Is my parents iMac dead?!

Discussion in 'iMac' started by danbjones, Jul 28, 2016.

  1. danbjones macrumors newbie

    Jul 28, 2016
    Hi all. Hoping some with more knowledge than me can help to answer this!

    My parents have a late 2008 iMac running (just about!) El Capitan. Yesterday I got a call saying it had died. It was all working fine and then out of nowhere when turning it on it just wouldn't boot. Eventually a flashing ? appears on the screen and it goes no further. A quick google told me to try holding down CMD and R at startup to try and boot into a disk utility screen but having tried this countless times still nothing. Will only load up to the point of the flashing ? and go no further.

    Fortunately I had an external drive plugged into it some years ago with time machine set up on it so whatever's happened their data should be safe. But after 8 years of service is the iMac finally dead or is there something that can be tried to rescue it?!

    If it's come to the end of the road I guess a new (or likely refurbed) iMac will be their only option and I'll have to figure out how I get all of their data and files back onto the new machine via the back up drive with the time machine back up.

    Many thanks in advance and hope to hear some clarification on what may have happened!


  2. JohnDS macrumors 65816

    Oct 25, 2015
    It is possible that the hard drive has died. If that is the case it should be relatively inexpensive to replace. By any chance do you have the original install DVD that came with the computer? If so see if it will boot from the DVD by holding down the C key. If it will, then the problem is likely a dead hard drive.
  3. tubeexperience macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2016
    It sounds like the hard drive failed.

    SSDs are now cheap so you should consider installing one in that iMac.
  4. JustMartin macrumors 6502a

    Feb 28, 2012
    A mac of that vintage should have come with a DVD or CD containing the OS - have you tried booting from that?
  5. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    That sign means that the computer cannot find a boot drive, your hard drive is probably dead (if it's the original one it's done well to last 8years).

    It's a fairly cheap fix and if you use an SSD rather than a traditional hard drive then it will run better than new. Boot in15 seconds instant app opening etc like a modern MacBook.
  6. danbjones thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 28, 2016
    Thanks to all for the replies so far.

    It's a 2008 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo with 4GB ram. El Capitan really slowed it down but if it could be brought back to life with an SSD that would help on that front too I guess.

    I've found the Mac OS X install discs in the box for version 10.5.4 but I don't really know macs myself so wouldn't be sure what I'd be doing with those!

    When I spoke to Apple Support about the potential to swap the HDD to an SSD they intimated that it wouldn't work with such an old legacy, unsupported product and the whole thing is most likely dead. So it's good to hear you all suggesting otherwise.

    I've seen I can get a Samsung Evo 850 250Gb for £73 and an Icy Dock caddy for £11.50. So £84.50 and some hours spent watching you tube 'how to' videos could potentially bring this back to life and get them up and running again? If so that could be a gamble worth taking! I assume I would then just restore from the Time Machine back up that's on the external drive?
  7. BrettApple macrumors 65816


    Apr 3, 2010
    Heart of the midwest
    Heck, I threw in a 120GB SSD back in 2012 in my 2007 and just taped it in with some double sided tape :D

    The AdaptaDrive is a great converter that fits perfectly though and I've used that in all of the iMacs I've swapped SSDs into since. Just make sure the thermal sensor gets stuck to it and everything will work fine.

    If you have access to another Mac (work, friend etc) you could use DiskMakerX to make a bootable flash drive of El Capitan and restore form the time machine backup right then and there and be back in business. Otherwise, Leopard is pretty old but it'll still install and boot, but you'd need to get back up to 10.6 to upgrade to El Capitan. Maybe there's a Snow Leopard DVD laying around there somewhere? Apple still sells them if not.

    The SSD will make a world of difference on that Mac though. The one in my '07 made it useable again and it's a base model 2.0 GHz C2D with 4GB of RAM. There is an Early '08 in my family that I put a 512GB drive in and it runs even better.

    Opening an iMac for the first time can be a little tricky, but using a good iFixit guide it's totally do able.
  8. willmtaylor macrumors G3


    Oct 31, 2009
    A Natural State
    Go here and get the internal hard drive replacement kit. It comes with everything you need. They even have how-to videos. You have nothing to lose at this point.

    If you like, you can also just buy the kit parts a la carte and sub your own HDD or SSD. iFixit videos are also helpful.
  9. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    That vintage Mac would probably do much better (with a platter-based hard drive) running 10.8.5 than El Capitan.

    Having said that, might be time for your parents to start shopping for something new (or refurbished).

    lf you don't feel like opening it up, you could get a SATA SSD, put it into an external enclosure that supports BOTH firewire800 and USB3, and set it up to boot and run that way for a few more years. It won't boot any faster than the internal HDD did, but once up-and-running it will seem quite snappy...
  10. Silencio macrumors 68020


    Jul 18, 2002
    It all depends on how comfortable you are with the whole process of opening up that machine and swapping out the drive. For most people, I'd say a Core 2 Duo-based Mac is just too old by this point. However, a 2008 iMac with 4-6GB of RAM and a SSD should still be quite usable for lighter tasks.
  11. danbjones thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 28, 2016
    Right, I've now ordered the 250GB Samsung Evo 850 along with the NewerTech AdaptaDrive caddy that BrettApple has recommended. A good friend of mine loves his Apple stuff and on just speaking to him he's going to help me do the swap over when the bits arrive so that takes some pressure off me! Even if I can get another year or two out of it for them it will be worth the sub £100 expense to do so. Especially as their usage is only fairly basic.

    So here's hoping it all goes well and fixes the issue when the bits arrive. Will report back once it's done!

    That's again to all who have replied on this, much appreciated and been a big help!
  12. danbjones thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 28, 2016
    Right... pleased to report that the iMac now appears to be saved and back up and running! The switch to the SSD drive went well after following an OWC You Tube video and the restore from Time Machine was very painless. As a Windows user I was very impressed! Of course the whole thing feels faster and snappier with the SSD in place now too so my parents have an upgraded machine that will hopefully get them another year or two of computing from the iMac. It may see its 10 year anniversary yet!

    Thanks again to all who replied and convinced me to give this a go!
  13. Apple fanboy macrumors Penryn

    Apple fanboy

    Feb 21, 2012
    Behind the Lens, UK
    Glad you got it running. Might I suggest making a bootable drive using Carbon Copy Clone. It's a free to use software. Time machines one fault is you can't boot from that drive.

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