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Mac PowerBook G4 Tiger won't start up

A client gave me her PowerBook G4 today, and I know next to nothing about basic mac repairs.  Before I take it to a professional, thought maybe I could get some ideas to try here...

System is running Tiger 10.4.3, and when I turn it on the screen goes to the light gray screen with the large dark gray apple on it,  and that clock-looking thing just spins forever.  I've let it sit for 15 minutes and this doesnt' change.

the ONE THING I have already tried:  I put the Tiger OS disk in and started the computer while holding down the "c" key.  Went into Utilities and did a "repair disk".  it said it found a couple of errors and fixed them.  I then told it to restart using the 10.4.3 OS, and when it restarted it just did the same thing.  

I'm assuming that since the "repair disk" process seemed to be completed this means that the HDD is functioning ok.  So I'm thinking I have a software/OS issue.  Is this a correct assumption?

One more thing.  The client has a lot of data (videos, pics, music) that she can't afford to lose...so please keep that in mind when making suggestions!

2 Solutions
zephyr_hex (Megan)DeveloperCommented:
why not make a quick backup of your client's data before continuing?
you can do this by using a bootable OS, or by taking the drive out of the computer and connect it to a working desktop computer as a secondary or external drive (you will need an adapter to do this, but they are not expensive)

You could try to start in Safe Mode by holding down the shift key while booting.

If that doesn't work, try resetting the PRAM by cold booting while holding down the command-option-p-r key combination until the computer chimes three times. This has the effect of resetting some default preferences (like screen resolution, for instance) to factory defaults, and can clear a boot problem caused by corrupted preferences.

If neither works, and you have another Mac available,  you can connect the PowerBook to the other Mac using a firewire cable, then boot the PowerBook using Target Disk Mode. This in effect makes the PowerBook act as an external hard drive to the other Mac and you can then use the other Mac to recover the files from the PB.

See http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=58583

If all else fails, you can do an Archive and Install from the CD. See:  http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=107120
mattbielAuthor Commented:
thanks for the suggestions.  I tried booting into safe mode, and also resetting the PRAM.  neither one resulted in a successful boot.

Am I stuck trying one of the following?

1. connect to another mac using Target Disk, save files, reinstall a clean copy of Tiger
2. Do an Archive and Install from the Tiger disk

Do I have any other options before I do one of these?  If not, what's the advantage of doing one or the other?  If I do the "archive and install", as I understand it, it's going to save all of my files for me right?  So wouldn't this be the better option?  

also, I didn't get your opinion yet as to "Is the hard drive working properly?".  I did a repair disk and everything came out fine...is this enough of a confirmation that the problem is not with the HDD?

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The way to check whether the drive is okay is to boot from the CD and to the S.M.A.R.T. drive check from Disk Utility:


I agree that the two options you suggest are the most reasonable one.

Archive and install is probably the quickest, but making a full back up first is the safest.

You can make a full backup of the drive using Carbon Copy Cloner from http://www.bombich.com
My inclination would be to back up important files, then do an archive and install.
What you could do is, boot the powerbook in 'Target Disk Mode'. This effectively turns the powerbook into a large external disk.

Hold 'T' down as it boots up and it should boot to a different screen.

Then connect the powerbook to another computer (preferably a mac) and copy the data off that way.

If you don't have another mac, might want to get a copy of 'Mac Drive' http://www.mediafour.com/products/macdrive6/ which will allow you to read the Mac partition from a Windows PC. That will at very least allow you to get the data off, as Apple tech's will wipe all data on it when you give it to them.

Alternatively, put the mac into Target Disk Mode again, and plug it into another mac - when that other mac is booting up, hold the 'ALT' key and select the powerbooks disk as the boot method. This will let that other mac boot off the disk that is inside the powerbook. This will tell you if it's something wrong with the physical disk, or it's something to do with RAM or otherwise in the powerbook. If you can boot this disk in another mac, back up the data immediately! I had this problem on my mac where it wouldn't boot properly, and it gave what seemed like disk errors but infact it was dodgy ram.

Hope this helps

mattbielAuthor Commented:
Thanks Strung (and Ryan).

I did a drive check from the Disk Utility on the CD and it told me that the hard drive was fine.  My problem was that I didn't have another mac (to use Target Disk Mode).  I'll use "Mac Drive" next time, sounds like it would have worked.

Instead, I took it to the Genius Bar at an Apple store and because I had over 60B of data I needed to save, they told me to get an external firewire drive, boot the computer to the Tiger OS CD, install a copy of Tiger onto the external drive, then boot to the external drive and then I could "see" the internal drive and copy my 60GB of data onto the external.

It all worked perfectly!  I re-installed Tiger on the internal drive, dumped my data back on, and now I'm up and running!

Ryan, I'm giving most of the points to Strung, but because your information will be very useful for anyone else that might reference this post I gotta give you some credit too.


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