Mac problems with password resetting and broken screens
August 25, 2009 2:37 AM   Subscribe

Calling all Mac experts out there. I have a tricky one.

This is a long one, but if you do have the time I would appreciate taking a look. There is a summary on the bottom for those that are less inclined to read through.

Ok, I have in my possession a Powerbook G4 in my possession. Original owner ran it over with a car. Laptop survived, screen did not. Original owner left it for dead. About a year later, I took it off his hands to work with on an external display. Works great, no irregular functionality.

The catch. I have to use the guest account as the original owner doesn't remember the admin password. So I borrowed a copy of Leopard from a friend and tried to reset the password from there. However since the install disk won't recognize the second monitor, I have to get lucky to pick the correct option to get to the Mac OSX Installer screen. From here I chose the password reset popup, reset the password for the admin account I wanted, and I restarted.

Now heres the fun part, when it rebooted, there no longer is any admin accounts. Only the guest account is available. I go back to the installer page and in the reset passwords dialog, no more accounts show for me to reset the password.

So my only option now is to do a complete reinstall of the OS. Except I do not see how from the installer page, and I without being able to use the external as the primary display I am stuck.

So as a summary:

Powerbook G4 with tiger and a broken screen that has no admin accounts anymore.

Need to either be able to make the external monitor as the primary not in the OS, but permanently.


To be able to do a complete clean install of Leopard on the system, with the catch of being done from an external monitor.

Now as a bonus question, if I were to disconnect the laptop screen, unplug it, would the computer default to the external display?
posted by wile e to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know about Mac laptops specifically, but in my (very limited) experience laptops do default to an external display if you completely disconnect the screen.
posted by fearthehat at 2:40 AM on August 25, 2009

Does this F7 trick help?
posted by newformula at 3:00 AM on August 25, 2009

Response by poster: The f7 trick works inside the OS, not in the install disk setup screen. I need an OS free solution. Thanks though.
posted by wile e at 3:04 AM on August 25, 2009

Best answer: Need to either be able to make the external monitor as the primary not in the OS, but permanently.

you are running PBG4 this clamshell closed, right? I did this for a couple of years and the machine booted to external fine. You've got about a half-second to close the lid after hitting the power button.
posted by @troy at 3:10 AM on August 25, 2009

Best answer: To be able to do a complete clean install of Leopard on the system, with the catch of being done from an external monitor.

That's a bit of a red herring. Forget connecting and disconnecting: the PowerBook will use an external display (only, as primary) every time you start it up with a monitor connected and the PowerBook's lid closed. Even from installer CDs, even with no disks at all present, in fact. The blinking [?] disk icon will appear on the external display. Likewise the Open Firmware command line, should you want that.

So leave it closed, or if you have already removed the closure part, find the latch that indicates "closed" and wedge it in the down position.

I did pretty much exactly this with an old screenless G4 Powerbook; I used it as a media player connected (only) to a television for a couple of years. And I reinstalled and reformatted many times that way.

And bonus question: yes, it would use the external display if the screen was disconnected completely, too. Same deal.

When you run the installer, choose Disk Utility from the menus. Format disk. Start over.
posted by rokusan at 3:13 AM on August 25, 2009

Another not very simple solution - if you have access to another mac with firewire, you could...

1) Use the command-F trick and start up the PBG4 holding down F to start in firewire mode. Mount on the other mac and install your OS from there.

2) Pull out the Hard Drive and stick it in an external enclosure. Install a fresh copy of the OS via another mac, and reinstall the hard drive (or upgrade while you're at it).

I believe you should be able to boot from the reinstalled OS on the HD in both cases.
posted by newformula at 3:14 AM on August 25, 2009

Response by poster: Ive tried the clamshell closed trick, it doesn't work for the install disk unfortunately. But I will try again.

I also just took the machine apart, and disconnected the monitor. Sadly, same problem. The external monitor is still showing as the extended desktop and not as the primary.

As of right now, I don't have access to another mac, so that option needs to be on hold.
posted by wile e at 4:08 AM on August 25, 2009

Response by poster: And thanks for all the advice, I really appreciate all the effort.
posted by wile e at 4:09 AM on August 25, 2009

Response by poster: OK! With some research and a strong magnet, I was able to get the laptop to believe the lid was closed. So now I have full access to the screen. And am now installing!!

Wish I didn't pull the screen off, but ah well its all working. Thanks to all, I will update if I complete.
posted by wile e at 4:46 AM on August 25, 2009

NewFormula's trick will work, but the command is actually T, as shown here. Note that although the article specifies Firewire 400 (6 pin to 6 pin), it will also work with Firewire 800 or a cable which bridges the two.
posted by fearnothing at 4:50 AM on August 25, 2009

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