re-install OS on Macbook

geriatricgeek used Ask the Experts™
I have a macbook that is running ungodly slow. I was going to reformat it and clean it up. I was able to erase the disk, but now when I boot to the CD with the OS on it, I get a message that I cannot install the OS. it reboots again and again, but I get the same message. How can I put the OS back on this macbook?
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Hi Geriaticgeek,

I'm super sorry that this is happening to you but you've come to the right place to have your Mac fixed. The reason why you are getting this message is that your MacBook has a newer Operating System (OS) than the one that you are trying to install from the CD.

In short, please restart your MacBook and then before your Mac makes the chime noise, hold down the "Command" & the "R" buttons together, and continue to hold them until you see either a language screen or the OS X Utilities screen. Once you are inside OS X Utilities, select the option to Reinstall the OS. It will ask for your AppleID, this is your full email address, and your password (same one you use to purchase music with through iTunes).

If you are unable to reinstall the OS we will need to find a few things:

(1) What type of MacBook do you have?  (Year and screen width will be a great place to start. This will help in finding out what OS originally came with  your MacBook)

(2) What is the OS that is on the CD (10.5 aka "Leopard", 10.6 "Snow Leopard")

Just with those two pieces of info we can get a solid ground to start troubleshooting from.

Hope this helps.



I tried the cmd+R but never got the language screen or the utilities option. that's when I saw the option to use the C key to get to the CD. Now the CD will not come out. I can get to the disk utility, but I can't get an OS on it. I was running 10.6 snow leopard and I would like to get to Mavericks. It is snow leopard on the disk.  the screen is 17". I think it is from 2010.
How to get the Disc to eject:

Okay, to get the CD out please restart the MacBook Pro and then hold the "Eject" key that is on the top right-hand side of the Mac (looks like a triangle with a line underneath it). Continue to hold the key till the CD comes out.

How to reinstall Snow Leopard:

Here are the official steps given by Apple:

Follow the steps 1-4 in the "Part One" to get your MacBook Pro to start up with the CD. Next, go through all 6 steps of "Part Two"and then all of "Part Three". I would recommend going through "Part Four" as well to reinstall the applications that came with your MacBook Pro, but it is optional.

In brief, to get to OS X Mavericks (10.9) you have to install Snow Leopard from your disc which should be 10.6.3 , based on the information you gave. Once Snow Leopard is on you will have to perform all the updates to get your OS to 10.6.8, which installs the "App Store". After the App Store is installed you can then click on it, and just as if you were going to purchase an app, you can search for Mavericks and then download it. Mavericks is free so you will incur no cost.

Side note: It might take awhile to download Mavericks based on your Internet speed, which you can test at:

If you're in the 15-20Mbps "Down", then expect about an 45-60 mins. If your "Down" is  lower than that you might want to plan on getting other things done as you wait for Mavericks to done downloading.

(Also, an Ethernet cable is faster and more stable than Wi-Fi. So, if you have an Ethernet cable I would recommend using it instead of Wi-Fi for this particular job.)


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I tried the eject key for the CD but it does not work. also not available on the disk utility. I'll try the steps. thanks for your efforts.
You're more than welcome.

Concerning the CD not coming out. If you hear the MacBook Pro trying to eject the CD but it just can't, then you can try using tweezers with a soft cloth to gently assist the optical drive in ejecting it. A gentle tug or two, while pressing the Eject key should get it out. If not, then you I would recommend heading down to the nearest Authorized Apple Service Provider (AASP) to take a look at it and see if they can quickly pull it out for you.

Here is a link to find the closest one:

Hope this helps.
Try holding the mouse or trackpad button when you turn on the Macbook.  If you have the f12 key, that might also work to eject the disk.

As for installing an older OS, you may have to use Disk Utility to erase the disk first.  Once it's erased, you should be able to install the OS from the DVD.
When it boots to the DVD, open Disk Utility and format the drive as Apple Extended Format (Journalled) then try installing the OS.


the disk still does not come out. however, it still will not install either. I erased again but i still get the same sequence and the same error that I cannot install OSX on the machine. I'm trying to avoid going to the Apple store.  I don't have a choice to format the drive, but looking at the file system it does say Mac OS extended (Journaled).

system name: Mac OS X
system version 10.6.6
system build 10j3210
can be formatted yes
bootable yes

but still will not boot to the OS.
Good morning,

Okay, so it looks like there is an OS already on there and more likely than not, it is a newer version than what is on the CD. Does your CD say 10.6.3? If so, that's why it will not install. Your Mac will only accept a newer OS.

Please try restarting the MacBook Pro and hold the "Option" key while it is starting up until you see two large icons. One icon will be a hard drive (Macintosh HD) and the other is the CD. Select the Macintosh HD and see if it boots up to Snow Leopard. If it does then once on the desktop try ejecting the CD and then perform a Software Update.
Try some of these:  Taken from ( )


    First try the normal methods to remove the disc. Drag its icon to the Trash can in the Dock or select 'Eject' from the File menu.
    If you are running a virtual machine, e.g. VMFusion, ensure that the CD is disconnected from the virtual machine. This will sometimes allow the CD to now show up in Mac OS X.
    If you have Toast Titanium installed on your computer, choose EJECT DISC from the menubar.
    Sometimes you can successfully use the eject disc button in iTunes even if the disc is not visible to the Finder.
    Try mounted device ejector tools like CleanGenius or Disk Ejector to get the disc out.
    Open Disk Utility and choose the disc you wish to eject in the left-hand pane, then click on the Eject button.
    Some Macintoshes have a paperclip hole that you can insert a straightened paperclip into, manually triggering the eject mechanism.
    Open Terminal and type "drutil tray eject" to eject the disc/tray, and "drutil tray close" to close the tray. If you have an external drive, e.g. the MacBook Air Superdrive, use "drutil eject external".
    Shut down the computer and start up whilst holding down the mouse button. This may take some time, but keep your finger on the mouse button right up until the disc comes out or the log-in screen has appeared.
    Restart the computer while holding down Command-Option-O-F, to enter the Open Firmware prompt. Type "eject cd" without the quotes, and press return. The disk ought to eject. To start into OS X, type "mac-boot" without the quotes. Press return, and the computer will continue with the startup. (This will not work on an Intel Mac. There is no Open Firmware on Intel Macs. )
    If your computer has an eject button on the keyboard, restart the computer holding down the Option key. When the startup disk selection screen appears, let go of the option key and press the keyboard's eject button.
    Shut down the computer, turn it back on, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Make sure the power cord is plugged in and the disc just might pop out on its own.


I tried booting to the HD. i get the gray screen with the apple logo and the spinning wheel below. wants to spin forever. If i erase the disk, holding down the option key only gives the CD drive. If i try a restore from the disk to the HD, I get the spinning wheel. obviously, the restore does not install. Is there a way to wipe the HD so that it can and will install from the DVD/CD that will not eject?
When you erased the Macintosh HD and formatted it for Mac OS X Extended Journaled, you perfectly prepped it for installation from the CD/DVD.

Probably the best thing to do is start at square one and go step-by-step with the article for erasing and installing the OS for Snow Leopard:

That said, there is one thing I would do before following the steps, and that is verify that the hard drive is okay by using Disk Utility: Open Disk Utility / select Macintosh HD / click Verify Disk. Once, you get the green light that everything is okay I would then go step-by-step.
Do you have another HD to install on?  You could even try installing onto it as an external disk before you swap it out.

What happens when you attempt to eject the disc?  What noises does it make?  Does it sound like it's trying to come out but stops?  Instructions for a physically stuck disc are in section 3 :


I can erase the hard drive like a champ, but I don't have an option to restart, power off, etc. I can start the machine and get to access the DVD, i can hear it, but I only get the choose language screen, I choose anglise and get the error that says Mac OS X can't be installed on this computer. I can only restore from a time machine back up which i do not have.
That suggests that you may have the wrong DVD.  Is that the disc that came with the system?  Those disks are locked to specific models.

Find another Mac and Download Mavericks and create a bootable USB memory stick from the image.  You should be able to install a new mavericks copy onto your system.


i'm still not able to make progress despite trying all the suggestions. Is there a way to change (something similar to BIOS on PCs) that would allow the mac book to either eject the disk or start installing the OS despite the OS being older than the Mac wants? Can't I update the OS once I have one installed? that's the probelm with Macs- they are impossible to administer.

If you are unable to eject the CD the normal way (Eject key or F12 upon start, etc..., ), then most likely something is physically holding it back like debris or the Optical drive lens is pressing against it. This means that you will have to open up your Mac to get it out. Here is a great video that will show you how to remove your optical drive:

Once it is out, try using tweezers and a soft cloth to grab hold of the disc and gently pull it out. That should take care of your CD problem.

As for the OS, if you do not have the installation disc that came with your Mac, which is 10.6.3 for a MacBook Pro 17" Mid 2010, then you will not be able to get your Mac up and going. Here is a link to explain why:

Here are some links that may help you navigate this process:

If the problem turned out to be that you had the wrong disc, then here is link to buy Snow Leopard from Apple:

If the problem turned out to be a malfunctioning hard drive, then here is a link to one of the best online places for Mac parts:

Hope this helps

You should be able to eject the disk by booting while holding down the mouse button or track pad button.

Here are instructions for creating a bootable USB flash drive with a Mavericks installer on it. You will need another Mac to create the bootable flash drive.


Finally! I got the disk to eject and then found a 10.6.3 disk and it finally installed. thank you everybody. I hate Macs but you guys on EE make them tolerable.

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