Sometimes the axiom that dedicated Mac head’s constantly fall back on - ‘that it just works’ – falls flat. No matter how well a computer is built there will always come a time when you have problems, because no technology is perfect. If you start up your Apple Mac and it fails to work there might be a number of reasons why. Here are some of the more common ones and what they might mean.
Flashing question mark folder or circle with a slash through the middle
These symbols could mean your computer cannot find a valid start up disk. A corrupt Mac OSX or failed or failing hard drive could be the source of the problem. Boot your Mac in safe mode to attempt an automatic disk repair. A repair with Dick Utility or other third party utility checks like Disk Warrior may also solve the problem.
Apple logo with the spinning wheel of death
If your computer starts up and then stalls at the loading screen with the spinning cog beneath the logo forever going round and round the most likely cause is a corrupted Mac OSX. There are other causes to consider such as broken access to internal hard drives but the bad OSX system is what will be the problem 95% of the time. Reboot your computer in safe mode or run a utility program to see if this fixes the problem.
Blue screen or blank desktop
If you get through the OSX loading process but you hang on a blue screen or see an image of your blank desktop there is more than likely something corrupted in your user account. A good way to anticipate this is having an emergency admin account you can sign in with to troubleshoot. If you are past this stage already try a safe boot as it may bypass the corrupted fonts or files and you can remove them.
Different sound on boot or flashing lights
The signature sound of a Mac starting up happens to indicate that the hardware you are running is working correctly. If anything else happens then something has gone wrong with your hardware. The problem could have to do with the logic board, RAM, video card and many other things. There is no quick fix for this. There are tutorials on how to test for the more common offenders, such as removing RAM but as this involve tinkering with the inside of your computer this is only advised if you are confident with the technicalities.
The processes listed in this article are only fundamental steps to ensure the problem isn’t a simple fix. If one of these problems persists after you have identified it by far the safest course of action is to contact an expert Apple and Mac support to help you get your system up and running again and save all your data.
Raymond Pullman-Price is and expert computer technician, specialising in Apple products, with over a decade of experience in the computer repair and IT industry. He enjoys sharing the knowledge he has brought together during his career through tech forums and blogging.