Installing OSX on Macbook 1.1 failing- Hit a wall.

Oct 30, 2011
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I'm stuck right now with my attempt to install a fresh copy of OSX on this MacBook.

Some background:
I purchased this machine used, from a refurbisher. They had installed Ubuntu on it.

The system is a MacBook 1,1 (A1181) with CoreDuo @2.0GHz, 1GB RAM (2x512mb Samsung), 160GB HDD and SuperDrive.

I was able to borrow a friend's 10.6 Retail disk, and tried booting from disk. The internal drive on the MacBook sounded like it was seeking, went through three cycles of spin up, seek, spin down before spitting the disk out. I went ahead and booted into Ubuntu from the Live CD so I could use gparted to do a fresh reformat of the drive. Tried again, same deal.

I plugged in an external drive, basically the same deal, except the disc didn't eject, it just kept spinning but no activity.

I tried holding down option, and using the boot selector. With the external drive, the disc is recognized as the OS X Install DVD, but when I clicked to boot from that disc, same thing happened as above. Disk would spin up, seek a little, then spin down and idle. Screen would go to blank grey. If I was using the internal drive, the it would just do the failed seek then eject the disk.

My friend's roommate had a 10.6 disk that came with his MacBookPro, we gave that a try, same results.

I then did the PRAM reset, and after the 3rd reset, connected the external DVD with the Install DVD. This time, I actually get the Apple logo. But after the drive seeked for a little bit, I get the probihitory sign. Another dead end. Same deal with the other disk. I then tried his 10.5 disk that came with his system. No avail.

If I allow it to power down between a PRAM reset and a boot attempt, it goes back to square one.

I should mention, in this meantime, I had been able to boot into the Ubuntu installation that was on the HD before I wiped it, and also into the Ubuntu Live CD flawlessly. Though the battery wasn't charging, although in the refurb test, it shows that the battery does indeed hold a charge, and a fairly strong one.

I've searched around for possible fixes, but I feel like I am at a dead end right now. Of course, the exchange policy is still in force for the machine, and I have until the Friday after next to bring it in if I end up wanting to get rid of it. Now, I would really rather try and get it to work. And if it's maybe a optical drive problem, I can get that replaced under their warranty instead of giving up the whole system. The system seems to be other wise rock solid, and is in really good shape physically.

I generally trust this refurbisher, they're a non-profit volunteer based program, and I've been a volunteer as well as an instructor with them before (although not dealing with Macs). They have the more experienced volunteers working on laptops and macs. I've also gone through the checklist that they have when they test these systems. They boot into 10.5 from an external drive and do function-tests before wiping and installing Ubuntu, for what it's worth.

Any hunches and ideas would be greatly appreciated!

I wouldn't be surprised if the optical drive is crapping out, from experiences with my G4 PowerBook back in the day, and just from the symptoms. What I don't understand is why this is keeping the system from booting from the external drive, and why Ubuntu is booting from a disk just fine.


Retired Staff
Dec 20, 2006
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Lake Mary, Florida
Your Mac's Specs
14" MacBook Pro M1 Pro, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD
Internal SuperDrives are not all that robust, so it wouldn't shock me if that drive were actually faulty, assuming of course that the retail disc you borrowed was in good shape with no obvious scratches.

System discs that come with a particular Mac model are tailored to the machine they're sold with, so that's probably why it didn't work with your friend's OEM discs.

I would recommend purchasing the Mac Box Set (Apple's recommended upgrade path for a machine of that vintage) and an external optical drive. That should do the trick.

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