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What does it mean when you get the finder symbol in a folder followed by a question mark during startup from the Panther startup disk?

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A folder with a "?" means that computer is unable to find either a bootable device or OS.

Posted on Oct 02, 2009


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Why is my macbook air a1466 showin a file with a question mark when i turn it on and how do i fix it

A flashing question mark appears when you start your Mac Symptoms

If you see a flashing question mark when you start your Mac, it's probably because it can't find the system software it needs to start up. Usually, all you have to do to get your Mac back up and running is remind it where its software is.

If your computer starts up normally after a brief delay, you probably just need to reselect the startup disk in Startup Disk preferences. It's normal to see the flashing question mark when a startup disk has not been selected. In most cases, reselecting the startup disk is all that is required to resolve the issue.

Sometimes, your computer may not start beyond the flashing question mark.

Tip: If your computer has a gray screen (with no flashing question mark) startup issue, see Mac OS X: Gray screen appears during startup.

Check the mouse and keyboard

This issue might occur if a mouse or trackpad button is pressed during startup. Make sure the button isn't pressed.

If the issue persists, shut down your Mac with its power button, disconnect any external mouse and keyboard, then turn on your Mac with its power button. If the flashing question mark issue persists, reconnect the keyboard and mouse.

Additional steps

If your Mac still starts to a flashing question mark, follow the steps below. If any step resolves the issue, you don't need to continue to the next one.

  1. Select your Mac OS X startup disk with Startup Manager by restarting and holding the Option key. After your Mac starts up, restart again to verify that the flashing question mark does not appear.
  2. If the issue persists, insert your Mac OS X installation disc. Be sure to either use the disc that came with your Mac, or, if you installed a later Mac OS X version from disc, use the newer disc.

    MacBook Air note: On a MacBook Air, there are two options for starting up from Mac OS X media: Either connect a MacBook Air SuperDrive to the MacBook Air via the USB port and restart the computer, holding down the C key during startup, or use Remote Install Mac OS X to startup from a system software DVD that's located on a partner computer. Once started up from Mac OS X media, skip to step 3.

  3. Restart the computer, then hold the C key during startup.
  4. From the Utilities menu, choose Disk Utility. Don't click Continue.
  5. Select your Mac OS X disk (named "Macintosh HD" by default) in the left side of the Disk Utility window.
  6. Click the First Aid tab.
  7. Click Repair Disk to verify and repair any issues with your Mac OS X startup disk.
  8. After repairing the disk, try to start up normally.

    Important: If Disk Utility finds issues it cannot repair, you may need to back up as much of your data as possible (or use Time Machine to back up to a different disk), then erase the disk and reinstall Mac OS X. You should back up important files and data before erasing a drive. Erasing deletes everything on the hard disk (including things on your desktop). Also, you can install Mac OS X onto an external disk, start from the external disk, and use Migration Assistant to transfer items from your usual internal Mac OS X startup disk to the external disk, then erase the internal disk and reinstall Mac OS X.
  9. If the issue persists, and Disk Utility didn't find any irreparable issues, quit Disk Utility, quit the Installer, select your disk when prompted, and restart.
  10. If the issue continues, reset PRAM. Note: After resetting PRAM, if the computer starts up normally, reselect the startup disk in the Startup Disk preferences.
  11. If none of these steps resolve the issue, start up from the Mac OS X Installation disc and reinstall Mac OS X.

Mar 30, 2014 | Computers & Internet

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G5 problemSomething downloaded and took up all the memory now all I get is a gray screen and flashing ? with finder folder

The flashing ? means that the computer is unable to find an OS.
This is caused by either the start-up folder being damaged, or, that the hard drive has failed. From what you say, the hard drive will need to be replaced.

Mar 03, 2014 | Apple Power Mac G5 Desktop

1 Answer

I got a grey screen flashing a folder and other symbols on my IMAC OS X 10.5

Hi joe_shadowla, this means the Operating System has trouble finding the startup disk and the OS needs to be reinstalled. You need to have your OS X Install Disk equivalent to 10.5 or higher:
1) Insert the disk and wait for it to load to the Welcome screen
2) On the menu bar go to tools and click on Disk Utility
3) Click on your Hard Drive on the right and click on the Erase tab
4) Make sure it say (Mac OS X Extended-Journaled
5) Erase the Disk and Exit
6) Proceed with the installation and follow the onscreen instructions.

Mar 05, 2013 | Apple Mac OS X 10.0.3 Operating System &...

2 Answers

Screen comes on but in centre is a falshing folder, I think the finder one with a question mark?

That tends to be a major problem, call in to apple and they are normally extremely helpful with little to no wait time.

Jul 16, 2012 | Apple iMac G4 Desktop

1 Answer

Hi! when im opening my g4, instead of the normal apple logo when light up, the screen will light up and turned dark and light up again with a small folder with a question mark and the finder icon...

Hi, this seems to be a problem with your hard disk. You see, when your mac displays the folder with a small question mark, it means that it doesn't find the operating system. You're lucky to be able to get to your desktop, because usually that folder means you'd have to reinstall everything again.
First of all, I strongly recommend that you copy everything that's important for you (i.e. your documents, pictures, music, etc.) elsewhere, it can be an external USB drive, you can burn it into a CD, etc.
Now, as I don't know what version of Mac OS X are you running (I'm going to assume that 10.4), it seems that your problem is that your computer doesn't know where the main operating system is. We can try and fix that by going to the Apple menu > System Preferences, then select Startup Disk and in there, select the hard drive icon that says "Mac OS X 10.4 on Macintosh HD". Now select reboot and see if its resolved.
If that didn't help, you'll have to contact a technician so he can replace your mac's hard drive. Please be sure to have a copy of all your important documents somewhere else.

Feb 27, 2011 | Apple iBook G4 Mac Notebook

1 Answer

I upgraded my system from OS 9.2 to PANTHER OSX 9.3 IT WORKED PRETTY WELL, THEN I DECIDED TO "ARCHIVE" THE PREVIOUS SYSTEM AND REINSTALL OSX ( I was getting some prompts in Safari that said...

Restart from the system disk of the system you want to install. Put the disk in the drive then start up with the C key pressed down until a screen appears. Install system from there.

Nov 16, 2010 | Apple iMac Blueberry Mac Desktop

1 Answer

Folder with a question mark at startup

That means the hard drive has gone out or the controller for it. You could take a chance and replace the hard drive or if you have a the warranty on the unit have apple fix it.

Jul 30, 2009 | Apple 13.3 MacBook Intel Core 2 Duo...

2 Answers


unfortunately on the newer mac computer including the macbook you cannot boot to open firmware but there are other options
option 1)simply try holding down the mouse button or track pad button during boot after the first chime is sounded this will instruct the computer to eject the cd through the firmware
option 2) you can bypass the cd boot by holding down the option key after the first boot chime another simple solution this will allow you to choose a startup disk during...startup after which you can try the eject button on the keyboard or select the disk in finder and eject via trash can or eject symbol(symbol located in the open folder view of finder)
option 3) there is also a manual eject button though it may be harder to locate as they have change placements of it over the years however it can usually be found by probing the top center or far right of the cd slot with a paper clip just be gentle you don't want to damage an expensive piece of equipment by just carelessly jamming metal in it
you may want to try searching apple with your particular model and search for manual cd eject
best wishes, Crash

Apr 24, 2009 | Apple MacBook Mac Notebook

1 Answer

Lexmark X2350 driver for Imac SS 10.4

Mac OS 10.3 and greater (Panther and above) Installation Is your printer pre-loaded in Panther?
To verify that your printer is pre-loaded in Panther:
  • Look in the "Library" folder.
  • Look in the "Printers" folder.
If your printer is in the folder marked "Lexmark", simply proceed to "System Preferences", "Print and Fax" then to "Set Up Printers". Select the Lexmark printer you wish to use as your default printer.
If your printer is not pre-loaded, please follow the instructions in the next section.
Your printer is not pre-loaded in Panther:
If your printer is not in Panther's "Printers" folder, download the appropriate OS X driver via the Lexmark Mac Compatibility page. Follow these Panther-specific installation instructions:
  1. Double-click the installer icon on your desktop.
  2. Accept the license agreement.
  3. Cancel the "Printer Selection" pane.. If you are unable to "cancel" the "Printer Selection" pane, force quit (command + option + escape).
  4. If you see a "Printer Setup is not complete" message, click "OK".
  5. Open "System Preferences" then open "Print and Fax".
  6. Click "set up printers".
  7. When you see the "you have no printers available" message click "add" then select your printer. Note: if your printer is attached via USB, your printer may not appear until you have first selected USB from the drop down menu.
From this link:,6959,204816596_821849413_0_en,00.html

Click on this link or copy and paste the complete link into your browser.
If I could be of further assistance, let me know. If this helps or solves the issue, please rate it.
Thanks, Joe

Dec 18, 2008 | Lexmark X2350 All-In-One InkJet Printer

1 Answer

Locked Folders

One week ago my LaCie external disk has been locked during a system reinstallation process in which the hard drive was plugged in.  The message was that I had no permission to access it. I thought I would loose for ever all the files I have been backed up for years. But finally I have got the solution for that. There is a sofware called MacPilot (I used version 3.2.6, $20, 15-day trial) that fixes it. Once instaled, click TOOLS, then "Files&Folders" at left, then "Unlock File or Folder", press "Choose", it opens FINDER and then you click LacCie Disk. When the padlock symbol at the botton of LACie disapears, you can finally change the permissions to "read&Record". That's all, and I hope it helps. 
I recommend that you always unplug external hard drivers during system reinstallation to prevent that.

Feb 22, 2008 | LaCie d2 Extreme (300793U) 500 GB Hard...

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