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How can I see the system status during boot?

I have had the hard drive in my iMac replaced and now I'm trying to restore it from my TimeMachine back up. I thought the TimeMachine back up was corrupt but maybe I'm just not patient enough, or I'm misunderstanding the restore process.

I'm able to restore successfully, but on reboot the machine shows me the white screen with the Apple logo and the spinner. I can hear some occasional sounds from the hard drive in the machine. It's been at this screen for a good hour now. The occasional hard drive sounds make me wonder if it's doing and fsck or similar operation on the drive before the system boots.

No chime has been played yet by the system. So the usual Cmd-V and Cmd-S solutions to see what it's doing or to boot to single user mode aren't working for me.

Is there any way to see what OS X is doing at boot time? I'm thinking something akin to the terminal window that modern Linux distros like CentOS can show you at boot time. The ones that let you see the step-by-step boot messages as they happen.

marked as duplicate by Ian C., user588, Martin Marconcini, Dori Feb 13 '11 at 11:24

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • possible duplicate of How can I see the system status during boot? (Yup, I just voted to close my own question...that's a first for me) – Ian C. Feb 11 '11 at 15:28
  • I suppose this is slightly different from the other question in that I don't get a chime. – Ian C. Feb 11 '11 at 15:37
  • You can delete your own question I think, rather than vote to close. – user588 Feb 11 '11 at 17:04
  • @mankoff: I think I might leave it. In my case my machine won't chime so the Cmd-V solution doesn't work. – Ian C. Feb 11 '11 at 17:28
  • Per “Intel-based Mac: Startup sequence and error codes, symbols”, the startup chime happens before the Apple logo is displayed. Thus you should be able to do a verbose boot by pressing and holding ⌘V before the chime sounds (such key combinations are effective only if you press (and hold) them before the first Apple logo (the one without the spinning gear)). “ Mac OS X: Gray screen appears during startup” covers what to do when the system will not boot up to at least the blue screen. – Chris Johnsen Feb 12 '11 at 2:09

See Apple support document Mac OS X: How to start up in single-user or verbose mode


The system chimes after running the POST, but before loading the OS. If it's not making it to the chime, it's failing the POST and there's no activity to see, no matter what keys you press.


When you turn it on, hold +v for few seconds.

  • 2
    Why the downvote? His edit about cmd+v occurred after I posted. – jweyrich Feb 11 '11 at 18:07

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