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I've just installed a new SSD replacing an HDD in my old (late 2008) iMac. When I switched it on all I got on screen was a question mark.

On the advice of my son I tried cmdR during switch on with no result.

I then tried alt which at least got me a cursor on the screen, but nothing else. Any suggestions? I've got everything backed up on an external Hard Drive, by the way.

  • Have you erased the new SSD with the Mac OS Extended format? If you are not able to see the SSD driver maybe this is the problem! – Mattia Feb 20 '16 at 20:19
  • What is the make and model of your SSD? Also, have you tried booting from the restore media that your Mac came with? You need to install an OS onto the SSD before you can boot into it. – William T Froggard Feb 20 '16 at 20:51
  • @WilliamTFroggard I think what you are saying is not entirely correct. You can boot in Recovery Mode and install from external Hard Drive (using Time Machine) the OS and all the entire content of the previous HDD. Am I wrong? – Mattia Feb 20 '16 at 20:57
  • @Mattia I hadn't noticed that he mentioned he has the data backed up. Can we verify whether or not that backup is a Time Machine backup? If so, you should be able to boot into it. He cannot boot into recovery mode if he installed an empty SSD, because recovery mode manifests itself as a partition on the primary disk, which won't exist on a new SSD. – William T Froggard Feb 20 '16 at 21:17
  • Hold down Command - Option - R to try to boot into Internet Recovery. It may not work because of the iMac's vintage, tho'. See this page at Apple Support – IconDaemon Feb 20 '16 at 21:59
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If you replaced your HDD in your iMac with a new SSD and you try to boot, nothing is going to happen.

I am assuming you are getting something that looks like this:

iMac Question Mark

That means your iMac can't find anything to boot off of because your new SSD is completely blank. (You just took it out of the box and exchanged it with the old one, right?)

Command + R doesn't work because, again, the drive is blank. You need to have a recovery partition for it to boot to. You won't be able to do an Internet Recovery either because your iMac is not supported. Internet recovery support didn't happen until 2011 and only was retroactive to 2010 Macs.

How to Install OS X on a new SSD When no the Recovery Partition or Internet Recovery Isn't Available:

If you or your son has access to another Mac (it sounds like it), have him download OS X for you (El Capitan is supported)

Create a bootable USB flash (you will need an 8GB or larger)

Install OS X. It will take about 30 mins so make yourself a cup of coffee.

Once you have done the initial setup and logged into your accounts/icloud/etc....

Then use "Migration Assistant" to move all your data from your old drive/external backup to your new SSD.

  • Alternatively, roll back and put the old drive back in and install OSX via OSX itself. I'd prefer @Allan 's solution though. I love your optimism on the 30 minutes, however on a 2008 model that's not going to happen, go for a proper cappuccino instead. – EDP Feb 21 '16 at 13:45

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