Powerbook: No Logo
July 20, 2009 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Powerbook G4 won't boot up. I hear the chime, get a gray screen, but NO apple logo or spinning wheel.

This is a circa- late 2003 1.25GHz PB running OS 10.5. something. Yesterday, my husband was trying to open some Word 2008 docs he had saved on this laptop. Word would not open, it just kept bouncing in the dock, and we could not get it to force quit, so he did a forced shut down of the computer. Ever since then I cannot get the computer to boot past the gray screen.

I have tried resetting the PRAM, but it still sticks at the gray screen, same with resetting the PMU and trying a safe boot. It never progresses to the Apple Logo, just stays on the gray screen. When I pressed my ear to the keyboard I heard a few clicks from the HD after trying to start up, but now there's no sound.

Any suggestions?
posted by DiscourseMarker to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
Boot from a system software CD and run Disk Utils on the hard drive. It might be toast.
posted by rokusan at 9:45 AM on July 20, 2009

I don't have the system CDs with me (they're in Memphis, I'm in Boston), though I do have an old Diskwarrior CD and some Tech Tool Deluxe CDs. Problem is, I can't get the CD in the drive, b/c the computer won't start up.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:58 AM on July 20, 2009

Try booting into verbose mode (hold command+v during bootup). This should show the startup messages during boot, instead of the bland gray screen. It might give you an idea where exactly in the boot process the machine is failing.
posted by HFSH at 10:00 AM on July 20, 2009

Oh, this is bad...holding down command+v and I still get nothing but gray screen. No startup messages.

If I take this to an authorized repair center, is it likely they will be able to get anything off the hard drive?
posted by DiscourseMarker at 10:16 AM on July 20, 2009

Before you hire anyone for data recovery, you should literally go out and buy a copy of Mac OS on disc, and try what rokusan suggests. It will be a lot cheaper than any data recovery (they will stiff you - they know how desperately you need your data).
posted by scarabic at 10:30 AM on July 20, 2009

It sounds quite thoroughly baked. I'd guess RAM failure or logic board failure. If you aren't seeing the question mark folder then you aren't even getting to the part where it tries to boot the hard drive.

If I'm right, the data on the hard drive is probably safe and has suffered minor, if any, corruption. You could try to boot it in firewire target mode (option-T? option-F? I cant' remember) to see if anything is working.
posted by chairface at 11:05 AM on July 20, 2009

If you're hearing the chime, are you sure it's not just the monitor that has gone bad?
posted by Eicats at 11:16 AM on July 20, 2009

ooh- laptop. Damn. Well the question is still valid, but the result might render it moot. Can you hook it up to another monitor to test? At least if it is *only* the monitor, using an external one will allow you to access your data. The downside will be that the cost of replacing a monitor usually means replacing the whole computer.
posted by Eicats at 11:21 AM on July 20, 2009

Problem is, I can't get the CD in the drive, b/c the computer won't start up.

I don't understand this. The drive should work (accept disks) as long as the computer has power. You don't need an OS booted first, because how else would you ever start up from a CD?

If the drive does not even "pull" the disc in (try inserting it while turning the thing on), then yes you have a serious problem.

The Diskwarrior CD should work. If not, yes, get thee to an Apple store.
posted by rokusan at 11:23 AM on July 20, 2009

If the drive does not even "pull" the disc in (try inserting it while turning the thing on), then yes you have a serious problem.

The optical drive has been wonky in the past (sometimes will accept disks, sometimes not) but as this is not my main computer, I never bothered to replace it. Drive will not suck in disks--they will go most of the way in but it spits them out.

You could try to boot it in firewire target mode (option-T? option-F? I cant' remember) to see if anything is working.

Ok, well partial success here. The Powerbook is now booted up in Target Disk mode (I have the bouncing firewire icon), connected to my iMac, but for some reason I can get the Powerbook to show up in the iMac's finder. System Profiler on the iMac is saying that the Powerbook is connected through target disk mode.

Do I need to restart the iMac?
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:29 AM on July 20, 2009

That should be: I can't get the Powerbook to show up in the finder.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:30 AM on July 20, 2009

Is your RAM seated properly? My Powerbook G4's RAM has come unseated quite a few times.
posted by GilloD at 11:31 AM on July 20, 2009

restart holding down the ctrl, option, p, and r keys. wait until the boot chime sounds two times. If it does not chime twice then your timing was off, so try again. If it does not boot, then restart with the ctrl, option , o, f keys and when you get a text screen type (exactly) reset-nvram and hit return, then type reset-all

If that does not work then the boot portion of the drive is damaged. Depending on your OS you may not be able to fix this even with the Mac utilities.

Target disk mode won't show a bad drive, because it cannot recreate the directory.
posted by Gungho at 11:53 AM on July 20, 2009

Well crap, Gungho's tips didn't work. I think it's dead, Jim. I am a little peeved b/c I just replaced the battery for the Powerbook about a month ago. If I had know the HD was going to crap out I wouldn't have bothered.

So is the best guess that this is a HD failure, not a processor issue? Is it even remotely worthwhile to replace a HD in an almost 6-year-old laptop? It would be convenient for my husband to have this machine available when he travels, but it's not absolutely necessary.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:26 PM on July 20, 2009

Sounds like a dead disk. My PBG4 did the same thing to me, with the same symptoms, last week.

For what it's worth, I ended up replacing the HD, because even though I REALLY want an Intel Mac, I'd rather spend $100 than $3000 right now.

Also, I've heard rumors that the next MacBook Pro models may have quad-core CPUs, so if I can squeeze out another 7 months from this thing, I might be able to get a much nicer machine for the same price.
posted by Laen at 1:06 PM on July 20, 2009

Maybe you can't insert a CD/DVD because there's already one in there?
Hold down the mouse button whilst powering up to eject it, if that's the case (worth a try).
Then you can try the booting from the Discwarrior CD etc.
posted by dirm at 2:03 PM on July 20, 2009

HD was, in fact, dead, but has been replaced. Thanks everyone!
posted by DiscourseMarker at 7:38 AM on July 29, 2009

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