Join 3,558 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Unbelievable Double Mac OS disaster(TM)
July 9, 2014 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Not one but two Macs refuse to boot, getting stuck on the grey Apple logo screen. What can I do and what could have possibly caused this??

Last night I tried to restart my ~3 year old Macbook Pro, running Snow Leopard (I think.) It got stuck on the grey Apple logo screen, spinning infinitely. I tried all the tricks I could google like booting into Safe mode (same result) and booting into Single User mode and doing disk repair ("Disk cannot be repaired.") So I'm figuring either I need to reinstall the OS or the hard drive is dead. Fair enough.

Here's where it gets weird: I go over to my ~2008 Mac Pro tower. It's off, when I remember having left it on. I try to boot up and *THE SAME THING HAPPENS!!" Endless grey spinner. The only difference being in this case the keyboard has no effect, so I can't boot into other modes. I left it on all night and it's still spinning merrily away.

Besides wanting to fix it, I want to know how this could possibly happen to two computers at once!!!

Things I've considered:
1) Something to do with the internet. I don't think these computers should need internet to boot, and anyway my network is fine-I'm using it now to type this on my work machine.

2) Some bad reaction to an update I ran. I can't remember what I've installed since I last restarted each machine: possibly Mac OS minor updates and maybe an Adobe AIR update?

3) Some physical thing in my apartment like a power surge?? Seems very unlikely since I have surge protectors and such. Also not sure if this is even a thing that could happen? I did think I smelled a burny smell near the back of the tower, but it seems physically fine otherwise.

Solution-wise, I can theoretically try re-installing the OS on the laptop from the partition after booting with option key down, which is what I will do unless someone points out something I'm missing. For the Tower I have time machine backups, but not sure how to use them without a working keyboard.

Thanks!
posted by drjimmy11 to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Try resetting the SMC chip. The process is different depending on the model. Info here: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht3964
posted by Gungho at 9:40 AM on July 9


Are the machines spinning up their hard drives? Are they making any sounds such as beeps or some sort of regular tone when they attempt to boot?
posted by bshort at 9:46 AM on July 9


User mode and doing disk repair ("Disk cannot be repaired.")

You can't repair a disk you're booted too, boot from an OSX dvd or the recovery partition(i like the DVD method though, as it rules out disk issues or corruption or...). What does the SMART status in disk utility say? verified? it's fairly useless there. Seeing as how you can't run third party apps when booted from the DVD, you want to get a random external drive, install to that, and then run any old OSX smart utility(i use smartmontools, but it's fairly CLI/barebones)

3) Some physical thing in my apartment like a power surge??

See this. A surge protector can't really protect you all that well from a spike. That wiped out two of my machines before i bought a good line-interactive UPS, which my current cheapo(and much older) replacement imac is plugged into. Let's not go there yet though, since both systems are still booting up and seemingly running ok.

Post back if you tried booting to a DVD and doing a repair and it couldn't, or nothing happened. Also do a repair permissions. Also reset SMC and pram as Gungho said above.

I got a top of the line couple year old macbook air for $150 maybe a year ago because no one had booted to an external drive and run repair disk+repair permissions. Seriously. It was doing the exact same thing as yours, except that sometimes it would boot to an open firmware error screen.

For the Tower I have time machine backups, but not sure how to use them without a working keyboard.

Does it have a bluetooth keyboard? Those randomly lose sync(ask me how i know! the magic trackpad is even worse :D). Try a wired one. If that's not working then uh... wtf. That said, if you do a drive nuke and reinstall one of the first options after it finishes installing is "restore from time machine backup.

Try all the same stuff mentioned above though. OSX DVD repair+repair permissions, SMC and pram reset...
posted by emptythought at 9:47 AM on July 9


Are the machines spinning up their hard drives? Are they making any sounds such as beeps or some sort of regular tone when they attempt to boot?

Yes, they make the "bong" tone and show the grey apple logo screen and spinner.

boot from an OSX dvd or the recovery partition

I already was booted from the recovery partition when I tried this.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:57 AM on July 9


My MBP did this to me a few months ago. Recovery partition wouldn't let me do anything with the drive. I ended up pulling the drive out and dropping it into an external case, then using another system I backed up everything that had been missed since the last Time Machine run, wiped the drive, and did a fresh install of Mavericks. It's been fine since then, but it took me a looong time to get all my files and data back onto the machine. Provided you can read from the disk (in an external case, or mounted to another Mac in Target Disk mode) it's much faster to back up from a set of saved files than it is to restore from Time Machine. I basically moved all my data and media from a static backup, then used Time Machine to pull program prefs from my Library folder so I wouldn't have to reconfigure every damn app I had installed...
posted by caution live frogs at 11:13 AM on July 9


On the off chance that it is something to do with a network connection, have you tried booting up with the router switched off?
posted by popcassady at 11:45 AM on July 9


Update: I am now back on the Macbook. I booted to the recovery partition, erased the main partition, and reinstalled the OS, and it seems fine.

I suspect I will be able to the same to the tower once I get my hands on a "normal" (non fancy-wireless) keyboard.

At this point I'm less needing a solution than just an answer as to *how* this could've happened, outside of some sort of voodoo curse????
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:43 PM on July 9


« Older My pregnant wife and I are lea...   |  The house values quoted to us ... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments