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I bought a used mac mini off ebay 2 weeks ago. It's been working fine. Earlier today, I came back to my mac mini and logged in (typed password and hit enter). The computer just froze, and after a few minutes I restarted the mac mini using the hardware button (held it until it turned off). Now when it starts up there's just a gray folder instead of the apple icon. After researching this online, it apparently isn't finding a "startup" folder.

So I used the installation disc to start up and then tried disc utility. The problem is that the hard drive is no longer listed (all that is listed is the cd drive).

What steps should I take at this point?

Replacing the hard drive is obviously my last choice, since that involves the most cost/effort/time. So anything else for now?

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Basically, no. You already tried with installation CD, which is my first guess for checking it.

My first attempt would be opening mac mini and checking that connectors are in place.

If you have another computer, I would try that disk on there too, to see whether disk or mac mini is broken.

Opening Mac mini is a little bit tricky, but there is instructions.

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