arrow to continue starting up.

    If no hard drive appears in that window, you may need to use the Disk Utility on the Mac OS X install disk to repair the hard drive or, for some reason, the hard drive is no longer working correctly. You can probably slip the Mac OS X install disk right into the Mac mini while you're looking at the Startup Manager screen, click the circular arrow to "re-scan" for a system folder and when the install disk appears, click on it and press the right arrow to continue. You'll be asked to select a language to use and then at the next screen, don't continue, but choose to open the Disk Utility from the Utilities menu. Does the hard drive appear to the Disk Utility? If so, select it on the left-hand side and then click "repair disk" on the right-hand slide. Hopefully it can repair any trouble it finds, then you can quit the Disk Utility and then quit the Installer to restart back to the hard drive. If it finds some trouble it can't repair or you can't see the internal hard drive, let us know and we'll try to take it from there...

    -Doug
  • howwow Level 4 Level 4 (3,500 points)
    Hi Douglas, thanks for the great help. It's about 1.30am now here in Singapore, so I guess I'll try this tomorrow evening.

    Will keep you guys posted, I hope I can fix this D.I.Y. and not having to bring it into the store or call AppleCare again.

    Thanks and cheers
  • howwow Level 4 Level 4 (3,500 points)
    Hi Douglas, hmmm, I don't think it is going very well...

    Managed to find a bit of time

    -managed to slip in the OS disc that came with the mini, use "C" key or Option key during Startup, nothing happens, just grey screen for a long time, I don't even hear the disc spinning

    -disc still in drive. (Luckily) connected to the Clone Drive (backup) of the mini via FireWire, startup, press Option key, can see the Clone Disk, able to boot into the Clone Disk

    -a message pop up after startup finish at Desktop, say something about not recongnising the OS disc, gave me buttons option to Ignore, Initialise and Eject, I press Eject, nothing happens, press Eject key on keyboard, disc won't eject

    -launch Disk Utility in Clone Disk, can see the Internal Disk, but Repair options are grey out, not clickable, can only Erase!

    -OS disc is nowhere in sight!

    I would like to mention an incident just prior to this, yesterday I was trying to install Illustrator on the Mac mini, first time it reported some error didn't finish, I abort, restart and re-insert the Installer disc, the disc DID NOT mount on desktop, no spinning sound, very quiet.

    Then I have to restart again, insert the installer disc, this time the disc will mount, I was able to install Illustrator with success.

    Does this mean there is more than one faulty device, besides the internal disk?

    Thanks and cheers
  • Douglas McLaughlin Level 9 Level 9 (63,740 points)
    Okay, we know some more now. If you select the Mac mini's internal hard drive in the Disk Utility while booted from your backup, does it report a "S.M.A.R.T. status" at the bottom? Does the internal drive have two sections, one the name of the type of disk (something like "74.8 GB Maxtor 6B20080") and a second with the name you gave the hard drive? (Maybe "Macintosh HD"?)

    Do you have a DVD (even a movie) you can put into the optical drive? It seems your Illustrator CD worked, but maybe the Mac OS X install disk (which is a DVD) and other DVDs aren't working now... Are you sure you had the right install disk for the Mac mini? Another install disk may not work correctly (but it probably should mount).

    -Doug
  • howwow Level 4 Level 4 (3,500 points)
    Hi Douglas,

    Inside Disk Utility of my Clone Drive, I can only see the first section, the technical name of the disk, NO second name i.e. a drive name But the S.M.A.R.T. status says 'Verified'

    Yeap had the right OS disc that came with the Mac mini. The fact the disc does not spin at all when inserted, press C key or Option key does nothing also worries me a bit that the optical drive maybe faulty too.

    Anyway, just called AppleCare, trying to get them to repair it or something.

    Cheers
  • howwow Level 4 Level 4 (3,500 points)
    Hi all, just an update: AppleCare needs me in front of the Mac mini to determine whether if it is the OS disc that are faulty, and need me to run them on another Mac to test, and also to try another CD or DVD, I think is to determine whether if it is the optical drive that is faulty.

    And since I am at work, I think I can only try this evening, trying to find some free time if I can to do it earlier.

    Cheers
  • howwow Level 4 Level 4 (3,500 points)
    Oh Hi, just need to check: AppleCare asked me to check if the OS disc that same with the Mac mini is OK or not...

    Can I safely boot the Mac mini OS disc on another Mac? Must it be an Intel Mac? I have the MacBook.

    How about vice-versa, to test the Mac mini's optical drive, can I use the MacBook's OS disc to boot up the Mac mini?

    As long as I don't run Disk Utility, is it OK? Or can I just go ahead and run it anyway?

    Thanks and cheers
  • Douglas McLaughlin Level 9 Level 9 (63,740 points)
    Okay, a couple of things... The "verified" status is a good sign. That would be an indication that you may only have a software problem, not a hardware problem, with the internal hard drive. However, the S.M.A.R.T. status is not the final word on a hardware problem.

    It sounds like you have a good backup of all the important files, are you willing to erase the hard drive and re-install everything from the backup?

    Before we do that, we might need to check the optical drive. When the Mac mini is started up from the clone/backup drive, can you put in the MacBook's install disk? It's a DVD and that will help us to determine if the optical drive is working at all if it shows up or not. If you need to send in the Mac mini for service on the optical drive, you might wait until it gets back before re-installing all your files.

    Most of the Mac OS X install disks that have shipped with Intel-based Macs are hardware-specific. You won't be able to reinstall Mac OS X from the disk from another model Mac.

    -Doug
  • howwow Level 4 Level 4 (3,500 points)
    Hi Douglas, yeap, I know that even if the S.M.A.R.T. status says "verfied", doesn't mean the hard drive is in good condition, my last hard disk on my iMac G5 died, and its status was also "verified", ran Hardware Test even yield all OK results.

    Right now (I mean later at home) I would just check if the Mac mini's OS disc will boot on my MacBook, and vice versa, to test both the Mac mini's disc and its optical drive.

    After that I would still need to solve the Question Mark folder problem.

    Erasing the internal drive is no problem, since I can anytime just "clone back" from the external drive, but only drawback is that it is at least 2 weeks' early, short of some data, but the good thing is my sister only does mainly Mail, and messaging.

    Cheers
  • howwow Level 4 Level 4 (3,500 points)
    Hi all.

    OK here is the latest, I have the most lengthy and most phone calls with AppleCare techs, going through each possible "cure" possible... so they cannot really determine if
    -it's the internal disk that is faulty
    -optical drive also faulty
    -even the OS install discs also faulty

    I have intermittent success booting up from the OS disc, and the 1st round I cannot erase the disk; 2nd time I boot from the clone disk, can erase the internal disk... so I went on to install the fresh OS

    Now everything seems OK... for now, I have begun to clone back from the back up disk, just going to heed their advice and run for a few days and see what happens...

    Cheers
  • howwow Level 4 Level 4 (3,500 points)
    OK, here's a quick quick update:

    -finish cloning back to the internal disk; this is where it "gets interesting"...

    When I restart the Mac mini, the ? folder flash for a mere second, then the normal grey Apple logo appears, and continues to boot up...

    Although I felt the time taken to boot from start to the Desktop seems slower, at least it felt slower than booting to the external Clone Drive.

    Is this indicating something?

    Thanks and cheers
  • Douglas McLaughlin Level 9 Level 9 (63,740 points)
    When I restart the Mac mini, the ? folder flash for a mere second, then the normal grey Apple logo appears, and continues to boot up...


    After flipping back and forth between your backup, the install disk and the hard drive, your Startup Disk System Preferences may be a little confused. Just open it and make sure your internal hard drive is now selected as the startup disk.

    -Doug
  • howwow Level 4 Level 4 (3,500 points)
    Hi Doug, I hope so too, because I spent the entire day yesterday talking to AppleCare, running Disk Utility, Hareware Test etc... and finally erasing the disk, re-installing the OS and cloning back from the back up.

    Stil, I am quite puzzled why this happens in the first place? What might have trigger or cause the ? folder to boot up?

    Cheers
  • Douglas McLaughlin Level 9 Level 9 (63,740 points)
    It's possible the preference has simply not been established yet. Since it does eventually startup, then the system folder is okay. The Mac mini may just not know to look at the internal drive first, so it hesitates for a second or two.

    -Doug
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