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Mike, Mac Medic
Category: Mac
Satisfied Customers: 8204
Experience:  Over 20 years IT experience with Apple computers in publishing, marketing and design.
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IMac 24" 2.16 ghz will only boot into single user mode. All

Customer Question

iMac 24" 2.16 ghz will only boot into single user mode. All attempts to boot from internal drive, flash drive, Snow Leopard install disk have the same result : Apple Logo, spinning wheel for about 40 seconds and then the grey screen of death. All keyboard startup commands do work but computer will not boot.
JA: Sometimes things that you think will be really complicated end up being easy to fix. The Mac Technician I'm going to connect you with knows all the tricks and shortcuts. Is there anything else the Mac Technician should be aware of?
Customer: No , thank you
JA: OK. Got it. I'm sending you to a secure page on JustAnswer so you can place the $5 fully-refundable deposit now. While you're filling out that form, I'll tell the Mac Technician about your situation and then connect you two.
Submitted: 6 months ago.
Category: Mac
Expert:  Terry White II replied 6 months ago.
Hello, thank you for asking your question! My name is ***** ***** I'm a Technical Support Specialist of 15+ years experience as a cross-platform (Mac/PC) Specialist. Glad to assist you with your question today. Considering you have tried numerous tried-and-true methods to resolve this issue, have you considered a software solution for example like Disk Warrior 5 from Alsoft?I ask this because a spinning gear, Apple Logo and grey screen, can also mean in some cases, that there is an issue with the Mac OS X partition on your drive and the directory may need to be rebuilt.Take a look at that as one option when you can, Another suggestion I can make, as I am not sure if you've tried this yet, is to try to perform an SMC Reset on your iMacShut down the Mac.Unplug the power cord.Wait 15 seconds.Plug the power cord back in.Wait 5 seconds, then press the power button to turn on the Mac.Try this process and then upon rebooting with your Snow Leopard disk installed, try booting up to the Mac OS X disk to see if you can reach the installation page. Let me know when you can, I look forward to working with you to resolve this issue. Thanks -Terry
Expert:  Terry White II replied 6 months ago.
(If you are able to reach the Mac OS X 10.6 Install page, take a moment to update meis what I mean, just to clarify.)
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Terry, thanks for your work on my question. I have already reset SMC and opt+p+r . As I explained in my question I can only boot to single user mode ; install disk , flash drive, disk warrior, etc., etc. all result in the grey screen of death. Why can I boot into single user mode only ? Could it be a hardware problem ?
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Are there any commands I can use in single user mode to check the hardware other than fsck ?
Expert:  Terry White II replied 6 months ago.
Very good question and I know EXACTLY what you are seeking, because unfortunately I had an iMac 27 unfortunately have the same grey screen of death issue you are having now. What you have tried so far is completely correct and textbook. The fact is aside from Disk Warrior, Safe Mode, SMC Reset, PRAM resets being attempted, if your iMac will not allow you to boot to only single user mode, this is either a hardware issue with your iMac or your hard drive. I would recommend you try if you can, installing a new hard drive, format it as a Mac OS (Journaled) partition and attempt to install Mac OS X 10.6 on the new hard drive and see if that works. I know this may seem a bit drastic, but I can assure you, it is a sure-fire way to get your Mac back to working order and to also determine if the issue was with the hard drive in the first place. If you try this and it works, then your grey screen issue is resolved and then you can focus on setting up to transfer your data from your old hard drive (unless you have another external drive with previous Time Machine backups) to your new, now operational hard drive with Mac OS X Snow Leopard installed. This is the lessor of two evils, because we do not want this issue to be more of a logic board issue, because that would not be good. To answer your question in a nutshell, this is a hardware issue for sure. I look forward to your feedback.
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
The earlier iMacs were much easier to take apart to access the hdd so I was hoping to not have to do this but I will take out the old drive and put in a new one and try booting with the install disk but I really don't think it will boot because I can't boot that way now. Even if it is a fried drive the computer should still boot up using the install disk shouldn't it ? How could a bad drive affect the startup process of an install disc. If the logic board is bad why is it that I can start up in single user mode ?
Expert:  Terry White II replied 6 months ago.
Great questions and well thought out. Sorry for the delay in my answer, I was really taking time to break down your last response, in order to properly respond to it, so appreciate your patience. In regards ***** ***** grey screen and the logic board, as a tech I have had to swap out logic boards in some cases and hard drives in other cases, so its not really easy to make a call without physically troubleshooting the iMac. So what I can add to your response to determine if this may be an issue with your hard drive, is to attempt to reboot your iMac, by pressing the Option key down to see if your mac will bring up the Startup Volume screen, which shows all connected drives, internal and external and discs. If that works, and you can select the Mac OS X HDD image, try to see if you can boot up to it.Should you only see the Mac OS X 10.6 install disc, that is another indicator that your hard drive may be damaged or bad.If you are not able to reach the Startup Volume screen and your iMac goes right back to Apple logo, spinning gear and grey screen, then that is a potential indication that your hard drive is bad or worse. And remember, even if your iMac is booting up using the install disc, that is not the hard drive. Your Mac OS X startup folder is on the Mac OS X volume of the internal hard drive. So just because you are able to boot up to the install disc, does not mean the hard drive is functional. Now, if you can boot up to the install disc and can see the internal HDD then the hard drive may very well be ok, but you still would need to factor this to be a hardware issue of some kind. In my experience, when I have had a gray screen issue that I could not resolve by repairing my hard drive, it usually more often than not meant replacing the hard drive. In few cases however, I have had to swap out the logic board. Try that boot up with the Option key pressed and update me with what you see.
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Please understand I'm not trying to be difficult here but I've already explained that my computer WILL ONLY BOOT UP INTO SINGLE USER MODE . I have already tried option key and yes all drives show up and I can choose any of them to boot with but as I have already stated : ALL ATTEMPTS TO BOOT WITH INTERNAL DRIVE, FLASH DRIVE WITH SNOW LEOPARD MOUNTED, ORIGINAL SNOW LEOPARD INSTALL DISK, HAVE THE SAME RESULTS , I.E. CRASH WITH GREY SCREEN OF DEATH AFTER 40 SECONDS WITH A MESSAGE " You must restart your computer ... " . During any of the attempts to boot with any of the drives the Apple logo appears, the wheel spins for about 40 seconds and then the crash occurs. Even if the computer didn't have a hard drive it should boot with the install disk or the disk warrior disk or even Linux , right ?
Expert:  Terry White II replied 6 months ago.
That is perfectly fine and no need to apologize. Believe me, if I were in the same situation as you, I would no doubt be feeling exasperated by this too, so I will work as well as I can to assist you, that I can guarantee.And you are right, even if the iMac does not have a hard drive, for all intensive purposes, it should still be able to boot to the install disc, but that does not happen all the time even if the hard drive is discoverable, so that is not sufficient enough to validate why this grey screen issue is not getting resolved. Given what you have explain your Mac appears to be experiencing some form of kernel panic error and this has, from what I have been able to determine is a hardware related. Personally, I've had two of my own Macs, within the past 8 years, go into the same dreaded grey screen of death, with the same error message and one I was fortunate to have Diskwarrior 4 repair that drive- that was a Macbook. The other also an iMac, I unfortunately could not repair the drive or resolve the grey screen error and that is the one I was able to replace the hard drive on to get it working again. I cannot guarantee that this will be the same outcome for you, but I can tell you have been working hard to resolve this.So I can respectfully ***** ***** to carefully consider trying the hard drive swap process or consider taking your iMac into your local Apple Genius bar or Apple Authorized service center and have it serviced. I have worked on iMac 24" (as well as earlier and later) models before and I can assure you, if this is more than a hard drive issue, you are going to either have to take it in for service, or if you a DIYer, take it apart and try to troubleshoot it yourself- something I would not recommend, unless you are skilled and knowledgeable enough to do so (tons of small parts).
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Terry, I'm sure you're a very nice person but at this point I'm feeling a bit ripped off. When I signed on this website they said they would connect me to a "Mac expert " but from the answers you've given me and the time it took between responses from you I suspect that you are searching the net for answers just as I have already done. Every answer you've given me has been info readily available on the net, not what I would expect from an expert. You have not answered my original question which was why will my computer boot into single user mode but not from any drive devices. And your final advise is kind of insulting . I KNOW I can take it to a Genius Bar at Apple , I didn't need to spend $30.00 to get that advice ! Thanks anyway
Expert:  Terry White II replied 6 months ago.
I am not here to be a nice person and I'm a Mac Specialist of nearly 15 years. I assure you, I would not waste your time or mine, with generic troubleshooting steps, nor have I spent time searching the web to help you. The advice I am giving you is tried and true and I do apologize if you don't agree with my answers, but the facts are as I have spoken them to you.The understanding that you can only boot up to Single User mode and nothing else is working - despite your commendable efforts, speaks to me as a Mac professional all I need to know. The choice I understand is yours to make, but please understand this is a hardware issue. I know what your initial question was, and the reason for the delay in my response to your posts is due to the fact I tend read and go back over questions and responses, to make sure I am following what you have tried, what I have recommended you try; and what your results are from those trials. With your iMac continually booting up to Single User Mode, also known as Verbose Mode, is an indication of a hardware issue no matter how you look at it. This is why I took time to explain to you, how to work to resolve this issue. Unless you physically troubleshoot your iMac as I have suggested, you will remain in this unfortunate impasse for reaching a resolution to this grey screen issue. I've worked with Macs of all kinds with issues from grey screen problems, to white and blue screens of death issues as well as kernel panic screen issues for a long time. So again, you are coming for answers and I like my fellow experts, I have to provide you sound answers. I am completely focused on helping you as well well as I can So trust me, I will not mislead you in anyway, I want to help you as much as possible, but out respect for you as a customer, I will not delay the inevitable. This is a hardware issue you are going to eventually have to get your iMac serviced. Sincerely,Terry