MacBook Air

Repair guides for the MacBook Air, Apple's current line of consumer laptops.

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Startup chime, no boot, white screen of death

My Air (rEFIt installed) was working flawlessly. The battery and charger are in perfect shape. It's been just one year of light use.

Right after a normal reboot, it suddenly stopped working: I get the startup chime, a bright white screen (without the Apple logo or pointer), and nothing else. If I don't shut it off, the fan starts working after a few minutes. If I close down the lid, the screen remains lit.

I've tried all the usual fixes and combinations:

  • Plug in the "system install" pen drive
  • Reset the SMC
  • Reset the PRAM
  • Hold down the Option key
  • Hold down the C key (for rEFIt)
  • Battery powered, MagSafe powered...

Nothing works!

I just get the chime and the permanent white screen. I don't have any kind of adapters, so I can't check anything involving cable connections. Is there something else I can try? Am I facing a broken logic board? Can it break "just like that"?

Update

Well, folks: I finally found out what went wrong, and I'll try to explain it as well as my ignorance of Apple hardware, OS-X software, and firmware, and computers in general, allows me.

But first things first. I have good news for you: if you ever get the white screen of death. don't panic! And, unless still under guarantee, don't take your computer to an Apple center for them to steal you yet more money by making you pay for a new logic board and/or a new hard drive. Probably you can solve the problem by yourself, spending only a few -very well invested- dollars in a pentalobed or a Phillips #00 screwdriver, plus maybe a Torx T5 one.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but, as far as I've guessed and investigated, it works like this: Your MacBook Air's firmware (probably also any other MacBook system, but I can't be sure about that) is always instructed to try to, in the first place, boot off certain piece of hardware: be it the hard disk, an external DVD unit, the installed USB stick, or a network boot server. This option can be set in the OS's Startup Manager. When the actual boot setting is any other than the hard drive, then, at boot time, the firmware will look for the instructed medium to boot off, and if for whatever reason it doesn't find it, then it will try to boot off the hard drive as a "last resource". BUT, when the actual boot setting is "hard drive" and, for whatever reason, the data is corrupted or something is wrong with the boot sector, then the computer will NOT try to find any alternative device, or a network, where to boot off: it will keep forever trying to boot off the hard drive, and thus you get the dreaded white screen of death. The Apple engineers are so smart!!

But it's actually not dead: neither your motherboard nor your drive is dead. They're just in a deep coma.

How can you wake it up from this coma? Simple: remove the back cover and disconnect the hard drive. Believe me: with the right screwdriver, it's very easy to do and even you can do it. Then, and only then, if there is NO hard drive where to try to boot off, the firmware is programmed to look for some other medium: USB stick, external DVD, network... So, plug this medium in and... voilá! There you get your little spinning animated icon and, eventually, the Apple's apple; the startup disk will boot and there you are anew to life.

Now, once you've managed to boot, the FIRST thing you have to do is go to the Startup Manager and set the firmware to boot off your whatever startup medium is (otherwise, upon reboot you'll be in the same S*ITuation). After this, you can plug back in your hard drive and reboot your computer. Hopefully, it will boot off as instructed (the USB/DVD/Network), it will recognize your hard disk, and you can use the Disk Utility to repair it, reformat it, or whatever you want to do with it. After this, everything will go back to normal, and you've saved the Apple care center's $500 bill.

Hope this will help someone to avoid the three weeks anguish I've gone through... I'm sorry to say that it is A SHAME on Apple's part to sell such cr*p and not respond for it, nor inform about it on their support page, but joyfully get your money when you take your laptop to repair.

Welcome any correction or precision to this post.

Answered! View the answer I have this problem too

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[UPDATE]

Another fixed failed: I've just removed the back cover and unplugged the battery for trying to "reset" any possible thing in the logic board. Upon plugging the battery again and the mains, problem persists.

According to an independent repair service website, one of the symptoms of a broken logic board is "white screen and no boot". So, I suppose this is the end of this question. My logic board is broken.

Who said Apple hardware is such good quality? :(

by zogoibi

so what happened to you Macbook now. Did u sent for repair. What the caused ?

by lawman889

I don't know enough english to show my respect and thankfulness to you sire.

by PureData

Thanks for posting this. Your response helped me fix my non-responsive mac-mini. Symptoms: On boot only show white screen, boot from disc not possible. Solution: Replaced hard drive with known-good, booted right up. You saved me hundreds of dollars for sure (bad drive still under warranty). Thanks again. -Dan

by Daniel Smallwood

It appears to me that you don't take praise well. Your 'system failure' possibility was certainly intriguing. It's hard to get it wrong when you paint with such a broad brush eh? But still, I thank you for showing me that certain drive problems prevent even booting from a boot dvd. Again thanks.

by Daniel Smallwood

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13 Answers

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I would suspect a hard drive or system failure. Try starting up from your system installation disk and running Disk Utilities on your hard drive.

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Thank you, Mayer. Reply a lot appreciated. But, in this model, the "system installation disk" is just a USB pendrive. And, as I say, I've already tried to boot from that, to no avail. (By the way: that pendrive works, because I've used it several times.) Some other hint?

by zogoibi

Try starting up holding down the "option key" and getting to the restore section. That failing you can try Target Mode. Apple didn't make these easy for the amateur to fix in my opinion.

by mayer

Thanks again; but, as I also say in my post, I've already tried the "press option key" boot.

How can I try Target Mode? I don't know anything about FireWire, and, unless it's some wireless thing, I don't have any adapter.

by zogoibi

Hmm... Unfortunately, I lack all of the necessary elements. :(

Anyhow, I'm very much afraid this is a logic board problem...

by zogoibi

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Hi Guys !

I had the same problem this week, moreless.

I have a macbook pro 13 inches mid 2012, not under guarantee.

The very same problem occured : withe screen after startup chime then nothing. The screen eventually turned black with white text "a disk error occured press ctrl+alt+del to restart" which is a windows 7 error message from my bootcamp.

Not a single one of the usual fixes and combinations listed above worked.

This means that the macbook can't boot neither on OSX nor Windows bootcamp.

I suspected a disk failure which is strange because it is a SSD, which is usually more reliable than a normal hard drive.. So I opened my macbook, took the drive apart an put it in an external enclosure to boot in USB. It worked like a charm ! (wtf ?)

So I ran the utility disk to repair any eventual disk problem then remount the SSD inside. This time the MBP could boot but only on recovery mode (screen with question mark folder, then a world globe asking for a wifi to run the recovery mode), the utility disk couldn't find the SSD to boot on normally or to restore a new partition...

I took it apart once again, plugged it in USB then restored fully the SSD from Time Capsule to have a brand new partition. It didn't booted either when mounted inside. The SSD was not recognized inside the computeur while outside it was...

This was %#*@ strange.

My final test was to see if it was the computer or the disk's fault. So I put a other old hard drive in my MBP and I restored from Time Capsule, and it finally worked ! (The windows 7 error message was right obviously =) )

So the problem came from my SSD, which is from Crucial and by chance it is still under guarantee so I can ask for a new one.

I am so happy this is not a problem of the motherboard ! The only issue I have while I wait for my new SSD is to run with an old HD which is sooooo &&^&^$^ slooooow ! ^^

Regards,

Mise à jour (27/10/2015)

UPDATE !

I finally replaced my SSD with a brand new one, the utility disk saw it but yet something went wrong when I tried to format it or to restore from Time Capsule. I was so desperate...

But then, as a last stand, I decided to buy a new SATA cable on iFixit because it was my last thing to do.

Turns out to be the right thing to do ! =)

In fact, my old SATA cable was just a little bit scratched (less than 1/2 mm) underneath and for some reason it was a problem when connecting a SSD but not a big deal for a classic Hard Drive. Note that SSD seems to be more affected by SATA failures.

I replaced the SATA myself thanks to some tuorials on Youtube. It's quite easy provided you have the right tools : Mini screw drivers, spudger and electric duct tape.

The last one is a good way to prevent any future scratches on your brand new SATA cable by adding a protective layer on the cable to reduce the friction between the cable and other abrassive parts such as the unibody. Make sure also to clean properly the dust from the drive compartiment that may scratch the cable in the future.

After mounting the new cable and the new ssd, the TC restauration went just fine and my Macbook is ready to go, faster than ever !

Hope this will helps.

Regards.

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Thanks zogoibi for millions. I had the same issue like you had, I didn't know what to do until you gave me a very good idea so that I finally fixed my Macbook Air 13. I'd like to share my experience.

I have a late 2010 Macbook Air 13inch, I created 3 partition on a 256 SSD. One is for 10.6.4 (Extended Journaled), one for Data (exFAT) and one for Windows 7. Everything worked fine until I changed Data partition drive letter from F: to D:, it really messed up with the boot loader. I only had a greyish white screen without anything on it when I reboot my Mac.

I've tried all the usual fixes and combinations:

  • Plugin the USB bootable installation drive and hold down OPTION key
  • Reset the SMC
  • Reset the PRAM - get the startup sound back
  • Hold down C key when boot
  • Single mode
  • Target mode
  • Battery powered, MagSafe powered...

You name it, I tried them all, but nothing works, I just get the chime and the permanent white screen.

And these are what you need:

  • A Pentalobe P5 screw driver to remove the back cover on Mac
  • A T5 Torx screw driver to remove a screw on the SSD drive
  • A bootable USB Mac OS X installation drive

* An external drive, it need minimum 50GB capacity

How to uninstall the SSD on Mac tutorial: MacBook Air 13" Late 2010 Solid-State Drive Replacement Now let's do it!

Solution 1:

  • Shut down Mac, unplugged power adapter
  • Opened the back cover on Mac
  • Disconnected battery connecter for safety
  • Uninstalled SSD from Mac
  • Plugged in USB bootable installation drive
  • Connected battery connecter
  • Rebooted Mac without connecting the SSD

It could be booted from the USB drive, and I finally went into Recovery Mode. I could use tools like Disk Utility, Startup Disk and Terminal, ect. But, I discovered one thing right away, I couldn't set my USB drive as a startup drive sincere there is only one option which was network drive (with a question mark).

I installed the SSD back, I rebooted it, I still got the same problem like before, a dead white screen.

Solution 2:

  • Removed SSD from Mac
  • Connected USB installation drive
  • Rebooted Mac, it booted from USB drive, goes to Recovery mode
  • Connected an external USB drive (suggest using 40GB+ drive)
  • Installed a new OS X on the external USB drive.
  • Rebooted Mac pressing Option key, launched "Startup Disk" tools when in the Recovery Mode, and chose the external drive as a startup disk.
  • Shut down Mac, installed SSD in Mac
  • Booted Mac, it loaded the OS-X from the external drive
  • Launch Disk Utility under OS-X, you would see you have the SSD back.
  • Repartitioned SSD, reinstalled OS-X

Chime, it works! Hope this can help, good luck!

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Thanks a lot!!

I "accidentally" executed a "sudo chmod 700 /" on my mac mini... your post saved me.

I detached the hard drive, which is very easy as you can see from this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnBtXrof... until minute 3:26). Powered on with Mavericks USB bootable inserted, managed to open the terminal and I set my USB as boot device with the following command (from https://superuser.com/questions/436745/c...)

bless -mount /Volumes/MyBootVolume -setBoot

Then I powered off, reattached the hard drive, powered on with Option key down and voilà!

Startup Manager showed up!

Thanks again!

by Mig

So %#*@ grateful... I got mi Mac mini stuck in that state for 6 months and now is back, it's an awesome machine to just let it rust because of that sick white screen.... Thanks a lot now I finally got her back to run like a champ.... Thanks for the help I will share this answer for anyone with the same problem...

by thejoepeach

You saved my life! If you are in Berlin anytime soon, ping me and you got an evening of free drinks! Cheers!!!!

by sidneybofah

AWESOME!! I was about to give up and call this a dead laptop. After removing the hard-drive and then holding down the track pad right click/left click upon booting, the disk ejected. Then I simply installed a new hard-drive re-inserted the mac osx installation disk, pressed the "option" button repeatedly on startup, then I was able to boot to the dvd installation disk and install against the new hard drive. Thanks for the time in writing this article, I'm sure it has helped many. Cheers!!

by Austin Lanier

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Good morning,

Someone I know had a similar issue with a MacBook Air. The individual had done an update to the OS and once the Air went through the start up and arrived at the log-in screen fine. The issue started once the individual input their log in password. The log in screen would change into a white screen indicating the individual was about to enter their account but came to the sad conclusion they would stay on this white screen of death indefinitely.

The individual asked for my help knowing I have been an Apple user for some time. So with the help of the internet and my experience I went through the usual steps everyone on the net would guide anyone. I started by doing a "Disk Verify"and then a "Disk Repair"just to make sure everything was good; even tough I have been told since MacBook Airs use flash there is no need. The following step was to reset the PRAM. After that I went on and restarted the MacBook Air and ran into the same problem once more. The boot logo comes on and then I got the log in screen. Once I entered the individuals credentials I inevitably got the "white screen of death". My last try would be to go into a "Safe Mode" by restarting the MacBook Air while holding down the "Shift key". Wala, I was able to access the individual's account so they can save any information needed before I try an erase and install. Hopefully once they have extracted whatever information they need the erase and install will fix the issue.

I hope my experience with the "white screen of Death"helps anyone still trying to save there personal information which they thought might be lost.

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Done the above, unplugged and removed HD which worked once then stupidly I didn't set time machine etc up before it went again and now it won't work again. Nothing backed up either :/

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Same thing happened here. Did you find a fix?

by Rymo

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I actually found this fix very simple. I removed HDD, ram. powered on - no boot, reinstalled ram and HDD, booted safe mode. restart normal, repair disk. Done

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i tried that and there come a blank white screen with blinking folder

by DIS JOCK METAL

@DIS JOCK METAL - That would imply the drive is gone or its missing the OS.

by Dan

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Recently my MacBook Pro failed to boot after fall a death white screen...

Because that I can`t reset PRAM, impossible Repair start Up the system.

After while had a diagnosed, one those memory RAM had failed, and was replaced...

Problem solved! But was hard to find out that!

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If you were using El Capitan, you probably have to insert the following command in the terminal:

csrutil disable

And on a Macbook Air it was a bit complicated to choose an external startup disk and make it stick (otherwise you get back to the same situation).

  1. Hold option key while booting
  2. Select the correct startup disk
  3. Hold control key while tapping Enter to make it stick (the icon above the disk should become a circle)

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Or... You could just select the the correct drive as your startup disk under the control panel called Startup

by Dan

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Hi, Can I just connect the internal SSD from a late 2013 MacBook Pro into an external USB Case to access it from another Computer?

I'm having the same problem as mentioned above haven't gotten the pentalobe screwdriver yet.

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Hi,

Yes it will work just hold the Option key when you boot your Mac, then choose the drive which the computer will boot from.

by Dr Mario

Another option here instead of removing the drive is to connect the systems back to back via a FireWire or Thunderbolt cable then on the working system put it into Target mode by holding the T key during boot up. Now the good systems drive will allow you to boot up from the problem Mac. You'll need to press the Option key during the boot-up of the problem Mac to gain access to the good drive from the other system.

by Dan

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My MacBook had a bad hard drive and it had that same thing happen with the white screen. So I bought a new hard drive, put it in, and installed Yosemite on it. It works good as new now!

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Will this save what I had on the MacBook Pro when the crash happened. I composed some music I failed to save to time-machine disc....

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Sadly no, your problem is different than the ones listed here as they lost access to the drive because the system is confused. In your case the drive likely crashed. I would recommend you try recovering your data after you get your system booted up via a different drive. What you don't want here is to alter the files on your drive until you have recovered what you can. Here you'll need to used a recovery drive like this one: Data Rescue ONE and hope for the best here! In the long haul you'll need a new drive too.

by Dan

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My 'white screen' problem is somewhat similar (early 2011 A1297 MBP 17"):

Try normal power-on, get chime, get apple logo, get spinning pinwheel. After a few minutes the screen goes white and stays white forever.

Try power-on with El Capitan install flash drive in USB port while holding Option, get option screen, select El Capitan, get Apple logo with progress bar (no pinwheel). At halfway thru progress bar the screen goes black for a couple seconds, then white forever.

I've tried every reset I can find on the internet. One time (and one time only) after a PRAM reset I did a restart and the MBP powered up completely ran normally with full functions for about 45 minutes then froze. Since then same problem.

What I've tried:

- every reset I can find

- a known good hard drive from an early 2001 11" MBP

- replacing RAM

- try booting with hard drive into USB with an adapter

Seems like it may be heat related ...

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White screen on two of my computers, iMac late 2009 and Mac Pro Late 2008. This all hapens after update to El Capitan!!!!!! Have tried everything and again everything and nothing works! The iMac has now gone from white screen to black after trying to much... The Mac Pro works if I push out the DVD rom after the starting sound! If I dont do that it just goes white forever... Never thought Apple would do something like this, it

reminds me of windows!!!problems problems and more problems.

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zogoibi will be eternally grateful.