iBook trouble
March 20, 2006 5:22 AM   Subscribe

Has my iBook hard drive failed or is something else going on?

My iBook G4 (1.33Ghz) crashed with a kernel panic and I was unable to reboot without the same result ever again. Everything I read suggested a hard drive failure. However, I connected to a friend’s computer and I was able to retrieve all of my data via FireWire (which is why I am confused). I then erased the drive and tried to start up from the CD in an effort to reformat. No luck! When I try to boot from the CD I get a blue-grey start up screen with the Apple symbol and a few pixels are out as well. If I try to boot normally I now predictably get the flashing question mark folder.

Am I wrong to assume that the hard drive needs to be replaced?
posted by anglophiliated to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
What sort of answer did you get in Apple's support forums?

What did you read that suggested your kernel panic/other symptoms were indicative of hard drive failure?

Is your iBook still covered by the warranty or by AppleCare? If you have AppleCare, have you tried booting from the CD with support utilities that they give you (I can't recall if it's TechTool Pro or DiskWarrior or something else along those lines).

Have you tried pulling out any additional RAM chips and running with the bare minimum the iBook shipped with?

Have you been able to boot into "single user mode" and use any of the utilities available to you there, such as the command line program fsck?

Lots of questions, sorry. Hopefully some of these will help you pinpoint the problem.
posted by bcwinters at 6:10 AM on March 20, 2006

Thanks. For question 1 see 2, for 2 see 1 (I didn't ask about the drive still being accessible over FireWire though - perhaps I should've gone back there first.)

I'm two months out of warranty and didn't have any additional RAM. As for 'single user mode'- I am pretty sure we tried this (still kernel panic!) before we erased the drive but I haven't tried since. Could give it a go tonight though.
posted by anglophiliated at 6:33 AM on March 20, 2006

I don't think it's particularly "weird" that a hosed drive would still be mountable over FireWire; the way the drive is mounted is purposely not the same way it would be when normally booting so you can salvage data.

If you've really exhausted all these possibilities and you find that buying a new hard drive is definitely the next step, can I recommend not buying the drive from Apple?

They'll overcharge you and if you're out of warranty anyway you're better off going third party. The best place I know of in terms of figuring out exactly which drive will fit well into a particular breed of PowerBook/iBook is probably Other World Computing.

Hopefully more advice from the Mac literati is forthcoming before you have to go that route, though!
posted by bcwinters at 6:41 AM on March 20, 2006

If the drive seems to work just dandy when booted in Target Disk Mode, it probably isn't the culprit.

I'd bet on it being that one of the RAM chips that's built on to your logic board went bad. You can test for this with the Apple Hardware Test CD (It came with your iBook, it's the second CD in the little sleeve).

If it's the onboard memory, you're in for a world of hurt if you're not under warranty.
posted by blasdelf at 6:43 AM on March 20, 2006

Also, Anecdotal Evidence - I had my Powerbook's hard drive fail twice in two weeks. Both times the wonky hard drive would hang any Mac it was mounted on in Target Disk Mode until it was physically unplugged.
posted by blasdelf at 6:47 AM on March 20, 2006

I second the bad RAM suggestion. And that if you don't have an extra RAM module plugged into your computer (the keyboard lifts up, there's a hole, about under the ert - dfg keys) and you're out of warranty, you're SOL.

But double-check the warranty that came with your iBook. For defects like this, where it's clearly a case of manufacturer's error, the coverage is usually longer than for, say, the latch that holds your battery snug in its bay getting damaged.
posted by Yeomans at 9:49 AM on March 20, 2006

Try holding down the Option key when booting, with the first of the original install disks in the drive. This should give you a screen that will let you pick the boot volume - choose the Apple Hardware Test. Then, after it boots up, press the "ctrl" and "L" keys at the same time(this should make a message appear saying "looping on"), and run the extended test. Leave it running overnight. In the morning, take a look at the results (on the right side of the window) and stop the test. Write down any error messages you see - be on the lookout for Mass Storage Error (aka dead hard drive).
posted by sluggo at 7:24 PM on March 20, 2006

Thanks folks. Right now finding out I might be SOL kind of feels like progress. I can take this back to the Apple forums now but if you're still willing…???

I held down the option key when I booted and now I at least get the DVD and Hardware Test (the hard drive doesn’t come up). Trying to run from the DVD produces the the prohibition screen. When I run Hardware Test I get the following:

Error 1 loading default text font (Fonts\Geneva10)
Error 1 loading default control font (Fonts\Charcoal 12)
Type 134697644 err 1
Type 134697644 err 1

Invalid memory access at %SRRO: 00000000 %SRR1: 00083030

Then there are some specs, ‘welcome to open firmware’ etc, and finally a command line which is not the more familiar “#” but is “0 >”:

If I do “ctrl – L” I get “Command History” and then the instruction “To execute the contents of a previous line…” –which, if followed, produce nothing but “unknown word”

Basically, there is no response. So, definitely SOL or should I keep trying?
posted by anglophiliated at 4:36 AM on March 21, 2006

Yeah, that's definitely not booting into hardware test. It seems almost like it's trying to boot into an incomplete system, then failing. Make sure that you are ONLY holding the option key when you boot up, and that no other keys are being pressed - you don't want to fool around in Open Firmware. The screen you should see after holding the option key while booting is like this.

Then, after you click the Apple Hardware Test (it will be highlighted), click the arrow on the right. It should boot up from the HW TEST disk, and eventually it will look like this. After you see this, then you should hit the "ctrl" and "L" key combination, then click "extended test", etc...

If this doesn't happen at all - a few more questions:
Is the Install DVD definitely the same one that came with the laptop, or are you possibly using a different one? When you say you erased the hard drive - how did you do this (i.e., did you actually run Disk Utility to erase it, or did you just throw files into the trash)?

It definitely sounds like it could be memory related - booting weirdness, etc. What memory configuration do you have (i.e. one 512 MB stick, or two 256 MB sticks, or whatever)? If you have more than one, try pulling one stick out (make sure you follow the instructions in your manual - and shut down/remove the power cord & battery first, of course) and seeing if it will boot from the hardware test CD on the remaining one. If it doesn't put the removed stick back in, pull the second one, and try again. Make sure that whatever RAM is installed is seated firmly (pushed fully into its socket). If that doesn't work (or if you only have one stick of RAM), maybe try borrowing one from a friend w/the same laptop? If you can't borrow any, either take it into an apple store and pay for a diagnostic, or just order some new RAM online (crucial or elsewhere). RAM is a cheap fix, for sure.

For what it's worth, I don't think the problem is the hard drive - in my experience, a bad hard drive would have been pretty shaky in Target Disk Mode too - and it really wouldn't affect booting from a disk. Who knows why it kernel panicked (although they're usually hardware-related); but when it happened, it probably caused some slight disk corruption - which caused the no boot situation. This is where diskwarrior or TechTool would have come in handy.
posted by sluggo at 2:13 PM on March 21, 2006

Thanks Sluggo.

I'm using the DVD that came with the computer. When I erased the hard drive I was using Disk Utility in Target Disk Mode. There is no additional RAM in the computer. I think I will take it in next week when I am near an Apple Store.
posted by anglophiliated at 4:13 AM on March 22, 2006

Found some help and confirmed that it's the memory. Thanks folks - you saved me wasting money on a hard drive replacement.
posted by anglophiliated at 9:25 AM on March 22, 2006

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