Strange iMac behaviour (hardware issue?)

Discussion in 'iMac' started by macstatic, Sep 13, 2010.

  1. macstatic macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    Our 1.5 year old iMac (20" iMac, 2.4GHz Core 2 duo, otherwise known as "iMac 8.1") has started to act really strange: the busy "beachball" popping up all the time, things lagging behind or being very unresponsive (e.g. I might access an application's menu or press a window button and won't get any response until a minute later).
    Booting is also an issue: often times the white screen which appears with the startup chime stays there forever with that spinning circle. Other times all seems well and the Finder desktop with the dock appears, but the Finder menu bar never shows up (or appears 20 minutes later!). I've also had instances when a large folder icon with a question mark on it appears right after the startup chime (I take it this means that a bootable drive isn't found or isn't working).
    Strangely there are instances when everything works as it should. But something is obviously wrong with it. So what else have I tried in order to rectify or indicate where the problem lies:

    - reinstalled MacOSX from the DVD while keeping the user data
    - reinstalled MacOSX from the DVD, completely erasing the internal hard drive first (I've back up my user files on an external Time Machine hard drive)
    - run "Apple hardware test" from the MacOSX installation DVD. No indications of damaged RAM.
    - removed the 4GB memory upgrade (two 2GB DIMMs) and replaced it with the 1GB DIMM that came with the iMac when we bought it
    - ran "Disk utility", checking the drive for errors, SMART status and permission issues
    - booted into Safe mode (CMD-S while booting), then entering: applejack AUTO restart to do a deep fix/check of the drive
    - done several PRAM resets (CMD-ALT-P-R while booting up, a couple of times after each other, repeating the startup chime)

    What else can I try and does anyone have any idea of where the problem could lie?

    I'm worried that if I send it back to Apple for repairs they'll just tell me that as far as they can see all's well (being lucky with things working at that particular moment).
  2. tpavur macrumors regular

    Sep 8, 2010
    I say, load it up in the car and take it to your nearst apple store.
  3. bmwman4life11 macrumors member

    May 11, 2010
    my imac 27 inch is having the exact same problems! but today when i went to go use it the whole screen was like a billion colors and so i turned it off and powered it on, I'm always am getting the folder with the question mark. usually if i power off and on it fixes it but now it wont go away. I'm going into the apple store monday. I will be demanding for a new hard drive. I have had these problems for about 6 months and its painful just too sit here and have a computer like this acting this way. i hope you can get yours fixed. please keep us updated
  4. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    Sory to hear you're having the same problems :(
    I have some strange new developments....
    Like you I was sure the drive was going bad, but just to make sure I to reinstall everything from scratch again (reformatting the drive then installing everything from the MacOSX install DVDs), and this time not installing any third party software (with the exception of SMARTreporter). Strangely enough everything seems to work without a hitch now!!

    That's so strange because SMARTreporter gave me some I/O error messages, and Temperature monitor told me that the SMART sensor's temperature sensor (can't remember the exact wording) was too slow to respond.
    So I concluded that the drive is starting to get flaky, working OK sometimes, and problematic at other times. It's just so hard to prove this to Apple if things seem to work fine when they test it.

    PS: I read in some other discussions that the SMART feature of hard drives isn't always as reliable as we think. Even if there actually is a hard drive problem it often won't detect it!
  5. AlexisV macrumors 68000


    Mar 12, 2007
    Manchester, UK
  6. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    Yup. Tried that too, but the problems kept on going.
    Actually I didn't just reseat the memory but exchanged the 4GB (2x 2GB DIMMs) with the 1GB (1x 1GB DIMM) that originally came with the computer and even moved it to the other empty slot so both of them were tried.

    But now, for whichever reason everything seems to work like it should :confused:
    Normally I would just conclude that reformatting and reinstalling everything from scratch just removed a software problem somewhere, but since I had already done that a few days ago and it made no difference I really have no idea what the cause of the problem was, or if it's still there.

    I've already used the computer "bare" (almost no extra software installed, no user-files transferred back from the backup drive etc.) so the next step I'm going to take is to restore my data.

    I do suspect one piece of software though: Glims for Safari. It kept popping up in the MacOSX Console although I couldn't quite interpret the messages there. Is it possible that a plugin, a piece of software running in the background or a file can cause the computer to act the way I've described it? I still have a feeling the hard drive is dodgy and about to die. Only time will tell.
  7. vandozza macrumors 6502a


    Jun 14, 2006
    Reboot using the Install DVD, run Disk Utility and repair HDD?
  8. fussal macrumors newbie

    Mar 23, 2008
    I had the exact issues

    on a mid 2007 20"imac. right now it's at the apple store here, getting a new hard drive and a new superdrive. will now hopefully on monday if it was in fact a slowly dying harddrive. will keep you posted

  9. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    Yes, please keep us posted as this whole thing is puzzling to say the least.

    I believe I discovered a pattern which may lead to the fact that the hard drive is flaky...
    Since things seemed to work fine again after reformatting and reinstalling MacOSX from the install DVDs I decided to take the next step: copying back the user files from my Time Machine backup drive, so I dumped everything from the backup drive's "Documents" folder to the empty "Documents" folder on the iMac. After that was done things started acting up again (spinning beachball, eternal waits for the computer to respond to things etc.), so this leads me to think that the drive works OK if there's a lot of empty space on it (the 250 GB drive had 217 GB free after MacOSX was installed and everything seemingly worked fine), but when it fills up the drive problems also show up (it had 132 GB free after putting all my documents back on to the drive).

    Does this make any sense? Is it a typical symptom of a dying drive?
  10. HvyMtlPlyr macrumors member

    Jun 25, 2010
    My iMac started having the spinning beach ball and intermittent slow performance. A week later the HD crashed. Had it replaced and running fine since.

    Good to see you have a backup.
  11. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    Yeah, me too :)

    I think the drive is the cause of all this -perhaps even a temperature issue of the drive as problems seem to show up more when the computer has been used for a while (but the computer itself seems OK as booting from an external drive works without a hitch -or so it seems).

    I'm going to deliver it back to the place where I bought it and see what they can do about it. Surely a computer should last longer than 1.5 years even though they don't make things with the same quality as they used to.
  12. IChing macrumors regular

    Sep 25, 2007
    Replace your hard drive

    My 2.4 iMac had the same problems you mentioned. I replaced the hard drive myself it really isn't that hard.
    Hard drives fail and it really sounds like yours is going fast. I bet it is the same brand mine was which was a western digital since we have the same machine.

    There are plenty of good youtube videos on the step by step procedure. It took about 20mins and I saved a bundle.

    I even put a bigger hard drive in and the computer works great.
  13. Draeconis macrumors 6502a

    May 6, 2008
    Your hard drive is failing; if you have Apple Care, take it in to get it replaced, if not, I'm not sure how much it costs but you may be charged :/
  14. bmwman4life11 macrumors member

    May 11, 2010
    Hi guys. I just want to give you all an update on my situation. I brought my imac in today. I told them all the problems I was having and he said it sounded like a hard drive failure to locate everything. He gave a diagnostic test and found problems with the hard drive and the logic board. They have ordered both a hard drive and logic board. They said it will take a week for the parts to arrive because they don't have the hard drive in stock. Plus a few days for them to actually fix the computer. But, after that I will have a fully functional computer again. Well, hopefully I will. I hope everyone else has been able to get there's either working or fixed. As always please keep us updated :)
  15. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    Yes, it's a 250GB Western Digital drive. Are these known for inferior quality?
    I could probably replace it myself, but as it's under warranty I see no reason to do that. Hopefully I'll get a new drive or have whatever is wrong with it replaced.
  16. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    Glad to hear Apple admitting there's a problem and you're getting it fixed :)
    But tell me, what kind of diagnostic test did they do? I ran "Apple hardware test" (holding down "D" while booting from the MacOSX install DVD as far as I can remember), but it returned no errors. Very frustrating when there definitely is a problem. As I understand it you also experienced problems coming and going (very hard to define a pattern and pinpoint).
  17. Draeconis macrumors 6502a

    May 6, 2008
    That's your problem right there.
  18. bmwman4life11 macrumors member

    May 11, 2010

    Well they ran two different tests. The first was they plugged in an ethernet cord that went somewhere under the desk, and held down the n button (I think,i wasn't paying too much attention). He connected to some sort of server and it went through every piece of the computer and it said all the parts of the computer and then would show a green checkmark next to them. then he plugged in a hard drive and booted it up and got it to the home screen(not mine it was like apples, it showed like all the snow leopard updates and stuff). He ran disk utility and clicked on repair and thats when it said my hard drive and logic board were having problems. and yes, the problems would come and go until finally it booted up to an apple and then a circle with a cross through it.
  19. pintsizemacman macrumors regular


    Sep 26, 2010
    i had an ibook that flashed finder and then a question mark. ended up it had a blown logic board.:(
  20. fussal macrumors newbie

    Mar 23, 2008
    I got my imac back on Saturday. They replaced the hardrive and the superdrive as well. Seemed to be some disc reading issues when they tested it. So far everything is working great and i believe those freezing and spinning beach ball issues were definetly hardrive related.
    Guess I got lucky that those issues just developed in the last month of my 3rd year of applecare ;-)
    The drive effected was a Western Digital 320 Gig.
  21. bmwman4life11 macrumors member

    May 11, 2010
    hey guys!I just want to give you an update on my story. i went and picked up my imac today and found out they replaced: the hard drive,1TB,7200,SATA, they replaced the video card,ATI Radeon HD 4850,512mb, and they replaced the logic board,2.8ghz. i was surprised about the graphics card because there wasnt anything wrong when i would use it. ill give you guys an update of how it runs, but it wont be for about 2 weeks, cheers!:rolleyes:

Share This Page