I got the blinking folder w/ "?" at startup: what does this mean??

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by Luciapalooza, Feb 22, 2008.

  1. Luciapalooza macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2008
    #1
    OK, so one day last week, my 13' MacBook was working great while I was at school. When I get it home and go to turn it on this is what happens...
    Start up tone...then...nothing...then I get the blinking folder icon with a "?"

    I tried to start it up in safe mode- didn't work.

    I let it sit for a couple of days, and when my Dad was going to try and help me, it started up just fine, like nothing happened.

    I tried going to the system preferences to see about running some diagnostics, but didn't see what I should do. So I tried to go to the internet to look up what I should do, and then I got the dreaded swirlly rainbow thing. I couldn't even force quit any of the programs that were running. I tried holding down the power button, closing it, to shut it off. Finally after 10 minutes I got it shut off. Now it won't start up again; I keep getting the blinking folder icon with the "?".

    My husband told me that from what he knew that there was something wrong with the hard drive. But I'm thinking if it turned on that one time, then is there a chance that it shifted inside my computer and now it's in a position to where it won't startup anymore?? I've tried to start it up on a level surface and that doesn't seem to help.

    If anyone has any theories I'm really interested to see what you guys have to say. I just want to know what my options are before I take it somewhere to get fixed. (BTW my warranty ran out last month... convenient, I know!)

    Help is greatly appreciated. I got files on that thing that I need for school so the sooner the better.

    Thanks a whole bunch!
     
  2. clevin macrumors G3

    clevin

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    Aug 6, 2006
  3. RumMunkey macrumors 6502a

    RumMunkey

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    Canada
    #3
    Sounds like a Hard Drive problem to me. The "?" means it can't find a disk from which to boot OSX.

    Put in your startup disk, reboot, hold down "C" (I think it's "C") and it should boot off the disk. There is a utilities app on there where you can diagnose any errors with the harddrive.

    The drive may be toast though. I hope you were running Time Machine. :(
     
  4. dsnort macrumors 68000

    dsnort

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    #4
    What clevin said, with one addition.

    Back up all your data, now!

    Better safe than sorry.

    EDIT: Sorry, missed the part where it won't start again.

    Try this before going to the Apple store.
    Pop the Hard Drive out, (it's easy to do).
    Wrap it in some paper towels, put it in a ziplock bag, and stick it in the freezer for 24 hours.
    Take it out of the freezer, put it back in the MacBook, and see if it will start.
    If it does, copy all your files as fast as possible.
    Then go to the Apple store
     
  5. puckhead193 macrumors G3

    puckhead193

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    NY
    #5
    :confused::confused: huh why would sticking it in the freezer help?
     
  6. BornToMac macrumors 6502a

    BornToMac

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    Jan 28, 2008
    #6
    I believe you have to reset your ram. When I first got my mbp, I turned it on and I received the ? mark in the document looking thingy. Called customer service and I had to reset my ram by holding the power button down for 10 seconds. I would probably back up ant important data first though.
     
  7. mac-convert macrumors 6502a

    mac-convert

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    #7
    Putting a hard drive in the freezer is an old trick.

    Google with this search "put hard drive in freezer" and read the articles.

    OP - if you try this method, do so at your own risk. Personally I would only try it after a tech had diagnosed the drive as being bad.
     
  8. motulist macrumors 68040

    motulist

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    Dec 2, 2003
    #8
    If you can bring your macbook near another mac, try starting it up in target disk mode. If you can get it loaded that way then immediately back up everything on your disk that you care about. If there's nothing on your disk that you care about then this step probably won't help you.

    EDIT #1) On a different note, why are you ever shutting you Mac down? You can travel with it in sleep mode just fine. It's pretty much consensus that you should never shut your Mac down.

    EDIT #2) I believe the blinking question mark folder means it can't find a working system folder, and it's only a question mark disk icon that means there's a problem with the disk (iirc). Did you try starting up from the OS X installer dvd?
     
  9. puckhead193 macrumors G3

    puckhead193

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    NY
    #9
    i think its the hard drive might be different then my pb but something happened to my ram and when i turned it on i got like 3 loud beeps.... i think it can't find the OS
     
  10. dsnort macrumors 68000

    dsnort

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    #10
    The one reason I would consider trying the freezer trick before going to Apple is that if they decide the HD is bad, and it's under warranty or Apple care, they'll replace the HD but won't give you back the old HD. They will attempt to recover your data, but only in a very minimal and limited way.

    On the other hand, the freezer trick is mostly for electrical failures. I seem to remember reading somewhere that the issue with some MB's HD's is mechanical.

    Anyway, good luck.
     
  11. motulist macrumors 68040

    motulist

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    #11
    There's a LOT she should do yet before trying the freezer trick!
     
  12. dsnort macrumors 68000

    dsnort

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    #12
    She should call Apple Care. They'll walk her through the test's to find the problem on the phone. Basically, boot from disk, run disk utility, can the comp see the HD? If they decide it's a HD failure, there's not a lot of hope for recovering any lost data. Even the freezer trick is a real real real long shot.
     
  13. txmom macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2008
    #13
    Hi all,

    I am brand new to mac and all of its wonders. I am a PC user, however, my daughter prefers the Mac. I can't say where I work, but we received an iMac at work and I brought it home to my daughter. It is a white one with a 17" screen and what I think everyone considers a G4. It has 1.25 gh, 512 MB and a 80 HD. I powered it on and got to this little folder with a ? on it and it just blinks and then stops. I am trying to educate myself on this and there is alot of really good information out there, but I am stuck and don't know what to do.

    I read it is probably a hard drive problem. To which, I read someone said it was easy to take it out. If so, how do you do that? I don't want to mess it up. It also won't read the mouse, HELP!!!!


    I think it would be a good machine if I possibly replace the hard drive. Any suggestions?

    In addition, I have no manuals, and don't have a clue. I do have a mouse but no keyboard (am working on that). I will have one by Monday.

    Thanks,

    Debbie
     
  14. dsnort macrumors 68000

    dsnort

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    #14
    The folder with blinking ? means the computer can't find a boot volume. Can be a bad hard drive, or just could be that there is no OS installed. You need to boot from a disk, (System Restore Disc if you have it, or OS install disc otherwise). When it comes up you'll see utilities on the tool bar. Drill down on that and open "Disc Utility". That will scan for volumes. You should see two, the boot disk in the Optical drive, and a Hard Drive. If you can see the HD, but there no volumes under it, you should have a working HD, but no OS installed.

    If all you see is the boot disk in the optical drive, well, that's not a good sign for the HD.
     
  15. txmom macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2008
    #15
    Thanks for the quick reply. I have no restore disk or OS. I did find this on Ebay though..... http://cgi.ebay.com/iMac-G3-parts-2...ryZ80039QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

    I wonder if I bought it and just installed the hard drive with the OS would that work?

    I did call Apple and they were really nice, said their keyboard is 49 bucks. I was floored! I didn't know keyboards could be so expensive.

    I really also need a boot disk and OS, any ideas where to get one without spending a fortune?
     
  16. motulist macrumors 68040

    motulist

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2003
    #16
    Hi Debbie, welcome. First things first, don't go doing anything hasty like taking your hard drive out yet!

    If you care about the stuff stored on your disk and do not already have a backup of your data then it would probably be best to take it to a repair specialist and let them handle it.

    If you already have a backup of your data or you don't care about the stuff stored on your disk, then there's a lot you can do yourself that could likely solve the problem.

    The first thing to do is to start up from the OS X installer dvd disc. Stick the OS X installer dvd that came with your computer into your iMac's CD/DVD drive, then startup the computer while holding down the letter C on the keyboard continuously without letting go until you see the installer program popup on your screen. When it starts up you will see the OS X installer, from the menu bar choose the option to open Disk Utility. Once the disk utility program is open, select the iMac's disk and and click the Verify Disk button icon. If there are any problems, then click the Repair disk button icon

    Once that completes, click the Repair Permissions button icon. Then quit that program and restart normally without holding down any buttons. If all goes well then your iMac should then startup and be fine.
     
  17. txmom macrumors newbie

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    Feb 22, 2008
    #17
  18. txmom macrumors newbie

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    Feb 22, 2008
    #18
    I just realized I referenced Ebay twice. I do shop on there frequently. I am just trying to do all of this as inexpensive as possible. I hate to take it to a "fix it" shop. If they know I do not know anything about Mac's, I might get used. I am normally pretty good at fixing my PC myself, and thought I could try to do the same with the Mac.

    Debbie
     
  19. dsnort macrumors 68000

    dsnort

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    #19
    Do not buy the gray colored discs, they are system restore discs and are specific to the model of computer they shipped with. As far as I know, they will not work with any computer model other than the one they were shipped with.

    You would be better served with an OS retail install disc, you can get those on eBay as well. Apple OS X version all start with the numeral 10, the next decimal place is the major version, and the last decimal place is update versions. Currently they are on 10.5.2 Leopard. I would try to get at least 10.3 Panther as some of the current software requires at least that, 10.4 Tiger would be better. Updates are free .

    Or you could spring for Leopard at the Apple store, but I think you need at least a G4 for Leopard so you need to make sure what type of iMac you have.
     
  20. Luciapalooza thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Feb 5, 2008
    #20
    pretend like I'm stupid...so when I go to turn it on, I put the disk in and then hold down "C"? or what? I want to make sure I try your suggestions correctly.
     
  21. motulist macrumors 68040

    motulist

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2003
    #21
    I won't treat you like you're stupid, because you aren't. You're a novice, like we all were once, and that's how I'll treat you. :)

    Yes, you are correct. Stick the disk in, turn it on and hold down the letter C on the keyboard.

    You may not be able to stick the disk in until the machine is powered on though. In that case, once the computer is on and you can get the disk in you'll probably still get the question mark screen. When that happens, just restart it now that the disk is inside and hold down the letter C on the keyboard.
     
  22. Luciapalooza thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Feb 5, 2008
    #22
    Gottcha thanks!!!

    BTW I was thinking....the reason why I bought this macbook was because my previous macbook (it's the exact same one I already have) got some water damage...I think it only damaged the battery and power source...apple was able to recover my music from the HD, so maybe the HD on my old one is still good??...I was thinking that maybe if the HD in my newer macbook did go hell then maybe I can use the HD in my other non-working macbook....will computer parts go bad after sitting for a while (over a year)??

    is this a feasible idea??
     
  23. Luciapalooza thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Feb 5, 2008
    #23
    BTW I was not running time machine but my husband is!!...in fact I had just recently cleaned up all my old files and trashed many that I no longer needed (yes, included emptying my trash)- would doing that have anything to do with it??
     

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