Problem booting old Macbook4,1 early 2008

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by richsad, Jan 9, 2015.

  1. richsad macrumors newbie

    Mar 15, 2014
    Boston, MA area
    We have an old Macbook4,1 early 2008. It's a white Macbook with 13.3"/D2.4G/2x1GB/160/SD-DL. The hard drive seems to be crashed. Unlike my primary machines I can't seem to find a TimeMachine nor a cloned hard drive. Of course I have no idea where the original OS DVDs are either.

    When I try to boot I get a blank gray/white screen. If I plug in a USB drive and hold Option I can see the drive name but I don't seem to have a drive with a compatible OS X so I haven't been able to get it to boot off any. The drives I have are cloned from a newer Macbook Pro Retina.

    I'm trying to just find some way to boot it off an external drive or thumb so I can run Disk Utility. I've been googling trying to figure out which OS X versions I can run on this. I tried booting it off of some cloned drives I have of a MBP but no luck.

    I'm willing to buy OS X if I have to but I'm wondering if there is a free version of OS X that I can run on this old machine? I see stuff about people running Mavericks on older Macbooks but I'm not clear if this specific model will work.

    My ultimate goal is to somehow repair this machine. First step is get it booted to see that the machine itself still works. Step two is to try to run disk utility on the internal HD. Step 3 repair or replace internal HD.

    I know, I know, we should have had a backup or boot disk or something! And I do for my primary machines. But I don't seem to have a backup for this old machine.

    Any help appreciated. Would love to be able to diagnose the problem without buying an old copy of OS X.
  2. ryguy92000 macrumors regular


    Sep 20, 2014
    Salt Lake City, UT
    Tricky business stepping out of your hard drive!

    So these things are finicky. If you can't find an OS such as Leopard (eww), Lion, mountain lion or mavericks. You may need to go to a shop to replace the OS. I don't think a disk utility will help you at this point. What you CAN do is try target disk mode to your newer rMBP. It MUST be done via firewire so you will need to get an adaptor. But hold down T on the MB at boot up and you will see the boot symbol for the firewire. Plug one end to the MB and the other to the rMBP and you should have a good look at whats going on, (if theres anything to see at all). To do an install is a little different. You can try to install an OS to the MB from your rMBP while the MB is in target disk mode, I haven't done this but in theory it should work. You can still download mavericks and even Lion if you look in the right spots. just be sure you install to the right drive or you will have TWO problems on your hands!

    Good Luck!
  3. richsad thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 15, 2014
    Boston, MA area
    Hey Thanks so much for the response. I have good news. Here's what I did. I found a very old backup (clone) of the disk from 2009. With that I was able to determine the machine was OK and booted. Disk Utility said the internal hard drive had errors that could not be repaired. So I invested in a couple of things:

    1. a copy of DiskWarrior
    2. a new 500GB 2.5" drive
    3. a copy of OS X 10.6 on eBay for $9

    Total investment about $175. Much cheaper than a new machine. DiskWarrior ran for 2 days on the old drive but ultimately was able to recover the data. I used the OS X disk I bought on eBay to boot and reformat the new drive, then I let it import the data from the old clone. Then I imported the photos and music salvaged from the damaged disk. Then I applied all the software updates available. Now the machine is as good as new.

    I love Apple laptops because they last a long, long time!

    I'm not sure about this but I don't think I can run Mavericks of that machine. I see some posts about people who made it work but I think they had to muck around. I'm not the user of this old machine.
  4. BrettApple macrumors 65816


    Apr 3, 2010
    Heart of the midwest
    Great to hear! I had the exact same MacBook earlier last year, well black, but mostly the same. It was running Lion when I got it and that's as high as you can go with these models due to the Intel GPU holding it back drivers wise.

    I would recommend staying on Snow Leopard, especially if you only have 2GB RAM. Mine shipped with 2GB on Lion and you really need at least 4GB to run Lion smoothly with other applications open IMO. Snow Leopard is also quicker and much lighter on the GPU that in turn makes it run a bit cooler and looks smoother with the animations.

    Lion is alright if you need it for app compatibility though. But most still run on 10.6 (Chrome, Office 2011, Adobe CS5, etc.)

    I also put in an SSD and 6GB RAM and it flied, but I ended up staying on 10.6. Stable and dependable. It also works better with a standard HDD.

    Enjoy your refreshed Mac! :apple:
  5. richsad thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 15, 2014
    Boston, MA area
    Thanks. Mine has 4GB. I considered putting 6GB in it but it's probably not worth the cost for the use case of this specific machine. I have 16GB on my main workhorse a MacBook Pro Retina (early 2013) with a 2.7GHz i7.

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