iMac problems

Over the last month or so my iMac has been sort of acting up.

First the DVD drive was sort of flaky, working and then not working. Meaning that sometimes after a reboot the system saw that there was an ATA drive in the system, but no burning device. But for the last week it has been working ok. I don’t know if that is failing or not but I just backed up all of iPhoto and iTunes to DVD’s so it burns ok.

Lately though, when waking the computer up after it has gone to sleep sometimes it will lock up hard right away. Sometimes the mouse is responsive, sometimes not. Try to start a program (Safari, Mail, FF etc) and the icon bounces on the dock for 30 seconds then the computer locks hard.

Powering off the machine and restarting sometimes I get nothing but a blank grey screen. Other times I get the file folder with a question mark in it. Then I hold down Option when rebooting, get the HD icon, click it and the computer will boot fine. A few times I have pulled the power for an hour, plugged it in and it boots right up. I do that sometimes when the DVD is not recognized by the system and that seems to fix the dvd problem till the next reboot or whatever.

The other day I had to boot off the install DVD and had to do a repair of the hard disk. A verify said no packages found, and a repair failed.

I ended up in a terminal window and ran fsck manually which found and fixed some problems and I was then able to reboot fine. I have stopped letting the machine go into sleep mode and it seems to be ok.

System is running 10.5.5, SMART has verified the drive as ok, but I’m not sure if this is
a sign of a failing system, failing drive or what.

Any other Mac users out there with some ideas on what might be causing all this flakiness?

Still under warranty?  If you can reproduce the problem, just call Apple and they’ll fix it.

At first, it sounds like a bad hard drive.  If the OS can’t read or write to the drive, it will show the kinds of symptoms you describe – applications not launching (bouncing indefinitely), folder + question mark on boot, etc.  But you’ve checked the drive and it seems fine, right?

So, could be a drive controller issue – it would explain the hard drive problems, but would also account for the DVD issues.  The fact that you can unplug the computer for a long time and it seems to resolve things may point to a bad solder or connection, or something else that goes bad with heat.

So yeah, try calling Apple.  That’s what the warranty’s all about.  Did you get the Applecare stuff?  They’re very good at replacing computers (Consumer Reports rates them the highest).

I had almost identical issues with my MacBook a few months ago (funnily enough, last time I was in Rupert). I tried all the usual, exactly as you have, boot from DVD, Disk First Aid, fsck etc, all of which said things were fine, but I still had annoying lockups, no system found and just general annoyances… I ended up getting a new hard disk (2nd time lucky on this one… forgot you needed a more slimline disk that a peecee notebook) and then reinstalling the OS and everything has been fine since, except the annoyance of having to reinstall apps and hundreds of megs of updates!!

Funny thing is, the disk I removed has been in a USB caddy every since and works just fine, and now I just use to for Time Machine when i remember!

If the new hard disk isn’t an option, even if your out of Warranty, Apple are very good at fixing Hardware issues (and its not as expensive as you would imagine) and have previously sent me a nice ‘pre-padded’ box by FedEx to send my old Powerbook to them for repair after a rather over enthusiastic attempt at hacking the wireless card to a Pringles tube ahem  :imp:

Did your computer come with a hardware test DVD, VMS?

I do not think so.  I got 2 disks for Tiger and one upgrade disk for Leopard.
Is that on one of those disks? Can I download it from Apples site?

I did contact Apple and spent about 90  mins on the phone with a lady who was very very helpful. She said since I was so far away from an Apple repair place she would do what she could for me. I was on hold for most of the time while she called around to various product people and finally one of the product managers came online called the Apple store in Vancouver and got them to agree to let me send it directly to them, which is not normally their policy.

She did think that it might be software related somehow but with the DVD drive being kind of flaky, and the way the hard drive is giving grief, it might be the main board.

She also said that reinstall from scratch might be worth a try too, but thats a pain in the ass as I’d have to install Tiger first then use the upgrade to move to Leopard.

I am going to give it a few days of running and see what happens. I will call the Apple store in Van to confirm what Apple care did.

I just read about the Apple hardware test. Yes I probably have it and will check it and see if it finds anything.