Mac Desktops forum


IMac only works if I use external monitor

by Ocean525917 / April 5, 2012 4:14 AM PDT

My IMax Intel 24" A1225 Freezes up (except mouse it will mover but nothing else) after log in. When it first happened over a month ago I had the finder window open trying to get to Disk Utility. If I restart the same thing happens over and over, including the sames program opening and about 10 minutes after the computer locks up the screen goes white, sometimes black.

Took it to tech support, they said it was the video card. Next day said they installed video card but that was not the problem and that I needed a new monitor. I said the monitor displayed fine crystal clear color. He said it was the inverter board attached to the monitor. I said replace the inverter board he said they can't because it sells as one piece. Got the computer back, purchased and installed an inverter board, problem not fixed.

Removed Mac monitor and with Mac monitor out I plugged in an external monitor and the computer works great. Went to disk utility and fixed HD files, did a long extended hardware check and all was good. Shut off computer and installed Mac monitor and turned on...everything works great. Did hardware test again and all is good. Did dist utility again and all is good.

Here is where it gets weird. If I disconnect the external monitor the computer locks up about 10 minutes later and the screen goes white. If I reboot with the external monitor installed all in good in MAC world. If I reboot with just the Mac monitor installed I opens the exact same programs that were open when it crashed over a month ago and then freezes and ten minutes later screen goes white.

Don't want to have the external monitor plugged in to work. Any suggestions or test that will determine what is really causing the problem would be greatly appreciated.

Also my computer just started turning on, from OFF not in sleep mode, all by itself at 7:00 AM. That is a first and I did not set it to do that. Has done it twice in a row so far. Woooo spooky and it is not Friday yet!!! Wonder what will happen tomorrow....

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Clarification Request
Seems there are quite a few models of the 1225.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 5, 2012 4:21 AM PDT
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Could care less about the shop - hope he has to eat it!
by Ocean525917 / April 5, 2012 6:13 AM PDT

The computer works GREAT, I'm using it now but I must keep the exterior monitor plugged in and on so the computer works. I prefer the big 24" screen so I [put pu with the inconvience but I was hoping someone would have some valuable imput to solving the problem or figuring out what it could possibly be.

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Would you care enough to tell which model you have?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 5, 2012 6:19 AM PDT

Hope our resident guru shows up but I don't look at 7 models to see if there is something known out there. I work with the one model at a time method.

Good luck in finding the issue.

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You could have been more direct the first time with what you
by Ocean525917 / April 5, 2012 8:37 AM PDT

Apple iMac "Core 2 Duo" 3.06 24-Inch (Early 2008) Specs

Identifiers: Early 2008 - MB398LL/A - iMac8,1 - A1225 - 2211

You have my attention!

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by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 5, 2012 8:53 AM PDT

But some folk get upset if you respond with "Which model is that?"

Let's hope our guru finds this and has a tale from the shop for us.

I have a theory of how to cause this but no iMac to test it on. So I'll keep that to myself for now.

This model does have a "mini-DVI, which supports an external display in "extended desktop" mode." Which has me thinking you need to try getting it out of any such mode. Let's think about that and here's a google on that. echoes some thoughts I'm having here. Turning off all extended desktop modes, no add ons like Shades, etc.

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I see JG responed.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 5, 2012 9:09 AM PDT
In reply to: Sorry

I concur that any app like fancontrol or ANY app that is not stock should be tossed. It's gotten a bit tiring to toss such for folk.

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(NT) Typo. Here's the missind "d".
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 5, 2012 9:10 AM PDT
In reply to: I see JG responed.
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When it origionally crashed
by Ocean525917 / April 5, 2012 10:39 AM PDT
In reply to: Sorry

I was searching the web in Firefox and must have had at least 15 tabs open. The tab I was on had a link that I took but the new tab did not render so I arrowed back and tried again and this time the computer froze. When I rebooted that's when it all started with the frozen screen and going to white and some times black.

I don't add a lot of stuff to my HD because I don't have enough space in fact a few weeks before I went through the application list and trashed any program I was not using and transferred all the photos etc to an external HD to free up space. I did have 2 Firefox update a few days prior to the crash.

The above link is turning off or switching between monitors my issue is crash related. When I was told I needed a new monitor it did not make sense to me logically speaking and the answer I got was not convincing. They did say the computer would work fine with the Mac monitor unplugged and an external monitor installed. I had a nagging suspicion that it was software related so I took it home and removed the Mac monitor, hooked up an external monitor and the computer worked great. I then did a dist verify and repair and followed with an extended hardware check - ALL GOOD. Then I shut down and out of curiosity reinstalled the Mac monitor with the external monitor still hooked up and everything work great and over an hour. So thinking I fixed the problem I unplugged the external monitor and within 10 minutes the computer froze and shortly after that the screen went white. The computer is still on but not functioning at this point.

Hopefully that clears up the issue a little better.

I will look at Firefox addon and see if there is something that could be causing the problem. I did turn of the automatic start and it was I who set it up but I'm old, cranky and forgetful. LOL

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Remember the link only echoes my thought on this.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 5, 2012 11:03 AM PDT

It is only an echo and is only the partial reason I would be diving into that control to turn it all off.

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Am I missing something
by Ocean525917 / April 6, 2012 12:11 AM PDT

"Shades is a utility for controlling the brightness of your screen. It runs in the background providing easy control over the brightness of your display via a slick Mac-like interface, with greater dynamic range and finer granularity than the built-in controls."

Shades runs continually when turning one of the two monitors to black and is not what I am trying to accomplish. I want to be able to disconnect the external monitor completely, My desk is to small and the external monitor is a HD TV in a cabinet on the other wall so the cable hangs in the air and blocks entrance to the room. So unless I missed something important in that potential fix it is not help me.

What is funny is I start the TV is in PC mode when I turn on the computer if I switch the TV to cable mode and watch TV the computer still works fine. Only if I turn off the TV or remove the connecting cable does the computer crash in the manner previously described. If switching to TV mode does not cause a problem it must be that there remains some form of signal (current) transmitting back and forth that the computer agrees with. Cut off the signal and the computer does not like it.

At this point I think finding what the problem is will be more exciting then getting rid of the cable I have to climb over every time I want a cup of coffee or have to pee!!! lol

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Not missing a thing.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 6, 2012 12:21 AM PDT
In reply to: Am I missing something

Any add on and any setting to extend or change the display from stock is suspect. There are some that want exacting explanations why an app is suspect or setting. Then you may have them ask why changing it fixes it. Sadly, I have to defer to those that wrote the app, or made this system. I only want it to work and that's it. Long trips through swamps are left to those that have swamp buggies.

In other words, we've been done this road before. I share what I've done in the past to get back to normal.

Of course it could be a bum board or card. But that's expensive to figure out. That is, if we change the board. I have at times, when paid to do so, pop in a new HDD, install the OS clean and test it.

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No changes to display prior to crash
by Ocean525917 / April 7, 2012 3:37 AM PDT
In reply to: Not missing a thing.

That makes sense if I had made changes but I did not. that is not to say that an update didn't. The cost to just pick this or that piece of hardware to replace seems a little drastic and not very methodical and logic based. Has the industry changed where there is no real way to determine what the actual cause of a problem is? What you are implying is that if the car doesn't start put in a new engine or if it doesn't start sometimes put in a new fuel injection system or gas tank or starter. In the auto industry their are test that will pinpoint what the problem is and for those who make their living at it can narrow it down closely before pinpointing specific test to get to the actual problem. It seems that the equipment needed to properly test specific hardware part or the transistors on a board are not available or not use preferring to throw out a perfectly good computer, like mine, or replace large expensive parts until the problem stops.

If that is a valid description of where this industry is then buying on price with extended warranty of 3 yrs (Dell offers 5 now) knowing that it goes in the trash when the warranty expires is the only path to choose. I paid a lot more for the Apple name then I can ever justify again.

What are your thoughts.

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by Nandor690 / November 14, 2012 5:37 PM PST
In reply to: Not missing a thing.

This may sound funny to some people but I have bought quite a few iMacs with bad MLB or video cards and fixed them by baking them in the oven at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Obviously you need to remove them from the imac and strip any plastic so it does not melt. But it works and fixes a lot of problems. Sometimes it's only a few month fix but sometimes it fixes them for good. I have a 20" imac I bought with bad MLB, put it in the oven and it's been working for 2 years.
Just my 2 cents tho


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One other thing
by Jimmy Greystone / April 6, 2012 12:36 AM PDT
In reply to: Am I missing something

One other thing I forgot to mention before. It's useful to have a known good OS install so you can make sure that the issue isn't software related. So what I might suggest is reconnecting the internal display, disconnecting the external, and then booting from the OS X install DVD. If the symptoms don't happen with a known good OS, the odds are some software you installed is causing the problem.

I could see there being unexpected interactions between the ALS function and some program designed to control the brightness manually. Why it would take 10 minutes to kick in is a bit of a mystery, but then again I'm not familiar with this Shades program you just now decided to mention. Most TVs and other monitors do not have an ALS. If a TV has some kind of dynamic contrast function it's based off the image being displayed on the screen.

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Miss information
by Ocean525917 / April 6, 2012 2:18 AM PDT
In reply to: One other thing

Guys, I don't have any programs installed that change the monitor or regulate the fan. Any mention of them was by those helping to find a solution and my response to their posts. The Mac monitor is connected and works great as intended but only if the external monitor is connected and turned on. If I disconnect the external monitor then I can recreate the original crash that was the started of the whole problem.

Originally I thought it was a heat issue but discounted that when all worked great with the external monitor but let me revisit this and ask you all this: Would the use of an external monitor be able to reduce overheating to the Mac monitor or put another way what hardware is affected by the use of a second monitor that could reduce the heat to the primary monitor, EG: power supply, balance to the power output video signal when 2 monitors are use but not when only one. (keep in mind that I can use just the external monitor without issue if the Mac monitor is removed or unplugged) Is there a chip for each monitor and is it possible that the primary chip is flawed but the external monitor, when plugged in, draws enough power to fix the problem.

Listen I really know very little about computer and when you all use tech terms I can get lost. If you have a high rise concrete structure or a hydroelectric site developed I can help but computer are a fun mystery for me to solve. I did not know I could start the computer using the OSX from the CD. How do I do that? I had though about reloading the OS but if I did I would have to spend two day loading all the other programs and without a reasonable indication that that would solve the problem I think that would have to be a last resort task, do you all agree? But is I can boot to the OS on the cd then that would be a simply way to test to see if the OS is corrupted.

I realize that there is a lot of information posted here and having to read it all is not fun but I tried to detail my posts to limit confusion and if I have failed in that attempt I am sorry. I appreciate all you effort. Now its time for one of your smart guys to tell me what is the problem LOL

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The test noted by JG is next.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 6, 2012 2:23 AM PDT
In reply to: Miss information

Put the Apple to it's stock connections and try JG's test. If that fails, it's a hardware issue plain and simple.


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How to boot from the DVD
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / April 6, 2012 3:05 AM PDT
In reply to: Miss information

I noticed that the question was not answered.

1. Insert OS X install disk.
2. Restart the iMac. At the chime, hold down the OPTION key
3. When presented with the choice of boot disk, choose the DVD

An alternate method would be to insert the disk, restart and hold down the "C" key until you see the spinning gear.
insert the disk, open System preferences and open the Startup disk preference pane. Choose the DVD as the start up disk


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Not boots on!
by Ocean525917 / April 6, 2012 6:51 AM PDT

I tried all three methods and it won't start and give me a desktop or sign in. The closest I got what alt #3 where I got to the Apple icon and the gear but they dissolve and the white screen remains and remains and remains lol. Method 1 and 2 never even gets to the Apple icon. Will try again and see what happens.

any suggestions?

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What version of OS X are you using?
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / April 6, 2012 8:12 AM PDT

Are these the DVD's that came with the iMac?


All Answers

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Interesting problem
by Jimmy Greystone / April 5, 2012 8:56 AM PDT

Interesting problem, and I'm not sure where they got the inverter board idea, I think they were just grasping at straws on that one. They were correct though, that Apple only sells displays complete with inverter. AASP's are required by the terms of their contract with Apple to get ALL repair parts, in or out of warranty, from Apple. Apple will overlook smaller things like HDDs and RAM, just refusing to support them if they fail later, but if this place had put on a third party display panel or even just an inverter board, Apple could come along and rip up their contract.

I'm not sure about that specific model iMac whether it has an integrated video chip AND a discreet video card or if it's only one or the other, because on most of the laptops, unless you specifically configure things otherwise, it will run off the integrated video chip until you connect an external display when it automatically flips to discreet video. If that were the case here, it would certainly explain the problems, and mean that the unit needs a new MLB, so you better get used to the external display or just chuck the unit completely. You could try a new LVDS cable. It's unlikely that it would only fail after warm-up, but it's a quick, easy (relative to an inverter board), and cheap thing to try. Still, based on the fact that it has started turning on by itself points more at the MLB being bad.

Just to be sure however, you do not have smcFanControl or any other program that will allow you to alter the speed settings of the cooling fans, do you?

Also, Apple Hardware Test is pretty much useless. It's there primarily to make users feel all warm and fuzzy about having run a diagnostic test on the system. All it does is sensor tests and RAM checks. The extended tests just runs more extensive RAM tests. If it had actually found something, it would have given you an extremely cryptic error message that even repair techs have to consult Apple to get deciphered.

Finally, you would be amazed at what some people will put off getting looked at. Not just computers, think about all the people who put off going to the doctor even though they might be having signs of appendicitis for MONTHS. Then finally it bursts and the issue is forced. You ever listen to the NPR show Car Talk, routinely people say some issue has been going on for 6-7 months, if not longer than that. Just because you might not put something off if it were under warranty doesn't mean there aren't plenty of people who would.

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Great Read and funny too!
by Ocean525917 / April 6, 2012 12:35 AM PDT
In reply to: Interesting problem

Thanks for taking the time to explain in detail that is greatly appreciated. My level or procrastination is directly connected to my meager savings account. I did not install any smcFanControl and as far as I know have not messed with anything that would change fan settings. Is there a way I can check that specifically?

I communicated with a postie that had a somewhat similar problem and was told he needed a new logic board. He changes the fan heat sensor cable and the problem was fixed. I guess the sensor was not working and the monitor was getting to hot so it shut down the computer. I though that might be my problem since my monitor also would get hot. When I hooked up the external monitor that killed that thought process since the Mac monitor is still on and working so if it was getting to hot or the sensor no working correctly the computer should still shut down, or at least that is my logic.

Thanks for bursting my warm and fussy feeling that all is well in my computer. It is amazing how Apple control everything about their computer and systems. I'm not referring to hardware installation but communication and negative information about they equipment. If you go to Apple and log into their support blogs the people helping, like those here get points and I assume the points get them something because they will only provide selected information and NEVER get into something of this nature other than to say bring it in to an Apple service Tech.

I learned my lesson and it is back to PC for me when I can afford to. For now I will make do but I love to solve problems and this one I find very intriguing. Thanks for you help and if you think of anything else let me know. Oh and the turning on thing that was my bad, I set that up and forgot I did it.

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(NT) Mods here do not get "points", or anything else!
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / April 6, 2012 3:07 AM PDT
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You don't know the half of it
by Jimmy Greystone / April 6, 2012 5:45 AM PDT

You don't know the half of it. There's the public face of Apple which is all smiles and kind words, then there's the TRUE face of Apple which would be like comparing Claudia Shiffer to Freddy Kruger, and the personality being a composite of Freddy, Jason, Chucky, Hellraiser, and any other major horror film psychos I might be leaving out.

Apple likes to keep a very tight reign on it's forums too. They claim they're all community based, and that Apple employees aren't involved, but you start mentioning some issue that Apple hasn't officially confirmed yet or maybe about a bad experience you had at an Apple store, and mysteriously the post disappears. It's been a documented phenomenon on numerous occasions. Calling Apple a cult would really not be that big of an exaggeration.

I can definitely give them credit for taking the time to think through the design of their hardware. You look at the MLB for virtually any Apple model, and there's almost no wasted space. Unlike a few Toshiba laptop motherboards I've seen with about 3" square spots of just empty PCB. And while Vista and Windows 7 have largely eclipsed Mac OS X, there is still just that feeling of polish when you use Mac OS X. It's not any one thing, it's a culmination of a bunch of little things that just aren't there with Windows. The problem comes when you see what's behind the curtain at the company. If Apple were a person, it would be the ultimate politician. Tells you everything you want to hear, gives the impression of being on the side of the little guy, but then you find out about all the back room deals it made to line its own pockets and how it basically sold everyone out at any and every opportunity.

You should find a different discussion on one of the CNet forums where someone was thinking about getting into being an iOS developer, and I gave a number of specifics about what they could expect.

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Continue here?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 6, 2012 6:55 AM PDT

I see your boot with the apple DVD has failed.

My thought? "That's not good."

There are a few causes that are "normal." Old drives, bum copy of the media or wrong media are common. At the shop, if the DVDRW drive is over 2 years old, and we know we have the right and good media, we swap in a drive or use an external DVDRW drive for the next test.

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I'm going to agree
by Jimmy Greystone / April 6, 2012 8:32 AM PDT
In reply to: Continue here?

I'm going to agree, and especially if I'm reading things correctly in that the screen washout happens even before the OS boots. That pretty well clinches it being a hardware issue. But just as another test, since you probably have an ailing ODD. Just hold down the option key at boot, when you get to where you see the different partitions, just leave it there for a while and see if the issue presents. If it does, you definitely have a hardware issue.

If I were doing the repairs, I'd want to swap out the display panel just to be sure. I've never seen this issue with an iMac, but I have seen it with the Late 09 unibody MacBooks. The screen will gradually fade to all white, and you have to manipulate the clamshell to restore the video feed. That is generally fixed by replacing the display assembly. So it's at least possible it's the result of a pinched cable or something, though I'd say it's anorexic skeleton level odds. Next time it starts acting up, try moving the unit back and forth on the stand to see if that does anything.

If external video works without issue, then you can pretty safely rule out the video card, leaving you with the display panel, LVDS cable, or MLB. Typically if the LVDS cable fails, you either get video or you don't, or you might not get backlight, but that's as close to an in between failure as I've ever seen with those since it's essentially a digital connection, so basically it either works or it doesn't. My gut says MLB on this one, but again, to be sure I would really prefer to replace the display panel first, just to be thorough, if I were the one doing the repair. There have been times where my gut says it's this, and my gut is way off. Still, outside of unibody MacBooks I have never seen this issue, and even then you don't continue to have mouse cursor movement, so would be more inclined to think there's something wrong with the MLB since if the video card were bad you'd expect the symptoms to be present on the external video as well. So pretty much everything keeps leading back to the MLB being the most likely source of the problem. And given the cost to replace that, you may as well just scrap the entire thing. You could probably save a little money buying one on ebay, but the problem is then that you never know if the person actually sent you the right board for your specific model, did they handle it in such a way as to prevent ESD, did they package it in such a way to prevent flexing of the board during shipping, etc.

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Very Interesting
by Ocean525917 / April 7, 2012 2:11 AM PDT
In reply to: I'm going to agree

Sorry to have to ask but what is a ODD? I realize I have issues but really guys, you hardly know me (Oppositional defiant disorder). OK I Googled it Optical Digital Disk - Don't believe there is anything wrong with the ODD since it does show up in finder and I have run tests from it when starting in "C" and "D"

I have tried many ways of installing the OSX6 to no avail. I even tried a forth method of booting the computer normally, with external monitor installed, and then installed the OS disk. From then I click the install icon and get a window that want to restart the computer to continue. From there I get the Apple icon and gear but after the gear fades nothing else happens. I have tried this three times the first time then I clicked the restart tab it kicked out the OS disk. I don't think it is the DVD disk player since I have been able to to a "C" and "D" at start-up and run tests. I have installed other disks and they are read immediately and pop up in Finder.

I just got done doing the "option" key and have had the startup screen in view for 20 minutes waiting for my choice of HD or Mac OS X Disk choice. When I choose disk and the gear starts turning I can hear the activity but I can't determine if it is the HD or the Optical Drive.Can I try to install the OSx from my PC to an external HD as a test or the ODD? Can I copy the contents of the dist to a memory stick or external HD and start from them to install the OS?

You refer to MLB is that an acronym for motherboard (logic board)? Assuming that is true why do you think the computer works great and the Mac monitor perfect as long as I have the external monitor connected?

Did a restart "D" without a problem but as is sometimes the case it would work with "C", it can me fussy sometimes. Will look to see if **** is dirty.

So the it is thought that it could be the Monitor but the monitor works great as long as the external is plugged in. And another thought is the logic board. To refine the thought what path does the video data follow? Since I can set up the two screens to have either the same or different feeds that should rule out the video card. Would it be software related that tells determines which monitor to use or not use or that tells the logic board what is or is not working? Can we refine the process to be more accurate in what the problem is?

Obviously I can just buy a cheap small monitor that will fit on my desk and continue to use the computer and that would cost about the same as having a Apple tell me what they think needs to be replaced. I just don't understand why we have these products without the ability to determine exactly what the problem is. They are not humans where doctors get confused. They are products of man, machines, and to be able to make something but not trace and diagnose precisely where and why a consistently reoccurring issue occurs just does not seem logical unless the machines are really the ones in control! I'll be read your replies

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(NT) ODD = Optical Disk Drive (or Optical Disc Drive?)
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 8, 2012 5:51 AM PDT
In reply to: Very Interesting
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Maybe this will shead some light on the problem
by Ocean525917 / April 9, 2012 10:19 PM PDT
In reply to: I'm going to agree

You know how the computer crashes about 10 minutes after log in if the external monitor is not plugged in and on. When for some reason that is not the case before log in. When the computer is turned on and you get the log in screen with its bright night sun picture if I don't enter my log in password it will stay that way forever without crashing. If the external monitor is plugged it and I log in computer works fine. If the external monitor was not plugged in and on before the log in screen when I log in the compute crashes in 10 minutes.

Does this help narrow the field? Does it sound more software related? I was thinking of swapping out the HD, formatting it and installing the OS to see if that solves the problem. Do you think that is a waste of time?

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This is exactly why
by Jimmy Greystone / April 9, 2012 11:06 PM PDT

This is exactly why I suggested you boot from the OS install DVD. At this point it is definitely a software issue.

Also, pretty sure what you're seeing is a photo of the milky way galaxy, in which we all reside. Or at least something of a rendition of what the milky way would look like were we able to get far enough away from it to be able to take it all in.

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OS install
by Ocean525917 / April 10, 2012 12:33 AM PDT
In reply to: This is exactly why

I hope that is the case but I am still not able to install the OS. It just won't do it. Is there something in the registry that could be blocking it that is deleted I could then doot to the disk for complet the OS install. I can boot to the dist and still get the screen to choose the disk but it will complete the process.

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