I am attempting to boot up my 2009 MacBook Pro, but when it starts it immediately shows a white screen with a 'question mark folder' — it keeps blinking until the computer shuts down (unless I keep it in the charger, then it just goes on).

I have tried to do the start up whilst holding down the option/alt button, and only the arrow comes up. I don't have the startup system disk (or any other) but the system has been updated to OS X Mountain Lion from the Mac App Store.

Before this, there had been other problems: when I deleted things they didn't go in the Trash but instead it looked like it just deleted it completely. After some time it wouldn't save or download, saying there wasn't enough space (even though I deleted items).

  • It might be to late now, but you had indications of a disk failure. To possibly recover some of your data you need a external boot media, like USB stick. Or another Mac and use the Target mode to read the disk.
    – Ruskes
    Apr 9, 2014 at 19:55
  • @Buscar웃 - okay i have the white macbook, but what is the target mode? - and if it dosn't work, is there anyway to make it work without rebooting?
    – Kewin
    Apr 9, 2014 at 20:00
  • here is one method, but check if you broken mac model is listed. support.apple.com/kb/ht1661
    – Ruskes
    Apr 9, 2014 at 20:07

2 Answers 2


If only the arrow comes up when you hold down option it most likely means there's some kind of hardware issue. You may be able to repair it using the Disk Utility in Internet Recovery (Hold down ⌘ command+⌥ option/⌥ option+R while booting) , but I'd advise in to looking to getting this thing serviced or repaired. Sounds like you've got a bad HD.

If all else fails, run fsck and see what happens. Information on how to do that is located also in the provided article.


Here are your Options.

We assume your Boot sector is somehow damaged.

We further assume your hard drive is not damaged.

Since you installed Mountain Lion you might be in luck.

When you install Mountain Lion or Lion, the installer creates an invisible, bootable, 650MB partition—a portion of a drive the operating system treats as a separate volume—on your startup drive called Recovery HD that includes a few essential utilities for fixing problems, restoring files, browsing the Web, and even reinstalling the operating system.

The installation is not always given factor so it might not work for your system.

Easy to find out by Restart while holding the CMD - R.

If you have a Recovery on you drive it will come in to action, then follow the steps.

Option 2:

If you do not have the Recovery installed or your disk is damaged, the Try with Target disk mode.

For that you will need a second Mac.

If you have access to a working Mac, and both it and the non-working Mac have FireWire or Thunderbolt ports, boot the non-working Mac in target disk mode by holding down the key combination command-T at the startup chime.

Connect the two Macs with a FireWire or Thunderbolt cable.

The internal drive of the machine running in target mode will mount as an external drive on the other machine. Copy the data to another drive.


Here are all Start up keyboard combinations you can try.

  • I have tried restarting while holding down CMD and R down, and nothing happens it is just making the "start-sound" and a gray screen. - this happens now no matter how i start holding down keys or not.
    – Kewin
    Apr 10, 2014 at 8:54
  • - also it is compleetly silence, as if the fans aren't moving (before they were loud) ??
    – Kewin
    Apr 10, 2014 at 8:56
  • Your last option is the the Target disk mode to salvage something. Fans would not be moving since it has not started any power consumption.
    – Ruskes
    Apr 10, 2014 at 9:15
  • okay - and I haven't done the target disk mode, since my other mac is very low on capacity, even though i keep deleting files, and it runs very slow! I'm afraid that i will ruin it as well ??
    – Kewin
    Apr 10, 2014 at 9:26
  • - but is there a way to save the macbook, getting it up and running again from scratch - meaning without rebooting, saving the old data?
    – Kewin
    Apr 10, 2014 at 9:30

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