Flashing Question Mark Folder on Boot, Who Knows Why

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Klrbee25, May 5, 2007.

  1. Klrbee25 macrumors member

    Mar 23, 2007
    Hey Everyone,

    So I was happily using my new 24" iMac for the past 3 weeks, but last night it took a dump on me. Earlier in the day I had installed Photoshop CS3 without problem. Then last night before bed, I shut the system down normally. Realizing I forgot to do something, I went to boot it back up a few minutes later and I get the flashing folder with a question mark.

    I found the Apple support webpage and here's what I've done this far:
    1) held the C key and booted off the install CD. Going into the disk repair utility, the harddrive is listed on the left column but when selected there are no drive volumes to repair....just empty.
    2) Rebooted holding the option key to try and reselect the harddrive as the boot source. Doing this only shows the boot CD icon and if the CD is removed, no icon is shown at all.
    3) I reset the PRAM...nothing changed
    4) I called Apple on the phone and they said to unplug the system for 20 sec and then plug it in and try rebooting (Reset the SMC). No change, still getting the flashing folder.

    Finally, I ran the Apple Hardware Test in both simple and extended modes, and no problems were found.

    My question is this: It appears that the harddrive is no longer formatted. I have a genius bar appointment at noon today, but simply reinstalling OS X and reformatting the HD doesn't solve the main problem. Why the hell did this suddenly happen? While I could reinstall, it doesn't necessarily stop this from happening again in the future.

    Any ideas on why this would suddenly happen?

    As a desperate attempt to find a reason, I can only think of one actual event that may or may not be related. After installing CS3, I moved the program to another folder in Applications. When starting CS3 it would say the program moved and I have to repair the permissions. It did this every time I started CS3, so I just moved the program back to the original install location and the problem resolved. Unless that "repair permissions" for CS3 could affect the harddrive permissions, I have no idea what's caused this.

    Any help would be much appreciated!


  2. ghall macrumors 68040


    Jun 27, 2006
    Rhode Island
    The only solution that I can think of is to do an archive and install. This will perserve your documents, and setting, and such, but will replace your OS instalation with a new one.
    To do this, start up from the install disk. Part way through the installation process, there will be a window to select your install option, select "Archive and Install" and click next. Hope this works, and good luck.
    And remember, back up freqeuntly!
  3. scotpole macrumors member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Wiped Drive

    If you have an external drive without a system and in system preferences you chose this hard drive, you might receive a folder with a flashing icon, but you should have been able to switch to your internal drive by holding down the "C" key at startup. You may be able to boot from the Apple restore DVD and change the startup disk under system preferences to your internal drive.

    However, it sounds like you wiped your hard drive. It also sounds like you were working in Disk Utility, because you said you were told to repair permissions. You might have done one of several things. If you clicked on restore in Disk Utility, you might have erased your drive. If you had clicked on erase partition or raid you might have re-initialized your hard drive and all your data would have been rewritten. However, you probably would have had pop up windows asking if you really wanted to wipe your hard drive.

    If you were playing around too much with the X11 or the console it is possible you made a command to remove the directory and wiped your drive. In this case you might not wave seen a warning dialogue box.

    If you restore your hard drive and this happens again and you lose data and you are sure you have not given the computer a command to reformat the hard drive, you might have a hardware problem and want to contact apple for service.
  4. Klrbee25 thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 23, 2007
    Thanks for the replies.

    I have no peripherals connected right now. I started to go through the setup process, but I didn't see a window asking to archive and install. Perhaps I didn't go far enough, but it seemed like another click and it would start doing a full install.

    As for the permissions I referred to when using CS3, this wasn't in disk utility. It was a little pop-up window when I clicked the photoshop program file icon to start the program. It just said the program was moved and the file access would be repaired. This happened a couple times even after clicking "repair" but then resolved when I just moved the program back to the original location. The computer was running just fine the whole time...I even put it to sleep once and it restarted without a hitch. Then I actually shut down and restarted, and this happened.

    So, I have no explanation for why the hard drive would show up as unformatted. I didn't do anything in disk utilities. Unless perhaps this is a bug within photoshop or mac OS X when that little window pops up. Even then, I wouldn't think I could use the computer like normal until rebooting if the drive was wiped at that time.

    Fortunately I won't have lost too much since most of my files were backed up on an external drive. My concern is that if I don't know why this happened, it may well happen again in the future. I'd actually rather have this be a hardware failure! (But the hardware check utility said everything is perfectly fine).

    Still open for any thoughts...I'll post my genius bar experience when I get home in a few hours.

  5. Klrbee25 thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 23, 2007
    My trip over to the genius bar had the genius stumped. There's essentially no good explanation for the loss of the drive's partition. He said his plan was to reinstall the OS and if that was successful, the drive could not be faulty. Of course, it went without a hitch and I'm back up and running (minus all my iTunes music...I thought I had it backed up!).

    This was my concern though..that there wouldn't be a good explanation. Now I've bought some backup software and a 500gb external drive so I can clone my internal drive. Hopefully this won't happen again.
  6. ghall macrumors 68040


    Jun 27, 2006
    Rhode Island
    Congrats! I love happy endings.
    Sucks about your iTunes music though. You didn't have anything that was bought off the iTunes store, did you?
  7. Klrbee25 thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 23, 2007
    Actually, quite a bit of it was purchased from the store. I know they say you only get one download, but is it possible to get the purchased songs again if I contact them?
  8. Klrbee25 thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 23, 2007
    Just an update on my situation.

    Today I had another crash from which Disk Utility could not repair the hard drive. I also noticed that I'm getting periodic, 10-30 second freezes while using the computer for simple tasks (not consuming resources). I've now formatted and reinstalled OS X for the third time, and I had yet another crash from which things recovered after rebooting. It seems that the system becomes less and less stable as I move over my photos and music from my external drive.

    Talking to the mac support people, they've confirmed that given the past events with the more recent symptoms, this appears to be a failing hard drive. The Chicago store is ordering a new drive for me which I'll have swapped out as soon as it arrives. Until then, I'm limping along without moving over any files so I can at least use the computer for everyday tasks until the new drive arrives.

    Ugh, talk about a sour taste on a new switch to Mac. (Could happen to any computer though). I will say that Mac support is stellar.

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