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Bad, bad macbook... flashing question mark on screen

by grimgraphix / June 29, 2009 2:21 PM PDT

2.0GHz MacBook running 10.5. My friend's computer which he brought to me thinking I might be able to get it booted.

My buddy went to bed last night, running a video on his hard drive with the computer hooked up to his flat screen TV, he fell asleep while it was playing. This morning he woke up to a frozen screen. He did a manual shutdown. Upon restart he got a gray screen with nothing showing.

I have tried the original installation disk and restart while holding down "C" with no result.

I tried a copy of Tech Tools 5 in the DVD drive... with no result.

I have tried booting off of my own external firewire HD upon which I keep a bootable clone of os10.4.11... with no result.

I tried booting off that same external HD while holding down "C" and got the flashing folder with question mark.

I tried using a firewire cable and starting the bad macbook in target mode while hooked up to my old iBook. This caused the macbook screen to show a firewire symbol and nothing showed up on my iBook screen but an archive... Tech Tools on my iBook recognized the archive but could not Unmount the archive when I tried to use any of the tools to explore or fix the target disk.

I know that the flashing question mark indicates there is no start up software to be found, but I have to question whether this might not be something more than a bad HD. Anyone have any suggestions?

BTW... the macbook is out of warranty. My friend just went ahead and ordered a new macbook pro so there is no pressing need to get this fixed in a hurry, but he would like to get the old computer fixed if it is just a matter of replacing an HD.

thanks y'all


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Tried Apple support?
by ndm25 / June 29, 2009 2:37 PM PDT
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lol... my buddy reset the PRAM before handing it to me
by grimgraphix / June 29, 2009 3:45 PM PDT
In reply to: Tried Apple support?

Thanks for the suggestion though. It never hurts to cover all your bases with any problem.

Thanks for the link to apple support as well.


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Long shot,
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / June 29, 2009 9:57 PM PDT

but that's all you haver right now. Happy

Remove the battery and then, with the power adapter connected, boot the beast.

Any joy?


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No joy in Mudville
by grimgraphix / June 30, 2009 12:07 AM PDT
In reply to: Long shot,

Still nothing more than a white/gray screen. I tried shoving a banana in the open battery slot but that didn't work either. Sad

I turn it on (without any thing attached or disk inserted) and I hear the chime, and the optical drive transport mechanism whirs for a second. I push the power button again and the computer immediately shuts off - no waiting for 5 seconds while holding the power button down.

I get a cursor that appears on the gray white screen that I can move around after start up... but nothing more.

The disk eject button won't work but putting the computer in target disk mode while hooked up to another computer ejects and CD/DVD inserted in the drive.

How easy is it to pop the HD out of this white polycarb late 2007 macbook? I have a universal power cord IDE/SATA cable that I could slap on that sucker to see if the HD is capable of being read as an external drive. I suspect it will be a day long ordeal to get it done, no?

From my limited knowledge of this model mac, I am thinking this is a bad motherboard or a bad processor if the HD proves to still be readable. I will have to do some research and see if this model (MB061LL/B) has any history of defects.

Cheers all... and I will update if I find anything new.


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Remove HD
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / June 30, 2009 2:55 AM PDT
In reply to: No joy in Mudville

If I have this right, inside the battery compartment there are three screws holding in an "L" shaped metal strip. The screws are captive.
Undo them and carefully remove the strip. Try not to bend it.
With the battery compartment closest to you, you will see the HD bay. Just pull the drive, by the attached tag, out of its slot.

Hopefully you have this model.


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HD pulled out through the bottom...
by grimgraphix / June 30, 2009 4:16 AM PDT
In reply to: Remove HD

OUCH ! There is something awkward and uncomfortable about that phrase... "HD pulled out through the bottom".

Anyway... I got the HD out of the the bad macbook. It came out through the battery hatch, just as you said it might.

The drive spins up when power is applied but will not mount on my iBook. I'm running tiger and the external HD has Leopard... is there any reason why this fact should prevent the drive from mounting?

I once again tried booting the macbook - sans internal HD - off of my external firewire drive that I keep a cloned copy of my iBook's OS on and it once again refused.

My friend has access to a similar model macbook at work. That macbook is fully operational. Could I pull the HD from that computer and try it in the disabled one to see if it would work, without any danger of damaging the HD that I know works ? Or would placing a good HD in a computer with bad hardware be dangerous to the functional HD?

Thanks for the suggestions so far !

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Yep, that would work.
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / June 30, 2009 9:58 AM PDT

Even though that drive does not mount on hour desktop, it "may" be visible with Disk Utility or Disk Warrior.
If it is, then you know what to do.

I have had success with a laptop drive, in a sealed ziploc bag, in the freezer for 24 hours. May sure the seal on the bag is good and that you get as much air out as possible.


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Drive is in the freezer chillin' out on top of the ice cream
by grimgraphix / June 30, 2009 3:47 PM PDT
In reply to: Yep, that would work.

I will take it out tomorrow night and see if I can't hook it up as an external drive.

Should I warm it up first, or is it OK to just hook it up, fresh out of the freezer?

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Correction re: cursor
by grimgraphix / June 30, 2009 12:23 AM PDT
In reply to: Long shot,

I get a cursor that I can around on the screen if I start the machine up with my bootable firewire HD attached. I get no cursor when the computer is booted up on its' lonesome.

The internal fan also fires up almost immediately and the exhaust is pretty toasty so something is working hard under the keyboard.

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(NT) Hook it up cold!
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / June 30, 2009 9:59 PM PDT
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It appears a lost cause
by grimgraphix / July 1, 2009 1:05 AM PDT
In reply to: Hook it up cold!

the disk spun up... and clicked like a bicycle wheel with a baseball card stuck through the spokes. Never did get the disk to appear on my desk top, nor show up when I restarted my computer with a techtools pro disk in the optical drive.

I have told my friend the HD appears to be a lost cause. I also suggested that he can get a cheap sata drive and we can drop it into his now defunct macbook to see if we can reload the OS on the new drive. However, the fact that I can't get his macbook to boot up off the optical drive from the original installation disk makes me wonder if the computer is also dead.

Will a macbook startup off the installation disk without an HD in the computer?

Cheers and thanks for the suggestions so far !

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You're gonna love this,
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / July 1, 2009 9:27 AM PDT

What "may" have been holding that MacBook back is the defective HD.

The system (firmware) just would not let go of the drive, even though it never got a decent response from it.
Now that it is no longer in the equation, this Macbook might take on another life.

Boot from the external, without the internal drive installed.


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well... "Yeah" and "Nay"....
by grimgraphix / July 1, 2009 2:28 PM PDT

The computer refused to boot up off the external HD. I tried about half a dozen times. So I tried the original installation disk and after restarting around 3 times, the solid gray screen started flashing the question mark folder, then flashed the apple logo, and then went blue screen which segwayed into the "pick a language" screen.

Yeaaaaaahhhhh !

So I called my buddy up and told him to buy a new HD. I tell ya though... that was one stubborn macintosh. All in all, I must have tried to get that thing to boot 9 or 10 times since I took the bad HD out, before it became a cooperative ghost in the machine.

cheers and thanks for the helpful suggestions.

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by babyboo202 / July 19, 2009 10:39 AM PDT

Okay well... you are going to have to bring it to the apple store and they will send it to get it fixed... Its going to be about 800 to 900 to get it fixed and they will have to replace the harddrive and mother board

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Read the thread
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / July 19, 2009 9:57 PM PDT
In reply to: Answer....

The problem was solved!


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