MacBook wont start up (Flashing Question Mark)

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by CiBoys, Dec 5, 2006.

  1. CiBoys macrumors regular


    May 13, 2005
    San Francisco
    My macbook wont start up... a folder with a question pop up. Tried C Key and TDM.. no luck, can anyone help?
  2. Belly-laughs macrumors 6502a


    Jun 8, 2003
    you wish
    I´m getting a bit rusty on the old problem solving – it´s been a while since I ran into any sort of trouble (with my Mac, that is), but while you wait for other replies, here goes:

    The folder with ? mark means your computer can´t find a valid System on your computer. I guess "Tried C key" means you´ve tried starting from the System DVD that came with your MacBook. If that didn´t work…

    Have you installed any 3rd party RAM? If so, remove it and try again. Also, make sure you have no external units attached via USB/FW, like keyboard, mouse, HD…

    If this did not resolve your issue, try zapping the parameter RAM (PRAM):

    Press and hold the Command-Option-P-R keys as you start up. (You must press this key combination before the gray screen appears.)
    Hold the keys down until the computer restarts and you hear the startup sound for the second time.
    Release the keys.

    Best of luck!!
  3. jaguarx macrumors regular

    Jan 5, 2003
    Is there some kind of hand-eye co-ordination or cognitive reasoning issue with a certain percentage of macrumors users? There's a bloody macbook forum one below this. What part of the differentiation between 'Mac Pro & Powermac' and 'Macbook & Macbook Pro' is so hard to understand? Seriously, it's like every fifth thread in here is someone who has trouble reading or clicking in the right place.

    Boot off another mac in target disk mode and see if your HDD is borked.
  4. janzy21 macrumors newbie

    Dec 5, 2006
    I had the same problem with my MacBook Pro.
    I could not get it to start up, I took it to the "genius" bar at the Apple store and he told me to start up from an external drive and go in and save everything I could and then format the drive.
    I could not get a system loaded on an external drive I had, so I was left with no option but to format.
    The"genius" blamed the failure on Limewire beinh on the computer.
  5. Belly-laughs macrumors 6502a


    Jun 8, 2003
    you wish
    Seems a certain percentage of members can´t read either; he´s tried your advice already. :p

    You could´ve asked him in a polite manner to post in the correct forum next time. Works much better.
  6. jaguarx macrumors regular

    Jan 5, 2003
    C & TDM yes but what cd/dvd, to what, an extrenal drive? Another working OSX install? Devil's in the details. Does holding down t do the same as holding down option? Can't remember.
  7. jmckechnie macrumors member


    Nov 18, 2006
    When I took my macbook pro in for a fan problem the "genius" told me the Limewire "eats" hard drives. Not sure what that meant but I took it off. Anyone shed any light to this "limewire is evil" theory?
  8. yellow Moderator emeritus


    Oct 21, 2003
    Portland, OR
    As noted, a ? over a folder indicates that no valid bootable system can be found. This could mean that your HD is toast, or that your filesystem is hosed. The first thing to do is to pop in the DVD installer that came with the MB and run Disk Utility to attempt to Repair Disk (note, this is NOT Repair Permissions).
  9. bearbo macrumors 68000


    Jul 20, 2006
    have you tried to boot while holding alt key ... maybe your mb was looking for OS somewhere weird... holding alt key will search for all OSs

    try that, you might be good

    i had my PM G5 did that to me once, while the HDD was perfectly fine
  10. jamoc06 macrumors newbie

    Dec 7, 2006
    Macbook system error

    hey just had exactly the same problem. flashing folder with Questionmark. C key, TDM, PRAM - all wouldn't work, so i took the HDD out and then reseated it making sure that it was firmly pushed in and when i turned it back on everthing was as it was no problems at all. You can do this without voiding your warrenty and its really simple. Apple provide a step by step photographic guide ( Hope this works for you.
  11. bornakke macrumors newbie

    Jan 2, 2010
    Thank you for your suggestions. It did the trick for me on snow leopard. Haven't had any problems afterwards :)
  12. hpsys macrumors newbie

    Jan 17, 2010
    On my macbook works like a dream! It took me three weeks to find the right answer. Thank you very much! Simply hold the alt key with yopur systemdisk in the cdrom anf BOb is your uncle...
  13. mmorgan macrumors newbie

    Feb 11, 2010
    I have the same problem. I tried holding the option/alt key and Macintosh HD shows up but when I click on it it just freezes and then the computer eventually shuts down. I don't have my installation discs with me ... could that be the problem?
  14. stev3n macrumors 6502

    Feb 9, 2010
  15. veblen.natavio macrumors newbie

    Mar 15, 2010
    hey guys, i tried pressing that alt key you mentioned. what happened was the folder with question mark is no longer showing and i can now see the mouse pointer. however, it only stops there - gray screen with the mouse pointer. what does this mean? do i still have to do something aside from the alt key?
  16. davek4 macrumors newbie

    Jun 21, 2010
    Macbook Pro (2006) replaced hard drive, but can't boot even with OS X cd

    I'm having the same issues. Mine is the Macbook Pro from Feb 2006 model when it first came out. I've never dropped this computer until this month. It slid off my lap and landed perfectly flat on a tile floor. The fall was only about 1.5 - 2 feet. The computer froze, so I opted to just turn it off for a bit. When I went to turn it back on, it was just the off-white screen with nothing. After doing some research from one of our other computers, I tried holding down C among some other things. The blinking folder with the ? appeared. It has been there since.

    My research led me to believe that my hard drive may be done. I took it to the Apple store to see if they thought the same thing. They said it most likely is that. So I ordered my new hard drive and installed it today. All went great with the install. It's pretty simple with the directions from iFixit and right tools, of course.

    When I went to boot, the folder with the blinking ? is there again. So, I rebooted again, but this time with the OS X install disk. Still a blinking folder with ?. So it won't even read the CD? It just keeps running.

    This is when I did some more research and found this thread and read about the ALT key during boot. I just did this and am seeing something I hadn't seen before, which is the mouse pointer on the off-white screen. This time the CD stopped running. The computer is quiet with the mouse pointer on off-white screen. I can move the mouse around, but don't know what to do next.

    So, I'm wondering these things:

    1) Was my hard drive even messed up from the beginning?
    2) Could there be something wrong with my optical drive since it's not reading the OS X disk?
    3) I have everything from my previous hard drive backed up on an external hard drive. Could I plug that into the computer and try anything?

    Thanks in advance for any input shared. I'm trying desperately to get my computer back up and running. Thank God I have everything backed up or I would be freaking out right now.
  17. nadia91arg macrumors newbie

    Jun 24, 2010

    email me please!! anyone, im 19, i live on my own in tenerife, and my laptop is the only thing i can use to talk to my family !!!!
  18. John Doe 57 macrumors 65816

    John Doe 57

    Jan 26, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    Ummm, unless you want spam, you probably don't want to post you're email address. Plus this is a help forum. Why not share the method used in solving you're problem?
  19. xiaobao12 macrumors newbie

    Apr 21, 2010
    Diskwarrior doesn't help...

    Don't know if anybody is still having issues with this but I certainly know what it feels like now. I turn on my computer this morning and I get the same symbol. Doing PRAM and option key don't work. After Googling, I try starting the computer by using Diskwarrior. I put DW on an external thumb drive. Diskwarrior loads up fine (by pressing option at startup) but my main drive (contains my OS and data) does not show up in the Diskwarrior list.

    I am guessing that my HD is fried? This is so demoralizing...

    Any help would be appreciated.

    BTW, I am trying to find a copy of my OS DVD currently and will try to boot from there....

    Thanks in advance.
  20. StalkR macrumors newbie

    Jan 19, 2011
    It Worked For Me

    I had the same problem with my Macbook. Grey screen with flashing "?" folder. I tried pressing ALT while restarting the laptop but this did nothing but make a "ticking" sound from the right side of the computer. I read the comments about re-seating the HD. I'm lazy & didn't want to take my laptop apart so I lifted the right side of the computer off the table by 4 inches and dropped it twice, then restarted. A grey screen with a picture of a HD appeared. I clicked on the arrow below the HD and everything started working as if there was never a problem at all. I immediately used time machine to back up my HD to an external HD in case I'm not so lucky with future fixes.
  21. Mactrillionaire macrumors regular

    Oct 16, 2010
    Just an FYI for anyone who dropped their computer and it resulted in the '?'. If that's the case, there are generally three possibilities:

    1. Something inside the computer came loose and needs to be reseated (best case you can hope for).
    2. The hard disk was damaged (almost never applies to solid state disks).
    3. The logic board was damaged (the most common and least wanted).

    Generally, try not to drop your computer as it isn't covered by warranty and it is expensive to replace a logic board. If you are prone to dropping laptops then you should put out the extra money to get a solid state disk. If you are really prone to dropping laptops then you should probably get a tablet with flash storage that can take a good beating and still work (which would rule out iPad) instead of a laptop.
  22. lubolat macrumors newbie

    Jan 17, 2011
    Hi, the ? sign happened to me the other day out of nowhere. I have Mini, so I didn't drop it or mishandle it, it just happened when I tried to restart it. Then it didn't read the OS DVD on start up with any key combo. So I opened it, took out the RAM, reseated the HDD and the optical drive, put back the RAM and started it up. It worked.
  23. ninj1n macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2011
    Macbook pro flashing folder with question mark!

    I was on my computer early in the morning yesterday, just had 2 or 3 applications running, then all of a sudden my computer froze and i shut it off by pressing the power button thinking it`d just reset my computer, but got the flashing folder with question mark, so i took it to apple store to get it fixed. First they said the hardware failed that it was gonna be around $200 to get it fixed, then they checked it again in the back room and find out it was the cable that connects to hardware, which probably was defective as the guy told, and changed the cable, which cost me $62 and some change, but it took them only 5 minute to change it, which was great! but i wonder if it was possible for me to do it at home, if i knew exactly what the problem was......
    could i be able to buy the cable, or worse, the hardware and put it myself?
  24. whatthewhat macrumors newbie

    Jan 26, 2011
    No friggin way!

    Yeah, well I'm lazy too, so I took your advice. Just banged that right side a couple of times and bada-bing, bada-boom. Amazing. Great DIY advice--thanks!

    Going out to buy an external HD right now :)
  25. wallah macrumors member

    Mar 2, 2011
    Remove the drive and reinsert

    I had his problem before on my 2006-2007 MacBook and tried most of the suggestions on Apple's site and other sites online. Fearing for the worst as I had a ton of stuff on it, I eventually had to take it in for repair. Apple tech fixed it for several hundred bucks and claimed it was a 'software' error.

    It happend again a few months later, so this time I did more reading. I removed the battery, removed the hard drive (I also removed the memory and reseated it while I was in there) then reseated the drive again.

    Perfect. Seriously, like nothing had gone wrong before. Ran Disk Utility and the disk checked out OK.

    Taking out the drives on these MacBooks is surprisingly easy. has instructions. Get a 00phillips screwdriver before you start.
    Get two back up drives (usb connection is fine for average user) and back up on Time machine, or shareware of your choice, weekly. You can only know the pain of having no backup when your drive is dead and unrecoverable, and the bliss of not giving a damn if the drive dies but you backed up the previous Sunday.

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