Mac OS X: Flashing Question Mark Appears; Computer Unexpectedly Starts up From Mac OS 9

Reselect the startup disk when you see a flashing question mark or when the computer unexpectedly starts up from Mac OS 9.

This article has been archived and is no longer updated by Apple.


  • After you turn on the computer, a flashing question mark appears on the screen.
  • The computer may not start up or starts up from an alternate System Folder, such as the Mac OS 9 System Folder used by the Classic environment.


    1. Start up the computer from the Mac OS 9 System Folder.
    Note: If the computer does not start up successfully from Mac OS 9 a moment after the flashing question mark appears, then start up the computer using the Mac OS 9 CD-ROM disc included with Mac OS X 10.0, or the one that came with your computer. For best results, use Mac OS 9.2.1 or later.
    2. Double-click the hard disk icon to open it.
    3. Locate the System Folder in the hard disk and open it.
    There is another folder named "System". That is not the right folder.
    4. Open the Control Panels folder.
    5. Open the Startup Disk control panel.
    6. Click the Mac OS X System Folder to select it.
    7. Restart the computer.


    1. You should use Startup Disk 9.2.1, or later, which is available from Apple Software Updates (

    2. Startup Disk 9.2.1 is not included on a Mac OS 9.0 or 9.1 CD-ROM disc. The version of Startup Disk located in the System Folder on your hard disk is most likely a later version. For this reason, do not use the Startup Disk control panel available from the Apple Menu when started up from CD-ROM. Use the Startup Disk control panel located in the System Folder on the hard disk instead.

    3. If you have installed licensed copies of Mac OS X on multiple disks on the same computer, see technical document 106220: "Mac OS X 10.0: May Start Up From Wrong System Folder When Multiple Versions Are Installed"


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58042 Macintosh: Flashing Question Mark at Startup

Last Modified: Feb 20, 2012

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