I am attempting to install OS X Snow Leopard on a new harddrive. I am using a Mac mini mid-2010 Unibody. I also have the original Snow Leopard disk.

I used a guide on iFixit to replace my harddrive. Now, upon starting up, my screen is white, and has a flashing folder with a ? inside it.

I have tried multiple key combinations:

  • Pressing C before and after chimes with boot disk inserted (original) and no boot disk, nothing

  • Pressing option before and after the chime with the original hard drive and no boot disk, occasionally am able to select and enter the password for my wifi network on a white screen with the wifi symbol and a lov/drop down box with nearby networks, after accepting the password nothing eventuates from that point, merely a white screen, a wifi symbol and the network name - is there anyway to progress from here? Seems like best chance to proceed...

  • Pressing shift results in nothing

  • Pressing command + R results in nothing

  • Pressing command + option + R results in nothing

  • Pressing T results in the FireWire symbol appearing. I do not have access to this cable anymore (I stopped using it in 2011 as I hadn't used it since about 10 years prior.

  • Pressing command + option + R + P to reset the PRAM results in the usual chimes. Then, the white screen appears, then a black screen, then another second chime, and then back to white screen, then repeated.

Are there any more key combinations that I can try?

Also, I am not interesting in reseating the hard drive or taking the hard drive out again.

  • You're going to have to take apart your Mac mini; you can't do anything remotely without OS X installed. Jul 15, 2016 at 2:01
  • Rather than destroying the Mac mini for the crime of wasting your time, why not consider donating it to someone (e.g. a charity) who would be able to give it to somebody who can spend the time getting it going again? Or give it to a friend, or a random person on the Internet, Or eBay it for $20 or something. Someone out there would want this, as it is a perfectly serviceable machine once it has been made to work. Simply destroying something that has value to someone else, is a waste of resources. Jul 15, 2016 at 2:43
  • Thank you Scott, whilst I would probably not do this, the satisfaction would be immeasurable from working on computers for many years and be very therapeutic (somewhat selfishly I acknowledge, so my apologies for any concerns I've caused you). Peace. Jul 15, 2016 at 10:49

2 Answers 2


This answer assumes you have access to another Mac and a way to connect your hard drive to it.

Take out the drive of your Mac using this iFixit guide.

Connect to the drive and boot into Recovery (CMD + R) on the other Mac. Then, follow these instructions from an Apple help article:

Install from OS X Recovery

To install OS X on an external drive using OS X Recovery, follow these steps.

  1. Start up your Mac. Immediately after you hear the startup sound, press and hold the Command+R on your keyboard.

  2. After you see an Apple logo or globe appear, you can release the keys. If you're prompted to select a Wi-Fi network, select a network that has a working Internet connection.

  3. When the Recovery screen appears, make sure you're connected to the Internet. If not, select a Wi-Fi network with a working Internet connection from the Wi-Fi menu.

  4. Select the option to Install OS X from the Recovery window.

  5. Follow the onscreen instructions to complete the installation. When you're asked to select a drive for installation, click the button "Show All Drives". Be sure you select the external storage device you've connected for this purpose, not your computer's built-in startup drive.

Your Mac might restart one or more times during installation. After installation is finished, your Mac automatically starts up from the external drive.

When you're done using your external disk, select a startup disk from System Preferences to have your Mac to start up from its built-in startup disk or another drive.

Your computer's serial number is sent to Apple as part of this process to help authenticate your request to download and install OS X.

Once the installation of OS X on the Mac mini's disk is complete, insert it back into the Mac mini and follow the iFixit article's instructions in reverse order.


Unfortunately there are no recovery partition on your Snow Leopard harddrive. That option came with Lion.

You state that you have the original Snow Leopard disk. Im thinking it should be a DVD that got delivered with the computer, its most likely needs to be this dvd, other dvds with snow leopard might not work.

If you managed to correctly reassembly the computer and the drive does not appear as a CD icon when you option boot the computer im suspecting you did not reassembly the computer correctly. When you took apart the mini you had to remove the superdrive cage with the drive and fan right, in that case im almost certain you did not press it back on the logic board so it makes a good connection.

If you have access to a USB dvd drive, try booting on that media instead, just connect the usb dvd drive to the computer, boot with option key and select the dvd in the boot menu.

If you have access to an other Mac with a dvd drive, you can create a USB boot drive from your dvd, use Disc Utility to restore the DVD to a USB drive. You will find instructions for that here: http://computers.tutsplus.com/tutorials/how-to-create-a-bootable-usb-drive-with-os-x-snow-leopard--cms-21491

You will need to format your new harddrive in disc utility once booted on the Snow Leopard installer, from the utilities menu.

  • Thank you Niklas, reasonably sure everything went back correctly, so I may take it to the Apple Store as even if I was to use a USB key, when I press Option key it only shows the wifi sign as described above. Jul 15, 2016 at 10:40

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