View Full Version : Flashing Question Mark on my iMac

09-06-2001, 07:52 PM
My iMac is about 2 years old. About a month ago I noticed the image on the video screen would "wobble" a bit (kind of like a power surge). This would happen maybe once or twice in a two hour period everytime I used the iMac. My power to the house is fine and I have a surge protector. About a week ago I turned my computer on and the screen froze. I turned it back on and all I got on the screen was a file with a flahing question mark in it. I turned my computer off. The next day I turned it on and it worked fine. But if I turn the computer on shortly after I have used it the flashing question mark will come back. When I get the FQ it sounds like the hard drive has not been engaged (because there is no whirring sound like normal). I phoned to apple repair centers and they said I need a new hard drive. Is it possible there could be a power problem?? What do you guys think??


09-06-2001, 10:30 PM
Sounds like you're talking about 2 different problems.

The wobble in video could very well be a power supply issue, most likely with step up voltage to the CRT........ although there are a few different scenarios that could cause those symptoms.

The question mark means the machine can't find a boot drive, and the diagnosis of a florfed (thanks Louie) hard drive, has a reasonable probability of being the culprit.

If your power supply voltage is pegged where it needs to be, then yes, the drive motor is on its last legs and will soon spin up no more.

It would be wise to wait until your machine is ready for a one hour session with the drive spin up, and back up everything you want to save off that disk, if you haven't already.

Based on the video wobble symptom, it might not be a bad idea to check the voltage coming out of your power supply at the molex plugs that go to the drive(s). There is a ground which is black, and then two other colored legs....I think yellow and red, but I honestly don't remember. Using the ground as one leg, test each of those two colors, one at a time. One should be a steady 5.5 - 6.x volts, and the other should be 11.5 - 12.x volts.

That'll tell you if drive power is contributing to the death of your drive. The Video wobble is out of my range of experience. Others here can better help you with troubleshooting the video. We can probably get Louie to throw his 2 cents in on these problems. If you play with the video, just be aware that there is a high voltage capacitor on board the machine that can really kick your ass if you accidentally discharge it to your self. You will be able to skip the next cup of coffee, and your pacemaker might need maintenance. http://macgurus.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

I don't know, but I would imagine a voltage flux to a drive wouldn't do wonders for it's reliability........ but I am speculating. Macs are more forgiving then PC's when using flaky utility power, but they smile big on conditioned power like any other computer.

The short version, so far as your "no boot" up problem.... yep..it's probably your hard drive going QUICKLY south.

Best regards,


[This message has been edited by crazyeights (edited 06 September 2001).]

09-06-2001, 10:43 PM
Darn it! I was trying to get Louie to look over here, but my flashlight doesn't work right. Louie, can you throw your 2 in here?

http://www.macgurus.com/ubb/batlogo.gif Batsignal invoked to Louie!

09-07-2001, 03:55 AM
I wouldn't put too much credence in the "wobble" of the monitor. The monitor is much more sensitive to minor line fluxuations than just about anything else. Also, the iMac's monitor uses an entirely different power supply than the iMac. Minor line fluxuations would not normally effect the computer's supply output and the symptom is most likely not related to your drive problem.

Your drive symptoms do indicate that the hard drive's motor is on its way out. It's time to back it up and replace it.

09-07-2001, 11:37 AM
You don't say what steps you've taken but I would zap PRAM and make sure to use latest Startup Disk cp, also update the driver from latest Drive Setup. Make sure that it isn't too warm in the room, check the temperature of the cpu (GaugePro or something). While in Drive Setup, run Test just to check for bad blocks.

Always keep a backup, and maybe a spare drive on hand in case. iMacs seem to eat drives for lunch (in the summer anyway based on number of reports).

There is an article on ATTO dealing with SCSI but is good troubleshooting for anyone, ATTO => Support => Mac Troubleshooting.


09-07-2001, 01:41 PM
These guys have it right; the flashing question mark problem is very likely a much separate problem from what you are seeing with the monitor.

I would first resolve the flashing question mark thing. Some things to try have already been mentioned; zapping the PRAM, etc. The first thing I would do is use the proper version Norton Utilities for Mac (NUM); run Disk Doctor. Then run the proper version of Disk Warrior. Update your disk driver. Get your system squared away and the problem will most likely go away. Replacing the HD is a worse case scenario, only necessary if the drive itself is defective (which I doubt).

I don't do iMacs, but there were momitor problems with certain models. After the HD problem is resolved, then I would do a search of MacFixit archives and Apple Knowledge Base to see if you see a matching monitor problem mentioned.

09-07-2001, 07:17 PM
Zapping the PRAM and Norton's Utilities will do nothing to help a drive that doesn't spin up when it's warm (As is the complaint). This is an early symptom of "Stiction" or a warped axle on the drive motor. It is a mechanical problem. Since the drive does not fail until it is turned off ad then back on indicates that the problem is not in the power-supply. Apple's tech support, for once anyway, appears to have been absolutely correct in their assessment of the problem.