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David, Mac Support Specialist
Category: Mac
Satisfied Customers: 1495
Experience:  BSc H.Dip Apple Certified Professional
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My 2004 iMac goes to a white screen with a blinking question

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My 2004 iMac goes to a white screen with a blinking question mark in the center when I turn it on
Hi, my name is XXXXX XXXXX I will do whatever I possibly can to help answer your questions.

The blinking question mark is just the Mac's way to say it can't find a startup volume. The reasons for this could be one of many different things.

When you start holding Option, what do you see in the startup manager screen?

When you start holding Command, Option, P and R, do you hear two startup chimes?

When you try reinstall Mac OS X do you see the Macintosh HD to install onto, and did it appear that it reinstalled properly before going back to the ?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Holding 'Option' key on start up gives me the pointer but only a blank white screen. Holding Command, Option, P, R I do get two chimes but nothing else. When I go to reinstall the Mac OS X I get a blue screen and a couple of prompts but it will not give me a location to install to. Also, computor makes a squeeking or clicking sound on start up which goes away when the ? appears.

Hi Paul,

The Mac OS installer only sees properly formatted hard drives as install locations. The clicking you are hearing could be normal hard drive noise, but it could also mean the hard drive has failed.

There is one thing that can be tried, and that formats the drive if it is possible.

Do you have any data on the hard drive, that is not backed up, that you do not want to lose?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Unfortunately, I do have information on the hard drive that is not backed up and I do not want to lose.

Hi Paul,

The steps that we can take now will only lessen the chances of any data retrieval being possible.

Mac OS Installer can't see the hard drive, which leaves only one course open using the tools available.

Data recovery steps would at least require another computer, to run data recovery software on the internal HD of your iMac.

You can purchase software such as Data Rescue 3, and run it on the internal HD of your 2004 iMac using FireWire Target Disk Mode.

You would need another Mac for this attempt at data recovery, and the other Mac must have a FireWire port and be compatible with Target Disk Mode.

If you don't have this you would be better off calling data recovery specialists, such as DriveSavers or OnTrack Data Recovery. Professional Data Recovery services are very expensive and can easily run into 4 figures.

If you wished to abandon the data, and attempt to get your hardware functioning again, the steps are possible and can easily be tried with my help.

let me know what questions you have on any of these options, I will do everything I can to help with anything.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I really need that data and thought it was entirely safe on my iMac. Can an Apple Retail store help with this problem?

Hi Paul,

Yes you could make an appointment at the genius bar and they could try Target Disk mode. Are you far from an Apple Retail Store? If you give me your zip code I can get you the homepage for your closest Apple Store and you can check available appointment times.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I have the store info already and was hoping to avoid having to go there. I appreciate your trying to help but will have to take it from here.

Hi Paul,

You are very welcome. All I could really do was make sure you didn't try anything that would lessen the chances of getting the data back, and verify the steps you had already taken.

Please let me know if you think of any more questions. If you have any questions on making an appointment before you go, or any follow up questions after you meet with a genius, please get back to me.

I hope for the best and that your data can be transferred successfully.

Yours sincerely,
David and other Mac Specialists are ready to help you