The mother of all Mac problems

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by Michael CM1, Dec 3, 2008.

  1. Michael CM1 macrumors 603

    Feb 4, 2008
    I sit here beyond stumped with this darned iMac G5.

    It froze up about a week ago while trying to load iPhoto. No big deal, just restart it. Well, that's the last time it worked. I have since tried restarting, booting from a 10.4 DVD, booting from a 10.5 DVD, using target mode with a firewire cable and trying to figure out a way to install from my MBP. Augggh.

    The only thing I had mild success with was the 10.4 DVD. I got through part of the first disc, but at some point the screen went blue and just sat there. I can't boot from the 10.5 DVD. I hold the darn option key down and select that boot volume, but then it's just a lot of spinning noise for a few seconds, the white Apple logo screen, then blue screen + silence from optical drive.

    I thought maybe I could boot the installer from my MBP and then install Leopard onto the iMac when using it in target mode. Nope. Funny thing is when in target mode, my MBP recognizes both the HDD and the Leopard install DVD in the iMac.

    I have already been to a Genius. He told me I should be able to do a clean install from the Leopard DVD after doing a diagnostic on the HDD.

    So I'm basically stumped. Part of me thinks something in the motherboard or basic guts of the computer is failing. It REALLY doesn't make sense for the boot from DVD to not work. I don't think I have ever run into that on either a Mac or a PC.

    So any advice from experts or just people who stayed at a Holiday Inn Express would be great.
  2. misterredman macrumors 6502a


    Oct 3, 2007
    Did you try the hardware diagnostics with the discs that came with your iMac? That should give you a good idea of what is wrong with it. By the way, which model is it exactly?
  3. drichards macrumors 6502a


    Nov 30, 2008
    Have you reset the pram and the smc on your imac? Will it boot from an external drive with tiger on it, or from your macbook in target disk mode? Have you used diagnostics from techtool?

    Edit: If your target drive is in an intel mac, your G5 won't be able to boot from it because of a hdd partitioning difference.
  4. Michael CM1 thread starter macrumors 603

    Feb 4, 2008
    I didn't know that any came with the computer, so I'll see if any such thing comes up on the Tiger DVD that will partially install. The Genius ran a disk scan that went through about 10 percent (it would've taken an hour) without finding any problems. I'm almost 100 percent convinced that the disk itself isn't bad.

    It's an iMac G5 2.0 Ghz, the model before the iSight was added. It was on clearance after the iSight models came out about 3 years ago in the late summer, so it's a 3-year-old machine. Only other problem before (aside from sluggishness at times) has been the power supply going bad.

    No I haven't checked those, but I will definitely try it tonight since the HDD is wiped clean so I can't really do any more damage to the darn thing.

    I tried to figure out how to load Leopard onto an external HDD that I have through the install on my MacBook Pro, but I think the fact that it's a PowerPC iMac kills me. I needed to make a GUID partition, but it said that wouldn't boot a PowerPC Mac. The Apple partition method would boot a Mac, but I couldn't install Leopard on it.

    So basically I have Tiger discs that came with the iMac, a Leopard DVD, a working MacBook Pro, a Firewire cable for target mode, and an external USB hard drive. I spent a few hours trying to figure something out without success. If anybody else has advice other than the above links, I'd love it. I spent a decade learning how to fix this crap on a PC only to have it mostly worthless with Macs. I LOVE the extra options they have, but it's like an experienced Ford mechanic trying to fix a BMW.
  5. *old-guy* macrumors regular

    Nov 22, 2007
    Blackburn in North West England
    Can I offer a solution?
    I'm a complete noob with Macs but if this happened to me on a Windows based PC, and all else had failed, I'd whip out the hard drive, slot it in another another PC and load up the hard drive with any old Operating System before swapping the hard drive back over.
    Will that work with a Mac?

    PS ... Just so you know, that idea may not work with XP and Vista but if your Windows PC was totally dead, you could use that method to install Win 2K Pro and then try to update to a later OS once you had a working PC.
  6. misterredman macrumors 6502a


    Oct 3, 2007
    Anyway I was thinking more about a complete hardware diagnostic, not only a hard drive check but also a ram, CPU etc check.
  7. JustGretchen macrumors 6502

    Dec 2, 2008
    Since the system is still supported by apple you could take it in and specifically ask the genius to run apple service diagnostic on it. You could also try to find that program yourself online but you'd be looking through some less than desirable sites. If you can get that test run it'll tell you the specific hardware problem if there is one.

    Good luck
  8. chipchen macrumors 6502

    Oct 30, 2002
    I'll bet $5 it is the hard drive. Either (a) the drive is failing... or (b) the directory is corrupted.

    If it is (a) that the drive is failing, the best thing to do is stop trying to get it to work. Buy a new hard drive and replace it. Install whatever you want. Get an enclosure and put the old drive in there... you MAY be able to recover some data.

    If it is (b), your best bet is DiscWarrior. If DW can't fix the directory corruption, it may at least give you a preview option to back up your data.

    Your next question might be how to tell between (a) or (b). And it's pretty tough... you might have to pull the drive to do it... check it in disk utility when mounted from an enclosure to see if SMART status passes. Also listen closely to see if there's any clicking or grinding noises coming from the drive.

    good luck.
  9. Michael CM1 thread starter macrumors 603

    Feb 4, 2008
    I would've bet the drive before EASILY transferring a bunch of files over to my MacBook Pro from target mode. It worked as swimmingly as any of the external HDDs I have hooked up. Took maybe an hour or so to get about 16 GB of data transferred. I was also able to wipe it clean and create a fresh partition remotely from my MBP. Therefore, I think you and I would both be out $5. Backing up data wasn't a big deal, especially with a 250GB HDD full of Time Machine backups.

    I'm sick of dealing with it, it's not my computer (my dad's), and he's paying for it and doesn't mind me taking it to the Genius Bar. Therefore, I'm gonna just have them fix it. I spent my 4 hours giving it a go.

    Because of the fact that I am having trouble installing/booting from OS DVDs, I think there's a piece of hardware that's going bad. I never had that problem before even on Windows computers. I could ALWAYS boot from a DVD or (old school) startup disk when I had major problems. That could also explain why it was running so slow, especially with iPhoto.

    Thanks for all the suggestions, peeps.
  10. Michael CM1 thread starter macrumors 603

    Feb 4, 2008
    Just thought I'd give an update.

    It apparently wasn't the hard drive even though the second Mac Genius I talked to guessed it was. I don't blame him for telling me to take it home and swap out the hard drive with a new one. Had it worked, I would've saved $160 compared to their HDD price and install charge. Popped in a new Western Digital HDD, same problems.

    I tried the SMC and NVRAM/PRAM resets. No fix.

    I do wonder now if it's maybe a busted controller or circuit on the logic board. It just seems like it has something to do with stuff that the logic board would do. I really don't understand why the Tiger discs will get me started on an install but the Leopard disc won't even start.

    I'm going to swap out the newer RAM for the stuff that I had in it for a couple of years. I know that's probably not the problem, but it won't cost me anything and is easy. If the SATA cable(s) are replacable with the one that came with the drive (they didn't look like it), I may replace that. Otherwise, I don't see it wise to spend what would probably be at the very least $300 to fix an iMac that's getting closer to 4 years old.

    I'm going to try putting a bootable Leopard volume on an external USB hard drive to see if it's the SuperDrive causing problems. Yet another free solution. If anybody else has ideas that don't cost anything (or that are pretty darn cheap), I'd appreciate it. If not, thanks again to those who tried.

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