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Help troubleshoot a macbook that only displays a blue background and the mouse.

I never work on mac's but a friend asked if i could help her with hers.  When I boot the mac, i can hear the sound indicating it is starting, the background is white, I see the apple logo, then the circle rotating indicating it is loading.  The desktop then turns blue and the pointer for the mouse is displayed.  The pointer then disappears and the desktop is blue with no icons.

Where do i begin?
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rrincones
Asked:
rrincones
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1 Solution
 
andymacfCommented:
To start up in safe mode:

Shut down your computer and wait 10 seconds.

Press the power button.

Immediately after you hear the startup tone, hold down the Shift key.

You should press the Shift key as soon as possible after you hear the startup tone, but not before.

Release the Shift key when you see the gray Apple logo and progress indicator (spinning gear).
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andymacfCommented:
Eliminating incompatible login items
Login items are applications that open automatically when you start up or log in to your computer. Occasionally, a login item may cause a blank blue screen at startup or other problems.

If you think you have an incompatible login item, follow the steps below to test your login items. You may want to print these instructions before you begin.

To test your login items:

Shut down your computer, wait 30 seconds, and then hold down the Shift key while pressing the power button.

When you see the gray Apple logo and progress indicator (looks like a spinning gear), release the Shift key.

If you are prompted to log in, type your password, and then hold down the Shift key again as you click “Log in.”

Choose Apple menu > System Preferences and click Accounts.

Open Accounts preferences
Click your account’s name, and then click Login Items.

Make a list of the login items—you’ll need to remember them later.

Select all of the login items and click the Delete (-) button.

Choose Apple menu > Restart.

If this solves the problem, open Accounts preferences again and add the login items one at a time, restarting your computer after adding each one, until the symptom occurs again. You don’t have to hold down any keys when you restart after adding each login item.
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mccrickCommented:
I would start by trying to isolate for hardware or software (OS). If the Safe Boot described above does not change anything, then boot from a known working startup disk such as the disks that came with the computer or a Retail version of a Valid OS such as Leopard or Snow Leopard. If the computer seems to operate normally booted from the disk, you could try reinstalling the OS.

The problem could be a problem with the disk itself. It could be too full. Or it could be corrupted. Or it could have be a hardware failure. The Safe Boot trick will sometimes help with corruption but not that often. A third party Disk Utility usually works much better for corruption.

If the drive is too full, you could remove some data from the drive by connecting it (via Firewire) in Target mode (holding the T key on startup. (BTW, that can be a good diagnostic, if Target disk mode doesn't work, that points to bad logic board or bad hard drive. If the drive is too full, you may need to remove data and then reinstall the OS.

There are some other tricks that people will throw out like zapping the PRAM and so forth, but start with my suggestions for most likely solutions if the above the Login Items comment doesn't work.

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Mac2010Commented:
In addition to the advice above, especially if you have no second Mac at hand, you can try to start the Mac with the disk problem in single user mode.

1. Restart
2. After hearing the chime, press cmd and S buttons
3. You'll see a Terminal like window (text only0
4. When booted, type the command "fsck -fy" (you can also see it at the bottom of the window), it will do a disk scan/repair
5. When done type "reboot"

This may help in case you're dealing with a corrupted hard drive. Otherwise follow suggestions metioned above.
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rrinconesAuthor Commented:
ok booting to safe mode brought me to the login prompt.  When I put the password in, it will say logging on, show the background, then turn bright, then come back to login prompt.

What could that mean?
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mccrickCommented:
it could mean your os is corrupt or anything else that I mentioned. Did you follow any of my suggestions?

Do you mean the normal login screen where it says SAFE BOOT? or a command line where you get a prompt?
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rrinconesAuthor Commented:
Safe boot. I haven't tried the steps yet.
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rrinconesAuthor Commented:
I booted to the command line and ran the disk repair command.  It still doesnt login.  I am waiting for client to bring me the OS CD.
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Mac2010Commented:
I recently encountered a Mac with a similar issue, which turned out to be a corrupted hard drive directory. I fixed it with Disk Warrior (which usually works but not always).

If you don't have DW at hand, you may need to reinstall Mac OS X ('archive and install' option for Mac OS X 10.5 and older).
If the drive is seriously damaged, you may need to reformat the drive before reinstalling Mac OS X. Make sure you make a backup copy of the user data first, before erasing/reinstalling anything!
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rrinconesAuthor Commented:
update: when booting to safemode, we put the password, it says it is logging in, but then returns to the login screen.  What does that indicate?
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rrinconesAuthor Commented:
another thing, the cdrom will not take in the os cd.  possibly a hardware problem.  can you use an external drive with a mac?
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rrinconesAuthor Commented:
Since the cdrom doesnt work either, I can only deduce that there is a hardware issue.  I returned the mac to the owner and asked her to take it to a mac hardware repair center.
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rrinconesAuthor Commented:
No solution.  Possible hardware problem.
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