Recognizing Danger: 5 Warning Signs Showing Your Mac Has A Problem
Whatsapp Pinterest

mac warning signsIt’s safe to say that the Apple Macintosh computer is a great piece of hardware with a fantastic operating system, but it’s definitely not impervious to errors. Sometimes it acts funny, and because continuing on with our day is more important than actually getting something fixed, we’ll ignore it.

After all, it’s a Mac, right? It’s invincible! The god of all personal computers (yeah, right).

Below are a few Mac warning signs to watch out for that should notify you that your Mac has a problem. Some are obvious. Some aren’t. Some are even easy to ignore. In any instance, it’s important to get the computer doctored up right away if these issues sound familiar.

Logos & Question Marks

mac warning signs

Occasionally, your Mac will like to freeze on its favorite pictures on start-up. Some of these include its own logo, a flashing question mark on a folder, and even a circles with a slash. Maybe it has gained sentience and is just trying show you how great Apple’s artwork is! Perhaps it’s just confused. Either way, it’s a problem, and we need to identify it.

Freezing on the Apple logo (sometimes with a spinning gear) means that the computer could possibly have a corrupt OSX installation How to Install macOS on a PC (Mac Required) How to Install macOS on a PC (Mac Required) With the right combination of components and effort, you can install macOS on a regular PC. Read More . Alternatively, and on less likely terms, your system could be having some difficulty finding an internal or external hardware part. Restarting in Safe Mode might help, and if that doesn’t work, an Archive and Install might be a more drastic yet applicable option.

Similarly, a flashing question mark on a folder or a circle with a slash is also the sign of a possible corrupt OSX installation. On the other hand, this could also be the result of a failed or failing hard drive. Get that looked at, brother.

Weird Start-up Tones (And Fancy Lights)

mac problem diagnosis

Weird start-up tones apart from the usual sexy chime Mac uses are sometimes the sign of Bad RAM. The type of noise you should listen for is a single beep or three beeps. Another sign is blinking sleep lights – no bueno. Removing the RAM DIMM one at a time and restarting is a nice way to check this. Else, it might something worth contacting Apple about.

RAM What Is A RAM Disk, And How You Can Set One Up What Is A RAM Disk, And How You Can Set One Up Solid state hard drives aren’t the first non-mechanical storage to appear in consumer PCs. RAM has been used for decades, but primarily as a short-term storage solution. The fast access times of RAM makes it... Read More can’t be the only problem, though. A bad logic board, power manager, or video card could even be the suspect. The point is that something is wrong, and you should get it looked at if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Powering Up Won’t Work

mac problem diagnosis

One of the more obvious ways you can tell that your Mac has a problem is when it doesn’t start up. With that said, stop wasting your time hitting the power button over and over, screaming to the Mac gods for mercy on your mountain-lionhearted soul. Instead, let’s try to narrow it down to the possible culprits:

  • Dead Battery
  • Bad AC Adapter
  • PRAM Problems
  • Bad Power Supply
  • Bad Logic Board

Any of these above issues could very well be the reason for your Mac’s start-up apathy, but as always, it could be more than one issue. Additionally, there’s a number of symptoms that could be paired with these troubles, so below are a few specifics.

Sometimes, you may have a dead battery, and for those of you who come from a different era of MacBooks with removable batteries, this will be a breeze to change out. For those of us who have the newer models, it will be a bit more of an issue, unfortunately. Additionally, the AC Adapter may be shot. Check for the green/amber light on the charge and whether or not it is hot to the touch.

There’s also the PRAM battery which stores all of your Mac’s basic innermost knowledge: date and time, network settings, startup drives, etc. When your computer doesn’t start up, it could very well be a dead PRAM. Other times, you might be able to start up, but the date and time will always reset. Letting your Mac sit and charge between half and hour and a hour can often help charge the PRAM, but more often than not, you’ll just need to find a replacement.

Moving right along, have you ever heard a loud pop sound while trying to turn on your defunct Mac? Boom. This is probably a power supply problem, and as expected, you’ll want to get this checked out ASAP. Sometimes the fan may even start fluttering about as normal. Don’t mistake this for the computer being on, though. It’s just that a tiny bit of the power made it to the hardware and it was routed to the fans. Functioning fans without starting up are also the sign of a bad logic board, but often accompanied with this is a flickering screen or frozen clock.

Funny Noises

mac problem diagnosis

Moving right along the lines of “if it seems like it’s broken, it probably is”, you might want to get things checked out if the computer is making weird noises. We already covered how the fans may whir while the computer doesn’t start-up. It’s like a bad power supply or bad logic board. But just when you thought that’s all there is with the fan, there’s more!

If the fan is making funky revving noises like a cheap car trying to drag race (or a five-year-old on his bike making the same sounds), this means that a fan replacement is in order. This issue won’t break the bank too much, so no worries there.

What you should worry about is squealing, whining, or chirping sounds. These are the signs of a failing or failed hard drive, and you’ll want to be very delicate in this case. Sometimes a simple restart will help, but don’t keeping trying too much. Hard drives are serious business, and they can lose data under too much strain. Freezing the hard drive (if you can get to it) is another option, but I’ve seen this happen primarily with the external ones. In other words, be careful.

Kernel Panics, Blue Screens & Blank Desktops

mac warning signs

Kernel panics are your Mac’s “ouch I hurt myself” notification, and although they happen to us all at one point or another, it’s a good idea to look at them a bit more closely if they are a regular occurrence. Bad RAM, hard drive corruption, hardware troubles and more can all be a result of this.

As for blue screens and blank desktops, this might have something to do with corrupt fonts or a bad preference list. If you’d like to troubleshoot this, you might want to try using a second emergency account or booting in Safe Mode.


That’s it for Mac problems, folks. If you happen to have a few issues that you just can’t fix, make sure to hit up MakeUseOf Answers for some possible solutions.

What are some other Mac warning signs you have run across? Do you have any other solutions for Mac problems?

Image Credits: seffninja, benjamin-nageleofsr, mihimaru, h_okumura

Explore more about: Blue Screen of Death, Computer Maintenance.

Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter!

Enter your Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Elyas AlFaraj
    April 26, 2019 at 9:07 am

    I am hearing a big ben noise from my MacBook and I have closed everything on my mac but it seems to still happen, what does this mean, is my computer under a problem??

  2. Jackie
    September 20, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Just tried to turn my iMac on and there is a scraping noise coming from the main body of the computer and there is nothing but a white screen. After unplugging and trying again the scraping noise is now accompanied by a beep both of which are now coming at approx 4 second intervals with no sign of the computer starting up. I'm presuming it's terminal and considering I haven't backed it up for a few months I think I may be least there is no burning electrical smell. Thank the Lord for my iPad, I may still have all my contacts etc to install when I buy a new computer... will try to find an Apple guy to see if anything can be salvaged though..

  3. Jim
    November 6, 2016 at 8:36 am

    I've got a weird one. I power up and the last 3 out of say 5 or 6 times the screen is just blank, black. I hear the Apple C tone but nothing. I did a hard stop/cancel and this time did the 'Command/R/Option/P' thing and the second time around after I did that the screen came on powered up then the screen goes off then on then a crazy PsychDelic dayglo green glob thing flashed twice within the 4 flashes of the screen.
    (Disclaimer: No Paoti, Mushrooms or LSD were used to prepare or preform this project)
    So then everything seemed I am writing about it while smashing Iron Butterfly records.
    What the hell kind of cyber dope is my Imac on?

    Oh I should mention I have another screen hooked up to it a Vizio into that firebolt or whatever the heck it's called.
    If no one comments back it's all good just wanted to see if anyone had this.......

  4. RustyPolo
    March 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    good article. i'm glad it hasn't happened for me yet

  5. Osama Idris
    January 17, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    Very useful and well written article guys! Big thanks for this one!

  6. Scott Macmillan
    January 17, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    I'm happy using PC.There isn't any way that I'm going to pay Apple's huge price difference just because its prettier.

  7. Adam Campbell
    January 17, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    Great article, I had the chirping HD fiasco occur to my mac, but now I have a SSD and its faster than ever.

  8. AP
    January 17, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    You have given some interesting way to diagnose a problem.

  9. michel
    January 17, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    the price tag is the biggest problem. Followed by the false promise that it's any better than any other computer.

  10. Florin Ardelian
    January 17, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Also, remember that it's "Apple" not "Eaten Apple" so make sure your logo is a full apple, not one of those broken ones I see everywhere.

  11. Sashritha Peiris
    January 17, 2013 at 4:29 am

    Watch out for a grey bar that starts filling up at the bottom of the screen. It meant a corrupt hard disk for me.