EFI Blues
August 30, 2011 11:51 PM   Subscribe

I have a Macbook (2,1) with rEFIt installed. I accidentally left a linux live DVD in the drive when I shut down, and now rEFIt is hanging up when I boot. What happened here? How can I fix it?

When I boot, I get the apple boot noise and then the rEFIt logo. Normally, I would wait a few seconds and the menu would populate with boot devices. It's not doing that now, it just hangs there forever. I can't boot into OS X or eject the DVD.

A few months ago, the cd/dvd drive on this thing started stubbornly refusing to burn CDs. It's old-ish, so I've been expecting it to die any day now. Still, it's hung on pretty well so far. On boot, it makes some whining noises, but it doesn't spin forever.

If I hold the escape key or the option key on boot, I just get that lovely blank light blue screen that appears while things are booting. It also hangs there forever. I've tried some of the keys here, too (D, O, and Command-Option-O-F) and those all go to the blue screen, too. I also tried holding down the touchpad button (which that website says will eject everything) and I get nothing.

I'm also thinking the problem might be solved if I could get the DVD out of the drive, but the Macbook slot-drive doesn't help a lick with this. Is there a manual way to eject?

Agh. I'm mildly panicking right now, so I'm going to go to bed without thinking too much so I don't really fuck something up. Is there anything I'm missing here? Is there a better venue to ask this in?
posted by wayland to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can also try holding down the Eject button on startup. But when you hold down the trackpad or Eject button, be sure to hold it down before restarting and make sure you hold down the button through the startup process.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:57 PM on August 30, 2011

The Apple Stack Exchange sub site is also a good resource for this type of question.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:58 PM on August 30, 2011

Hold down the mouse button or trackpad button as you boot. This will force the Mac to eject any available ejectable media. FWIW, this startup key behavior goes back to the Mac Plus.
posted by mosk at 12:16 AM on August 31, 2011

Response by poster: The eject button and mouse button just make it boot into that blank blue screen and stay there.

Thanks, Blazecock, I'll try there if askme doesn't come up with anything in the next couple hours.
posted by wayland at 7:23 AM on August 31, 2011

My experience has been, when working with RefIt, the option key (which you've already tried) will still provide access to the Mac bootloader regardless of the circumstance -- ie, even if RefIt is experiencing problems, or if there's an issue with a drive. So that's surprising.

I'd probably go through these three things:

* Try booting with the option key again, especially if you were previously holding it down while actually powering on the machine. I've found that, on some Macs, it's helpful to wait to hold down the option key until the moment you see the white screen appear.

* If this is such a low-level issue that it's keeping the bootloader from appearing, I'd probably try the two simple tools you have available to reset the low-level functions. First, I'd try resetting your Mac's PRAM. If it doesn't seem to work the first time, do it again and let the machine reboot twice while holding down the PRAM-resetting shortcut. If zapping the PRAM doesn't work, I'd read about resetting the SMC and trying that if appropriate.

* There's no manual way to eject. If all else fails, and you believe strongly that this is an issue with the optical drive and that the disk is stuck, you could consider disconnecting the optical drive and booting with it inaccessible to the system. Instructions for accessing (and replacing, if you'd choose to go that far) are here.
posted by eschatfische at 7:24 AM on August 31, 2011

Response by poster: The option key does nothing, no matter when I start to hold it. ):

Resetting the PRAM works (I get a black screen and then the start up sound again) but doesn't solve the problem. I tried doing it twice, too. Resetting the SMC didn't appear to do anything, either.

Is this what a failing hard drive would look like? It struck me as unlikely that that would interfere with booting, but I guess the EFI partition and rEFIt do both live on the disk. Still, I would be able to boot from the DVD, right? I guess I could try switching the hard drive out (it is kind of old, but I've had HDs last longer), but I don't have another one handy.

My experience with rEFIt has been the same, eschatfische. This is such a strange problem. I'm baffled as to what else to try.
posted by wayland at 8:16 AM on August 31, 2011

Still, I would be able to boot from the DVD, right?

Indeed, you should be able to press Option at boot to bypass both a failed RefIt install or a failed hard drive and boot directly off of a CD/DVD.

Do you have another Mac and a firewire cable? It may be helpful to connect the Macbook to another Mac via firewire, start the Macbook in target disk mode (hold down T at boot), and then inspect the drive/RefIt install (using Disk Utility, for example) when the drive in the Macbook mounts on the other machine.
posted by eschatfische at 8:43 AM on August 31, 2011

Response by poster: I do have another mac but no firewire cable. I'll see if I can find or borrow one.
posted by wayland at 8:57 AM on August 31, 2011

Response by poster: After trying the PRAM and SMC resets again, I just get the blue screen now and never the rEFIt logo.

Without the complicating factors of the DVD and rEFIt, does anyone know why a macbook would just go to that blue screen?
posted by wayland at 1:15 PM on August 31, 2011

If you're getting a mouse cursor on the blue screen, that would generally mean that something is preventing the Login Window from opening.

If you can connect the Mac in Target Disc mode like I mentioned above, running Repair Disk Permissions and/or Repair Disk may resolve the issue. You can also check the log files in /var/log to see if there's anything of note. This is also something to look at while the drive is mounted on the other Mac.

If you don't have the firewire cable still, and weren't able to remove the disk from the drive, I think that just about the only thing you have left to try is booting the Macbook in safe mode.
posted by eschatfische at 8:36 PM on August 31, 2011

Response by poster: Nope, safe mode doesn't work either. It doesn't look like target mode is going to work out, either, as I'm not getting anything holding down the T. I might buy a cheap usb enclosure and try to repair permissions with that, which I think should work just as well, right?

Thanks, though, you've been a great help.
posted by wayland at 9:02 PM on September 1, 2011

Response by poster: Nope, no mouse cursor, btw.
posted by wayland at 9:07 PM on September 1, 2011

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