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Dustin, Mac Support Specialist
Category: Mac
Satisfied Customers: 13471
Experience:  Over a decade putting the missing byte back into Apple. Also worked in The US Army as A Network Switching Systems Operator/Controller
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Cant start up - get blinking Question mark

Customer Question

I am on a Mac OS 10.5.8-- I wad trying to force quit Illustrator and it all froze so I pushed the power button to shut down. When I started again I get a blinking question mark. I tried everything the book said. Put in disk and held down D key, nothing wrong with hard drive results. Then held option key down on start up and still got question mark. Tried holding down Command, option, R and P key, still got blinking question mark. I Don't want to reinstall system software because I can't back up anything and all my work/files will be erased. Please have a miracle - Thanks! :)
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Mac
Expert:  Daniel Whelan replied 4 years ago.

Daniel Whelan :

Hi, as you said it sounds like you have tried everything as listed here

Daniel Whelan :

Daniel Whelan :

in which case you may have to install a new system but you can archive your old system so nothing is deleted

Daniel Whelan :

let me know if I can help any further

Customer: I did try that but it did not allow me to select archive in option window, says only option is to delete everything. Also, sometimes the machine goes black and shuts down instantly when disk 1 is at this point of reintsall.
Daniel Whelan :

That sounds more serious and wont even let you do a reinstall. Can you borrow anyone else's mac so you can connect the two in target disk mode and transfer your work files to the borrowed mac so you know they are safe.


I have a smaller iMac, the mini one that is red, I think I bought it when they first came out around 1998 or so. But how do you connect the two to a target disk? I am trying to avoid taking into a shop, that's why I pay $78 here to find help.

Daniel Whelan :

That's going back a bit! I dont know if you can do Target disk mode on that but you can try. Basically start up the old mac, plug in a firewire lead between both computers and restart the new imac while holding down the "T" Key. It should show up on your old mac as a hard drive.

Daniel Whelan :

Daniel Whelan :

Does the old mac have 10.3.9 or later on it? If not it may not work.

Daniel Whelan :

Another possible option (depending if your new mac plays nice or not) would be to have a portable blank hard drive and attach it. Then start up from the CD and install the OS onto the hard drive and then try and start up the mac from that. It might not let you do it for a variety of reasons but then again it might.


Do you mean attach to an external storage drive, that's all I have. What do you mean by portable blank hard drive?

Daniel Whelan :

If you have an external hard drive (portable or not, doesn't matter) that is empty or you don't mind wiping it you could try installing the system on that and then booting the mac from that.


I will try buying a small portable external storage drive and try this method. I don't have any I can erase what I already have on it. This may take a while as I have to go to work now. Will you be available to continue chat later?

Daniel Whelan :

I'll be around. Please note there is no guarantee that this method will work due to how your mac currently is. If possible get a disk with a firewire port the same that is on your mac. This is because there is more power available on firewire than on USB with portable hard drives. However that is not to say a usb drive will not work, it's just more likely with firewire. Sorry I cant be more reassuring, there are so many possibilities in IT!


I know so many avenues to take, but so far this way is more affordable for me than taking it in to be serviced, that could be couple hundred of dollars. But you never know, I may wind up spending too. Your method is worth a try. I will look for firewire. It's funny because at one point I could select to do an install and it would archive but then went black and when I started up agian wouldn't let me do it anymore. I was holding down the C key, that is correct right? Stay tuned as I go to look for firewire later today :)


When I get the hard drive, do I plug it into my MAC that is "sick" and then start up from Disk 1 holding down C key? Will my MAC see the external drive on the desk top? How do I copy TO the external hard drive?

Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
Welcome To JustAnswer!

My name isXXXXX am one of the Experts who will assist you today!

I have a few questions I would like to ask you that are important to the issue your having..

First, the specific mac that your trying to repair, is it desktop mac, or a macbook pro.. Please provide the full model of mac you have, and also, roughly when you purchased it.

The reason I am asking ,is because I dont see anywhere, that you attempted to reset the pram and or the smu.. And these are both highly important steps to take, especially with the machine acting up the way it has been.

Please respond when you can, and I will do my best to assist you.


Dustin S.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I have a iMAC desktop bought it about 3 years ago.

2.93 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB 1067 Mhz DDR3.

Running 10.5.8

Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.

You didnt mention a Pram reset, so Im assuming we havent done that yet.. Lets try this reset and then , lets try to see if we can start in safe mode

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Locate the following keys on the keyboard: Command (⌘), Option, P, and R. You will need to hold these keys down simultaneously in step 4.
  3. Turn on the computer.
  4. Press and hold the Command-Option-P-R keys before the gray screen appears.
  5. Hold the keys down until the computer restarts and you hear the startup sound for the second time.
  6. Release the keys.


  1. Be sure your Mac is shut down.
  2. Press the power button.
  3. Immediately after you hear the startup tone, hold the Shift key. The Shift key should be held as soon as possible after the startup tone, but not before the tone.
  4. Release the Shift key when you see the gray Apple icon and the progress indicator (looks like a spinning gear).


any luck at all?


If not.. Whats the current status, exactly what are you seeing on screen? still the question mark?


Question.. if you try to start, and you hold down command and S


does it start?


( please use the reply to expert button to respond )


Dustin S.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Dustin, thanks. I am at work now and don't have access to do this process at the moment. I have held down all those keys and got the sound to chime and it does an auto restart and when I released the keys after the restart the Question mark will come back up again. So on #6 if I release keys and get a Question mark when it restarts, what do I do? Shut down and then try holding the shift key on start up?


(The 4-key process did work for me a couple of days ago, it started right up and I was able to get on and work normally. But things froze up on me again and when I quit the MAC and got the question mark at start up, I tried all those key moves again but it did not want to cooperate for me second time)

Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
Yes.. Lets definitely redo the process.

command p and r

And then.. afterwords.. restart again and hold the shift key.. ( try holding each shift key during a different start)

What I want to make clear is this, your mac was working fine before you force quit illustrator, so there is no way the hard drive is trashed..

This is something repairable.. And if we can boot from the disk, or get into safe mode.

We should be able to repair the disk permissions, and repair the disk ( two separate methods, each needs to be done )

This can be fixed without losing or erasing your data.. Or reinstalling the OS..

Thats the main point I want to make.. So when your off work, and you have time to work on this.. I want to work under the assumption that we can fix this.. Instead of just trying to replace the hard drive, or reinstalling the OS. ( thats a sledgehammer routine when what we need is a wrench )

Dustin S.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX confident you can help me. I can't wait for the day to be over and can get home to work with you. I am in USA, Texas and it's CST, 11:13 a.m. so a few hours until I can get back home, 9-5 job.


Thanks Dustin, looking forward to tackling this with you!! Barb

Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
Thanks for the vote of confidence Barb.

I dont want to bother you too much during your work day, so please dont feel like you have to respond immediately..

Im a few miles to the north of you, Not far from Chicago on the lake michigan shore in indiana..

I will be here and working till very late this evening.. So if you do want to tackle this when you get off work, im definitely availale..

Dustin S.
Expert:  Daniel Whelan replied 4 years ago.
Hi, as you said in your very first post that you "Tried holding down Command, option, R and P key" I presumed this did not work for you, hence I didn't suggest you do something again that had failed. However I hope it works for you this time around and if not I'm sure Dustin will be able to help you fix the problem from here but let me know if I can be of any further assistance.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I understand Daniel but Dustin also read that in my post and he had more ideas for me to do at this time. The MAC does start up, it's not dead, so their must be something that I can do with an expert helping me. I did get it to start up holding down all those keys a few days ago, so why not again? Thank you.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Hi Daniel, when you replied to me now I don't see a tab to click to get back to Dustin Sandlin. When I click on Dustin's link near his post it let's me write a mesage to him but then I have to pay again to go further. How do I get back to him? We were going work on his suggestions to my problem. Thank you.
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
Hello again Barb.

My apologies for the delay in getting back to you.. When the other expert replied.. It removed my link to this question.. So your responses never went to my inbox..

I assumed that either you had worked later, or had some personal matters to attend to..

Im sorry that I only just now seen this message.. Good news.. Im working 12 hour shifts all weekend, and all next week.. So we will have plenty of time to reconnect.

Questions for you before the next time we reconnect.

Are we able to boot from the disk at all still?

If we remove the disk, can we start up in either of these two modes?

Shut down your Mac if it is on.
2. Press the power button to start the computer.
3. Immediately press and hold the Command (Apple) key and one of the following:
  • the "s" key for single-user mode. (Command-S)
  • the "v" key for verbose mode. (Command-V)


As far as resolving this issue, likely what it is going to take is repetition.. Repeating different steps such as starting with the disk and trying to get to disk utility.


Or starting without the disk and trying safe mode ( hold down the shift key )


Or trying single user mode.. With repetition, we may get lucky and get it to boot just like you did before.. When it does, we want to leave it running till you and I can connect and then try to run through some of the steps, such as repairing disk permissions, ( not just, validating or repairing the disk ) And also, if we can get into single user mode, we may be able to run some commands on the terminal to try and repair this issue..


Again, my apologies for not replying to you at 5, I never seen your replies ( as they went to the other expert who responded right after I did)


Thanks again Barb, and I look forward to working through this issue with you.


Dustin S.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
So glad we are reconnected again. I wrote a long email which you probably didn't get so here it is again.... When I hold down all 4 keys and start up, it restarts and I let go, apple and gears there spinning but after about 45 sec screen goes black and quietly shuts down. Then I went to start up holding only shift key and the apple came on and the gears, it would spin for about 45 seconds and then screen black and shuts down. When I did the S key I did get a black screen and a bunch of white words appeared to draw down the screen, when I let go after no more words drawing, less than a minute the screen goes black and shuts down. I just tried the combo with he V key, same results.
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
Aha! The S mode..

Lets try just that..

The command S startup, wheny ou get to that screen with the white words..

Type this onthat screen.

/sbin/fsck -fy

hit enter

If it wont let you type anything... I want you to start in S mode several times.. If there is a specific line of code ( the white words ) that it gets to each time and stops..

if it keeps stopping on the same code.. Try to write it down, or take a picture of that last line of code and send it to me ( either way is fine )

But if it will let you enter the
/sbin/fsck -fy

command.. tell me everything that you see and what happens next.. Thanks!

Dustin S.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Sorry it took long for me to reply, Safari on my iPhone keeps crashing and takes few minutes to get where I want to be again.OK... When I started with the S key I waited until all words stopped drawing and hit return and typed letters you gave me. Here's what appeared after it: ** /dev/rdisk0s2** Root file system** checking Journaled HFS plus volume.** Checking Extends overflow file** Checking Catalog file.disk 0s2: I/0 error. Invalid node structure (4, 3461)** Volume check failed./dev/rdisk0S2 (hfs) Exited with signal 8:/ root # XXXXX stopped there and the computer did not go black and shut down. I am still looking at this info on screen.
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
Ok.. Its not going black.. Thats a good sign..

Lets try this to try and trick your mac, into thinking that its booting for the very first time.

Were going to use that dialgue screen where we can type commands.. And were going to try and trick the mac into creating a new user ( it will not erase your current user account, dont worry )

Heres the page with the steps to follow.

( your already booted into single user mode .. Thats the screen that we just typed the command on earlier )

I may not be able to reply again tonight, Ive been awake and online since 9 am.. And its past 1 am..

But i will definitely respond first thing in the morning when I sign in and see your replies, and check and see if the above step yielded any results..

**note** If you get any further error codes, please take them all down word for word so we can go over them..


Dustin S.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Ok... Now its after 2 am and I'm going to sleep. Tomorrow I need to leave at 8:00 and will be home around 2:00 to 6 pm. Out after 6:00. I really got pretty far, all the way to typing reboot and made the computer reboot, the apple appeared, gears turning and then ... Black screen and computer shuts down. Ugh. The last command before I typed reboot said Rm: .applesetupdone: no such file on directory I went ahead and typed in reboot and it rebooted so I thought it was gong to work. So I started up with S key again, words came up and I typed all commands again. This time last line said -sh: rm:: command not found. I went ahead and typed reboot and it rebooted. But then less than minute screen black and shuts down. SO now I try the S key and no white words come up, blinking question mark appears. So I shut down and try again. Question mark again. Then I hold all 4 key process and got question mark with that too. I did not try V key was not sure what to do if i did get white words. So i shut down, unplugged the machine and am calling it a night. Will check email tomorrow but won't be home till 2pm.Is all this restarting/shutting down by me hurting the computer or anything on Mac? Ok... Catch up later. I'm going into work because I have to get on my Mac for a few hours tomorrow. Your are dedicated, thank you. Barb
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.

Hello Barb, Thanks for your detailed reply last night.. I apologize that I wasnt able to continue with you..

In hindsight, Id like to cover a few things that came up last night, that I didnt go into depth and detail on.

The error you got when we ran the fsyck comman.

0s2: I/0 error. Invalid node structure

That error, usually means that the hard drive has failed.. I dont want to discourage you, as sometimes, its possible to recover from this. ( and thats what were going to try to do)

I know you said you were going to work today.. When you get tthe chance.

Shut your mac down. Now hold down the T key.

Then, start the mac while still holding T. Tell me exactly what you see and what happens.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Dustin... I'm still at work. I will try this at home but may not be able to be available after 6:00. Will let you know what happens. Tomorrow maybe we can touch base again. Or if you will be on late tonight after 11 pm. I may have to take the computer in and have them back up my files and have them fix it but I am learning a lot from working with you and lets see if we can exhaust all your ideas before we give up hope. I think I am like you that I hate when a computer out smarts me and then the challenge of fixing it is addictive. There is a time to call it quits though and I am sure you will tell me when that time has arrived. I have got a lot from $78 so far! ;-)

Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.

I do not believe we have reached the point where its time to call it quits.. I will let you know when we have exhausted any reasonable possibiity of fixing this ourselves.

And also, you seem to be able to conduct the steps pretty well on your own. So worst case scenario, we may decide to backup the files on our own if it comes to that.

( saving you from having to pay another shop to do this for you, after paying Justanswer for the same issue)

As far as tonight.. I will only be available until about 8 or nine eastern time.. And then I will be offline for the evening.

Though I will be working Sunday, and all through the week.

Hope work goes well, and if you find time tonight we can touch base again.

Dustin S.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Dustin. I tried the T key when I got home last night and after a few minutes the gray screen with Apple and spinning gear went black and shut down. SO.... I tried 4 key process and got gray screen but not question mark, it went back and shut down. SOOOO, I did the S key and got the white words again and thought that was good sign. I looked for that code -- 0s2: I/0 error. Invalid node structure --- and did not see it so I thought that was good sign. So I studied the white letters and low-and-behold in the middle of the screen I see those familiar letters I've been typing:


/sbin/fsck -fy (said something about login on the same line)

/sbin/mount -uw / (said something about mount in that line)

Next line said something like if want to reboot Exit


Soooooo, I started thinking about what I read and went to work. At the end bottom of the script I typed /sbin/fsck -fy


When is stopped writing I typed /sbin/mount -uw /

I looked for Invalid node structure , did not see it. Thought that was good sign. Kept going...


When words stopped writing at the end of /sbin/mount -uw / I hit return and typed .... you guessed it! .... Exit

And the MAC rebooted! ANNNND then a blue screen appeared (not the gray screen) and that's when I got excited. I waited, no Apple or spinning gears but I could hear it doing it's thing. Beautiful, big BLUE ocean colored monitor in front of me, I knew I was onto something .... and then (just like what happened last week when I pressed all 4 keys and saw the blue screen) my login window popped up and I typed in my login and and waited.... AND.... I was HOME FREE!!! My desktop appeared and I saw all my files.... I was grinning from ear to ear. I even was able to get my internet going and now here I am on my MAC typing you this!!


I did notice that launching FireFox was sluggish and the spinning color wheel took a looooong time to even open a file window. I let it take its time, did not try and force quit or shut down. I left the MAC on, running all night and didn't wanted to shut it down until I got in touch with you for the next steps.


So... I am logged on and ready for your expert advice to fix this sluggish thing that my MAC is doing. We did it! :-)))))))))) But not out of woods yet I don't think until sluggishness stops.




Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
Definitely not out of the woods yet..

However, you made some great progress! Amazing indeed!!!

Ok, we have two methods we could attempt, method 1.. Trying to systematically repair the mac, one fix at a time.. ( this may work, though how well is up to the mood the computer is in )

Or.. We can now do what is called an arhive install. ( backing up all your data, and then reinstalling the os )

Personally, I think with all the issues, that the arhive install would ensure that your mac runs the best it can, without us possibly trying many repair steps, ( and we may end up archive installing at the end anyways )

I dont mind either way though.. So let me know what method youd like to go with.. And we can get started..

( again, congrats on running the commands to repair the file structure, well done )

Dustin S
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I am so glad that you tell us details like 0s2: I/0 error. Invalid node structure was not a good sign -- because you teach us things to look for. I was able to read the Intel PC script, the more you tell us I think is good, for me anyway.


OK. I've done many OS reinstall on my MAC at work over the years. I think it makes a backup folder of all old system files and loads new "fresh" OS stuff. I think I even trashed that OS archive folder it creates eventually.


FRESH OS install is way to go. So I need to get out my CD #1 disk and click archive install (not erase of course) and let it run it's thing, right?

Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.

That sounds like a plan.. ( archive install )

If archive install isnt an option.. ( though it should be )

Then we can try some manual steps to fix the issue peacemeal.

Bout to grab a bit to eat, but will check back as soon as I return to hopefully hear about more good progress.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

OK... getting out CD to install. Back at you later. :-))))))

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
It took forever for the CD to mount. Then when I clicked to open it more time. I am at the window now where it's asking me for my password XXXXX before I wanted to type my pass I thought it would be good idea to quot mt soatware protection. So I've been waiting for more than ten minutes for it to quit, color wheel just spinning. Wish I never tried to quit protection software. It will let me type my password XXXXX I want to wait until spinning color wheel stops. UghIt's been almost 30 minutes, color wheel still spinning. Think I should go ahead and type in password XXXXX get the reintall going, or wait for wheel to stop?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Well... It's been more than an hour and the color wheel is still spinning. If it won't stop by now don't think it ever will. I won't do a force quit, that's been getting me in trouble lately. And don't want to shut down and reboot, lord knows where that will take me. So I'll wait a few more minutes to see if you think I should go ahead and type my password XXXXX see if the install will start. Sooooo, If I don't here from you in next 10 minutes, I'm going for it and will pray it starts the install.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
The insatll button won't launch the program. It starts then stops. Now I'm thinking I have to reboot the MAC with the disk installed so to get the program to launch. Wish you were here to weigh in to reboot or not?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
The OS software in th CD would not launch. So I shut down by switch in back (maybe I should have did a restart from the drop down menu - Darn it!) and of course the MAC showed gray screen, apple and gears and after a few minutes all went black and shut down. I've been trying to get safe mode to get me on again. It goes back and forth from blinking question mark to going black and shutting down. I keep trying. What do you think at this point? I did do the T key you said one time and what I got was a big white gear thing with blinking = marks. I'm still trying if your around tonight.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Update: it's after 10 pm and I was able to get to Safe mode and type the letters but no luck on reboot, screen goes black and shuts down. Going to stop trying for tonight. Do you think I will ever get back on to my MAC again? I keep seeing that error code a lot. Why wouldn't the OS software launch? Was I supposed to have my etherenet cable plugged in? Oh well, too tired to carry on tonight. Barb
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
Hi Barb,

My apologies for not getting back to you sooner. This was one of those times when 12 hour days for two weeks caught up to me.. Laptops are generally afraid of swimming., and I sent mine swimming in coffee yesterday inadvertently..

I see you ran into issues.. force quitting shouldnt have broken the machine again.

I have a feeling your os install is in pretty bad shape.

Question .. If we hold down command S again when we start.. Are we able to get the screen to show up where we can type?

( if so, we need to be very careful with the speific fysck commands we run.. As some of those can delete your os install.

I realize that you may be at work right now.. So when you have a chance, send a message to me so we can discuss our next plan of attack.. I have a feeling round 2 may work out a little better.

Dustin S.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I should of just ejected the CD and left the MAC running all day today but that's not the case. I really thought the machine would reboot at that stage.


I was able to get to S mode with white type several times but no luck in running those commands last night. SO tell me, is it repetition that confuses the MAC and then every once in a while we are able to sneak in? That the way I see it. Making all those key board moves (4 key move, s, v, t letters, shift key) are there more letters, is it like going through the alphabet? Or just several that are used? What are my odds now of logging on again?


And yes, I am at work. :)

Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
The keys.

S, V, T...

Those are different startup modes for the mac..

They cant be used at the same time, but singly.

S = single user mode

V = Verbose mode

T = target disk mode

Single user mode, is the one we want where we can try to type some commands and repair the OS file structure..

The chances of getting the mac to start again.. Really really good.. Why? Because we already DID get it to start.. Had we never been able to get onto the desktop and see your files.. Then id be worried.

Now, its just a matter of getting the mac to start again by running a few commands in S mode..

( dont run any commands without me though!! )

And then once we get started.. Lets go ahead and try and save your most important files.. slowly.. after doing a few manual repairs..

Once we can get your files saved.. I feel we shoud skip the archive and install. ( since thats more difficult for the mac then a simple erase and install )

So we will run a few repairs.. Then, save your files off the mac.. Then, erase and install..

That way, your files are saved, and the mac is running smoothly again.. ( or worst case scenario, we save your files.. And then, we replace the hard drive )

Dustin S.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

OK. I saved some files when I got on the other day. But it's my Adobe programs that I don't want to delete if I can. I borrowed the CDs from work to install on my MAC (I work at home sometimes) and getting IT to lend CDs to me again may not happen. So worse case, I'd have to start paying to use Adobe Creative Cloud. Hate that I have to pay for something over and over again but I guess it's the future of Adobe products. So, let me get through work, I will shoot you an email when I'm about to leave work and will get on to computer when I get home around 6:30-7. Talk later :)

Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.

Understood.. I will look for a reply when your home from work and settled in.

( please dont feel you have to reply to this, remember its company policy that I respond as fast as I can when I am online, so I cant just, not reply to you. Or else that increases my average response time )

See you when you get home, and we can discuss the versions of Adobe suite and products you had installed..


Dustin S.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Hi Distin. Ok, I'm home at my computer (which is off). I'm ready when you are to take more stabs at this MAC of mine.
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
My apologies for the delay.. We had a bad storm roll through Northen indiana.

After the power flickered on and off a few times.. I disconnected my equipment so it wouldnt get zapped.. It seems the storm has passed.. So im back online for a bit.

It will take me about 15 minutes to reply to you after this, as Ive got other replies to catch up on.

Can yuo get to command S mode again?

Ir you can.. can you rerun the exact commands you did the other day to get the mac booting..

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I can't believe it but started in S mode and typed on the commands and got onto my Desktop in one try! I'm backing up some adobe programs now to external hard drive. Each program is taking more then 10 minutes to back up. I have one of three almost finished backing. I can quit if you rather I do something different now
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.

If your backing up data and programs.. Your doing what I would suggest..

When you hit a dead spot, when you dont have anything else to backup or save.. Let me know!

( ill be online for another 2-3 hours tonight)

Dustin S.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Ok... I got everything I wanted backed up. And computer has just system stuff on it left. Ready for your next step
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.

First.. To try and get the os responding well.. Lets try something simple.

  1. Be sure your Mac is shut down.
  2. Press the power button.
  3. Immediately after you hear the startup tone, hold the Shift key. The Shift key should be held as soon as possible after the startup tone, but not before the tone.
  4. Release the Shift key when you see the gray Apple icon and the progress indicator (looks like a spinning gear).

That should put you in safe mode.


If we can get into safe mode.. Then lets boot from the disk.


And do an erase and install. *warning, after we do an erase and install, everything will be deleted .. So we want to make sure your documents, photos, and any important files are indeed, backed up*


When the erase and install completes.. You should have a fully functional and working mac.


Then, we just need to start the process of putting your files back into place.


Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I was hoping I didn't have to shut down again, fear of not booting up without problems, but if you say so, I'll do your steps
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.

Im hoping that this time.. ( since were not trying to install anything )

That we can shut down, and then start in safe mode without any issues..

This is something we need to be able to do successfully, to ensure the OS is stable enough to allow a reinstall..

Good luck, and Im hoping for good news in your next reply.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Got blinking Question mark now
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
it wont start normally?

Now will it start with safe mode?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
When I just boot u without any keys pressed I get gray screen, gears then screen goes black. Trying safe mode now... In safe mode (S) I get blinking question mark
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.

Heres what I know.. The repairs we have been doing fsyck

Should last more then one boot..

So. We either have severe file corruption.. Or that hard drive is toast.. ( and were lucky we got your data off it )

What I can recommend at this point..

Is running the fsyck command one more time.. Getting the computer to boot.

And then.. we need to go into the disk utility while the computer is running..

And run both, repair disk ( on your startup disk )

And repair permissions.

Once both have been run.. We will want to go to your system preferences, accounts.

And create a new user account.. Then.. We want to switch to that user account.

and then, we want to shut down again, and try to startup in the new user account.

( maybe, its just your user account that is corrupted, and if so.. Running those repairs and creating a new user account, will keep us from having to replace the hard drive. )

To be honest though.. The responses were getting from the hard drive are looking pretty bad, it may indeed be dead.

But a corrupted user account could also be likely.. So I will leave it up to you.

We can try this one more time and try to make a new user account to see if thats the case.

Or we can call time of death on the hard drive, and be happy that we were able to get it working with some elbow grease and save your files and data.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Why can't I just put CD #1 in and hold down C key to boot from disk and do a restall from there?
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
Sure.. Go for it!!

It may work.. ( I dont think it will ) But its worth a shot.

If you cant get the computer to respond to the disk, and allow the install to start..

Then that may well solve the issue too..

( though, you may still have to run the fysck commands just to get the hard drive readable again, in order for the cd to work )

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
The disk mounted with no problem with C key held down. Only option is to erase all. I'm going to format Mac OS Extended (journaled)

Wish me luck... Here goes
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
Good luck... If it mounted without issue.

Then I hope it reinstalls without issue too...

Its 1 am. Ive been working since 9 am.. So Im going to have to call it a night.

You can be certain though I will be checking on your replies first thing in the morning to hear if all went wall.. ::crosses fingers::

Dustin S.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
First attempt failed so it said to retry so I did but this time I did not hold down C key. So far so good. The profess bar is almost half way across and no error message. It going to take an hour to complete install so I'm going to bed and lye it finish. Hopefully when I wake up I will have a happy, healthy MAC.

Your knowledge and support have made all the difference for me. Keep fingers crossed! Bedtime for me... Stay tuned :-)) Barb
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Well, I fell asleep for about 20 minutes and woke up thinking the install was going to spit out Disk 1 and want me to insert #2. so when I went to the Mac install was done it restarted on it's own and I thought it would spit out disk 1 And ask for 2. No luck. :( the Mac tried to restart but was only gray screen for longest time, no apple no spinning gears, nothing. At one point screen turned blue and I got excited but went back to all gray. So I waited about 10 minutes and shut it down. I guess i should have run the fysck first. So after I shut it down I started it up to see what happens and of course, I get the blinking question mark. Will try more after work tomorrow. Start in S mode and get on that way and see if I can run CD install. Or read over your notes to see if i want to try and set a new login. My MAC Is sick for sure. I just hope if I can't fix it with you, at least a shop tech l take it to can fix it at this point. Hope this last install from CD didn't kill it for good.


Do you think I should stop at this point and bring it in for repair? The entire CD#1 did install ... would this now mess up S mode fysck attempt to install CD#1 if I get on agian? So tired, it's late.... Must sleep

Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
Worst case scenario, you cand I can order a new hard drive at a huge discount to anything that Best Buy or any local tech shop will charge you.

Since you have all your files backed up.. And since you have an install disk.. replacing a hard drive is simple enough, and your mac will run well after replacing it, and then using the install disk to get your OS back ..

For instance, here is a compatible 320 gigabyte hard drive for 40$ brand new

click here

That one wont come with any cables, or screws.. But you shouldnt need them..As your mac already has the cables to connect the hard drive ( which are currently connected to the hard drive inside it )

Or, you can go a little more expensive and get some extra storage space

click here That one will also work in your mac, and rides in at 500 gigabytes.

You will notice I havent recommended a Terrabyte drive.. As those in my opinion, still can be rather finicky and problematic on may fronts.

That being said, I wanted you to get an idea of the cost of a new hard drive.. So if you do end up considering going to a local tech shop.. If the cost is over 60 $.. I would strongly consider ordering the hard drive yourself via one of the links above.. And Im certain with the steps you have been able to complete and perform.. You will have no issues removing the old drive or installing the new one , and then using your disks to install the OS again.. Besides, you've got me to assist if needed!

Now, as far as the hard drive issue... I do hope, that if we create a new user account.. That this will help us..

When we do create the new user account, Id like to make sure we run the disk verify, disk repair, and then the disk permisssions repair..

But especially the disk verify, and disk repair.. We may need to run those multiple times while the mac is running..

And then create the new user..

And then run them again from inside the new user.. At this point, I estimate our chances of success around 25 % .. But theres always room to get lucky within that 25 %.

Hope your work day is going well...

Dustin S.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Oh...ha ... you crack me up! Maybe I can install a hard drive but it looks complicated even if they have a chic doing it in this video. I'd have to by some suction cups too!

I am on my way home from work and going to try the new user account steps soon.


Question 1: If I can get on with fysck command, why can't I go into preferences and set up a new account login then?


Question 2: Where do I find the "disk verify" "disk repair" and the "disk permissions repair" to run? Are they on the OS Disk #1?

Will give you update in couple of hours - Barb :)


Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.

Hi Barb! If we can get in with fysck.. We could go to preferences, and then make a new login then. It could work..

I just thought it would be better to reun a disk verify and repair, and a permissions repair while we are logged in and booted up into the original user, before we tried to create a new user.

And then again even after.. Why do it before and after? Just to make sure we have every possibility of the mac actually restarting, instead of needing the fysyck command to be ran everytime..

As far as the disk utility itself.. ( what we need in order to run a verify and repair disk, then repair permission )

You wont need the install disk.

Instead.. When your loaded onto your desktop.

Go to applications, Utilities , and were looking for disk utility.

Then, the first aid tab..

Im going to be out of the loop for about 45 minutes while I travel home myself.

Will check for replies when I get there.

Dustin S.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Crazy.... When I did S mode and fysck command system rebooted and asked me to insert disk #2 so I did. If you remember, last night after disk 1 finished it restated the computer but never asked for disk 2.

Process blue bar moving faster than disk#1. Wonder where this will take us? 12 minutes to Go....
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.

Internet at the house is still down from the storms yesterday..

Out on the front porch Im able to catch a neighbors signal for now..

Seems like were having to repair the hard drive in between any major operation.. Im wondering how this disk 2 is going to turn out as well..

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Shut the Front Door!!! At the end of disk #2 the system started and there was music and welcoming in all languages! Just like when I bought it!! I think it installed new OS! I'm filling out my name, giving it my cable Internet code!! Stay tuned! This may be good! :)))
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I'm on with a new OS installed. What should I do? The repairs anyway? I'm even surfing the web
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.

If it installed the new os.. We shouldnt have to do any of those repairs...

The big test is always..

can we shut down, and start back up without issue...
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Before I got your last email I did got to Utility and clicked "Verify Disk"

got this error message:


Verifying volume “Macintosh HD”


Performing live verification.

Checking Journaled HFS Plus volume.

Checking Extents Overflow file.

Checking Catalog file.

Invalid node structure

Volume check failed.


Error: Filesystem verify or repair failed.


Should I -- "Verify Disk Permissions" "Repair Disk with Permissions" OR just try and see if the MAC will restart?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.


Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
theres two options beside verify disk

You have repair disk

And you have second repair permissions

let stry the plain repair disk first.. We need to get rid of that invalid node error.. As long as thats there.. any attempt to restart will cause us to go through the fsyck command again..

So try repair disk.. and if that goes well.. try repair disk permissions after.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

In the First Aid window when I have Macintosh HD selected the "Repair Disk" button is grayed out and won't let me click on it?



I have no option so I will try "verify disk permissions" first. Then "repair disk permissions" This will take a few minutes.


Then maybe "repair disk" will be live?

Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.

We can hope.. But thats the procedure we should do...

Another note.. With getting the os to reinstall, the method of trying to make a new user account wont do anything different, so this is what we need to work with.

Another note.. The program disk warrior, is supposed to be able to repair the invalid node structure.. The issue thats causing us to lose everything on reboot..

But the price of disk warrior is still twice that of a new hard drive..

what I think we need to do though.. Is shut the mac down.. And then, unmount the disk.. so we can run repair disk..

The page below, has a great walk through of the procedure id like to do. The invalid node structure is our main target right now.. The steps below, will focus on that specifically.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Ok will look into link you sent. Everything is sluggish. When I click on something color wheel spins forever. I may not get far tonight, I am feeling tired from all this. A new "bigger" hard drive installed by a pro is looking better and better as each day passes. Hope you get a good night sleep... You've been a saint :)
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
You were right. I went to shut down from the menu and saw black screen with white words pop up quick then it shut down. So I tried starring it and yup ..... I got the question mark. I think I'm just going to take it in and get a nice big new hard drive. I am not going to sign off with you till all is settled, only because you are my source of hope. The Mac broke me and I need it up and running soon. So I'll be around let you know what happens. And thanks for the tips of the cost of s hard drive and everything! You are great :-)
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.
Your very welcome.. And thank you for your patience as we worked through these long and tiresome repairs..

The last link I sent you, does stand a chance of of fixing the hard drive.. But its 50 50 at best..

As far as getting a professional to install the hard drive, you cant go wrong there..

With the price for the cheapest replacement drive being 40$.. You can compare that to the cost they quote you to sell you a drive and install it.. And also, you may be able to get it installed at just the cost of labor, and save money on the drive if you order it yourself.

But that all depends on whatever price you get quoted, as to whats going to come out saving you money and how..

My apologies for the delays in responding to you tonight.. Ive been in and out of the house to get internet for a few minutes and reply.. Glad to hear that your going to get some sleep.. As im pretty exhausted myself and have an early morning.

Dustin S.
Expert:  Dustin replied 4 years ago.

Hi, Dustin again..

Its been a few days and I wanted to check back with you..

Did you try the final repair attempt for the invalid node structure, or did you decide to go with the hard drive replacement...?

When you have the chance, please update me of the status on this ..

Also, if you could click one of the rating icons below, to show whether I was able to assist you with the initial issue.. ( not being able to recover your work files, and not being able to get past the ? mark ) That would help, as currently my quality score for this question shows a 0 .. ( unsolved, no help )

Even after rating, you will still be able to reply on this same conversation...

Thanks Barbara, and I hope that work and your clients havent been working you too hard..

Dustin S.