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Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

We answer questions about installing OS X on a replacement hard drive, and more.

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

This week readers wrote in with questions about a Mac system issuing a beep tone and not turning on when the power is pressed, Active Directory accounts not properly accessing e-mail through Apple's Mail program, and the best way to install OS X on a new hard drive. We welcome views from readers, so if you have any suggestions or alternative approaches to these problems, post them in the comments!

Question: Mac beeps and does not turn on
MacFixIt reader Navid asks:

I have an iMac 2008. I upgraded RAM to 4GB, then installed Mountain Lion. It was working fine, then my computer turned off by itself and when I try to turn it on I hear the beep noise but it never turns on. Can you help me please.

Sorry for the late reply. This sound indicates a hardware error. You can try resetting the system's system management controller (see here) and the PRAM (see here) to see if these hardware-based resets help the situation, but if not then you may need to take the system in for servicing. A single tone with no other activity usually means the RAM is bad or not properly seated so it is not being recognized, but this is difficult to figure out via e-mail.

Question: Active Directory accounts not working in Mail
MacFixIt reader "tdisalva" asks:

I recently upgraded to Mountain Lion. Now whenever I try to use Mail my Active Directory account keeps locking out. If I remove the account from Mail it resolves the problem. A co-worker has a similar issue. Upgraded to Mountain Lion (he did a clean install vs an upgrade). Now whenever his screen saver activates his Acitve Directory account locks out. Anybody else having similar problems?

Mountain Lion currently has some compatibility issues with Mail and Active Directory, and these issues are reportedly being addressed in the upcoming OS X 10.8.1 update, so stay tuned for this update and install it when it is available to see if it fixes the problems.

Question: Installing OS X on a replacement hard drive
MacFixIt reader Alan asks:

I am installing a new hard drive on my Mac, would I boot into Recovery mode to install Mac OS X, or do you recommend a smoother way?

If the drive is a replacement for your boot drive, then you will remove the recovery partition when you remove your old boot drive so it will not be available to use. If your Mac is new and supports Internet Recovery then you can use that instead of a physical Recovery HD partition to reinstall OS X. However, if not then you have several approaches:

  1. Create a recovery USB drive
    Using Apple's Recovery HD assistant tool to create a thumbdrive of your current Recovery HD partition, which you can boot to and use to install OS X.
  2. Create a Mountain Lion install drive
    The recovery USB drive will only hold the small OS X toolset for installing OS X, and will not include the installation files (they download during the installation). To overcome this in part, you can first download Mountain Lion from the Mac App Store and create a boot drive from its contents, which will make a drive similar to a previous OS X installation disc. I recommend this approach.

    If you have a Time Machine backup created before either of these first two options, then once you have installed OS X, which sets up the boot drive partitions correctly, then you can restore your latest Time Machine backup to the drive to restore your accounts, applications, and data.
  3. Clone the drive
    One approach is to install OS X on a secondary external drive, and then install a cloning tool like Carbon Copy Cloner on the same external drive. Then swap out your hard drive for the new one and place the old one in a USB or FireWire hard-drive enclosure. After doing this, boot your system to the drive with Carbon Copy Cloner installed, attach your old drive, and then use the cloning utility to mirror the contents of your old drive to the new internal drive using block copy mode. This is a bit cumbersome in comparison to the first two options, but will result in a direct mirror of your current drive setup.

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