Help! Gray Screen of Death on G5!

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by BrianBoru, Jul 26, 2006.

  1. BrianBoru macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2004

    (apologies if this post is overly long, but I am desperate to get this straightened out!)

    I am a semi-Mac-newbie (I was converted in July 2004) with a sick rev.A? dual 1.8 G5 (8 ram slots, PCI-x) I have been running 10.4.7 for a month, and until recently I had 3.5GB of RAM installed. It has worked mostly great and fast for the last two years (with a few exceptions detailed below). It has the stock video card, stock 160GB HDD and an additional Hitachi 250GB internal SATA drive. I use the stock keyboard and mouse connected via USB.

    The problem:


    My G5 is currently not starting up - it hangs forever on the gray screen with the Apple logo and the spinning wheel 'thingie'. Shortly after pressing the power button I hear the startup sound. The hard drive makes 'healthy' "thinking" sounds. It sounds like it is loading things and starting up properly. But instead of the customary quick pop into the blue startup screen and on to my desktop, the gray screen stays on, and the spinning wheel spins round and round. It will run like that for hours with the fans blowing ever louder before I lose patience and hold down the power button to turn it off.

    Earlier this evening I was in Safari, with a few windows open, some with multiple tabs open. When I tried to cmd-Q to quit Safari entirely, everything locked up, and white-on-black DOS-like text appeared in overlay on the upper left side of the monitor with references to scripts and panics and things. I panicked myself and didn't read much of it. It looked scary. Mistakenly, I also neglected to take a picture of this mysterious text before forcing the computer to power off by holding down power button.

    The computer has hung on the gray screen before happened before, seemingly randomly over the past year, but I have never had text/system/info appear like that. Usually after a few tries (2-8 boots) getting stuck on the gray screen, or resetting the PRAM it would load up fine and work great for weeks to months at a time with heavy daily usage and no real problems. I would repair permissions and do a backup, and then things would run smoothly through sleep-wake and poweroff cycles for some time. But this is the first time I have ever had the text appear.

    This seems to have happened more frequently in the past six months, but I can't be sure. I remember that the past few times this has happened I was working in Safari with multiple windows open with multiple tabs. Suddenly the computer would freeze, and I wasn't able to force quit. I would have to turn the machine off by holding down the power button. After waiting a minute, and trying to restart I would run into this "gray screen of death" problem. But up until now it would eventually start.

    What I have tried:

    I have tried resetting the SMU by removing the power cord for 15+ seconds.

    I have tried resetting the PRAM (cmd+optn+p+r).

    I have tried unplugging all of the peripherals. I have tried all of this multiple times. Still no luck.

    I have tried removing all of the RAM, and changing the order. I have tried removing RAM and running with each pair of RAM individually. No change.

    I have also tried running hardware test from my G5 setup/install disk. I got this creepy error, the hardware test froze completely, everything froze, and I had to power off. --- The text in the upper left is similar to what I got while trying to quit Safari earlier this evening. I can't recall if it is actually the same message, but it's appearance is similar.
    Here's a pic:
    <a href="" title="Photo Sharing"><img src="" width="1024" height="768" alt="G5 Mystery Headaches" /></a>

    More case history:

    I don't have Applecare. The 1 year original warranty on this computer expired last summer. Sniff...Sniff...Sniff...Cry...Cry...

    I bought some ram (2X1GB) from OWC 3-4 months ago. It installed and was recognized fine and things seemed to be ok.

    I installed 2X512mb Kingston sticks about a year and a half ago, and ran into my first serious problem with the machine (besides bleeping/noise issues) --- When initially installing the Kingston RAM (bought from Fry's), and stupidly simultaneously updating the computer (10.3.? - 10.3.?) the G5 kernal panicked during the reboot of the update and I was forced to run an archive and install. I returned the RAM and got another batch and while installing that the right-hand RAM slot ejector broke. I installed the replacement Kingston RAM anyways and it seemed to work fine (the computer recognized it properly). That was my first problem with the computer. Perhaps all of my problems stem from this incident?

    I tried running Memtest a few weeks ago and got conflicting info - from at least one pass - RAM was passing in terminal and failing in OSX. Or was it the other way round? I lost patience with the long process of running this and never fully finished all of the tests and all the swap cycles. I wish I could pull up the logs and put them here if they would help.

    I have an external firewire drive with a superduper clone-backup of the main 160GB drive (the last backup I ran was 1 1/2 weeks ago).

    I installed LittleSnitch at the beginning of June. Perhaps LittleSnitch went berserk?

    I have installed various other programs over the life of the computer. Adobe CS then CS2, various PS plugins. A Costco photocenter plugin last week. latest Ecto. Speed Download. iLife '05. pzizz. Microsoft Office 2004. Final Cut Express 2. Toast w/ Jam. Wallet. latest Firefox. A mess of other miscellany...

    What's going on with my G5? Can I fix this myself (I am on a tight budget)?

    Help me get off this horrible aged Dell Pentium III laptop and back onto my beloved G5!

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions or kind thoughts/prayers/incantations for my sick G5. Any help would be enormously appreciated.

    - Brian
  2. mad jew Moderator emeritus

    mad jew

    Apr 3, 2004
    Adelaide, Australia
    Can you boot from the external hard drive without getting this grey screen? I don't like the look of the logic board test failure but Apple's Hardware Test is notoriously inaccurate. Having said that, the signs are leaning towards a failed logic board. Try booting from the external drive all the same. You may be able to salvage some data.

    Also, try booting from the OSX disc and repairing the drive. I don't think this is necessarily your problem but it's worth a shot. :)
  3. BrianBoru thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2004
    Pardon my ignorance/newbieness --- how do I boot from an external fire wire drive without being able to go into the startup disk control panel (the only way I've known to change it thus far)? I can't get past the gray screen into OSX at all.

    Does booting from the OSX disk and repairing the drive erase the data? If so I will need to pull some off the drive before trying that.
  4. neocell macrumors 65816


    May 23, 2005
    Great White North
    Hold down the t key during boot to get into Firewire target disc mode. Apple Link
    I don't think it erases the data, but hopefully someone else can confirm that
  5. BrianBoru thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2004
    Thanks for the quick replies neocell and mad_jew.

    I just tried booting up while holding down t. It enters firewire target disk mode fine - the yellow firewire symbol bounces around the screen just fine. What I am not following is how to access my backup drive - I don't have another Mac (or firewire enabled computer) to connect to.

    Perhaps I am sleepy, or stressed, but I am not quite following. Is there a way I can hook my external fire wire backup drive to my G5 and then boot up into the backup drive?

    Thanks again for the help! I really appreciate it!
  6. mad jew Moderator emeritus

    mad jew

    Apr 3, 2004
    Adelaide, Australia

    Nah, no files should be changed or lost. :)

    I think holding down OPTION on start up boots from the external drive but I could be wrong. I don't have a drive to test this with. :eek:
  7. EricNau Moderator emeritus


    Apr 27, 2005
    San Francisco, CA
    I believe holding down OPTION gives you the option of which drive you wish to boot from.
  8. neocell macrumors 65816


    May 23, 2005
    Great White North
    Yeah, just did this. Holding down option comes up with an old school OS 9 looking graphic that allows you to choose between all OSs (internal, and firewire, I had 3 options available). Don't know if you system needs to already know about these, as the 3 options are normally present on my machine in System Prefs > Start Up Disk, or if you can just add a new Firewire drive and have the computer scan it on boot up and thus give you all the 'new' options.
  9. BrianBoru thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2004

    thanks again for the quick replies! Helping me through my crisis (little or not so little is still up in the air).

    I finally figured out the whole holding down optn while starting thing. Thanks! I wish my bundle of original G5 paper documentation had included a list of all those handy keyboard shortcuts.

    I tried booting from my backup drive and it booted-up fine. Hurrah! Maybe its not the logic board? Then on a whim, or perhaps masochistically I opened Safari - it seemed to load ok, then while opening Disk Utility things got weird. Safari and Disk Utility froze. I couldn't quit or force quit either one. Then I opened Firefox and Safari magically unfroze and quit. Then while trying to force quit disk utility the system kernal panicked and I had to restart.

    So I just restarted and held cmd-option at startup, and accidentally chose my main internal drive ( I am really tired now) ---- and voila! it worked. Booted up fine. I gasped. Grey screen was on for just a moment or two. Everything in its place. But a problem report appeared after telling me that OS X had restarted after a problem. Then while trying to copy that to place in here - Crash reporter crashed. Is there a way I can bring up the information again?

    So, I am happy to be back in my system --- for now. But wondering what to do next? Everything seems to be working a-ok as far as I can see, but obviously there is something lurking below that needs addressing.

    Should I backup everything, then format my drive and start over from scratch?
    I am afraid my backup drive may have the same bug/failure/problem cloned over from the main drive.

    Perhaps this is a software/startup item problem? There is two years worth of moldy files on this machine.

    Could it still be a logic board problem even thought it is so intermittent? What about RAM issues?

    Thanks for the help!
  10. neocell macrumors 65816


    May 23, 2005
    Great White North
    Backup ASAP. To external HD or better yet to DVD/CD
  11. davegoody macrumors 6502


    Apr 9, 2003
    Reading, Berkshire, England
    Backup Backup Backup

    Easiest way to know for sure is to backup all your work, settings etc to your external drive (while you can) - do NOT run any other applications, do not pass go, do not collect £200 etc !

    When you have done that, re-initialise your hard drive, re-install OSX from scratch, perform all relevant system updates etc.

    When you have done this and BEFORE installing lots of extra software, check the stability of the system. If all appears OK then re-install your software, one bit a time and then if all is OK copy your data back.

    Worthwhile checking that your firmware is up to date too !

    Good luck :cool:
  12. Shadow macrumors 68000


    Feb 17, 2006
    Keele, United Kingdom
    It could be a kernel panic on start up. Try the above things, and if they fail do an archive and install from your OS X disks.
  13. Sharewaredemon macrumors 68000


    May 31, 2004
    Cape Breton Island
    I had a similar problem once but my computer hung on the blue screen while booting up.

    An Apple tech said that sometimes start up preferences get corrupted, so perhaps that is what happened to you, and booting from another drive corrected them, so you could boot from your normal hd.

    Although I wasn't getting Kernal panics like you so perhaps this is not the case.
  14. BrianBoru thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2004

    So I am now back up and running in 10.4.7 on my G5 :) :)
    (although it is a bare bones installation right now - never has my dock looked so small and empty) ---

    I tried swapping the RAM back to the original stock 512 only and put it back in the original sockets. This seemed to help get things to be a bit more stable. I still wasn't getting very far - still having random kernal panics.

    I then ran disk utility from the restore disk (without crashing!) --- it found lots of errors: "Reserved Fields in the Catalog Record Have Incorrect Data"
    Luckily it was able to repair the errors.

    Then I ran Hardware Test again, and it was actually able to complete the extended test without crashing. Everything checked out ok. So I don't think this is a logic board problem. I am concerned about possible RAM issues (either the RAM itself or a problem with the sockets or board).

    Next I was able to do a complete erase and install of Tiger. I ran all the updates and have been using the system without problem for the last 24 hours. It seems perfectly stable now - no startup problems whatsoever. I am also no longer having the common G5 bleeps/bloops. It's running fairly speedy, but I definitely notice the reduced amount of RAM.

    Over the next 4-5 days I am going to slowly add some of my software and watch for stability issues.

    Now I have 3.0GB of RAM lying around wrapped in bubble wrap.

    How can I tell whether the RAM I removed is bad (it seemed to be working before all this happened), or whether I have a problem with the RAM sockets/motherboard cpu caches?

    Or is it possible that the startup problems were simply caused by the numerous HDD errors?


    Thanks again for all the help!
  15. mad jew Moderator emeritus

    mad jew

    Apr 3, 2004
    Adelaide, Australia
    I'd put the RAM back in, one pair at a time. Leave a good amount of time between adding pairs so that if the system starts playing up again, you can rip out the last pair you added and hopefully have things running normally again.

    Of course, that's assuming 10.4.7 is still running well for you now. :)
  16. quigleybc macrumors 68030


    Jun 17, 2005
    Beautiful Vancouver British Columbia, Canada
    I had Kingston Value RAM installed on my PM G5, and it caused all kinds troubles..Kernal Panics mostly..

    I exchanged it for NON Value RAM, and all has been well for months...

    You aren't using Value RAM are you ?

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