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I have been using a Mac mini computer for several years now and up until recently everything has been running fine. Now when i start it up the mac runs until it reaches a blue screen and i havent found the patience to wait more than two days to see where it might take me from there. I have tried starting the computer and imputting several commands such as resetting the pram and the nv ram which still leads me to a blue screen. I have put the installation cd in and imput command c so when it starts it runs directly from the cd drive which brings me to an installation screen. At this point i have a choice to archive and install which enables me to save my files or the option to erase and start a new. I tried the archive and install but it reached an error. I have yet to try the erase and start a new because i was wondering if there is any other things to try before taking that option. There are a few possibilities it seems at the top menu bar during the installation process such as disc utility, startup disc, network disc and some other options but i dont know enough about them to use them. If anybody feels that they might be able to contribute some information to help my cause, please do because i would appreciate it very much. Thank you

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We had this issue with a Mac Mini here at the office. Being our resident Mac guy, I was called in for a morning-long troubleshooting session. Here's what I recall going through.

  1. You're on the right track to boot from CD. The fact that you can do so indicates that the core hardware is still working fine.
  2. The utilities in the menu bar for the installer are your friend. You want to locate "startup disk."
  3. Hopefully "startup disk" will at least show you your hard drive. Make sure it's the selected startup disk. (In our case, the "network boot" was selected, and our network does not support network booting of Macs.) This should be your first step; however it wound up being our last because we never thought of it. :)
  4. Next, try Disk Utility. This is the same Disk Utility as can be found in your /Applications/Utilities folder.
  5. If you do not see a hard drive on your left, the hard drive is shot. You'll need to buy a new hard drive and reinstall. I sincerely hope this isn't the case.
  6. Select the partition of your hard drive (the entry right underneath the main hard drive icon), and click "Verify Disk."
  7. Assuming the verification succeeded, then you may have an issue with OS X itself. As alex mentioned, try booting in safe mode by pressing and holding x at startup.
  8. If the verification failed, try the "Repair Disk" option.
  9. If the repair succeeded, go back to Startup Disk and make sure the hard drive is your startup disk. Reboot. If this worked, my personal recommendation is to immediately archive everything you care about to DVD and replace the hard drive itself ASAP.

If none of this has helped, then you are beyond my help without me having physical access to the machine. At that point, I'd take it to an Apple Store for genius service before doing an OS reinstall, as those tend to be fairly destructive.

Do you recall what the specific error the install+archive option found was?

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Have you tried starting it while pressing x? This will make it start in safe-mode. If it doesn't start with x, you really have a problem.

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Did you mean shift? X was used to start up a computer in Mac OS X using Mac OS X and Mac OS 9. – Chealion Oct 25 '09 at 16:42

Obviously it is hard to say for sure without seeing it, however the last time I dealt with this issue, it turned out that the hard drive was going bad.

I would put in the installation CD and then go to shell and run diagnostic tools. You may want to backup your data ASAP. (I usually take out the disk and run tools on a workstation. I have just found this guide for you however I can not vouch for it.)

You may be able to reinstall OSX without wiping your data and you may get 2 or 3 runs before it goes faulty again, but it will happen again.

This is assuming it is the hard drive, and that you have not installed/uninstalled anything recently such as drivers and or devices - or even done any serious updates.

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