Macspiration 36
Refurbished Macs and the Verbose Mode Dilemma

This Macspiration is going to be a little different – More of a story with a solution to a problem. This may not be a common problem, but I have seen it more than once, which makes me think there are more people out there with the same experience.

Apple is one of the few companies that I trust to buy a refurbished product from. It comes with the same warranty as a new product, and you can also buy Applecare for a refurbished Mac just like a new one. However, based on my two experiences with refurbished Mac’s I’m starting to think something strange might be going on at the warehouse.

A friend of mine recently bought a refurbished Intel iMac from Apple. When it finally arrived he hooked it up, turned it on, and got a bunch of white text on a black background. Not only that, after the computer booted he was on a screen that resembled an OS 9 window. He had no clue what was going on, so he called me.

Coincidentally, I purchased a refurbished iBook for my school last summer (again, from Apple), and it had the same exact problem. What are the odds of that? In this case, I took the iBook to my local Apple Store where the problem was solved.

Anyway, after some emails to MyMac’s Tim Robertson, some Google searches, some posts on Apple’s Discussion Boards, and some “Aha!” moments when I remembered what the Apple Genius at my local Apple Store did with the iBook, we finally got the iMac working.

The one thing that I remembered clearly was that the Apple Genius told me that the techs at the warehouse forgot to finish setting the computer up for shipping condition. The Apple Genius entered some kind of code into Terminal and everything worked. Since I couldn’t remember anything else, I took Tim’s advice and reformatted the hard drive.

This was one of those “Aha” moments. I ran Disk Utility and discovered that the hard drive was broken up into three partitions. The iBook I bought had the same problem.

Another “Aha” moment occurred when I remembered the Apple Genius repartitioning the drive, and reinstalling OSX. So, I reformatted the hard drive into one partition, and reinstalled everything with the hope of a fix.

Well, the computer did boot fine, but that weird white text was still showing up instead of the Apple and blue progress bar screen. I finally discovered booting in verbose mode causes the text. Verbose mode allows someone to see what is happening “under the hood” when your computer boots, and use that for possibly diagnosing a problem. Apparently, the warehouse folks forgot to turn this mode off.

What would we do without Google? Probably use another search engine, but that is beside the point. I did some Google searches and found the Terminal command I kept thinking about from my iBook experience.

To turn off verbose mode, you need to use the Terminal. The Terminal is not an application to play around with. It is one of those “open the program, do what you have to do, and get out” type of apps. Terminal is located in the Utilities folder, which is in your Applications folder.

After opening Terminal, a window will open with a text prompt. At the prompt type:
sudo nvram boot-args="”

You should be asked for the admin password, enter it, and press return. After a few seconds, the Terminal will let you know the process has completed. Quit Terminal, and restart. The white on black text should be gone, and you should see the “normal” gray Apple logo followed by the blue progress bar screen.

My friend tried the code out, and it worked! What a relief. No trip to the Apple Store needed!

In my friend’s case, he had to choose “New Command” from the file menu, and enter the code there. I’m not sure why, but a least it worked.

If for some reason you want to turn verbose mode on, here is the Terminal code:
sudo nvram boot-args="-v"

My friend is up and running and enjoying his new Intel iMac.

You might ask if I would buy or suggest buying a refurbished Mac in the future? Sure. As strange and inconvenient as this problem was, it had a fix. If I couldn’t figure it out, we knew Apple would take care of it. A refurbished Mac is a great way to get a new computer and save a lot of money.

If I remember correctly, the iBook I bought for school was $600! That was for a G4 iBook with a combo-drive. In fact, I’m anxious to see what happens to the refurbished iBook prices when the next generation iBook (or whatever it is called) comes out. Based on the current refurbished iMac pricing, I’m hoping for below $600 iBooks. We’ll see.

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