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MacBook Pro displays ? when booting up

Hi John I have a 2009 MacBook Pro and when I try to boot up a question mark shows up on the screen. What causes this ?


  • edited February 2019

    Thanks for the post!

    A blinking question mark means that for whatever reason the laptop is unable to boot to the operating system. This could be because there is no hard drive, or that the operating system on the hard drive has become corrupted and is no longer bootable (although the hard drive is still technically good), or that the hard drive has become physically defective and needs to be replaced.

    If you don't have a means of re-installing an OS, I would suggest trying an "Internet Recovery". Power on while holding down Option-Command-R. The computer should prompt you to log into your WIFI connection. The Mac will then connect to Apple over the Internet, download the OS it came with, and install a recovery partition to the hard drive, after which it will allow you to re-install the OS. If the hard drive is functional, this process will succeed, but if it is defective, it will not appear in the Disk Utility portion of the recovery process, and you will therefore know that you need a new hard drive.

    Good luck!


  • The hard drive cable connected on one side to the hard drive and to the other side to the logic board could also be the culprit fo a blinking question mark display. Regular issue on macbook pros 2011 13".

  • Hey Lemerise, how have you been? Good catch -- I forgot to mention the hard drive cable could be a possibility

  • Found your website today and remembered we had good discussions on the iFixit Answers forum a couple years ago. I see that you're still in the business. Great site, very instructive :-)

  • Sorry for the delay -- just noticed the response. Anyway, thanks so much! Yeah, the Answers site was fun...trying to build it up here, but it's tricky getting momentum behind a website! Anyway, hope you're doing well, and stay in touch!

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