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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Desktops > Mac Stuck on Gray screen with blinking ? folder

Mac Stuck on Gray screen with blinking ? folder
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Mar 3, 2011, 01:54 PM
 
I have an Intel Mac Mini 1.83Ghz Core 2 Duo, 1 GB Ram (2 X 512), 80 GB HD, Superdrive.

The Machine was purchased used, knowing that it did not fully boot. So I am trying to see if I can fix it and get it to run.

The Machine powers on, the chime sounds, it spins the Superdrive, and then it stops and shows me a folder with a ? in it.

Great, I think, let's throw in a Leopard DVD, install and get this thing going.

Wrong.

It eats the Leopard DVD. Once it started to boot, showed the Apple Logo, and then after a couple of minute showed a gray screen with a "ghostbusters" logo.

Then, to make matters worse, the machine won't give me back my DVD. I retsarted several times, tried all sorts of tricks from holding down the Mouse button, to holding the eject buton, etc.

No keyboard commands on startup work (i.e. Option, C, D, FW Target Disc Mode, etc).

I disassembled the Machine. Clearly it was not the first time this was disassembled.

I took out the DVD Drive, and forced it to give me back my DVD.

I at the same time I also tried replacing the 80GB SATA HD with a different 250GB Drive that has a bootable install of Leopard on it.

No luck. Still that folder with a ?

I tried playing with the RAM, doing the varius combos with the chips and the slots.

I then took a tray loading DVD-ROM drive that I had from a different machine. Replaced the Superdrive with that, and put the Leopard DVD in to see what happens. It spins the drive for a bit, and even appears to be reading the DVD, but eventually spins down.

I also noted that when I start up, the optical Mouse will turn on (I can see the red light turn on, but it only stays on for about 5 seconds, then it turns off. Unplugging the mouse and replugging it in does nothing as well).

So I am at a loss and looking for clues.

Any help would be appreciated. Also, the goal is to get this machine to boot, even if it means I have to boot it from an external drive. I have both FireWire and USB external drives, I just have no idea about how to boot from them when keyboard commands at startup do not work (i.e. holding down option, holding C, holding D, even resetting the PRAM does not work. etc).

Oh, one more thing, I tried tricks of resetting SMC and PMU by using the power button.

Also, the system is opened up, so I can remove, add things as needed.

Here are some basic Questions that I have though:

1. If the logic board is toast, would I still be able to get as far as I have (i.e. Chime, Gray Screen, and even the Apple logo in a couple of instances).

2. Is there a way to tell if the logic board is the issue, vs, say the little card that has the SATA plug as well as the plug for the super drive (sorry, I don't know the name of that interface)?

Any help, ideas, suggestions are greatly appreciated.
     
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Mar 3, 2011, 02:23 PM
 
Remove everything you can so its just logic board, power supply, one stick of RAM. Hook up a firewire drive and a display and see if it boots. If not, swap RAM (also try both slots). If no combo of RAM in slots works, its probably the logic board.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
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Mar 3, 2011, 02:37 PM
 
The blinking question mark means it couldn't find a bootable volume.
The prohibitory sign ("ghostbusters") means it found a bootable volume, but the OS is missing required components.
Not being able to use keyboard commands at boot means it was set by the firmware.

First thing's first, since you have the Mini open, remove one of the RAM chips and boot the machine. This will disable the firmware lock. Shut down and put the other RAM chip in. You should now be able to use startup key commands.

To eject the DVD drive, hold down the Eject key on the keyboard (or hold down the mouse button if you don't have an eject key) while you boot the computer. It should eject the DVD after a few seconds.

Shut the computer down.

If the machine is newer, it may require Snow Leopard (10.6) to boot. See if you can find a Snow Leopard (10.6) DVD and boot from that. A normal Leopard (10.5) DVD may not have the required software for the Mac mini to boot, which would explain the prohibitory sign.

If it won't boot from a Snow Leopard DVD, try resetting the PRAM. Boot the computer while holding the command-option-P-R keys. The machine will automatically reboot. Let it reboot 3 to 5 times.
"…I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than
you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods,
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Mar 3, 2011, 11:48 PM
 
@ Waragainstsleep - I did as you asked, I still get the folder with a ? in every combination of Ram/Slots

@ OlePigeon - The swappin Ram sticks did not get me my keyboard commands back. The keyboard wokes perfectly fine with my laptop, so I am guessing that this is a bigger issue. Machine is older (1.83GhZ model Core 2 Duo). Mouse trick does not work to eject DVD.

Any other ideas? I am guessing it's a logic board issue at this point.
     
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Mar 4, 2011, 01:03 PM
 
So you took one RAM chip out (leaving the other in) booted, then shut down, then stuck the second RAM chip back in, and booted; and the keyboard still didn't work?

Does the capslock key light up if you press it, and does the mouse have a red LED under it when plugged in?
"…I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than
you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods,
you will understand why I dismiss yours." - Stephen F. Roberts
     
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Mar 4, 2011, 01:08 PM
 
Originally Posted by olePigeon View Post
So you took one RAM chip out (leaving the other in) booted, then shut down, then stuck the second RAM chip back in, and booted; and the keyboard still didn't work?

Does the capslock key light up if you press it, and does the mouse have a red LED under it when plugged in?
Yes, pending of course what you mean by booted. It only booted to the folder with the question mark.

The mouse LED does go on, but as I mentioned earlier, only for about 5-10 seconds. Then it goes off.

I did not think to check caps lock. I will do that when I get home tonight.
     
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Mar 4, 2011, 01:48 PM
 
I'm trying to think here because I ran into the exact same problem you did with your keyboard and mouse, but with one of my iMacs at work. The only thing I'm fairly certain of is that either the keyboard or the iMac were too old for each other, it just didn't work. The mouse plugged into it would power off shortly after the computer turned on. Nothing on the keyboard worked, either.

Do you have a different keyboard to try?
"…I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than
you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods,
you will understand why I dismiss yours." - Stephen F. Roberts
     
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Mar 4, 2011, 03:12 PM
 
What keyboard and mouse are you using?
     
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Mar 4, 2011, 04:24 PM
 
Originally Posted by seanc View Post
What keyboard and mouse are you using?
I am using the black Apple Pro Keyboard, like the one seen here:

http://arstechnica.com/reviews/4q00/...yboard-big.jpg

and the black/clear Pro Mouse like the one seen here:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_hgolAZAmZZ...leProMouse.jpg

I also went to an Apple Store today, they could not get it to boot using their netboot system, or their keyboard.
     
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Mar 4, 2011, 04:27 PM
 
Is there any damage to the USB or other ports ports? Perhaps a USB port is shorting out and the USB bus is shutting down or something else is happening.

Obviously you've tried only a keyboard at the Apple Store, yes?
I've seen a pro mouse with a damaged cable screw up the boot process.
     
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Mar 5, 2011, 06:11 PM
 
At the Apple Store we tried with a white keyboard, and white mouse. Nothing. There is no obvious physical or liquid damage. I'm at a loss.
     
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Mar 11, 2011, 12:56 AM
 
First remove one of your ram chips then press and hold command-option-P-R.
The system will restart with the ‘bong noise’, allow it to do this 3 times. On the third ‘bong’ you can let go of the keys. The machine will now boot with a cleared password. You should be able to start the machine using the keyboard short-cuts. Make sure you get the DVD that came with the system to start the computer. Hold down the "D" key when start the computer.
     
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Mar 11, 2011, 05:49 AM
 
If it had a firmware password it would be asking for the password with a padlock icon and a text field whenever any key was pressed to perform a boot function. This think has a dodgy board by the sounds of it.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
   
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