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Sitting on the "Boot-Train" from Hell in iBook-land

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
I am running an iBook 500, combo drive (sort of!), 384MB RAM, 10.2.4.

Booting now seems almost impossible (although occasionally it does boot to the Finder although freezes again anywhere from immediately to about 15 minutes after boot has completed). Most often this is the scenario: I constantly get the flashing question mark or else it begins the X boot screen and freezes on the big grey apple.

An additional problem is that the combo drive (which had to be repaired under warranty 6 months ago because it stopped mounting disks) stopped working about a week or two before the boot problems began. In fact the iBook doesn't even know it has an optical drive and only lists an ATA bus in the system profiler.

So as troubleshooting goes this has been tough:
  • I cannot boot from the optical drive because it does not work.

    I cannot run the Apple Hardware CD because, again this needs the optical drive.

    I removed the 256MB RAM card as a test to see if the problems disappeared but to no avail.

    I have tried booting from an external firewire disk which has also produced the same problems (alternating flashing qeustion mark or partial boot to freeze).

    And have even tried mounting the iBook's hard drive on another mac via Firewire Target Disk Mode.

Unfortunately all of these measures have produced the same problems. No boot (flashing ?); partial boot to freeze; full boot followed relatively quickly by a freeze; a "stuttered" boot process which eventually boots but takes anywhere between 30 minutes to more than an hour with long periods of waiting and no disk noise interrupted by short periods of disk noise and what appears to be normal booting--this too eventually leads to a freeze either during the boot sequence or sometime after reaching the Finder.

The only reason I am holding any hope out for this machine is that the problems don't seem to be consistent (ie. sometimes it boots sometimes it doesn't although it never remains booted for any length of time) and because this machine has been a rock solid machine (aside from the highly maddening combo drive problems) until recently and, finally, because the problem first appeared after trying to do something mundane: print a document in Word.

Can someone offer me any explanation or confirm whether the iBook is completely toasted or not? Any thoughts, comments, similar experiences, hypotheses, etc will be greatly appreciated.
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post #2 of 30
Sounds like you have an extensions problem.
Possibly an extensions conflict / overload.
Try keeping the start key down while pressing Command - shift.
You should see an "extensions off " note.
Then go to the extensions manager and put an " X " into every box that isn't emmediately related to the system basics.
I personally like hauling all the software extensions related to third party software. eg photoshop etc etc
Run mac's own disk utility.
Second point might sound odd but sometimes the pram battery can either run flat. low on charge or might have a loose connection.
If you have an external keyboard try firing up from that & see what happens.

\
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post #3 of 30
Thread Starter 
Aquafire, thanks for the quick reply

I'm not sure it can be an extensions conflict as I seem to have similar problems even when booting from a freshly installed OS X volume on an external firewire drive. But if it is an extension problem I unfortunately can't get the key combination you suggest to work as right now I am only getting a flashing question mark after the "bong".

Your suggestion relating to the pram battery sounds the most interesting to me at the moment. I didn't know the iBook had a separate battery for the PRAM? Is it easy to replace and could a flaky pram battery or pram battery connection cause these sorts of problems?
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post #4 of 30
Retrograde,
I just did some other research & stumbled across two websites that might be right up your alley.
One is more general called http://www.macfixit.com
the other is specifically an ibook user website called
http://www.ibook-user.com. This one looks really good.
Ps Someone else on these pages seems to be reporting batt problems wth their Ibook.
See " Shutdown instead of sleeping "
Cheers
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post #5 of 30
Thread Starter 
Thanks... just running over to the iBook site to check it out now... and MacFixit was a site I used to look at a lot a long time ago... looks like I may need to check it out again!
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post #6 of 30
Retrograde,
No worries mate !.

Ps go down the to forum post titled
"56% battery charge dropping down to zero"
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post #7 of 30
Thread Starter 
Well I have done a little more poking around and found out that the iBook Dual USB does not have a PRAM battery as older systems once had. So there cannot be anything wrong with that... but how does the iBook save this information? I remember something about having 15 seconds to switch batteries before losing the pram information... if this is the case where/how is the info preserved during those 15 seconds?

I guess there could be some other battery on the logic board? Does anyoone know much about the iBook logic board? or have any sites that give detailed info about the iBook logic board?
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post #8 of 30
I think that modern PowerBooks/iBooks have a small backup battery that maintains the clock, RAM contents if asleep, etc.. for the few seconds it takes to change batteries.
Stoo
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post #9 of 30
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Stoo
I think that modern PowerBooks/iBooks have a small backup battery that maintains the clock, RAM contents if asleep, etc.. for the few seconds it takes to change batteries.

Do you think this battery--if it were to die--could cause problems similar to the ones I described above (boot problems, disk access problems, freezes, etc)?

Also, do you know if there are any other batteries on an iBook logic board?
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post #10 of 30
are you able to boot into the command console at startup? one of the X guru's would be a better help here than i am, i'm still catching up on how it's all done, but i would recommend booting into the command prompt in X, then resetting your fimware values. not sure of the command offhand, but i'll look around.
post #11 of 30
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by alcimedes
are you able to boot into the command console at startup? one of the X guru's would be a better help here than i am, i'm still catching up on how it's all done, but i would recommend booting into the command prompt in X, then resetting your fimware values. not sure of the command offhand, but i'll look around.

I'm a bit of a UNIX newbie but am willing to get my hands dirty!

So if you or anyone could explain to me what needs to be done via the command console I'll give it a shot 8)
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post #12 of 30
Retrograde,
The only other thing i can think of is the possibility that you might inadvertantly created a second "system" in your hard-drive. This can happen when Norton is downloaded via dragging to hard-drive rather than installing. So there might be some confusion.
The second point seeing as your running OS-X, it might be that your prefs are corrupted.
These are found in the library.
drag them to the desktop & try rebooting.
Thats assuming you can get a restart going.

PS : Have you tried using an external key board as I suggested ?

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post #13 of 30
Thread Starter 
I don't have a second keyboard unfortunately but I don't understand how that might fix the problem? Any ideas as to why this might help?

I'm pretty sure that there isn't a second system on the machine but similar problems when booting from a firewire drive or when mounting the iBook drive via Firewire Target Disk Mode makes me think that it is unlikely that too... so... hmmmm... \

I have, however, found out somehting of interest on the PRAM front. Apparently the iBook doesn't have a PRAM battery and pram settings are saved only momentarily via a capacitor on the logic board so it can't be a bad PRAM battery... howveer I suppose there could be some other small battery on the logic board that could cause problems like this? Does anyone have intimate knowledge of the construction of the iBook logic board? Do you know if there are any funky little batteries on it that might be prone to failure?

As far as I can see the Firmware idea seems most plausible so far... anyone (Alcimedes?) know how to do anything with this?

Thanks again all for your thoughts!
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post #14 of 30
ok, looking for it now.
post #15 of 30
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by alcimedes
ok, looking for it now.

Thanks!
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post #16 of 30
cmd-option-o-f (on restart)

then type "reset-nvram" (return)

set-defaults (return)

reset-all (return)

(you can thank Brad)
post #17 of 30
Thread Starter 
Thanks Brad! and Thanks Alcimedes! for chasing this up for me

Well that has helped me to at least factor out the firmware as something to be concerned about! I reset everything as you directed but unfortunately although it booted and ran for about an hour it still eventually froze and forced a restart. Again I am back with the flashing question mark at reboot

Why the iBook sometimes gives the flashing ? and sometimes boots part way and freezes, sometimes boots to the finder but crashes right away and other times allows me to work on the iBook for 15 minutes to a couple of hours I don't know

What I do know is that always the definite outcome is a freeze, sooner or later.

My guess is that there is a problem with the way the logic board communicates with the hard drive (and maybe also the combo drive). Whether the fault is with the hard disk itself or with the logic board I don't know but I am rapidly running out of ways to test the ibook. :/
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post #18 of 30
Thread Starter 
Is there any other commands I can run from Open Firmware that might check the hard disk or check the machine or give some sort of diagnostics?

A list of open firmware commands would be nice!
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post #19 of 30
Thread Starter 
Perhaps I should relist the history of this iBook:
  • About 6 months ago the Combo Drive stopped mounting media
  • At the same time the hard drive starting becoming perceptibly louder and 'grindier'
  • I sent the iBook in under warranty to Apple who replaced the Combo Drive and also replaced the Hard Disk
  • 6 months later and now out of warranty the combo drive again started acting up, but this time instead of not mounting it started saying that it couldn't read the disk and offered to eject it.
  • I noticed that in the System Profiler it no longer listed the combo drive as a CDRW/DVD drive but now just listed bizarrely as a CD-ROM drive.
  • Shortly after this it stoped mounting all media, stopped recognising any optical drive in System Profiler and no longer ejected when I pressed the eject key on the keyboard.
  • 2 weeks after this when trying to print a document in Word the iBook froze and ever since then I have been getting the freezing problems before, during, and after booting that I have discussed above.

Right now I must say I am not feeling particularly confident that this can be solved via software manipulation or via reinstalling the OS. My over-riding thoughts are that the motherboard has gone, the drive(s) perhaps have gone, or maybe the drive has become unseated or disconnected such that the connection works sometimes and other times not (arking?).

Other then that I am spent!
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post #20 of 30
screw it. send it back in to get the optical drive fixed. they won't be able to fix it until they get the rest of it working. let them pull their hair out trying to get things up and running.

you have your files backed up anywhere?

(sorry if you've answered some of those, didn't want to reread the entire thread. also, can you boot into target disk mode?)
post #21 of 30
Thread Starter 
Thanks again alcimedes for checking back in

Luckily I have all my files backed up (I've been quite vigilant on that front!) here on the TiBook and some are sitting on my iDisk so that is fortunate.

I have managed on a couple of occasions to get the drive mounted in Firewire Target Disk Mode. But again this has only sporadically successful: I managed some time ago to get it mounted and to install a clean version of OS X on the iBook... but the last time I tried the Finder got the spinning wheel on the TiBook until the icon of the iBook drive mounted, then when I double clicked the drive to open it I got the spinning wheel again for 5 or 10 minutes until the window appeared on the desktop and so any activity with the disk produced a spinning wheel as if it had to wait for 5 or 10 minutes or so for things to happen. In some ways it was like doing stuff with the iDisk on a really slow connection way back before many of the improvements were made to the networking of the iDisk... know what I mean?

Anyway I think you are right. I will bite the bullit and send this in to the nearest Apple repair centre and at the very least get a £50 diagnosis from them.
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post #22 of 30
i assume you pulled out any RAM that is extra (like anything not actually soldered to the Motherboard).

if that's the case, send it in to get it fixed. this is a hardware issue.
post #23 of 30
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by alcimedes
i assume you pulled out any RAM that is extra (like anything not actually soldered to the Motherboard).

if that's the case, send it in to get it fixed. this is a hardware issue.

Yes, I'm afraid that was the first thing I did... and unless the RAM physically soldered to the motherboard has blown it can't be RAM.

Interestingly I found someone over at a ThinkSecret forum who seems to have had very similar problems to me and so I registered and posted asking for some information as to what Apple did to fix his iBook (seeing as he has sent it in and had it back presumably fixed). If anyone is interested the thread can be found HERE.
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post #24 of 30
Thread Starter 
I luckily had a reply from an opey_taylor on a thread over at ThinkSecret who seemed to be having very similar if not identical problems as me. Here is his interesting reply:
Quote:
Retrograde and iThink..., I didn't get a lot of information from AppleCare about how they fixed my machine, but what they did do sort of surprised me. I thought that they would replace the HD, but all that was indicated on the repair record was replacement of the CD-drive. _That may sound weird, but I had been experiencing some problems with the CD tray (one of these days I'm going to get a slot-loading machine). It wouldn't open sometimes. I would hear click-click-click...click-click-click...etc. _Had to resort to sticking a paperclip in the release hole. I was waiting until after the school semester to send it in for repair, but the boot up problem forced my hand. I actually forgot to tell the Mac Genius about this particular problem, anyway. But, it seems clear to me that they did indeed replace it, and it works after the first click. I should also mention that the previous one had an annoying buzz, that silly me thought was normal. My old Tangerine iMac CD tray buzzed some too until Apple released a software fix for it. The buzz on the iBook was fairly minimal, so it didn't bother me. Anyway, not knowing a thing about how the machine works (I'm longing for the days of my first Mac-a 512k Fat Mac with dueling 400k drives [one internal, one external]), I'm guessing that the glitchy CD drive was giving the machine some kind of fit. Perhaps it was looking for some kind of signal that it wasn't getting.

This makes me think (seeing as my combo drive died roughy 2 weeks or so before I started getting the flashing question mark problems) that all of my boot problems and freeze problems are a result of the dead or problematic optical drive. Both the combo drive and the hard drive are on the ATA bus and so I guess it is possible that the combo drive is causing problems on the bus that has to look for the hard disk too.

Anyone think this is a likely scenario? Or does this seem unlikely?
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post #25 of 30
Thread Starter 
First: My apologies for bringing this thread back from the dead but I feel I owe those who helped me in my time of need the facts on the resolution of the problems

Well, I got the iBook in to an Apple Centre today and it looks like it has all been fixed (although I will need to run the iBook for a few days to be entirely sure that everything is fine). The problem appears to have been caused by the "missing" combo drive. Because the ATA bus (which both the hard disk and combo drive sit on) couldn't "see" the combo drive it went into a panic mode on boot up and caused the flashing ?/caused it not to see the boot disk itself.

The good news was that it was not a dead combo drive (like I had had before, apparently) but the cable running between the drive and the mobo was dead and needed replacing. They put a new cable in (and charged me a whopping 125 pounds for it!!! That's $200US or $290CDN!!! ...for a freaking cable!) and now not only does the combo drive work but the whole iBook seems to be running smoothly again

Oh one other thing: The technician said, Whoever did work on your machine last did some pretty shoddy work. I'm surprised the drive lasted as long as it did. The cable was badly doubled over and folded which will almost always eventually lead to a broken cable. Now, I had the last drive replaced by Apple under warranty so obviously it is Apple (or one of its contractors) who did the shoddy work. Needless to say I am not impressed and plan to call Apple to make a complaint. \
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post #26 of 30
Glad you got a fix: did you get that information from the technician in writing? Obviously that shoddy repair is entirely Apple's responsibility, and if they did it under warranty, they should pay to sort out their mistake rather than you.
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post #27 of 30
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Overhope
Glad you got a fix: did you get that information from the technician in writing? Obviously that shoddy repair is entirely Apple's responsibility, and if they did it under warranty, they should pay to sort out their mistake rather than you.

Unfortunately I wasn't thinking at the time and didn't ask... I wonder if they would put one in writing though? They are a Certified Apple Service Provider ... do you think they would want to bite the hand that feeds it? I just might give this a try though
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post #28 of 30
Thread Starter 
One thing of note that I failed to mention earlier for people who are experiencing problems like these: the technician said to me that iBooks and iMacs will not work if the optical drives are either not working or not present (I had hoped I could just unplug the combo drive from the mobo and buy a small portable burner). So if you are having problems like those described in this thread it could lead back to the optical drive and/or its cable.

Does anyone else think this is a little lame? If the optical drive dies then the whole computer goes out of whack and you cannot decide to just unplug the drive and use an external portable. Why?!
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post #29 of 30
Quote:
Originally posted by Retrograde
Oh one other thing: The technician said, Whoever did work on your machine last did some pretty shoddy work. I'm surprised the drive lasted as long as it did. The cable was badly doubled over and folded which will almost always eventually lead to a broken cable. Now, I had the last drive replaced by Apple under warranty so obviously it is Apple (or one of its contractors) who did the shoddy work. Needless to say I am not impressed and plan to call Apple to make a complaint. \

Retrograde: How long ago did Apple repair your optical drive under warranty? At least here in the US, Apple's repairs carry a 90-day parts and labor warranty. However, I have no idea whether Apple would reimburse you for a repair that you arranged and paid for yourself (assuming the first repair was less than 90 days ago). In any case, the bottom line is that your iBook is fully functional again, which is what matters most.

Escher
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post #30 of 30
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Escher
Retrograde: How long ago did Apple repair your optical drive under warranty? At least here in the US, Apple's repairs carry a 90-day parts and labor warranty. However, I have no idea whether Apple would reimburse you for a repair that you arranged and paid for yourself (assuming the first repair was less than 90 days ago). In any case, the bottom line is that your iBook is fully functional again, which is what matters most.

Escher, the repair was done a little more than 6 months ago so there was no chance Apple would repair it for me (I called them to double check on that in any case). I definitely don't think Apple will reimburse me for the repair (whether they ought to or not is another question I suppose) seeing as it is out of warranty and seeing as I will just be calling with a complaint concerning the last repair, a complaint moreover that they will merely take as unsubstantiated seeing as I will just be telling them what the technician told me informally and who I'm sure wouldn't put anything in writing for fairly obvious reasons.

Really my only complaint or point of fact is to tell them that the reason I had to repair the iBook, according to the technician, was that the work they had done (well, one of their contractors in the UK, "AMSYS plc") was done poorly. I don't realistically expect any remuneration, I just want them to know that AMSYS plc or one of their employees did poor work leading directly to a premature failure on my iBook.

A side quibble of mine is that a 90 day warranty on new parts seems pretty lame to me. Is this the industry standard? I guess I think "a new part is a new part" and should come with a 1 year warranty. But in any case that won't help me because the "new part" Apple replaced before was the combo drive itself and probably not the cable (although I suppose they might have replaced both at the same time?).

In any case--and as you point out--the main thing is that the iBook is up and working again. And it feels as solid and as reliable as the first day I got it
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