Mac OS X Ultilities....EVERYTIME!

Gunstra

Registered
Ok, my wife has a Mac Mini late 2009 2ghz model. The other day she restarted it and it started up, giving the grey screen with the apple and loading circle, then it gave the stop symbol (ghostbuster symbol), then it went back to the apple and then it loaded to Mac OS X Utilities. Every time I boot it up it goes to Utilities, but here is the real problem...

I have tried restoring to a previous point from Time Machine, it lets me select the date but then when I click next it stays on Searching for days and never finds any drive.

If I try to run a verify it does verify it ok but when I try to repair it, it says Error and then tells me to backup my files and re-install Mac OS X. It won't let me burn an image of the drive because it errors.

I have tried booting 10.8.2 from USB Flash Drive (8GB), it will not boot to it via holding C nor does holding options key, still goes to Utilities no matter what I try. I tried booting to the AppleCare CD (TechTool) but it keeps spitting it back out when it goes to the Stop Symbol (ghostbuster symbol), does the same with a DiskWarrior DVD as well.

I cannot get it to do anything, could the hard drive be bad in it even if it does verify it and tells me to re-install on it? Should I run the re-install Mac OS X? I mean she has files on there she needs to keep, I know we have Time Machine but I do not trust that every file on the drive she needs is backed up to Time Machine and if it can even be brought back over to the main drive after a re-install. Anyway of re-installing but keeping all users and files or am I wasting my time because the drive is gone?
 

DeltaMac

Tech
The USB flash drive will also only boot to the Utilities menu (with Disk Utility, Reinstall OS X, Safari, and (something else), so if it won't boot to the main system (where your files are), then the utilities is what you get - exactly the same as booting to the Recovery partition.

If you want to try booting to that AppleCare CD, or the DiskWarrior CD (which is what I would try next) - put that DVD in the drive, then SHUT DOWN. Make sure power is completely off. You can press and hold the power button for 5 seconds to do that.
Then, reset the PRAM: Press and release the power button, and immediately hold Option-Command-P and R. You'll hear the boot chime sound, so keep holding those same 4 keys until you hear the chime sound 2 more times. During that third chime, release all except the Option key. Click the DiskWarrior CD from the icons that appear, then press the Enter or Return. That process SHOULD get you to boot to the DiskWarrior CD, so try to run a rebuild. In fact, hold the Option key down, and you should see the Rebuild button change to read Scavenge. That's your best choice, I think.

If DiskWarrior will not fix, then, yes, the drive is likely gone, and you may not be able to get anything without spending a large amount of cash to send to a data retrieval service. Hopefully, DiskWarrior will help out.
 

Gunstra

Registered
The USB flash drive will also only boot to the Utilities menu (with Disk Utility, Reinstall OS X, Safari, and (something else), so if it won't boot to the main system (where your files are), then the utilities is what you get - exactly the same as booting to the Recovery partition.

If you want to try booting to that AppleCare CD, or the DiskWarrior CD (which is what I would try next) - put that DVD in the drive, then SHUT DOWN. Make sure power is completely off. You can press and hold the power button for 5 seconds to do that.
Then, reset the PRAM: Press and release the power button, and immediately hold Option-Command-P and R. You'll hear the boot chime sound, so keep holding those same 4 keys until you hear the chime sound 2 more times. During that third chime, release all except the Option key. Click the DiskWarrior CD from the icons that appear, then press the Enter or Return. That process SHOULD get you to boot to the DiskWarrior CD, so try to run a rebuild. In fact, hold the Option key down, and you should see the Rebuild button change to read Scavenge. That's your best choice, I think.

If DiskWarrior will not fix, then, yes, the drive is likely gone, and you may not be able to get anything without spending a large amount of cash to send to a data retrieval service. Hopefully, DiskWarrior will help out.

We tried what you said and no chimes and it kicked the dvd back out as usual. Does this most likely mean the drive is gone?
 

DeltaMac

Tech
No chimes at all?
Did you hold those 4 keys immediately after turning power on? (before the screen lights up)?
If you did NOT hear a boot chime, how did you know when to release the keys? I would hold the same 4 keys for up to 2 full minutes, before assuming that no chime will happen.
Did you see the icon for the DiskWarrior disk at the Option-boot screen?
Does the DVD eject on that Option-boot screen? or at some other point?

Another possibility is to boot to the Recovery partition.
Insert the DiskWarrior DVD, then Quit the OS X Utilities, from the OS X Utilities menu at the top of the screen. The Quit window will give you the choice to choose (and change) the Startup Disk. The Startup Disk will show you what OS X version is on the DiskWarrior DVD. What is that OS X version?
Does Startup Disk show your hard drive at all?
 

Gunstra

Registered
No chimes at all?
Did you hold those 4 keys immediately after turning power on? (before the screen lights up)?
If you did NOT hear a boot chime, how did you know when to release the keys? I would hold the same 4 keys for up to 2 full minutes, before assuming that no chime will happen.
Did you see the icon for the DiskWarrior disk at the Option-boot screen?
Does the DVD eject on that Option-boot screen? or at some other point?

Another possibility is to boot to the Recovery partition.
Insert the DiskWarrior DVD, then Quit the OS X Utilities, from the OS X Utilities menu at the top of the screen. The Quit window will give you the choice to choose (and change) the Startup Disk. The Startup Disk will show you what OS X version is on the DiskWarrior DVD. What is that OS X version?
Does Startup Disk show your hard drive at all?
No chimes at all, yes we held the 4 keys down until it popped the disk warrior dvd out and then loaded the apple logo onto the grey screen, we didn't release the buttons until the dvd popped out and loaded the logo.

No icons for anything, after the dvd kickout and apple logo it went to the utilities screen as usual. It ejects before any screen, just the grey screen then kicks it out and gives the apple logo then.
 

DeltaMac

Tech
Sounds like your Mac mini is not responding to boot key commands at all.

Are you using an Apple-brand keyboard, or is it a windows keyboard (with the Windows key next to the alt key?)

Is the keyboard wireless? If so, be sure to try a wired USB keyboard.

If you restart (be certain that power is OFF when you do this) while holding the Option or Alt key - you should get icons on your screen, which includes any bootable DVDs.
So, your DiskWarrior DVD should appear on that screen. If it simply ejects, then there may be a problem with the internal DVD drive, or the DiskWarrior DVD might be damaged somehow, or simply a version that won't boot your mini.
 

Gunstra

Registered
Sounds like your Mac mini is not responding to boot key commands at all.

Are you using an Apple-brand keyboard, or is it a windows keyboard (with the Windows key next to the alt key?)

Is the keyboard wireless? If so, be sure to try a wired USB keyboard.

If you restart (be certain that power is OFF when you do this) while holding the Option or Alt key - you should get icons on your screen, which includes any bootable DVDs.
So, your DiskWarrior DVD should appear on that screen. If it simply ejects, then there may be a problem with the internal DVD drive, or the DiskWarrior DVD might be damaged somehow, or simply a version that won't boot your mini.
I am using a Cyborg Keyboard on both our macs, she has a cyborg and I have a cyborg which are working fine, we just use substitute keys which have always worked as mac keys.

No icons, as I said just the apple with the spinning grey circle on the grey bg, then the stop (ghostbuster) sign, then back to the apple logo again and then it boots into utilities.

If we select to reinstall Mac OS X will we be given the option to keep our files and still re-install 10.7 from the OS partition?
 

DeltaMac

Tech
If you run the reinstall OS X, then (by default), it will reinstall OS X, replacing just the system with a fresh install. Your files and other installed apps will not be affected.
Be sure to run Software Update, as a couple of Apple's installed apps may be installed with a slightly older version. Running Software Update will take care of that, and get you fully up-to-date.


And - you have found one of the shortcomings of using a non-Apple keyboard. Some do not generate the proper key codes that the Mac will accept to boot properly.

Just to make sure, try this set of keys when you restart next time:
Alt-Win-P and R.
Alt is - well - the alt key, and Win is the key with the Windows symbol.
The Win key is the default key used for Command on a Mac, and your Alt key is used as the Option key, again on a Mac.

So, using your Cyborg keyboard, you can boot to single-user mode on a Mac by restarting, and holding Win and the "s" key at the same time.
And you should be able get the boot picker screen by holding Alt.

If NONE of those work, then you will need to use a keyboard where those boot-key commands WILL work.
You only need to do that for some of these troubleshooting tasks, so maybe you know someone with a Mac. Or, maybe you can find a used Mac keyboard somewhere. They are actually good to have around, just for such use.
 

Gunstra

Registered
If you run the reinstall OS X, then (by default), it will reinstall OS X, replacing just the system with a fresh install. Your files and other installed apps will not be affected.
Be sure to run Software Update, as a couple of Apple's installed apps may be installed with a slightly older version. Running Software Update will take care of that, and get you fully up-to-date.


And - you have found one of the shortcomings of using a non-Apple keyboard. Some do not generate the proper key codes that the Mac will accept to boot properly.

Just to make sure, try this set of keys when you restart next time:
Alt-Win-P and R.
Alt is - well - the alt key, and Win is the key with the Windows symbol.
The Win key is the default key used for Command on a Mac, and your Alt key is used as the Option key, again on a Mac.

So, using your Cyborg keyboard, you can boot to single-user mode on a Mac by restarting, and holding Win and the "s" key at the same time.
And you should be able get the boot picker screen by holding Alt.

If NONE of those work, then you will need to use a keyboard where those boot-key commands WILL work.
You only need to do that for some of these troubleshooting tasks, so maybe you know someone with a Mac. Or, maybe you can find a used Mac keyboard somewhere. They are actually good to have around, just for such use.
I have a mac keyboard, I still have a 1999 model of the G4 in the closet so I can pull out the keyboard from it, man I still got an old pro mouse, single click round mouse and a vst 10GB firewire drive that was $599 when new, can you image the cost of firewire when it first came out...WOW!!!

I will try the mac kb because I tried those keys on the winblows keyboard, but to make sure it's not the keyboard I will try the old mac kb.

Thanks!!!
 

DeltaMac

Tech
You can try that old keyboard, and it should work correctly for booting. I have occasionally had some problems with the very oldest Mac USB keyboards (which have very small F-keys, and the arrow keys are incorporated in the main keyboard area, not in a separate section, with paging and delete keys as later full-size keyboards have), but hopefully, the boot commands will work OK.
 
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