Boot Delay - Blank Gray Screen


Hi -

I have a PowerMac G4 (AGP). Running Panther on it. And I am experiencing serious delays in boot time.

- A blank gray screen shows up after the chime and stays for about 3 mins.

- Then the apple icon appears and stays for another three minutes, without the spinning gear.

- Finally the spinning gear appears and the sytem boots.

The whole process takes about15 minutes and is very frustrating.

-- I read some of the posts on the open forum and zapped the PRAM hoping that would fix it. The computer restarted and the flashing folder and mac face came on. I figured it couldnt detect the system folder so...

--- I tried booting from my OSX disk and tried to run disk utility but the system did not find my hard drive and then froze. (4 consecutive times). Frustrated, I just rebooted without the OSX disk and it rebooted(delayed).

---- When the system boots on its own, disk utility detects the drive and gives it a clean bill of health.

I am wondering if I need to update my firmware.

Also, is it normal to see a questionmark on the startup dick icon in "System Preferences"?

And the kicker; When I shut down my mac, it turns off and then just starts up on its own !!!!! Its like frozen in restart mode. The only way to shut it down is to unplug it.

Please help!!!

Thanks -