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LJ as alternative to paid Macintosh tech support - Blather, Rinse, Repeat
April 7th, 2006
08:01 am


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LJ as alternative to paid Macintosh tech support
Ok, I know a thing or two about computers, but I'm having difficulty here.

  • short version - when I turn on my PowerMac G5, I get a black screen - no video signal. I've tried unplugging things, waiting for 5 seconds, 15 seconds, 6 hours, rebooting, no help.

  • narrative version with boring, irrelevant, details - last night, I was all the way down the hall, in the kitchen, and I realized that there was an awful lot of fan noise coming from my office. I come in, and locate the G5 as the source. It's been on all day, I think that I recently got an update of my OS, and maybe also iTunes. There's no signal on the monitor, so I try to wake it by wiggling the mouse, punching randomly at the keyboard. No joy.

    I press the power button, and the system turns off. I press it again, I get a beep that's different from the normal system beep. It's a little hazy now, so I'm not sure the sequence of the following experiences. I reboot a bunch of times:

    • sometimes, I boot to the OpenFirmware screen. I type 'boot-mac', and I get to the 'broken folder' screen.
    • sometimes, I think, I go straight to the broken folder screen.
    • mostly, though, I get no video signal
    • grasping at straws, I try booting with my Tiger disk in the drive, and 'C' pressed. Sometimes this takes me to a grey screen with an apple and a progress spinner. Never gets past the spinner.
    • I try unplugging all devices, including AC, waiting for 15 seconds, and rebooting, no benefit.
    • I try booting with command-option-P-R pressed. No benefit.
    • I try booting with command-option-O-F pressed. No benefit.
    • I try opening up the case to look at diagnostic LEDs - none lit, if I'm even looking in the right place.
    • I remove the metal door, the plastic airguard, the fans, and locate the PMU reset button (you didn't want me to kick it accidentally, did you? Thanks!) I pressed it and rebooted, no benefit.
    • I tried swapping out monitors - at one point, I manage to get to one of the screens (broken folder? apple with spinner? I forget), so I doubt that the video card is completely dead.

    Now, I haven't been replacing RAM or trying to install Windows XP on my (non-Intel) machine or anything else "high-risk". It was up and running as recently as yesterday afternoon - the first symptom of something weird was that it woke up from being asleep at one point yesterday afternoon. Maybe I bumped the mouse. Then it went back to screensaver mode, and at 10 or 11 at night, I noticed the fans going much louder than I've ever heard before.

I've already made myself an appointment with a "Genius" for 3 1/2 hours from now, so your window to fix this problem's somewhat tight.


(7 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2006 03:41 pm (UTC)
Sounds to me like a bad processor unit (I think that's what it was, actually - I just figure out if it's a hardware problem, I don't fix the actual hardware, heh). Had the exact same thing happen with two G5 towers here, and a couple times with ones when I was at NGS. It seems to be a not uncommon problem with G5's, for some reason.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2006 03:45 pm (UTC)

Doesn't sound like something I can fix with duct tape and paper mache.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2006 03:50 pm (UTC)
No, probably not. You can try resetting the SMU (instructions here) but it sounds like it's an actual hardware failure more than it is power management.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2006 04:00 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure whether I've got a late 2004 or late 2005 model - hm, seems like it must be late 2004.

Like I mentioned above, I did try unplugging the machine for 15 seconds - indeed, it's been unplugged all night. So the "Late 2004" instructions haven't helped.

I also tried the "Late 2005" instructions, but once I got the fan assembly out of the way, the only switch I saw was labelled "PMU RESET". I did press it, to the familiar refrain of no benefit.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2006 04:02 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's the switch in question.

Damn not-infallible technology! (I guess that would be "fallible" wouldn't it.)
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2006 04:15 pm (UTC)
Also at my disposal, besides duct tape, is a hammer. I haven't yet begun systematically striking components of the system, but it's tempting.

I'm a little irked that the failure is so opaque to me. If one of the CPUs is bad, I'm capable enough to replace it. If the RAM's fried, I can remove and install new RAM. I don't want to rob Apple employees of labor hours, but it seems like a more effective use of their time to let me know what's wrong with my machine as soon as possible (like documenting what that peculiar non-system chime beep is when I boot up). And hey, if I screw up the repair by accidentally soldering my video card to my refrigerator, I'll pay for that mistake later.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2006 08:18 pm (UTC)
I agree with Annie it's probably hardware; however, it could be any of several things, from a problematic logic board to a dead CPU to bad RAM. In a perfect world it will just require new RAM, which is relatively cheap and easy to install. You might also try reseating your DIMMs if you haven't.
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