Why am I getting 3 beeps when booting up a brand new hard drive?
March 28, 2013 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Would 1-year old RAM not work with a brand new hard drive on my Macbook? I am getting the dreaded 3 beeps when trying to boot the new drive.

Basically I bought the machine in March of 2011. It became obvious last week the drive was failing. I bought a new drive and called Apple to order the proper OS disk. I swapped in the new drive but cannot get past the grey Apple screen. It just beeps.

Forums claim it's a RAM problem. The RAM was bought a year ago and obviously worked fine with the old drive. Is there a reason it wouldn't work with this new drive? It's seated fine. Is there anything else it could be?
posted by critzer to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If your MacBook is like mine, the RAM slots are right next to the hard drive. You probably just bumped them or something when swapping the drives. Take the RAM out and reseat it and it'll probably be just fine.
posted by zsazsa at 11:44 AM on March 28, 2013

I've pulled them out, cleared them of dust, put them back in properly, but still the beeps...
posted by critzer at 11:51 AM on March 28, 2013

Does the problem go away if you take the new hard drive out and put the old one back in?
posted by primethyme at 11:54 AM on March 28, 2013

Have you tried booting your computer in other ways-- from disc, from USB, from another Mac? I had the same issue, but the three beeps turned out to either be because it didn't want to boot from my USB key, or because the PRAM or SMC needed to be reset (I don't remember which).

See if you can isolate the problem to just one chip or just one slot by swapping them around.
posted by supercres at 12:03 PM on March 28, 2013

Does the drive have some pins with shorting plugs, or dip switches or some other method of configuration?
posted by epo at 12:26 PM on March 28, 2013

The disk is stuck in there for now and not sure how to get it out since I can't reach the desktop.

I will look into resetting PRAM...
posted by critzer at 12:35 PM on March 28, 2013

Nope to resetting the PRAM.
posted by critzer at 12:38 PM on March 28, 2013

Holding down the mouse button during boot should eject any media in the drives.
posted by primethyme at 12:39 PM on March 28, 2013

I had no idea Macs had beep codes. It's not at all clear that they still do; the most recent reference I've found to beep codes for Macs is 2010, which could be in the lifespan of your Mac.

The code indicates, pretty universally "no good [RAM] banks." This could mean that your install did a rare thing and killed the RAM (or some essential controlling element) with a static charge.

Do you have a second computer on which you can test the RAM? Know someone who does? Also, can you test the HDD using another computer; perhaps using an enclosure if not a full hardware install?

Have you tried booting without any USB devices connected? USB devices can confuse and intimidate even the heartiest and most sober of bootloaders.

Have you tried booting from a Live CD? A Linux live CD such as Hiren's Boot CD has a pile of memory-testing applications (hit the link and search the page for "Testing Tools" ) can help as well. You can even remove your HDD and take it out of the equation when booting from a Live CD-- if it can't load for lack of RAM, then your RAM has headed to the great northbridge in the sky.

RAM is not outrageously expensive, even with the Mac premium. Get all the RAM you can afford. Good luck.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:34 PM on March 28, 2013

Is this 3rd party RAM? If yes, it's still probably under manufacturer warranty.

I'm a full time IT director, I've returned plenty of memory due to it not meeting Apple specs.

generally, if you can get "Apple Certified" memory from 18004memory or OWC (macsales.com) it will fly.

if you take your laptop to the "genius" bar, they will roll their eyes at you.
posted by bobdow at 1:54 PM on March 28, 2013

Thanks, indeed it's 3rd party RAM... I will hunt down the Apple Certified kind if necessary.
posted by critzer at 2:19 PM on March 28, 2013

Are you SURE Apple gave you the right OS disk for your particular computer? Because we had this exact problem and it was a NIGHTMARE straightening it out. It was not the RAM - we had the wrong OS boot disk for our model. Ultimately, I had to boot the new disk using the old, damaged disk, image the bad disk onto the good one, and upgrade to Mountain Lion through the old disk to iron out the errors caused by the disk damage. It was a horrible, horrible process that took many tries to get it working.

I am a PC/Chromebook person who was doing this for my partner's computer, and I came away singularly unimpressed with Mac.
posted by walla at 2:36 PM on March 28, 2013

Yes, before you go further, you have to get back to basics. The RAM used to work, right? Then it is compatible, so that's not the issue. I would put the old hard drive back in temporarily to double check. If you still get the beeps, then you have wrecked the RAM somehow. Or the beep codes don't really mean it's a RAM error. Or you wrecked the mainboard somehow.
posted by gjc at 4:33 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Did the old hard drive work well enough to boot up and use the machine? What were the failure symptoms, and are you sure they were drive failure symptoms and not, say, an emergent problem with another component? Drives don't normally fail all that incrementally, although they can be sick but sort of working for a while. I'd say get a portable enclosure (they are cheap, like $8 on Amazon) for the new drive, put the old drive back in, boot it up, and if it will let you, *clone* it onto the new drive (running as external) with a utility like Carbon Copy Cloner (free). Then put the new drive back in the machine, and install OS 10.8 (should run on any 2011 Mac) from the App store (assuming you're running 10.6, which I believe would have come with that machine, you may have to install the last updates to get the App store on your machine). Possible you could boot from the old drive in an external USB enclosure.

Also, are you sure your optical superdrive works? Have you played a DVD or installed software from it in the recent past? As far as I know, the multiple beep codes are always RAM problems (but there are several different codes) and a long solid beep is a power problem. But it is also possible your optical drive isn't working or (as someone said above) that Apple (which hardly puts out OS software on disk any more) sent you the wrong OEM disk.

This is the sort of thing -- esp. if they screwed up and sent the wrong disk -- a genius bar at an Apple store might be very likely to fix for free even if you are out of warranty. It might be worth it to hand it over to a professional on the chance you've blown the motherboard or power supply and might be able to get one of those very expensive parts replaced for free (and if not, you're going to have to weigh whether it's worth it, but you probably don't want to be doing a MBP motherboard or power supply replacement yourself. The optical disk is not so hard (and anyway, these days you are better off replacing it with a $10 drive bay and a second hard drive, ideally an SSD for startup and apps or a big second drive so you can have time machine backup built into the Machine -- you can get a 1TB 2.5" laptop drive from WD for like $110 these days, or a hybrid Seagate 750MB for around the same with faux-SSD features).
posted by spitbull at 6:03 PM on March 28, 2013

Also, if your machine can run OS 10.8, as I suspect it can, you should move to that. It's far superior to prior versions, although different enough to be annoying for a week or two. Your machine will gain back significant performance.
posted by spitbull at 6:05 PM on March 28, 2013

And if you are swapping out RAM anyway, make sure you have at least 4GB and not 2GB, and ideally 8GB. It's possible you have 2GB -- some MBPs of that era did -- and that will make it seem like your hard drive is dying every time you open more than a few browser tabs. Be very sure to get exactly the right RAM. I just added 8GB to a 2010 MBP for like $50 (Kingston memory). Makes all the difference from 4GB stock.
posted by spitbull at 6:08 PM on March 28, 2013

« Older I would tell my BFF to DTMFA   |   Sweating is Fun Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.