In 2006 CreativeTechs and Forget Computers collaborated on a great little pocket guide (a PocketMod actually) titled MyMacWontStart-PocketMod.pdf (click the link to download or see the copy-and-pasted version below — included a newly added Step 5).
Although one might think a guide from 2006 would be outdated, the recommendations are still valid and we recently received a support request from someone who had our book in China!
Catherine had our pocket guide but needed a little more assistance. Fortunately, we were able to help and she's back on her Mac! In Catherine's own words...
"You put the suggestions in words I could understand and the instructions in easy to follow sequences. Keep up the good work. And, thanks again for rescuing my computer and alleviating its ailments."
My Mac Won’t Start!
A Tiny Troubleshooting Guide
What’s The Problem?
Empty Blue or Grey Screen
Commonly caused by disk or permission problems, 3rd-party software problems, or occasional hardware issues.
Recommend: Proceed with Fixes 1-5.
“No” Sign, Broken Folder, Flashing “?”
Indicates your Mac can’t find or use the needed System. May indicate disk problems.
Recommend: Skip to Fixes 3 & 4.
Black Screen, No Sound
Your problem may be caused by power issues, a dead logic board battery, bad RAM, or other hardware issues.
Recommend: Turn to “Still Need Help?”
Fix 1: Start in Safe Mode
Startup Key: Shift
- Hold down Shift while you turn on your Mac.
- Release Shift when you see a gray Apple with a spinning gear.
- Done properly, the words “Safe Boot” should appear during startup or in the login window. Tip: Starting in Safe Mode takes longer than starting up normally because the system performs a directory check on the startup disk. Be patient.
- To leave Safe Mode, restart the computer, without holding any keys during startup.
Fix 2: Single-User Mode
Startup Keys: Command (⌘) + S
- Hold down Command-S while you turn on your Mac. You should see a black screen with white text. Don’t panic.
- At the prompt type: fsck -fy Press return. If you receive the message “File System was Modified,” repeat step 2 until it says “No problems were found.”
- Type reboot and hit return.
An Alternative Solution: AppleJack
- If you installed AppleJack (before your Mac has problems) the process is simpler:
- Type: applejack auto restartand hit return.
- Wait several minutes. Your Mac will restart when repairs are completed. Available at applejack.sourceforge.net
Fix 3: Start off Apple CD/DVD
Startup Key: C
- Insert a Mac OS X Install disc. Tip: Hold down the mouse button while you turn on your Mac to open the CD tray.
- Hold down the C key while you turn on your Mac. Let go when the gray Apple appears.
- Mac OS X 10.2.x through 10.3.x: Choose Installer > Open Disk Utility.
Mac OS X 10.4.x through 10.6.x: Choose Utilities > Disk Utility.
- Select your hard drive icon on the left and click Repair Disk in the First Aid tab. Repeat until your disk reports no errors.
- When your disk reports no errors, click Repair Disk Permissions.
- Reboot your Mac without holding any keys during startup. Tip: In additional to Apple’s tools, consider purchasing Disk Warrior from alsoft.com.
Fix 4: Target Disk Mode
Startup Key: T
When other techniques don’t work, Target Disk Mode lets you access your Mac’s hard drive from another computer. This lets you perform additional diagnostics, repairs, or backup important work files.
- Hold down the T key while you turn on your Mac. Let go when you see a FireWire icon on the screen.
- Connect the troubled Mac to a good Mac via a FireWire cable.
- Open Disk Utility on the good Mac (located in Applications/Utilities).
- Select the troubled Mac’s disk icon on the left and click Repair Disk in the First Aid tab.
- If possible, recover or backup important data files if the troubled Mac’s drive is visible on the good Mac’s desktop.
Fix 5: Zap PRAM
Startup Keys: Command (⌘) + Option + P + R
We recently ran into a blue screen issue where the only thing that would fix the problem was zapping the PRAM (even though the computer would Safe Boot.)
- Hold down the Command (⌘) + Option + P and R keys while you turn on your Mac.
- Release these keys after the Mac restarts and you hear the startup sound for the second time.
- Details here: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1379
Still Need Help?
If these quick troubleshooting steps don’t fix the problem, it’s time to look elsewhere:
- Your local Apple Store
- If under warranty, call AppleCare at 800-275-2273
- Google it!
If all else fails... bring in the big guns!
Turn to Forget Computers for expert Macintosh and iOS consulting and support.