View Full Version : Powermac G3 won't turn on

06-23-2008, 08:43 AM
Here is the info from the user:

First, it is a Powermac G3, running on OS 9.1.2

I had trouble with it from the start. It would not ever reboot from a disk. I couldn't ever use Norton Utilities on it, because I couldn't get it to boot from the CD.

When I turn it on, it shows the blinking question mark in a suitcase and the smiling Mac. Normally, a smiling Mac means the hard disk is not dead. I think it is looking for the hard drive and just can't seem to find itself. (Sounds stupid, but that is what my gut says.) Normally, one would reboot from the original disk for this kind of problem, but I never got the original install disks. The people said they could not ever find them. Sigh.

So, I went to eBay and bought what I thought was a 9.2 install disk.
(A G3 should be able to run that) But when I got it, it was a "copy"
--- not the real deal. In other words, bootleg. I'm in the process now of settling a claim on that one. I tried to use it to try to reboot the system, but again, the G3 just didn't seem to know there was a CD in the slot.

06-23-2008, 08:57 AM
The smiley Mac and blinking ? means your motherboard is not dead but that it cannot find a volume to boot from. This could mean that your hard drive has died or if not dead it has become so corrupted that it is no longer seen as a boot drive. when you turn it on can you tell if the hard drive spins up? Further anything that disrupts your Mac from seeing the drive could cause this.. like a damaged cable to your drive of a blown ATA or SCSI bus. If it is a scsi drive then a bad terminator could also be the culprit. These are all big and scary things that could happen.

But if I were you the first thing I would try is replacing the motherboard battery.. not so scary, that one.

BTW Since the B&W G3 I have never had much luck with putting in a CD and having the mac just find it and boot from it. Hold down the c key as you start the mac and keep holding it to attempt to boot from the CD

06-24-2008, 10:21 AM
Thank you so much for your reply. I will send this to my client and hopefully we can get it going.

I will let you know.

Thank you again!

06-25-2008, 10:37 AM

Here is the email from my client:

"I have tried the things you suggested. Those are the normal Mac "fixes." The one is called "zapping the PRAM." I have used Macs for more than 25 years and despite the problems with the G3 (which I only had because it was a payment) I wouldn't want to use any other type. What intrigues me, is that I could never get it to boot from a CD. It would recognize a CD just put in straight, but it wouldn't find it if trying to reboot with it. That seems like it should be a hardware problem. I just don't know what to look for mechanically."

I haven't ever worked on a mac. Does it have a bios like a regular pc? If so, can I tell her how to go in it and change the boot-up settings? Is it done with F1, F2 or delete, like a pc?

Thank you again for your help.


06-25-2008, 04:55 PM
Try holding the "C" key on boot/startup while the disk is in the computer. It can take a long time -- be patient. See if it boots to the CD like that.

06-25-2008, 05:07 PM
Could be that your bootleg disk is simply not bootable on the G3. You really need the right disk for that Mac model or a retail install disk to boot from. The other issue could be an optical drive that's been replaced by one that's not bootable or jumpered as slave. The optical drive needs to be master to boot.

The Mac has what is known as Open Firmware. It serves the same purpose as BIOS on the PC, but does not require so much "tweaking".

06-25-2008, 08:12 PM
My clients reply:

Regarding booting from a disk. It needs to be clear that this G3, even when it was working, would not boot from a disk. I could not boot from Norton utilities in order to run the full software set on it. That being the case, I think the person is on to something when he mentioned something about slave and master and the optical driver.
Only, how would I fix that?


I would like to buy a Mac 9.1.2 OS install disk, or a Mac 9.2 install disk. If you can put me in touch with anyone who can sell me the real thing (Apple doesn't sell them anymore) please let me know.

06-25-2008, 08:29 PM
Look at the optical drives jumper settings. You might need to check the manufactures site for the proper "master" settings. Often it's on the drive itself. The drive needs to be the "last device" on the ribbon or physically plugged in the cable from the motherboard. The drive most likely shipped with master settings so check it's physical position on the optical drive cable or ribbon.

I got another thing I am looking for about ID and termination.

DiskWarrior by chance?

06-25-2008, 08:45 PM
Client's reply

"At this point, I don't know what he is talking about. Does he mean hardware or a software program? If it has anything to do with software, I can't get in. If I could, we wouldn't be working so hard on this. I can't get into any menus. I can't get to any settings, because I can't get past the blinking question mark.

I'm sorry that I'm such a computer clutz when it comes to parts. I've never heard of Disk Warrior. This computer didn't arrive not working.
It worked for two years, then one day just would not come on past the blinking question mark. So there haven't been any changes in the hardware setup.

I'm sooooooooooo confused."

06-25-2008, 08:59 PM
Hardware - the electrical wire or cable that physically connects to the rear of the drive. It will have 2 two connector's on it.

Flashing blinking Question mark means it can find a system to boot from.. Any way to swap the hard drive?

There is a take apart manual on line and I'll look for it.

06-25-2008, 09:02 PM

06-25-2008, 09:17 PM
Jumpers for master/slave would be on the drive itself. If the drive hasn't been replaced/messed with they are likely correct, but it never hurts to confirm.

Not being able to boot from a Norton disk is not such a bad thing IMHO. The last Norton disk I had (V 5) ended up in the trash after it trashed one of my drives "fixing" things. That same drive worked fine after being re-initialized. I would only use Norton as a last resort. It tends to cause more problems than it solves.

Without a bootable OS install disk or another drive with a known-good system you're kinda sunk at this point. Sometimes hard drives can get corrupted to the point that they prevent booting from other devices on the same bus. It's rare, but it happens.

Exactly which G3 are we dealing with here? The first generation B&W (350mhz) are known to have problematic ATA controllers. They can't deal with slaves or modern drives.

Need more info.

06-25-2008, 10:16 PM
Thank you all so much! I have forwarded all of your replies to her. She will be gone for a day or 2, so I'm not sure when I will hear from her next - she said Friday afternoon at the earliest. One of the most critical things to her is the data on her hard drive. She is a "rock star" in the world of genealogy, and helps so many people with their ancestry. She has many records on this mac that she can't replace. I wish I knew more about macs so I could help her, but I am depending on you all. Thank you all again for all of your help.

Do any of you know where she can get this disk? I am re-posting her request:

"I would like to buy a Mac 9.1.2 OS install disk, or a Mac 9.2 install disk. If you can put me in touch with anyone who can sell me the real thing (Apple doesn't sell them anymore) please let me know."

Thanks again!


06-25-2008, 11:45 PM
.......hate to be the typer of bad news, but one of the likely possibilities is that her hard drive is dead. :(

It is pretty common to have a hard drive die in 3-4 years, and it gets worse with age.

Should that be the case, you should know there are ways to get the data off, but they are not cheap.

Once we get this resolved, we should talk about backups, because there is nothing on any computer more valuable than the irreplaceable data. Is there any chance your friend has a backup from this G3?

06-26-2008, 12:00 AM
That's what I have been talking to her about. I have been very successful at getting data off of pc hard drives. I have Easy Recovery Pro and Active File Recovery. I should be able to use those programs to get data off of her hard drive, shouldn't I? Because of the irreplaceable data, I have been super sensitive to making suggestions to her. At this point, I think getting the data off is the most important thing. I know a lot, but not about macs. I am handling this one with kid gloves. I know I could do a lot of research, but I trust you all, and I don't want to make a mistaken suggestion about this.

Thank you again!


06-26-2008, 12:22 AM
The Windows file recovery programs likely won't work with a Mac HD since it's a completely different file system (HFS+), and Windows doesn't know how to handle it.

There are file recovery programs for Mac. If the drive is still mechanically functional there may be a chance to recover the files if nothing gets overwritten.

06-26-2008, 12:59 AM
Exactly right.

Even if the drive is not functional, the data is likely recoverable, but then it gets expensive......starting at something like $1000, and goes up from there. Drive Savers (http://www.drivesavers.com/solutions/recovery-tips.html) are the most trusted in the business. Notice the sounds that dead drives make......any chance to hear the drive in question?

Just to be clear, not jumping the gun here to say it IS dead yet, just think you should be fully aware of worst case possibilities.

As for restore software a user can run, Data Rescue II and FileSalvage are probably the best for Macs, but for OS 10.2 or later. For an OS 9 machine..........I don't know. That is going back almost 10 years, and alot has changed since then in Mac land.

06-26-2008, 05:42 PM
On the drive I had that Norton 5 trashed Tech Tool Pro 3 was able to scavenge most of the files off of it, but it took hours. I had backups of most of the important stuff, but let it do it's thing partly to see if it could be done. That drive was fine mechanically though only the directory structure was damaged beyond repair.

06-26-2008, 05:51 PM
Well guys, I am anxious to see how this plays out. She won't be back home until tomorrow evening to try anything.

Again, thank you all for your help.