Flashing Question Mark On Mac

Mac OS X system preferences

If you try to boot your computer and see a flashing question mark on Mac display instead of your desktop, this means your Mac cannot find the system software it needs to boot. While it’s not uncommon for a Mac to occasionally have this issue, the flashing ? on your screen could mean impeding doom if it happens a lot. When it does happen, the question mark could eventually disappear and your OS will load, or the question mark will remain on the screen and your system will never boot. The following will address the steps you should take if either of these situations occur.

Flashing Question Mark On Mac

If the flashing question mark on your Mac goes away and your system loads normally, you can try the following to make sure it doesn’t happen again:

The first thing you can try is opening your System Preferences and making sure your main hard drive is selected as the Start-up disk.

flashing question mark on mac

Under the System Preferences, click the Start Up disk icon in the System area.

select start-up disk

Next, make sure you choose your main Mac hard drive as the start up drive and then click Restart. If you have other drives installed in your Mac, or if you have an external hard drive attached, your computer might occasionally get confused about which is the boot drive that contains the system software it needs to boot. Designating your main hard drive as the boot drive should fix this issue.

The Flashing Question Mark on Mac Remains

If the flashing question mark continues to flash on the screen, you will need to try the following to resolve the issue:

  • Reset the PRAM. To reset the PRAM, press the power button to turn on your computer and immediately press and hold the Command, Option, P and R keys. You should eventually hear the start up sound again that indicates the PRAM has been reset.
  • If that doesn’t work, insert your system installation disk and reboot the computer. When the system begins to boot, hold the C key down to boot to the DVD. Note: if you have a bluetooth keyboard, you may need to get a USB keyboard to perform this step.
  • Under the Apple menu, click Disk Utility.
  • Under the First Aid tab, click Repair Disk.

If the hard drive is not present, the drive could be dead. But if the drive is present and the repair completes, restart the computer and see if the flashing question mark on Mac is gone and the system boots normally.

If you have and problems or questions about a flashing question mark on Mac startup screen, join our free forums and ask.

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