Flashing Question Mark has me pulling my hair out

Discussion in 'macOS' started by momech, Dec 29, 2010.

  1. momech macrumors newbie

    Jan 31, 2009
    Hi everyone,

    as of yesterday evening my Mac is currently unusable so I'm hoping someone out there has a solution for me.

    I've been having problems with my iMac 24" 8,1 model (using 4 GB RAM with ca. 87 GB of space available on the HD, Leopard 10.5,8).
    During the last few weeks I've been experiencing long delays and lots of spinning beach balls, usually whilst working in Photoshop CS2 (on an admittedly very large file). I assumed it was the file size that was the problem, and that when I was done things would be fine.
    However, yesterday on trying to save my work, the computer really struggled and after an age - around 20 minutes - I got a "failed to save" warning for the file, saying there was a problem with the scratch disk (unfortunately, I didn't read this warning very closely).
    Just after that I got a warning from Time Machine that latest backup had failed. Then the Mac froze showing beachball, and force quit didn't work so I did a hard reboot and was presented with the dreaded flashing question mark for the first time.
    After several restarts it found the startup disk but the problem has now become chronic - Photoshop freezes after opening, Firefox too, even Preview. Beachball each time and impossible to force quit, requiring hard restart and most often getting the flashing question mark...
    So far I have tried the following: reselected my HD in Startup Manager, verified the disk and repaired permissions in Disk Utility (everything fine), also Repaired Disk booting from Mac OS X Install disc (again HD fine) and reset the PRAM.
    I don't know if it's of importance but I noticed in the Activity window Kernel Task is using 1,7 GB of RAM - is that normal? Also, whilst using Safari I got the beach ball and CPU for the program shot up to 95,5%!!
    Short of erasing and reinstalling OS X I don't know what to try!
    If anyone can shed a light on my problem I'd really appreciate the help :confused:

    Thanks in advance!
  2. MacDawg macrumors Core


    Mar 20, 2004
    "Between the Hedges"
    I would say your HD is failing
    I would make sure you have a current backup immediately
  3. momech thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 31, 2009
    Thanks for yr input!

    Really, the HD? On such a new machine? Even though Disk Utility says it's fine?

    At least I'm all backed-up on Time Machine... Guess I'll try reinstalling as a last resort.
  4. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    I wouldn't say it's new anymore. HDs are prone to fail. Your iMac is what, 3 years old? It's not that abnormal that the HD lasts only 3 years. Disk Utility can't tell everything either.
  5. momech thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 31, 2009
    Hmm, actually I bought it just over 2 years ago and for the amount I paid I'd hoped to get more than 2 years out of it! I had my first Mac (a G4) for 9 years.. Anyway, I'll try reinstalling the OS X and post an update.
  6. Mal macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2002
    Even if the hard drive is dead, the computer is by no means useless. The hard drive is one of the most likely components of any computer to fail, but it's also relatively simple to replace (perhaps not to do on your own depending on your skill level, especially considering it's an iMac, but certainly reasonable even to pay for a replacement). No one can ever guarantee that a hard drive will last a week, much less two years, but by the same token, many hard drives will last a number of years. That's why there's warranties. It sounds like you probably don't have AppleCare, which unfortunately would mean you don't have warranty service available, but I'd say definitely look into getting that drive replaced, unless you somehow manage to nail down another problem causing this issue.

  7. iThinkergoiMac macrumors 68030

    Jan 20, 2010
    One out of every 4 HDDs fail testing in the factory (these, of course, are not shipped). When it comes to HDDs, the question is not whether it will fail but when. All HDDs will fail someday.

    Your system, as others have noted, is showing many classic signs of imminent HDD failure. I'd replace it ASAP.
  8. RaceTripper macrumors 68030

    May 29, 2007
    I had a HD go bad in a 6 mon old MBP. Disk Utility said it was fine, but the Console logs showed numerous I/O errors on the disk ad Tech Tool Pro found bad sectors.

    If you open Console and do a search for "I/O error" I bet you find a bunch of entries.

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