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Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

This week, readers sent in questions on topics including inability to boot and how to test a nonfunctional external DVD player.

MacFixIt Answers is a feature in which I answer Mac-related questions e-mailed in by our readers.

This week, readers wrote in with questions about a system not loading past the gray Apple screen, an external DVD player not working, how to switch to internal speakers with headphones attached, and trouble enabling X-Ray folder view in the Finder. I welcome views from readers, so if you have any suggestions or alternative approaches to these problems, please post them in the comments!

Question: System not loading past the gray Apple screen
MacFixIt reader Greg asks:

I can start my system, and hear the chime - only after this it will either hang with a black bar (like a 'loading in progress' kind of bar) across the bottom of the grey screen with the Apple logo, or it would shut down - go black and stop being on.

This usually indicates a highly corrupt OS installation. Are you able to boot to the OS X installation drive when this happens (either the install DVD or the OS X Recovery HD partition)? If you cannot load the Recovery HD partition then try loading Internet recovery (hold Option-Command-R at startup) for newer systems from 2011 or higher, or use an older OS X installation DVD that came with your computer.

With these options you can try either reinstalling OS X or restoring from a backup (hopefully you have an ongoing Time Machine backup available). It is possible the system's hard drive may be corrupt or on its way out, so you might need to format and repartition the drive before restoring or reinstalling.

Question: External DVD player not working
MacFixIt reader Nathan asks:

I have an iMac which has a broken super drive (dvd/cd drive). I bought an external one but it only works on machines that don't have their own inbuilt one. It simply won't recognise the new drive when I plug it in! Is there any way to disable my existing broken drive or to override it?

Ultimately, besides taking the iMac apart and unplugging the drive, there is no way to override its connection. However, the external drive should be usable with any system, regardless of whether it has an internal drive. External drives simply aren't designed to not work if a computer has an internal drive. I'm not sure from your phrasing, have you in fact tried connecting it to other computers? If it doesn't work with other Macs, try it with a Windows PC -- the drive might have a controller that's only compatible with Windows (it's unlikely, but possible). If necessary you could contact the manufacturer for details.

Are you able to see the device in the USB section of the System Information utility when it's connected, and then in the Disc Burning section to see if the identified drive has any recognized burning or reading properties? Try loading the System Information tool both with and without the drive attached to see if any difference in the USB configuration can be noted.

Question: Switching to internal speakers with headphones attached
MacFixIt reader John asks:

What I would really like is to be able to switch between computer speakers and headphones while leaving the headphones plugged in. Is there any way to do this?

Unfortunately this is not possible with Apple's built-in speakers and headphones jack. If you would like to do this, one option is to use an external audio controller (such as a USB one) that has a headphone jack, and then switch to it in the Sound system preferences or through the menu. M-Audio is one company that makes these.

There may be a third-party utility that can override Apple's driver settings for this behavior, but so far I have not seen one. With a USB audio interface you can option-click the volume control in the OS X menu bar and choose either it or the built-in audio controller to use, which will allow you to perform this task.

Question: Enabling X-Ray folder view in the Finder
MacFixIt reader Bryan asks:

I used [to enable the Finder's X-Ray view in Snow Leopard]. However after inputting "defaults write QLEnableXRayFolders 1" I find that it does not work for Mountain Lion. Is this correct?

It appears Apple has removed this option from the Finder. There may be an alternative way to enable it, but I am not yet aware of how to do it.

Questions? Comments? Have a fix? Post them below or e-mail us!
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