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DominicX's avatar

Why is my MacBook not starting up?

Asked by DominicX (28762points) September 16th, 2010

I’ve never had any problem like this before; I’ve had this 15-inch MacBook Pro since August 2009. Today I come home and it won’t start up. It just stays on the gray apple screen in the beginning.

However, I was away for 4 days and left the computer on stand-by during that whole time. When I came back, I opened the computer and it was working; I even went on Fluther. Then I left for a few minutes and came back and my computer had gone to sleep. When I woke it up, it asked me for my password like it always does, but when I typed it in, nothing happened. It said “checking password” for almost 5 minutes, so I just held down the power button and shut it off (which I’ve done before when it freezes).

Now I’ve tried to turn it back on again several times and I keep getting stuck at the gray apple screen in the beginning. I’m starting to freak out a bit because I need this computer…

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25 Answers

gtreyger's avatar

Are there any messages besides just the gray screen? May be a picture of sorts? A picture, such as a hard drive or a sad face may give a clue. Otherwise, your logic board (motherboard) is probably fried, and you’ll have a very expensive repair on your hands.

rooeytoo's avatar

I hope you have an external HD with your data backed up!

I would try taking the battery out and letting it sit for a few minutes. That happened to me one time and that is the suggested fix and it worked. Good luck

jrpowell's avatar

What happens if you reboot in verbose mode? Restart while holding down Command-V.

Austinlad's avatar

@rooeytoo‘s suggestion worked for me, too. Whatever happens, please let us know.

DominicX's avatar

@gtreyger No other picture, just the gray screen with the Apple symbol on it.
@rooeytoo @Austinlad I’m willing to try anything, so I’ll see about that. And I have most of it backed up, but not some of the most recent stuff. :(
@johnpowell I tried it and I got a black screen with a bunch of text. At the end it says “error reading fs block #638728! (ret 5)” and another part says “I/O error”. Whatever that means. I was just looking for the word “error”, but is there anything in particular I should be looking for?

jrpowell's avatar

OK.. Try rebooting using single user mode. While rebooting hold Command-S. After a bit it should give you a prompt to enter commands. Does it get that far?

DominicX's avatar

All I see is the same black screen with lots of text and at the bottom it says “System uptime in nanoseconds: 69168282562”. It’s been like that for a couple minutes.

jrpowell's avatar

That is a bit odd. Is it letting you type something in. There should be a prompt like root$ where you can enter text. If there isn’t try rebooting while holding with Command-S again.

DominicX's avatar

Nope, same thing happened. Only gets as far as the “System uptime” thing.

jrpowell's avatar

Yikes. You are a bit fucked. Have you tried booting from the install disk that came with the computer? If you don’t have one you can get a copy of 10.6 for 29 bucks.

Just see if it will start and let you run disk utility. You don’t actually have to install.

DominicX's avatar

I’ll try.

God, I really don’t believe this. My crappy Dell with Windows Vista lasted twice as long as this and the only reason it failed was because it got a virus from all my stupid pirating and torrent crap. There’s no reason why my Mac should’ve crapped out. Overpriced piece of shit.

the100thmonkey's avatar

From this, it looks like your hard drive has died. (fs in the error messge refers to filesystem).

This is likely not an “Apple” problem, but a bad drive from a supplier.

Is your Mac still under warranty?

DominicX's avatar

Yeah, that I have no idea. I have to talk to my dad when he gets home.

DominicX's avatar

So, my dad said that he once fried the hard drive of a PC laptop by leaving it on stand-by for several days. Apparently it had actually come on while it was “asleep” and eventually that just led to its crapping out. I’d never heard of that before, but honestly, that was the only thing done differently to my computer recently (left on stand-by for 4 days). I guess that could’ve fried the hard drive.

the100thmonkey's avatar

It’s very unlikely that leaving the computer idling for a few days would kill the HDD – most computers will just dump the contents of the RAM to the drive and turn themselves off after a while (unless you’ve specifically told the computer to do otherwise).

You got unlucky – an early hard drive failure, IMO :(

missingbite's avatar

You can check if your computer is still under warranty at

DeanV's avatar

Your hard drive sounds dead. The exact same thing happened to mine when I left it on for a day downloading.

Boot from the Apple CD (hold C when booting up or hold alt and select the CD), open disk utility and see if anything pops up as the startup disk. If there’s nothing there your HD is dead.

Luckily, dead HD’s are an extremely common occurrence and you can get yours fixed for maybe 150$ total in less than a week. Only worry about your data being lost and you being mildly inconvenienced.

DominicX's avatar

So, I took my computer to the Apple Store and they determined that the hard drive was in fact fried. I’ve checked in my computer and they will be replacing the hard drive. Most of my personal documents, pictures, and music were backed up and that is not what I am worried about. What concerns me is the software like Photoshop and Microsoft Office that I had on my computer; I do not want to have to purchase it again. Is there anything I can do about that?

missingbite's avatar

If you purchased it you should have either the disks or the activation codes. Just reinstall and activate.

robmandu's avatar

At the height of his frustration, @DominicX‘s complaint is perfectly understandable:

God, I really don’t believe this. My crappy Dell with Windows Vista lasted twice as long as this and the only reason it failed was because it got a virus from all my stupid pirating and torrent crap. There’s no reason why my Mac should’ve crapped out. Overpriced piece of shit.

Then he went to the Apple Store:

I took my computer to the Apple Store and they determined that the hard drive was in fact fried. I’ve checked in my computer and they will be replacing the hard drive.

As far as I know, Dell doesn’t offer any brick & mortar store for a person to bring their computer problems to. There’s no way you’d get confirmation and resolution this fast without taking it to a 3rd party, like the Geek Squad at Best Buy which would likely mean you’ve got to spend more money.

So, I’m wondering, @DominicX, how do you feel about this now? Yes, it sucks that things break… but something often does. That’s why there’s a warranty. I’m more interested if you’re glad you bought an Apple this time around… or if you plan to buy something else next time.

Not trying to put you on the spot. I’m genuinely curious.

DominicX's avatar


Actually, when my Dell failed, I took it to my dad. He does use Macs, but he’s still a Windows/PC expert at heart. When the Dell’s hard drive failed, my dad knew exactly what had happened and bought a new hard drive and installed it for me and replaced the keyboard. The computer still works to this day (since Dec. 2006) and I am using it right now.

But that is one thing I like about Apple, that they make the hardware, the OS, and a lot of the software. It’s very convenient and it’s easy to get help and service. But on the flip side, the PC allows more user modification. I don’t think my dad would’ve been able to take apart a Mac like he did with my Dell.

I have no intention of replacing this MacBook. I’m keeping it for as long as possible; what I do want is to have a PC laptop alongside my MacBook. My main frustration stemmed from the fact that one of the main reasons I bought my Mac was that I was told this was the exact thing that wouldn’t happen. I was told Macs never fail, never crash, never get viruses, that they’re God’s computer. And here I had a Mac that didn’t last even half as long as my Dell did. It just didn’t meet my expectations, that’s all.

When my Dell failed, there were signs that it was going under. It started with one small problem that just got worse and worse as more problems arose and eventually it crapped out. My Mac literally worked fine one second and was destroyed the next. It baffles me.

robmandu's avatar

@DominicX, that’s cool.

Now, I’m sure you realize that your expectations were unrealistically high.

While Macs do not get “viruses”, they can be susceptible to other kinds of malware. And of course Macs can “fail” and “crash”. They’re just machinery after all. A hard drive in particular is a touchy item which can fail with no warning whatsoever. Apple gets its hard drives from the same vendors that Dell and everyone else does.

A 15” MBP from 2009 is easily user serviceable. I bet your dad would’ve been happy to try. The hard drive and RAM in particular are both very accessible (see chapter 3 of the Mid-2009 15in. MacBook Pro User Manual).

I agree with you 100% that Macs are frequently over-hyped as you described. That said, in my opinion they’re still better than any Windows-based alternative. And the Apple Store offers a customer support experience unmatched in the industry.

BTW, if you haven’t done so yet, I highly recommend buying the extended AppleCare warranty for your MBP. You won’t be able to after the current manufacturer’s warranty expires. And for a highly portable, cutting edge, electronic device on which you absolutely rely, the extended warranty is a smart investment (unlike most of the time with other kinds of products).


DominicX's avatar


Obviously I didn’t really think it was impossible for Macs to crash or fail, I’m not stupid. I just was not expecting it to happen based on what I was told about it.

And yeah, we already have the extended AppleCare warranty. :)

Now I just wish I had gotten one with a solid-state drive…

jadis's avatar

Ok, having same issue with macbook and mine just froze up again and then when i cut it off with the shut off button it would only come on and then the screen only shows the apple and it keeps trying to load!

have done what you suggested above and getting messages of /disk0s2:I/0 error

rooeytoo's avatar

I just replaced my 2008 Macbook because it was having these symptoms with a new MacBook Pro. I am in love!!! The old one traveled all over Australia, got dusty, dirty, and even wet on occasion. It also traveled extensively around Asia and assorted Pacific islands. In other words, it had a rough and tumble life. Was stuffed in backpacks, suitcases and back seats of cars. I could probably have it fixed but it seemed like a good time for a new one.2.9 processor, 8 gig of ram and 750 gigs of storage! I didn’t bother with retina display, my eyes are not that good and I like the smaller size for traveling. I considered an air but I like being able to play a dvd and I like the huge amount of storage.

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