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Daniel, Mac Genius
Category: Mac
Satisfied Customers: 4770
Experience:  Apple certified on desktop and portable, help desk qualified. Have owned and used Macs since 1989.
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A flashing question mark in a folder icon keeps flashing every

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A flashing question mark in a folder icon keeps flashing every time I try restarting my MacBook Pro (1st generation, OS 10 Tiger I think. Not the newest operating system). I tried restarting holding Command-Option-PR and now it's doing the same thing just on a much lighter grey screen. Please help!
Hello, my name is Dan.
Try restarting and holding the 'Shift' key down until the Apple and spinning gear appear then let go.
This is a safe boot and runs repair routines and may put things right. Takes longer than a regular start up so please wait.
If it does not do this then more drastic measures are needed.
Let me know.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Hi Dan,

Thanks for your reply. It didn't work, I tried it twice. Again, flashing question mark in a folder on a light grey screen.

If you have any other ideas that would be great.


If you have the start up discs insert that and restart holding down the 'C' key until you get the Apple and gear.
Then click continue at the welcome screen and in the next screen will be a menu bar at the top with Utilities as one of the choices.
Select Disk Utility from the drop down menu and do the following,
Do both permissions and disk repair,
Then quit Disk Utility and the installer for a restart. Let me know what happens.

Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Hi Dan,

Sorry for the delay, I didn't have my disks with me where I was over the weekend and I just got back this afternoon.

I followed your instructions and it went fine until I restarted. It keeps going back to the Installer. When I quit the Installer it asks me to choose a Startup Disk, giving me three options: the startup disk (disk 1 is in there), the Mac OSX 10.4.11 folder, and a "Network Startup" disk that has a question mark on it. I chose the Mac OS folder, but when it restarted it kept coming back to the Installer and did the same thing again. I can't seem to get the disk out of the drive as well.

Any ideas what to do?


Hold down the Option key and restart. Keep it down until you get this with an arrow on the right and a refresh arrow on the left.
Then choose (more than likely) Mac HD and press the right arrow.
Or whatever the name of your hard drive is.

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Nope, same thing again. I tried a few times, it keeps going to the Installer again. (This is so frustrating!)
Ok, do this then.
  1. Shut down the computer.
  2. Disconnect the MagSafe power adapter from the computer, if it's connected.
  3. Remove the battery.
  4. Press and hold the power button for 5 seconds.
  5. Release the power button.
  6. Reconnect the battery and MagSafe power adapter.
  7. Press the power button to turn on the computer.

Try that and let me know.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Nope, same thing again.

Back on Saturday I had also called Apple Support but he didn't want to help me because I'm out of warranty. However after a long while searching for an Apple Store he started to finally help, and told me to remove the batter and hold Option and I think it was Apple key at the same time for 30 seconds. (I had a hard time understanding him, I wasn't sure if I was suppost to hold the power button as well.) After that I was just about to put the battery back in when we got cut off (I accidentally pressed the phone hook down, argh)

I don't know if you know what he was having me do, and if this might be the solution?

That is what we did just before when you removed the battery. Reset the SMC 9System Management Controller).
It cannot find a useable startup volume.
Find the install disk and boot from that by holding the 'C' key down when powering up.
Then click continue at the Language screen, the next will have a menu bar at the top with Utilities in it.
From the drop down menu select Disk Utility and do the following.
This may or may not make it see the startup volume but will certainly help.
After doing this quit the Disk Utility and the installer for a restart. Let me know the results please.

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I did it again as you showed and again its not recognising the startup volume. It's still going to the Installer.
Just how and what are you doing?
Please explain to me step by step.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Right, so Disk 1 (of 2) is in my computer. I put it in, then followed your instructions...when I got to the "Welcome to Mac OS X Installer" window I clicked on Utilities - Disk Utility -selected the top hard drive in the left hand corner (name underneath it is "Macintosh HD". I was in the First Aid section, first I clicked Verify Disk Permissions, then clicked Repair Disk Permissions, then I did the same with the disk, first I verified then I repaired, even if the verify said that no repars were needed.

Then I quit Disk Utility, quit Installer, clicked on "Startup Disk " in the middle of the "are you sure..."pop up. I had three options for a start-up system, first is the CD (Installer Disc) second is the Mac OS X for Mac HD folder, and lastly is a question mark icon called "Network Startup". I clicked on the folder, restarted it while holding down the Option key while started up (I actually tried all three over the past period, sometimes holding the Option key, othertimes not...always lead me back to the Installer in the end)

I'm trying all this again as I'm typing... (except I didn't do the repair disks and things, I've done it twice already.)

Sometimes the folder and question mark icon shows up briefly before the apple and the wheel. Then it goes to the language box, and then it starts "preparing for installation". Then it takes me to the Installer. (And having done it all again as I was typing this, I'm back at the Installer...)

What am I doing wrong?

(Thanks for being so patient here.. If you're out of ideas I'll still pay you for your efforts and time, and take it to the apple store...)

Ok, you have done well. Now in this link are instructions for Archiving and Installing preserving user and network settings.
This puts a new OS on the machine while saving all your data (music, photos etc).
For some reason your startup system is not available for use, this will fix that providing the hard drive is OK and your repairs indicate that.
You may have to copy paste to make it work.

Customer: replied 7 years ago.


Where do I start this from. I can't find a link here to show me the first screen shown on the file you sent me, where it gives you the option of "Archive and Install". At the moment I started the Installation process, and it's asking me for a destination. The only destination I have is the Mac HD disc that doesn't have enough space. It wants to erase the volume completely and is not giving me any other options.

Start from the install disc. The one that you used for repairing the permissions.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

I am using the same disc...I haven't even been able to eject it.

When I click 'options' in order to try and change my install settings it says "The destination disk must be erased for installation....The destination volume will be completely erased and a new copy of Mac OS X installed on the volume. All your data will be lost. Format as: Mac OS Extended Journaled". They give me no other options to change these settings. I've clicked everywhere that seems logical but I haven't found a screen where it gives me the option of installing without losing all my data.

Then you need to go back to the beginning.
Hold the power button until it turns off. Now to eject the disc hold down the eject key or the space bar until it ejects. May take a while.
Also on that screen either press go back or options and if you still get that will not unless erased then get another drive to do this.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Yes, I managed to finally take the CD out, and I put it back in. Again, same outcome, I clicked on Options and it doesn't give me any options except have my computer completely erased.

What do you mean get another drive? I have an Iomega external hard drive (where I store old files and back-up things and a 8GB flashdrive as well as but that's all I've got. My computer doesn't have another drive...unless you mean I need to go to the store and buy something?

If you do not want to erase the external hard drive then yes you will have to get a new drive.
Daniel and 2 other Mac Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Thanks for your help, Daniel! All is solved. I managed to backup my important files as well before reinstalling OS X.
All best,
Glad to hear it. Thank you for letting me know and for the payment.