Macbook Pro booting OS X to black screen.
March 28, 2013 10:21 AM   Subscribe

I have a Macbook Pro, model 5,1, that will now boot OX X 10.8 only to a black screen. The BootCamp install on the laptop, with Windows 7 Pro installed, boots normally and is usable.

When I boot into OS X, I get the chime, the screen lights up and shows the grey apple, then it goes black but continues to boot. Volume keys work, keyboard lights work, but the screen is black - not black like the brightness is turned down, but completely black. Brightness keys have no effect. Also, when I type any letters, the computer dings for each one. I can shut it down with power button and "Enter", and it sleeps when the lid is closed, but the screen is still black when it wakes back up.

What I've tried:
NVRAM reset. No joy.
Can't boot off a USB install drive - that also goes to a black screen, as does the Recovery partition, as does booting to Safe or Single User mode. Before a Verbose boot goes to black screen it's not showing any hardware fails.
The Apple Hardware Test does not start - it eventually just boots to OS X or Windows.

I do not have a dongle to try an external monitor, and I can't try booting from the DVD because it hasn't worked in 2 years. I suspect that wouldn't work in any case. The machine isn't worth enough to make replacing the logic board feasible.

If there are no other procedures to try to get the video working properly again, can I simply delete the HFS partition and expand Windows to use the space?
posted by Dipsomaniac to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Your nvidia GPU could have died (unlikely as you get the grey boot screen). Bad or ill-fitting memory is another possibility. Do you have any extra memory fitted? If so try removing it and trying again, then try again after reseating the memory.

EDIT missed the comment about Windows. With Windows running can you get into OS X at all, e.g. to install updates?
posted by epo at 10:31 AM on March 28, 2013

Does this help?
posted by epo at 10:36 AM on March 28, 2013

Definitely try resetting the System Management Controller.
posted by RichardP at 10:45 AM on March 28, 2013

Response by poster: @ epo: The Boot Camp install isn't new; I've had it on this machine for two or three years without an issue. I did upgrade the memory to 8 GB about 3 months ago, but I tried it with the original memory and had the same result. The memory upgrade is the same Samsung modules that ship with Apple laptops.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 10:57 AM on March 28, 2013

Response by poster: @ RichardP: No joy on the SMC reset. My laptop is one of the last ones with a removable battery. No change in the boot.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 11:04 AM on March 28, 2013

PRAM reset? The old word for NVRAM, sorry,
posted by epo at 11:32 AM on March 28, 2013

Response by poster: @ epo, the PRAM reset is the same as NVRAM, just for PowerPC. I think I've reset NVRAM about 8 times now with no effect.

I'm starting to think there's no way to get it back short of a repair that doesn't make much sense financially. Does anyone know of the implications of just deleting the OS X partition and leaving Windows? Will doing that still allow the thing to boot into Windows, or will it hose it?
posted by Dipsomaniac at 11:38 AM on March 28, 2013

Maybe this is a silly question, but is there a reason you can't take it to the Apple Store to be diagnosed? They don't charge anything to tell you what the problem is, and there's always a chance it's a known issue that they fix for free. My MacBook Pro has been out of warranty and I've still gone and had hardware tests done, and the OS wiped and reinstalled overnight when they thought it was a software issue, all for free.

I just took it back in today because that didn't solve the problem and it turned out that my MacBook (mid-2010 15-inch) had a known issue with the logic board failing and it only causing problems with the new OS, so I am getting a $500 logic board replaced for free even though it's not under warranty.

Generally speaking, I've found the Apple Store to be very helpful. They have pretty specific tools and tests they run and seem prepared for anything. You might luck out and get hardware replaced for free.

Oh, and don't worry about taking it in with non-Apple memory. Every time I've gone I've had non-Apple memory and their test alerts them to that fact, but as long as it passes the memory test they don't care and just dismiss the alert.

If you decide to go this route, I recommend scheduling an appointment online first. It's really easy to get appointments online like the day before, but if you come in without an appointment, it's difficult to get one for the same day. So for real, if the Apple Store is an option, you can have this all figured out pretty painlessly by the end of tomorrow, and you won't have to pay anything to find out what the problem is. You might have to pay something to fix it, depending.
posted by Nattie at 6:06 PM on March 28, 2013

Oh, also, there have been a lot of issues with the newest OS X causing hardware problems that people were not having prior to upgrading. What I've heard is that in cases like mine, the hardware was always faulty, but for whatever reason, the OS wasn't utilizing it in ways where the faults mattered or were obvious, but the newest OS X uses the hardware a little differently and it suddenly matters.

Black screens and kernel panics and video issues are very common right now. The fact that the Windows install works makes me wonder if you aren't having a similar OS X issue with your hardware.

I can't tell you how many threads I dug through trying to figure out my issue, especially when the first visit and OS wipe didn't help. I really wish I had just gone to the Apple Store immediately, and then when it didn't work, come back again immediately. I got all irritated when the first go didn't fix it, though, and didn't realize there was still stuff they could do based on that info. Heh. It feels inconvenient to go, but in reality, it saves a ton of time compared to frustratedly scouring the web. After years of using a PC and fixing my own problems it felt really weird to take a laptop to someone else, but I'm starting to like it.
posted by Nattie at 6:12 PM on March 28, 2013

Response by poster: @ Nattie: Let's say that the local geniuses have been less than forthcoming with help and I don't have the time or the energy to fight for a piece of hardware that's end-of-life anyway.

In any case, it turns out that you can simply eliminate the HFS partition and merge the unallocated space with Windows without compromising the Windows install, which is all I need. The days of me needing to be able to boot two operating systems are behind me in any case.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 6:37 PM on March 28, 2013

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