Mac Startup Problems

Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP, 2003

Macintosh, iMac, OS9.x, OSX

Mac Startup and Software problems

Mac Startup

For general Mac startup problems, the following Apple article details a good procedure to follow to isolate the problem:

Mac OS Troubleshooting Startup Issues - OS 9.x (outside this site)

Your Mac Won't Start Up in Mac OS X (outside this site)

Blinking question mark

mac blinking question

A common problem is a Macintosh starting with a blinking question mark. In this situation, start your computer with the CD or Disk Tools diskette that came with the computer. See if anything got moved out of the System folder, such as an Enabler, the Finder, or the System file. If one of these items has been moved, place them back in the System folder, restart your computer, and see if the blinking question mark persists.

If you are still seeing the blinking question mark, follow step 1 and 2 of the Basic Mac Troubleshooting Procedure.

If you are still having trouble, see the following Apple article:

A flashing question mark appears when you start your Mac (outside this site)

Mac Program crashes

If you are having trouble with a specific program crashing often, you could try uninstalling the program, then reinstall it. Most Apple applications today have an "uninstall" option. Usually, you will have to run the Setup program and select the option "Uninstall" or "Delete installed components". Doing uninstall's this way is preferred.

Some older applications may not have an uninstall option. In these cases, you can drag the application and any related preferences and extensions into the trash. DO NOT drag any files you have created! If you are not sure which preferences and extensions are related to this particular application, do not modify it. Reinstall the application and verify everything is working properly before emptying the trash.

If a freeze occurs while the machine is idle, be suspicious of a possible extension conflict. If the freeze only happens when printing a document, there may be insufficient memory to run the Print Monitor. You could try a updated printer driver or additionally increase the Adobe Type Manager cache setting (important if the document being printed uses a large number of fonts). Test the printing with background printing turned OFF.

If your Mac freezes or crashes each time you boot it, you may a un-printed document pending, and the attempt to print may be the cause. To remedy this, restart the extensions off and double click the desktop printer icon with the X through it. You will see a list of pending documents which you need to drag into the trash.

Sometimes a freeze will happen exclusively with a particular media CD or floppy. For CDs this may be caused by some smudges or gummy build-up that can be removed with gentle cleaning. For a older floppy disk problem, it may be time discard it. Floppy media does not have a long storage life.

Mac Clean Install

If you continue to have trouble starting your Macintosh or are experiencing many crashes, you may have to perform a clean install of your system software. A clean install puts a new System folder on your hard drive. It renames your old system folder to "Previous System folder". It's a good policy to perform a clean install instead of a regular install, because if you just reinstall a new System folder over the old one, it may not remove the corruption that was causing the original problem. All of your extensions and control panels will be preserved in the Previous System folder.

The Apple Support web page provides instructions on performing a clean install:

Mac OS: When and Why to Perform a Clean Installation

Mac OS 9: Performing a Clean Installation

Mac OS 10.2, 10.3: Archive and Install

If the above links are not relevant for your situation, then go to the Apple Support page and type 'clean install' in the Search box to see other clean install articles.