Excerpt from Chapter 1

Question Mark and the Mysterions

Although it’s unlikely that you’ll see a sad Mac, all users eventually encounter the flashing question mark (shown in Figure 1-5) in place of the usual happy Mac at some time in their lives. Don’t worry. This one is a breeze. This icon means that your Mac can’t find a startup disk, a floppy or hard disk containing valid System software.

When you turn on your Mac, the first thing it does (after the aforementioned hardware tests) is check the floppy disk drive for a startup disk (something with System 7.5 on it). If it doesn’t find one there, it scans the SCSI bus. At this point, your Mac usually finds your hard disk, which contains a System Folder, and the startup process continues on its merry way with the happy Mac and all the rest.

Think of the flashing question mark as your Mac’s way of saying, "Please provide me with System software."

If Apple can figure out a way to put a flashing question mark on the screen, why the heck can’t the software engineers find a way to put the words, "Please insert a startup disk" on the screen as well. The curtness of the flashing question mark is one of my pet peeves about the Macintosh.
I know, you’re clever and smart (you’re reading Macintosh System 7.5 For Dummies, aren’t you?), so you know that a flashing question mark means that you should insert a startup disk. But what about everyone else?
Get with the program, Apple.

The ultimate startup disk

Chances are you have a copy of the ultimate startup disk right there on your computer table. It’s called Disk Tools, and it’s one of the disks that you get with all versions of System 7. If you’ve got a flashing question mark, pop Disk Tools into your floppy drive and your Mac will boot, just like magic.

Disk Tools is the ultimate startup disk because, in addition to a System and Finder, the two files that must be present on a startup disk, it also has copies of Disk First Aid and Apple HD SC Setup, two programs that you may need if you see a flashing question mark. Disk First Aid can repair hidden damage to your hard disk; HD SC Setup can install new hard disk drivers. Both Disk First Aid and Apple HD SC Setup are described more completely in Chapter 18.

Now what?

OK, so you’ve gotten your Mac to boot from the Disk Tools disk, but there’s still this little problem. Like you’d prefer that your Mac boot from your (much faster) hard disk than that piddly little Disk Tools floppy. Not to worry. All you need to do is install System 7.5. Read on.


The legend of the boot

Boot this. Boot that. "I booted my Mac and . . .," "Did it boot?" It seems nearly impossible to talk about computers for long without hearing the word.
But why boot? Why not shoe or shirt or even shazam?
It all began in the very olden days, maybe the 1970s or a little earlier, when starting up a computer required you to toggle little manual switches on the front panel, which began an internal process that loaded the operating system. The process became known as "bootstrapping" because if you toggled the right switches, the computer would "pull itself up by the bootstraps." It didn’t take long for the phrase to transmogrify into "booting" and "boot."
Over the years, booting has come to mean turning on almost any computer or even a peripheral device like a printer. Some people also use it to refer to launching an application: "I booted Excel."
So the next time one of your gear-head friends says the B word, ask if he or she knows where the term comes from. Then dazzle your friend with the depth and breadth of your knowledge.

Those of you who are going to upgrade from System 7.x to System 7.5 may want to read along, too. The rest of you, the ones whose Macs booted from a hard drive with System 7.5 installed, can breathe a sigh of relief and skip ahead to the next section.

Back to the index.

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