Macbook OSX 10.5 will not load past login


I have an older Macbook white 13.5" (2008 or older, I think) running OS X 10.5 (unsure of version). I have noticed some slowness and "weird behavior" over the last couple of weeks but have not had time to address it having just changed jobs. It was fine within those limitations until two days ago. I used it and might have shut it down completely, but don't recall - I rarely do shut it down and I thought I left it on. When I returned to it yesterday it was off. I turned it on as normal. It progressed past the apple/spinning clock and opened the login. It would not take keyboard entry, which I panicked at (started to accuse husband of an undisclosed spill...).

Did a hard shutdown and tried again. It accepted keystrokes and I was able to log in. However, it never progressed past that point. It accepted the password and closed the login window, but never even loaded my custom background, let alone anything else. The screen shows the default background (the starry sky thing) and the arrow cursor, which does move.

I have tried restarting numerous times with increasing levels of patience (ie. leaving it alone for longer to determine if anything actually loads) - the longest I have managed to wait is about 2 hours though. On some attempts, I have gotten up to 3 unexpected shutdown messages. Sometimes these are active - I can use the mouse and bar to manipulate them and select ignore or restart. I have not been able to test selecting the report option, but I am guessing it also works. I have also had them appear in a frozen state. And I have had occasions when they did not appear. I didn't write down the specific programs, but one was AirPort, one was something to do with HP, and one was something to do with Folders. In the last 6 or so attempts, I haven't gotten any alerts.

I have already reset the SMC and the PRAM. I didn't expect any effect, and it didn't have any, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to try.

I have attempted to start in Safe Mode. This is successful, in that the red "Safe Boot" label appears on the login window, but it still will not fully load after I log in.

I have also started in Safe Mode using Shift-Option-V. It brings up the information it should, so I could do it again if I need to try to tell you what it says. (It doesn't really mean much to me.) Interestingly, after doing that, I don't recall the login window saying "Safe Mode."

I have started while holding the Option key. It brings up the correct screen and does show my hard drive. That didn't really surprise me, since I think that is where the password is stored, but it is a good sign.

I don't know where my startup disc is, but I will attempt to locate it when I go for lunch. In any case, I am not certain the optical drive is still functional.

I started up in single-user mode using command + s and used the /sbin/fscl -fy command. It did its thing, then said "The volume Mac Hard Drive appears to be ok"

What else should I try? Is there a possibility of connecting by USB to another machine (in case the disc option is not an option)? If so, I would need instructions (I might sound like I know what I'm doing, but I promise it's an illusion). I have a Mac desktop at home, but it would be preferable for me to do this at work, where I use a Dell running Microsoft XP SP3.

One thing I have *not* done is any sort of recent backup. Self-flagellation has already occurred, believe me. But please don't suggest anything that might cause further damage without warning me very clearly. I am good at following directions, but I know just enough about this machine to be dangerous.

Search this forum for Target Disk Mode to restart your "Sad Mac" with your home Mac. Try to repair with Disk Utility. Grab what data you can. Either your volume is frelled and/or your HD is dying.

Look at the How to thread: Here on the basics of using Disk Utility and others to try to fix your HD and save data if possible.

If you can boot from the installation disk--if you can find it--that should work unless your HD is "deader than Dillinger." That you can "see" your HD is encouraging . . . but that and $3.57 gets you a mocha without a biscotti.

If not, use your Home/Good Mac to boot your computer and try to repair your HD.

IF you have things on the "Sad Mac" you need--those photos of you, Brad Pitt . . . the ostrich--then consider paying the $ for Disk Warrior as described.

Make sure your Good Mac has a big enough HD to "fit" whatever you want to save. If not . . . having an External HD is a good idea.

Let us know how you progress.

Ok, I found my discs. But when I started to insert the proper one, I found out it won't even go in the slot. I am still working on that, but it sounds like connecting it to the other Mac might be the way to go. USB cable, right?

I already have an external HD so storage won't be a problem.
Now I am starting to feel a bit dumb. How machine-specific are these discs anyway? The machine I am running is a frankenstein - it contains the HD and the screen from my previous machine, but the remainder comes from a second-hand machine that I bought (without system disks). I got the disk in finally, and was able to get it to read. I am getting the error message that the operating system can't be installed from the disc. I am able to use disk utility but it says "The volume Mac Hard Drive appears to be OK." So how do I find my data from here? The answer is probably staring me in the face, but I can't figure it out.
Now I am starting to feel a bit dumb.

"Starting?" [Stop that!--Ed.]

Yes . . . seriously, pretty much ALL of us ended up here having done something "dumb"--I decided to mess about with Filevault after hitting the wrong key on the keyboard

How machine-specific are these discs anyway?

Very. Utterly. Completely.

So you have basically two choices . . . which I will get to in a moment.

I am able to use disk utility but it says "The volume Mac Hard Drive appears to be OK."

It is not necessarily good in that Disk Utility will not find and repair everything. There are better programs such as Disk Warrior and TechTools--and there are others I have not used. However, the good news is if your HD was dead, it would not mount and, further, if it was dying, Disk Aid should not read it as having no problems.

So . . . the issue may be with other parts of your machine. Depending on how badly you want that machine moves us to "how do I/can I fix it." But first, let us deal with your data, which seems to be your primary concern--I doubt you will get the ostrich to consent to doing that with Brad Pitt, even if he is Brad Pitt, again. . . .

You have two choices . . . three choices . . . four choices:

1. Choice the First: Send me $1,345.85 [Stop that!--Ed.] Right . . . hook up your SadMac to your Ex-HD, boot from the disk that allows you to run Disk Utility. While you cannot load the OS, make sure the Ex-HD is "blessed" or formatted for Mac--many do not do this . . . they format it for PC and wonder why Nature hates them.

See if your Sad Mac Int-HD is mounted--I have not tried this since I would go to "Choice the Second"--and see if you can open it. Hopefully you can and you find a whole bunch of files. Copy them over to your Ex-HD. If you know what you want specifically--"Brad-Ostrich-a Night in Paris"--you can just send that over. Otherwise, send over your "Home" folder. You can confirm it worked by hooking it up the Ex-HD to your Home Mac and see if you can access the data. If it works
and then Gurus can try to help you with fixing the computer itself.

2. Choice the Second: Get Disk Warrior and basically follow what I blather about in the thread I linked. You may be able to repair the volume/HD fully and that may solve everything, but your primary purpose is to mount the Int-HD either directly or as a "Preview"--see the thread--so you can grab the data and sendeth them unto the Ex-HD. I would do that anyways and then see if you can fix everything.

When you run the repairs with DW, it will give you the option to make a preview if it cannot repair it. Either way it WILL mount the Int-HD for you which I am not sure Disk Utility on an Installation Disk will do for you--I have not tried since I have DW

3. Choice the Third: Go back to booting your Sad Mac from your Home Mac--use Target Disk Mode--another thing I have rarely done since I have Ex-HDs, DW, and am MagNIfIcent
--but a lot of Gurus who have more than one Mac do this first. Simply boot a "sad Mac" from a working machine and do whatever is necessary.

4. Choice the Fourth: Get Snow Leopard OS 10.6--I think they are practically giving it away. A great system--I prefer it to Lion--and you get two things: the ability to boot your Mac--it replaces, essentially, your Installation Disk--AND the ability to upgrade your OS. THAT may fix everything, but, frankly I would try that after you have saved your data. If there is a problem with the machine--say it is faulty RAM--and it freezes during installation/upgrade--you may basically make your data unobtainable without using some expensive modality.

That is all about saving your data--that needs saving. Once you have done this, we--actually a Techy-Guru--can help you with whether or not your Sad Mac can be/should be fixed. For example, below I have a "Sad Mac" that has a failing logic board. It works periodically. The price to replace--even by myself--a logic board for that machine led me to obtain my current machine. Such economics may not apply to you.

Well, here's the half-update. I wasn't able to transfer data directly from the laptop to the ex-hd. So I picked up a nifty $35 FireWire and hooked it up to the home Mac to which I also connected the ex-hd. So the data transfer is slower than dirt and requires personal input. (Trying to save more than a file or two at a time crashes things.) However, every last bit of data is intact.

I have not been able to make a full backup since the host is a PowerPC G4 running OS X 10.4.11. (Time Machine is incompatible.) I did try to use Shirt Pocket SuperDuper! but was reminded that I had not partitioned the ex-hd (there was already some archived stuff on there that I don't want to erase). Instead I attempted to make a non-bootable copy, but got an error message. Which is fine, since I think I am more interested in specific files. Any more $$ spent will probably be on a new machine. Maybe.

Anyhow, after I copy the important junk, I have some software solutions that I want to try. Then I guess it will be on to hardware. I can be awfully stubborn.
I finally got the laptop to turn on. What ultimately worked was deleting the Library>Cache file. Go figure. I also had to uninstall and reinstall AdBlocker to get Safari to work.
I don't know if there are any other issues, and it kind of bothers me that I don't know what made the mess in the first place. But at least I have my laptop back.

Now goeth thou to Store of Electromechanical Thingies [Tm.--Ed.] and make sure you have:

1. An External HD bigger than your Internal HD
2. A Cloning program.

That way . . . you will not have to go through this again . . .

You can simply re-clone your Int-HD should a volume corruption or whatEVer happens. If your Int-HD is failing--which happens eventually--you can boot on your Ex-HD, use your computer, and continue surfing for Brad Pitt and various fowl of the Serengeti.

In fact, assuming you have an about 300-500ish GB In-HD you can partition your Ex-HD and use one partition the size of your In-HD for cloning and the rest to keep "crap"--music files and the like that you do not need on your In-HD.