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Ask Max: G3 Displaying A Blue Question Mark On Startup

Asked on 12/10/2008:

I have 2 G3s; one has 6GB the other has an 80GB hard drive in it. So when I turn the 80GB on the only thing that comes up is a blue ? and the Mac icon folder. What does that mean and how can I get the 80GB hard drive to work and move my data to it? The hard drive is a Jacobtor 3.5 series 80GB. The 80GB came from a friends machine, he seem to think it's looking for the previous network.


The alternating "?" and Folder Icon indicates that your computer cannot find a bootable Operating system. Not all B&W G3 towers could handle bigger drives, so that may be what is causing the problem. The Rev A G3 Logic board couldn't handle large drives but the Rev B logic boards can take up to 120 GB drives. Look for the Apple copyright information printed on the logic board and below it will be a string of characters in one of the following two configurations XXX-09XX-A or XXX-10XX-A. The X is used in place of unimportant information. 09 indicates that it is a rev A logic board and the 10 means that it is a rev B.

If you have a Rev B Blue and White G3 logic board, then you need to make sure that the drive is set to Master and is the only drive in the computer. It may also be that a more advanced version of the Mac OS is on the drive than what the G3 can handle. You should also download any G3 Firmware updates needed to run OS X.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="144" caption="Macally Storage Cabinet"]Macally Storage Cabinet[/caption]

If you have a Beige G3, and not a Blue & White one, then you are running into the 7 GB boot volume limit. OS X has to be installed on a partition of less than 7.4 GB and that partition must also be on the Master drive on the IDE cable.

Your best option would be to reformat the drive and then reinstall a copy of the Mac OS. To move over your old data you will need to put that 6 GB drive into an external enclosure, like this Macally Storage Cabinet, and use Firewire to bring it over to the B&W G3 or put the 6 GB drive into the Beige G3 as a second drive to copy over the data.

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