If your Mac won’t start up

[Article by Anton Petre, Motueka SeniorNet]

Most of us have come to take for granted that our Mac, iPhone, or iPad just sort of… work. It’s there when we need it and ready to perform whatever task we demand of it.

The flipside of that is, of course, that when things do go wrong, such as your Mac not starting up, we’re more likely to be caught out. But that doesn’t have to be the case; there’s almost nothing that can go wrong that hasn’t gone wrong for several other people at some point in the past – and, in most cases, has been fixed without too much trauma.

In some extreme cases, of course, you might have to call for help.   But mostly, you can fix the problem yourself. Here’s some common fixes to try if your Mac refuses to start or boot.

  1. The Mac won’t start and it shows flashing question mark

The flashing question mark folder is a sign that your Mac is having trouble locating its system folder. If you boot from an external disk, check it’s powered on and connected.

If you boot from your Mac’s internal drive, power it down and on again while holding down the Options key on the keyboard.

When the startup manager appears, if you see your startup disk in the options, select it.

If that doesn’t work, repeat the process but this time select Recovery HD from the startup manager. Your Mac should now boot from its recovery partition.

Select Disk Utility from the Utilities menu. When it opens, choose your startup disk and then click the First Aid tab. Click Repair to verify and repair the disk and then try and start up normally.

If you get a message that the disk cannot be repaired, it may be time to consider a new hard disk.  Hard disks can fail after five or six years.

But if that is not the case,  still no joy?

You’ll need to start up again from the Recovery partition and reinstall OS X.

  1. The Mac doesn’t start, but hangs at a blue or grey screen

Persistent blue or grey screens when you boot up your Mac tend to be caused by a peripheral. Power off the Mac. Disconnect everything except the power and the keyboard and mouse (if external), and  restart.

If the Mac starts up normally, it’s a problem with a peripheral. To find out which one is at fault, reattach them one by one and start up each time, until the problem reoccurs.

Once you’ve found the culprit, Google the problem and the name of the peripheral to find out what others have done to fix it.

If the Mac won’t boot with all peripherals disconnected, try booting in Safe Mode by holding down the Shift key when you restart.

Occasionally, doing that then restarting fixes the problem.

If not, boot into the Recovery partition and follow the steps in the problem above.

  1. Understanding startup tones

When you turn on your Mac you should hear a tone. The type of tone can change depending on any problems your Mac might be experiencing.

One tone repeating every five seconds

This means there’s no RAM installed in the Mac, so install some!

Three successive tones and a five second pause, repeating on a loop

This means the RAM has failed an integrity check; replace it.

One long tone while holding the power button

An ROM update is in progress on pre-2012 Macs.

  1. What to do if your Mac won’t start up at all

First of all, check that the Mac is connected to a power supply, and that the power cable is secure. Then you should check that the power socket is switched on and working. (Test it with a lamp!)

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