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Power Mac G4 boots to a ? folder with existing hard drive or with a brand new empty drive?

Posted on 2013-01-25
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Last Modified: 2013-01-25
I'm trying to upgrade a Power Mac G4 mac3,1 ecm 1856.  It has a 36GB hard drive in it attached to a controller card.  When I boot it up it comes up with a ? in a square folder.  I cannot get it to do anything else.  I bought a new drive, ATA100 80GB drive that is unformatted and hooked it up to the IDE connector on the motherboard with no jumper set on the hard drive.  I connected the middle connector on the cable (master) to the hard drive and connected power.  When I boot I get nothing but the ? again even with holding option or C.  If I put OS X 10.4 in the DVD drive and boot and hold option i get a screen with a refresh symbol, the OS x disc shows in the middle and then a right arrow shows on the right.  I cannot do anything from here as it does not recognize the new hard drive?  I cannot get anything to work on this and don't know what I'm doing wrong?  I want to swap out the existing 36 GB hard drive with the new 80 GB hard drive but I cannot use the controller card that is currently attached to the 36 GB card because the ends of the data cable are male and the new 80 GB hard drive data port also has male pins.  Please help if you understand this question.  Thank you very much!
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Question by:mjchevalier
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by:strung
ID: 38820930
The ? mark means there is no valid system

Boot from the install disk then pull down the Disk Utilities Menu and format the new hard disk as Apple Extended Format (Journalled). This will allow you to install the system on the new drive.
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by:strung
ID: 38820940
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by:mjchevalier
ID: 38820944
Thanks but when I boot from the install disk, there is no menu or anything, just a screen that shows and circular symbol for refresh, an icon for OS X in the middle, and a right arrow on the right.  Nothing happens if I click the icon for OS X and if I click the right arrow I get a screen with errors on it and I'm stuck.  This is the problem.
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by:strung
ID: 38820990
What errors?

Is this the install disk that came with the computer? If not is it a full retail install disk? If so, what OS?

You can't boot a Mac from an OEM install disk that came with a different model Mac.

If it is a full retail disk, it might be for an OS version which is not compatible with your G4 Mac which is a very old computer.
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by:mjchevalier
ID: 38821119
The errors I speak of look like DOS code which appears on the screen superimposed over an OS X message which is saying that the computer needs to be restarted.  Its strange and I've never seen anything like it before?  

It is NOT the install disk that came with the computer, it appears to be a full retail install disk and says OS X version 10.4.1.  

I have had a difficult time identifying information on this Power Mac G4.  It says EMC: 1856 and shows a model of mac 3,1  but not sure if I'm saying that right, but its definitely 3,1.  The serial number is XB11306VJW2.  From the info I could find, I thought the max supported OS for this machine is 10.4.11.  But I am not sure of that.  I was given OS X 10.4.1 disks so I thought I would try them.  It never occured to me that this could be the problem?  Thanks!
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by:strung
ID: 38821161
What colour is the disk? OEM disks are usually grey. Retail install disks are black or white.

The error message you are getting on the screen is likely a kernel panic.

See http://www.thexlab.com/faqs/kernelpanics.html
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by:mjchevalier
ID: 38821162
You are correct sir!  It is a kernel panic.  

The disks must be OEM because they are grey, not black or white.  Is this my problem?  That I am trying to use disks that are meant for another machine?  Wouldn't the system at least recognize the new hard drive even so?
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strung earned 2000 total points
ID: 38821189
You need to get either a full retail install disk or the disks that came with the computer. OEM disks from a different model computer will not work.

If you have a second Mac you could try doing a disk repair using target disk mode:


http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1661
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Author Comment

by:mjchevalier
ID: 38821232
Thank you strung.  Its obvious to me now why you are #1 on this site.  Your level of expertise is unsurpassed.  You have helped me narrow down the problem to exactly what I need to do.  Thank you very much.  I do have another question though.  Can you tell me what is the latest or maximum version of OS X that I can use to load onto this Power Mac G4?  Like I said before, it has an ECM of 1856, and has shown the model or version at 3,1 as opposed to 4,1 or 5,1.

Thank you
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by:strung
ID: 38821240
It will support at least 10.4.x

See this link to determine if you can run 10.5.x:

http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/powermac_g4/faq/power-mac-g4-hack-to-run-mac-os-x-105-leopard.html
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