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My friend gave me a macbook air to try to fix it. I'm pretty good with any Windows machine and the common troubleshooting steps. Like safe mode, malware scanners, startup applications and stuff. But I'm not really sure where to start on this macbook air. It doesn't have the dock on the bottom. Hitting shutdown took like a minute for the prompt to come up. So, it's behaving really slow. And I'm sure there's other things, but what should I do to start troubleshooting?

Also, I've noticed the screen go black for a split second every like 5-10 minutes.

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First step would be to try a safe boot per Apple's support pages:

If you're using Mac OS X 10.2 or later, you can start up your computer in Safe Mode, which includes an automatic disk check and repair. A Safe Boot, which starts up your computer into Safe Mode, may allow you to start up your computer successfully using a reduced version of the system software. To do this, follow these steps:

  • Start up in Safe Mode. Instructions on how to do so are located here.

  • After the system has fully started up, restart your computer normally.

Additionally, you may reference this page of Apple's support pages for other trouble shooting measures to resolve common startup and performance problems.

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That actually seems to have worked. I got the dock back, everything opens promptly. The only thing is it still seems to start up weird. I press start button, I hear the apple sound and a grey screen appears, then the apple logo shows on the grey screen with a loading circle below it. Then a blue screen appears, and then the grey screen appears with the loading circle (the loading circle doesn't spin though. Then the mouse appears on the grey screen, then the blue screen comes up and then the login box with the desktop image. –  EGHDK Nov 9 '12 at 23:54
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Your screen going black every 5-10 minutes is a big concern. That should NOT be happening.

I think you should reinstall Mac OS X.

If you have the install DVDs, just reboot your computer with the DVD attached (you'll need an external CD/DVD drive or you can use Disk Sharing on a iMac or other computer), and press C when booting up.

When you've booted up, you can also erase/format your drive by clicking on Disk Utility in the Menu (top) and clicking on erase (then follow the directions).

After you reinstall the OS, if you still face problems, then it's probably a hardware issue and you should run some hardware tests.

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