My Macbook for what ever reason has decided to just give me a flashing folder with a question mark on it.

I have tried restarting holding the Apple key and R - Nothing. I have also tried holding the ALT key on bootup but it just gives me an arrow curser and nothing else.

I am not sure if the hard drive is even bootable. I do not have a OS Disc. I have downloaded a DMG file off the internet to my Pen Drive. I assumed incorrectly the OS would boot from my Pen Drive - it does not. I have cable internet if needed. I have Windows 7 Ultimate which I can connect to the internet from, and I have an iPad if that would help.

  • 1
    This needs more details. What OSX version? You mention in one of your comments that its a new HDD, did you just install it? Give us as much detail as possible. If its 10.7.4+ you can boot holding the option key and if it has a connection to the internet it will start an online recovery tool which you can repair from. Id start there. otherwise, reseat the harddrive. Feb 12 '13 at 19:32
  • I don't know what OS it's running. The Hard drive is still the same hard drive that came with the computer. I know what the shift key is, the ALT and tab keys even the CTRL key, but what is the Option key? The model number from the rear of the computer is - A1181 Feb 12 '13 at 20:54
  • @SteveBishop Option = Alt key. The second button on the left of the space key.
    – fsimkovic
    Dec 22 '13 at 22:33
  • @SteveBishop I'm quite sure that you found the Option key by now but often I have read from Apple that an original Apple keyboard is needed for startup key combos.
    – VH-NZZ
    May 23 '14 at 20:53

This icon means that your Mac can't find a bootable disk. Your iPad definitely won't help; your pen drive, internet access, and Win7 disc might or might not help.

Based on the model number that you've given, you have a white MacBook from 2006. That means that the OS that came with it was probably 10.4 ("Tiger"). It could also have either 10.5 ("Leopard") or 10.6 ("Snow Leopard") on it if it was upgraded at some point during its lifetime. This MacBook cannot support anything later than 10.6 (it will not work with either 10.7 "Lion" or 10.8 "Mountain Lion"). This laptop is long out of warranty. If you are close to an Apple Store, since it appears that you don't have a lot of experience with Macs, you could try to schedule an appointment at their Genius Bar and see if they're willing to help you out. They'll probably be willing to run the necessary diagnostics to see whether you're experiencing a major hardware failure, such as a failed hard disk. However, if you have a piece of failed hardware, their cost to fix it is probably going to be more than the cost of buying a working Mac of a similar vintage. If it is a piece of failed hardware and you're comfortable replacing the hardware on your own, I've found that Other World Computing has good prices for replacement parts, and they also include excellent step-by-step instructions for doing the replacement. If it's not failed hardware, they might or might not be willing to help you get a new OS installed. It doesn't hurt to ask.

You say that you've downloaded a DMG file off of the Internet, but I don't know what DMG file you have. You need a bootable version of either 10.4, 10.5, or 10.6. You can buy physical DVDs for each of these off of Amazon or other sources. You can't use the installation discs from another MacBook to install the OS onto your MacBook (unless it's the exact same model as your MacBook). To install from a DVD, you'll either need the installation discs from an identical MacBook, or the retail DVD (which is what you'll find on Amazon). Once you have the DVD, put it in your drive and hold down the C key when you power up the MacBook. If the installation starts, then you're probably going to be okay. Go through the installation steps for the OS. If you run into trouble during installation, Apple has some excellent installation troubleshooting steps.

If you don't want to run OS X on this laptop, you could just use it to run Windows. The specifications are better than the minimum specifications to run Windows 7, so you could just use that. There's an extensive set of instructions for installing Win7 on a MacBook Air, which should work for your MacBook too. Those instructions go through the whole process in detail, from creating a bootable USB drive (which will require access to a Windows computer) to installing it on your Mac.


The flashing question mark means the computer can not find your system folder to boot from.

If your Pen Drive has a bootable system folder on it, hold down the option key when booting you computer. The OS will then give you the option to choose a new system folder to boot into. If there is a viable one available.

  • sorry which is the option key? Feb 12 '13 at 20:49
  • On a Mac keyboard, the option key is the one labelled "option" that is two keys to the left (and the right) of the spacebar. If you're using a Windows keyboard for this, the alt key will usually map to the option key.
    – nadyne
    Feb 13 '13 at 0:05

Had the same problem. I had an extra battery, so I switched out batteries and now my Mac is running fine. If you don't have an extra battery just take out your battery for a couple of seconds and then reinstall it.


Hopefully I can link this here. i found this and thought I would add just in case someone else runs across this. The idea is to force a rewrite of the Master Boot Record, quoting directly the relevant part:

  1. Boot from the OS X install disk.

  2. Instead of installing OS X, selectDisk Utility from the Tools menu.

  3. Select the hard drive that is having the problem in the list on the left.

  4. Now select the Partitions tab in the right side of the panel.

  5. If you have one partition, this part is easy. Simply use the slider in the bottom right corner of the partition diagram to resize the partition, then put it back where it was. If you have multiple partitions take note of the size of the partition you’re resizing so you can get it back to right where it was before.

  6. After putting the partition size back the way you found it click the Apply button. You’ll be asked to confirm the decision and told that its non-destructive.

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    Answers on Ask Different need to be more than just a link. It's okay to include a link, but please summarize or excerpt it in the answer. The idea is to make the answer stand alone.
    – nohillside
    Dec 22 '13 at 20:46

Your Mac can't find the Hard Disk. If you have your original start up disk you could try booting and holding down the C key. Then follow instructions to repair. Or Boot and hold down the 'X' key, this should give you a black padlock and your PW will get you a choice of whatever start up options are available. If nothing works you may have to replace your HDD

  • Thanks, Ive tried the boot options you have mentioned, nothing happens.....so its a new hard drive, ans can i get another OS from somewhere? Feb 12 '13 at 18:58

i have had the same problem but after taking out the HD, I found it to be in 100% fully working order

either the cable to the HD is faulty or the logic board is faulty.

I wanted to state this as all the answers suggest the HD is broken and this may not necessarily be the issue


Same question mark on my 2013 MacBook Pro. I got it into recover mode but it couldn't find the hard drive. I restarted it and just let it sit with the question mark flashing.

Just as I was starting to cry (no backup for 27 days) it started up perfectly- seemingly out of nowhere.

Perhaps it got too hot?

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