Please help resurrect my iMac?
August 31, 2009 7:52 AM   Subscribe

My iMac's seemingly gone kaput :( I'm getting a flashing folder icon with a question mark on bootup. Please help me save my iMac?

It all started when my iMac hung. I got the spinning beach ball of death and I couldn't do anything except do a restart. And then, this flashing folder with a question mark came up and it refuses to boot into the OS.

I tried connecting my iMac to my Macbook via firewire target mode and I can access the drive, so I'm guessing it's not a hard drive problem.

I searched for solutions online and they mostly require me to do a clean install of Leopard, but the thing is, my Superdrive on my iMac is dead. I tried to install the OS via firewire target mode using my Macbook, but the Install Disc doesn't let me install the OS on the drive. My iMac's drive doesn't show up there.

I'm kinda in a fix here. I don't know what to do :( Please help?
posted by mordecai to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Put the MacBook in target disk mode, insert the Leopard DVD into your MacBook, connect it to your iMac, and boot your iMac while holding down the Option/Alt key.

Your MacBook will become a very expensive external DVD drive.
posted by Mwongozi at 7:59 AM on August 31, 2009

I tried connecting my iMac to my Macbook via firewire target mode and I can access the drive, so I'm guessing it's not a hard drive problem.

Do this, and run Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility on the mounted drive. Run the test/repair function and note any error messages it spits out.

In lieu of a DVD drive, I think you can image the Apple Install disc onto a USB 2.0 or FW external harddrive, and boot from it by holding down the option key during a restart.
posted by fatllama at 8:00 AM on August 31, 2009

When you're receiving this message and your hard drive is working without a problem, it usually means that your OS simply cannot find the HD. I had the same problem with my iMac previously and unfortunately I had to format my entire HD and do a clean install of Leopard. If you're still under warranty, you can always have the folks at the Genius bar reinstall the OS for your free of charge.

You can try resetting the System Management Controller (, but if you can't use your CD drive, then you may be out of luck. I personally tried every suggestion online but I ended up having to take it up to the Apple store to get it fixed. Good luck with your iMac!
posted by SharkLangasta at 8:29 AM on August 31, 2009

it usually means that your OS simply cannot find the HD.

Or that some vital part of the OS is hosed. Pop in your installer CD, and re-install the OS - if you do this properly, you shouldn't use any data.
posted by DreamerFi at 8:32 AM on August 31, 2009

I have an old G4 that craps itself every couple months, I hook my MBP to the drive and repair permissions and it fixes it every time.

Try that as well after you repair disc, just for giggles.

External optical drives are ultra cheap these days. Just try to make sure it's bootable.
posted by KenManiac at 8:39 AM on August 31, 2009

You didn't mention backups or not - but if you don't have them, and you can access the drive still in target mode, now is the time to immediately make backups of any valuable data. This could be a sign of impending disk failure.

Do the backups, if you need them, before doing anything else.
posted by TravellingDen at 8:53 AM on August 31, 2009

The reason the iMac's drive doesn't show up when trying to install via firewire is almost certainly the same reason the iMac will not boot. Given that you CAN mount the disk and read files, Travelling's advice to back up data right now is good.

Secondly, once you have run disk utility, you will have one of three results; first it may report that it was unable to find any errors. If this is the case, you should try an Archive and Install. Secondly it may report that it has found errors and fixed them. Should this happen, you should reboot the iMac - if it boots, great, if not, also Archive and Install.

Finally it might say that it found errors it could not repair (often the message will be "the underlying task reported failure on exit"). IF you have a third-party disk utility such as DiskWarrior or Norton Disk Utility, it MIGHT be able to solve the issue. If you do not, or if you have and it fails, you will need to try an Erase and Install.

Obviously if the Mac has trouble booting after an erase it will require a new hard drive, but one of these steps will solve it if not.
posted by fearnothing at 11:03 AM on August 31, 2009

whoops, forgot to add; should the option to select a destination not be present after having run disk utility, even if it didn't report any errors, or fixed some, you will need to erase and install, but you will have to use the disk utility's erase function instead of the options menu. In all likelihood though, if errors are fixed the drive will appear in the installer window, and if it doesn't it will have reported the errors not fixable.

Also from experience, given that the drive is not recognised in the installer window, I think it is highly likely an erase and install will turn out to be necessary, if not a replacement drive altogether.
posted by fearnothing at 11:08 AM on August 31, 2009

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