MacBook Late 2008 not loading Startup Manager

HelpMePls

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 19, 2019
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[UPDATE: See my next post below. I go BACK to the original HDD as the SDD was stuffed. The main issue is Startup Manager isn’t loading up when I hold the Option key.]

Hello I recently got a second hand late 2008 MacBook for dirt cheap. I put in a SSD and now it’s flashing a question mark icon.

I’ve tried holding Option
I’ve tried holding CMD + R

Nothing, still flashing the question mark.

How do I fix this?

P.s. internet recovery doesn’t work as it’s too old a device and the latest OS I can run on it is El Captian.

Please help. Thank you.
 
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CooperBox

macrumors 65816
Nov 28, 2010
1,051
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France - between Ricard & Absinthe
The flashing qustion mark usually indicates no operating system installed or a defective SSD.
What OS was on the original HD? Assuming there was one. The max OS on a white 2008 non-unibody was 10.7.5 (Lion).
On a late 2008 aluminium unibody it's normally 10.11.6 El Capitan. I say normally because I believe Sierra is possible using the dosdude1 patcher.
Why not try and I'd reinstall the original HD, or clone your SSD using an external adapter and Carbon Copy Cloner from the original HD then attempt update to 10.11.6 - assuming it's a unibody.
If it came with no HD you will have to locate some original Apple disks for that model. Personally I always prefered Snow Leopard 10.6 to the subsequent Lion.

Just realised you've discribed your's as a MacBook, but this is the MacBookPro forum. Assume you did mean a MacBook........
 
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HelpMePls

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 19, 2019
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Thanks for the reply.

It’s a late 2008 aluminium unibody Macbook.

I put the original HDD back in and all works well. So it must be the SSD stuffing up on me.

I’ve made a bootable version of El Capitan but when I hold Option key, it doesn’t do anything except load these 4 options - Online Help, reinstall OS, Disk Utility etc.

Is there a way to force it to the USB bootable option?

P.s when I select the reinstall OS X option and log into my iCloud it shows me this (see attached picture)

image.jpg


Hence why I’d like to use the Bootable OS on my USB instead.
 
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rafcorporal

macrumors newbie
Feb 12, 2018
9
2
Derby England.
Hi H M P, I did a similar task a few weeks ago. I installed a new SSD 250GB drive, put the MacBook Pro back together put my thumb drive into a USB port. I then booted up holding down the command key; before I realised it was happening the laptop was installing El Capitan off the thumb drive. As soon as this happens release the command key and sit back as it all happens automatically. It worked for me though it might not be the correct way to do the job. Best of luck.
Keith in Derby England.
 

HelpMePls

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 19, 2019
26
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Hi H M P, I did a similar task a few weeks ago. I installed a new SSD 250GB drive, put the MacBook Pro back together put my thumb drive into a USB port. I then booted up holding down the command key; before I realised it was happening the laptop was installing El Capitan off the thumb drive. As soon as this happens release the command key and sit back as it all happens automatically. It worked for me though it might not be the correct way to do the job. Best of luck.
Keith in Derby England.
Hmm that makes no sense to me, considering you’re meant to hold Option not the Command key also in my previous experience I’ve never heard of it ever “auto” installing, unless you somehow created the USB with a “auto” installer code?

What website did you use exactly to create the installer file for USB?
 

rafcorporal

macrumors newbie
Feb 12, 2018
9
2
Derby England.
Hi, on reflection it could well have been the option key but not sure now!!!!!! All I can recall is it was off Ebay about April this year. Next time I do any surgery on my Apple I will make copious notes, there will be no mix up then.
I have found some notes:- "insert thumb drive, restart holding down OPTION key" So I gave duff information, so very sorry.
Very best regards from Keith in Derby England.
 
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CooperBox

macrumors 65816
Nov 28, 2010
1,051
1,041
France - between Ricard & Absinthe
Hi, on reflection it could well have been the option key but not sure now!!!!!! All I can recall is it was off Ebay about April this year. Next time I do any surgery on my Apple I will make copious notes, there will be no mix up then.
I have found some notes:- "insert thumb drive, restart holding down OPTION key" So I gave duff information, so very sorry.
Very best regards from Keith in Derby England.
You're right, it's definitely the option key to access the thumb drive.
For info, whenever I'm doing a tear-down/refurb of a Mac, even using an iFixit guide (which are usually excellent) I always take a series of my own photos. On a number of occasions I've had to refer back to these when the iFix guide is lacking in close detail. This proved a life-saver during a complete reburb of a 12" PowerBook from the logic board up. On these, if one had a disk stuck in the optical drive it meant major surgery, as it's positioned underneath the logic-board. What were Apple thinking......?
Derby eh! I know the city well, making many business trips there in the past. Remember the Pink Coconut dance hall? 'Nuff said......;)
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,179
5,532
OP:

I have the answers you need, and I can "get you going again".

BUT... you have to follow my instructions and answer some questions.

Questions:
Is the 2008 MacBook the ONLY Mac you have?

Or, do you have another Mac?

If so, what year was it made?
What OS is running on it?

I'll recheck this thread several times today for your answers.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,179
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Hmmm... you said you don't have another MacBook, so we can assume that the 2008 is the only Mac you have available to you?
Is this correct?

In that case, the first thing you need to do is to put the ORIGINAL drive back into the MacBook, so that it will boot and run again.

Next, I would suggest that you get something like this:
https://www.amazon.com/Sabrent-Tool-free-Enclosure-Optimized-EC-UASP/dp/B00OJ3UJ2S/ref=sr_1_10?keywords=usb3+sata+adapter+2.5"&qid=1561905324&s=gateway&sr=8-10
Very cheap!

Now, put the SSD into the enclosure, and connect it to the MacBook.

Since the drive is not formatted, finder may throw up a window right away telling you that the drive needs to be initialized/erased. This may take you right to Disk Utility. However, if this alert doesn't pop up, open Disk Utility anyway.

Now, click the "erase" button.
You'll see several options.
You want "Mac OS extended with journaling enabled", GUID partition format.
You can give the SSD any name you want (keep it simple and recognizable).
When all that's set, click the erase button.

It will take a few seconds and the drive will be erased.

Now, you should see the icon for the SSD mount on the desktop, and you can quit Disk Utility.

OK -- CAN YOU GET THIS FAR?
I realize it will take time to put the old drive back in, get the enclosure, etc.
When you can "get that far", come back to this thread and we'll tell you what to do next.

One more thing:
When you come back, tell use WHAT VERSION OF THE OS is on the OLD drive.
 
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alex0002

macrumors 6502
Jun 19, 2013
483
103
New Zealand
I'm pretty sure I've heard of something similar to this a couple of times before and the problem was traced to a defective SATA cable. Good enough for the slower internal HDD, but not working properly with the new SSD. In that case a new SATA cable solved the problem.

If you follow the advice from Fishrrman above and everything is fine with the SSD connected via an external USB adapter/enclosure that could suggest a SATA cable issue.
 

HelpMePls

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 19, 2019
26
0
OP:

I have the answers you need, and I can "get you going again".

BUT... you have to follow my instructions and answer some questions.

Questions:
Is the 2008 MacBook the ONLY Mac you have? YES.

Or, do you have another Mac? NO.
Hello Fishrrman, I’ve answered your questions in bold above. Your second post regarding the SDD is not relevant as I had explained in my second post on this thread that I’ve switched back to the original HDD.

The main issue is Startup Manager is NOT loading up when I hold the Option key.

One more thing:
When you come back, tell use WHAT VERSION OF THE OS is on the OLD drive.
It was running the latest version of El Capitan. But the drive was full of the previous owner’s files so I reformatted it.

The problem is I can’t install a fresh version of El Capitan as I receive the “item is not available” notification when I attempt to click the “Reinstall OSX” Option.

Thus the only workaround I’m aware of is holding the Option key and reinstalling El Capitan off a Bootable USB.

However holding the Option key does nothing. It just takes me back to this screen (see attached picture).

257CCCA7-4351-47A1-B454-5AF2962B6532.jpeg
 
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Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
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What I'd suggest:
1. Go on ebay
2. There are sellers there who will sell you a USB flashdrive with a copy of the El Cap installer already on it. It will cost around $20 or so.
3. Use that to boot the computer and re-install the OS.
 

HelpMePls

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 19, 2019
26
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What I'd suggest:
1. Go on ebay
2. There are sellers there who will sell you a USB flashdrive with a copy of the El Cap installer already on it. It will cost around $20 or so.
3. Use that to boot the computer and re-install the OS.
I don’t think you understand what’s happening. If Startup Manager doesn’t load when holding down the Option key, it renders your suggestion totally useless.

Unless you have a good reason why Startup Manager isn’t loading when holding the Option Key down, you should keep your suggestions to yourself.

One thing I can’t stand is people who don’t have a clue about what’s actually happening with actual hands on experience attempting to give advice about what they “THINK” would fix the issue, rather than knowing the actual solution for themselves.

If you don’t actually know the answer, that’s all you have to say.
 

DeltaMac

macrumors G3
Jul 30, 2003
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On that Utilities screen - if you go to Disk Utility, can you see your bootable USB drive?
Then, Quit Disk Utility, and go to the Apple menu. Open Startup Disk.
Can you see your bootable USB there as a choice?
Try selecting the bootable USB, so a simple restart (without holding any keys this time) should (in theory) boot to your bootable USB installer.
If the USB does NOT appear in the Startup Disk as a choice, then that is not created correctly (and not bootable.)
 

HelpMePls

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 19, 2019
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On that Utilities screen - if you go to Disk Utility, can you see your bootable USB drive?
Then, Quit Disk Utility, and go to the Apple menu. Open Startup Disk.
Can you see your bootable USB there as a choice?
Try selecting the bootable USB, so a simple restart (without holding any keys this time) should (in theory) boot to your bootable USB installer.
If the USB does NOT appear in the Startup Disk as a choice, then that is not created correctly (and not bootable.)
Yes, the Bootable USB does appear in Disk Utility.

However, there is no Option under Startup Disk (via the Apple Menu) to boot the USB from there.
 

DeltaMac

macrumors G3
Jul 30, 2003
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Be sure to also try a NVRAM reset (shut off, then restart while holding Option-Command-P-R.
You should hear the boot chime. Keep holding the same 4 keys so you hear the boot chime 2 more times.
Then release all except the Option key. That may force the boot picker screen.

If your bootable USB does NOT appear in the Startup Disk - it's not made correctly.
How did you make it?
Windows solutions for that often don't work. Best way is to use (another) Mac.
 

HelpMePls

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 19, 2019
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Be sure to also try a NVRAM reset (shut off, then restart while holding Option-Command-P-R.
You should hear the boot chime. Keep holding the same 4 keys so you hear the boot chime 2 more times.
Then release all except the Option key. That may force the boot picker screen.
Cheers DeltaMac, and yes I’ve tried this previously about 10 times using a secondary keyboard and it doesn’t chime twice. It just loads up the 4 Options as per usual. Any idea why this is?
 

DeltaMac

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Jul 30, 2003
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If you don't have any bootable "thing", either internal, or external, then even if the boot picker screen appears, it will correctly be blank (nothing to boot)
[doublepost=1561948639][/doublepost]Most likely reason that you can't get more than one boot chime?
Maybe you did not wait long enough, (or you are not holding the correct set of keys - which does happen!)
Left Option, left Command, P and R

But, if Option doesn't appear to work (and doesn't get a boot picker screen, even if blank), then I would suspect that you have a bad keyboard. Only try the left Option key for this.
NOT ALL external keyboards will work for this function. (Wireless is unlikely to work at all, and some generic windows keyboards (with the Windows key) may not work at all for boot commands.

Finally, if you have only a windows keyboard (with a Windows key?), then THAT'S the correct key to use for Option, and NOT the Alt key! Be sure to try the Windows key... It IS a USB wired keyboard, correct?
 

HelpMePls

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 19, 2019
26
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If you don't have any bootable "thing", either internal, or external, then even if the boot picker screen appears, it will correctly be blank (nothing to boot)
[doublepost=1561948639][/doublepost]Most likely reason that you can't get more than one boot chime?
Maybe you did not wait long enough, (or you are not holding the correct set of keys - which does happen!)
Left Option, left Command, P and R

But, if Option doesn't appear to work (and doesn't get a boot picker screen, even if blank), then I would suspect that you have a bad keyboard. Only try the left Option key for this.
NOT ALL external keyboards will work for this function. (Wireless is unlikely to work at all, and some generic windows keyboards (with the Windows key) may not work at all for boot commands.

Finally, if you have only a windows keyboard (with a Windows key?), then THAT'S the correct key to use for Option, and NOT the Alt key! Be sure to try the Windows key... It IS a USB wired keyboard, correct?

Yeah this Macbook’s has to be FUBAR I’m running a secondary external Apple keyboard, and I know it works because when I type with it (in Disk Utility for instance) it’s in lowercase as it should be whereas the MacBook is all CAPLOCK and I have to hold 4 buttons (fn, control, option and command) before the numbers work otherwise they type #%^* etc.

AE60B3CD-EF46-427A-AA10-DD01D0F60147.jpeg

[doublepost=1561949274][/doublepost]P.s. I just acquired a second MacBook to check my Bootable USB works and look:

F6B0D8E9-AF04-45A9-948C-8F483C4D84EA.jpeg


So the problem isn’t the fact there’s something wrong with my Bootable USB, it’s got to be the 2008 Macbook not loading Startup Manager for some weird unknown reason...

P.s. Startup Disk on this new MacBook doesn’t show the Bootable USB either so you can’t USB boot from there irregardless but thanks for the suggestion.
 

DeltaMac

macrumors G3
Jul 30, 2003
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Yeah this Macbook’s has to be FUBAR I’m running a secondary external Apple keyboard, and I know it works because when I type with it (in Disk Utility for instance) it’s in lowercase as it should be whereas the MacBook is all CAPLOCK and I have to hold 4 buttons (fn, control, option and command) before the numbers work otherwise they type #%^* etc.
...
So, caps lock is stuck? I think that's part of your problem for the boot key commands, as the keyboard doesn't know what to do with that stuck key during boot. It wouldn't affect your good external keyboard - but, you may have OTHER stuck keys.

But, now you have another install solution:
Put your new SSD in an external enclosure. Connect to your new MacBook. Install El Capitan (the ultimate test for your bootable USB installer :cool: ). When you can successfully boot to that SSD on your "new" MacBook, now, swap the SSD for the HDD in your aluminum 2008. Just let it boot up. Should go to your newly setup system.
If it continues to boot to the recovery system (the Utilities window would indicate that, instead of the usual desktop with a dock), NOW go to that Startup Disk in the Apple menu. Select the SSD.
And, restart. SHOULD boot to the SSD normally now.
If it still does not boot correctly to the SSD that you KNOW should work, then, it may be the bum keyboard.

Another possibility is a defective SATA cable. That is a common failure on many MB and MBPro - the cable can cause really odd things to happen. For example, HDD works, but not an SSD - or any drive can work, then suddenly stop working. Be sure to try a different cable. Apple's part number for that cable is 922-8623. Here's a possible source for that - https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/MacBook+Unibody+Model+A1278+Hard+Drive+Cable+Replacement/759
Compared to other Mac laptops, it's a bit pricey, and not a simple repair. But, it's worth a look if you have other problems with the boot drive.
 

HelpMePls

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 19, 2019
26
0
Ha! I hadn’t even read your reply until just then but I already thought of it and I’m currently midway doing this - only with the old HDD.

Just took the old HDD and swapped it out of the 2008 MacBook, and put it in the second MacBook, held the Option Key down and used my WORKING Bootable USB and guess what?!

Check it out:
image.jpg


I’ll let you know how it goes and yeah I’m with you thinking it’s a bum keyboard on the old 2008 MacBook.
 

HelpMePls

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 19, 2019
26
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UPDATE:

Okay it’s working now.

And huge thanks to @DeltaMac who was spot on in his responses! No thanks to that other fool @FishErrMan who claimed to have all the answers yet proceeded to suggest useless information, including buying a $20 USB stick off eBay when there was no issue with mine. Imagine if I was some naive, no-knowledge person with this issue. I would’ve wasted a fortnight waiting for the USB to arrive in the mail, only to realise that wasn’t even the fix, and I’ve wasted $20 and a whole fortnight worth of time based off this fool’s suggestion.

I do have another problem, and that’s finding an alternative to a PRAM reset, seeing as it doesn’t respond to the Option, Command, P and R.

***UPDATE/FIX***
I’ve figured out the issue and the fix/solution 100% now. This website link details the EXACT same symptoms the 2008 MacBook had:

Symptoms
  • Boots in safe mode everytime (which I later found out was because the shift key is pressed)
  • Cannot login because password is in lower case or has numbers
  • Cannot boot in super user mode and try to disable keys or override password as some commands won't work in uppercase (I wouldn't recommend this anyway because its super user mode)
  • All text is in caps and numbers are symbols as though shift key is always pressed
  • Audio doesn't work
  • Keyboard viewer would not always show the shift key pressed. The key seemed to get pressed at random
Fix
  1. Hold the Option button down on boot to bypass the Safe Mode ensure a normal boot
  2. At the login screen, plug in a USB keyboard and enter your password to login
  3. Change your password to one that uses all caps and no numbers
  4. Download and install KeyRemap4MacBook.
  5. In the “Misc” section of Karabiner-Elements aka KeyRemp4Macbook there’s an option under “System Default Configuration that you can click ‘Copy the current configuration to the system default configuration.’
All I have to do each Startup is hold down the Option key until the Apple logo is shown to ensure it doesn’t boot into Safe Mode by default.

Problem fixed!

Issue: left shift key is stuffed, hence why everything is in CAPS as the caplock key is always on / capslock key is stuck (even if the CAPS light is off) AND the numbers are showing up as symbols. This also explains why the PRAM couldn’t be reset AND why it didn’t load up Startup Manager when the Option key was held down - BECAUSE BEHIND THE SCENES THE LEFT SHIFT WAS BEING HELD DOWN THE WHOLE TIME DUE TO IT BEING INVISIBLEY ‘STUCK’ (could have been some water damage from the previous owner like in that website link).

Full Link: https://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/36636/how-can-i-disable-safe-boot-or-the-shift-key
 
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