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Why is MacBook Pro quitting &/or failing to start up?

This is an issue that started today.

Last night I shut down the machine. This morning I switched it on and got the initial sound but not the chime. The sleep indicator light would blink in groups of 3 blinks. I checked the battery. And also tried some tips on the Apple site for troubleshooting a MBP that won't turn on. Anyway, after looking at a couple of forums, I wound up removing and re-seating the memory. Ok, then it works for about 45 minutes, but then the screen went black and again the 3-blinks of the sleep light.

What should I try next in troubleshooting this machine?

I have had no problems in terms of performance or other issues til today. The MBP is from early 2008. There was an iTunes update yesterday and otherwise no new software or updates. Also no external devices plugged in.

However it did have the power supply connected. I did notice this morning that the power supply had come loose from the power strip -- possibly caused by a cat. This is the only thing that seemed to be a variance from usual.

Thanks.

Anyone? Links or tips on MBP diagnostics would be appreciated.

Next step should be running a hardware test. Boot your mac and hold down "D". This should run a hardware test that will find any problems on your machine. If the results aren't helpful, bring it to an authorized apple repair shop or an Apple Store. They have a tool that can boot on your mac over a network that will run an advanced hardware test and diagnose your problem.
I had a similar problem when my motherboard was faulty and kept crashing my MacBook Pro, causing corrupted filesystems... it was a whole thing but doing hardware tests seemed to find the root of the problem...

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You have a serious problem. Although it may only be system corruption or corrupted directory, it seems more likely that your drive has indeed failed. Nevertheless, you should read through the following for workable solutions assuming the drive is still OK.

Question (?) Mark, Blinking Folder, or Gray Screen at Startup

These are related but not identical issues. Their causes are outlined in Intel-based Mac- Startup sequence and error codes, symbols. Solutions may be found in:

A flashing question mark appears when you start your Mac

Mac OS X- Gray screen appears during startup

In most cases the problems may be caused by:

Problem with the computer's PRAM - See Resetting your Mac's PRAM and NVRAM.

Boot drive's directory has been corrupted - Repair with Disk Utility.

Critical system files are damaged or deleted - Reinstall OS X.

The disk drive is physically non-functional - Replace the hard drive.

Repair the Hard Drive and Permissions

Boot from your Snow Leopard Installer disc. After the installer loads select your language and click on the Continue button. When the menu bar appears select Disk Utility from the Utilities menu. After DU loads select your hard drive entry (mfgr.'s ID and drive size) from the the left side list. In the DU status area you will see an entry for the S.M.A.R.T. status of the hard drive. If it does not say "Verified" then the hard drive is failing or failed. (SMART status is not reported on external Firewire or USB drives.) If the drive is "Verified" then select your OS X volume from the list on the left (sub-entry below the drive entry,) click on the First Aid tab, then click on the Repair Disk button. If DU reports any errors that have been fixed, then re-run Repair Disk until no errors are reported. If no errors are reported click on the Repair Permissions button. Wait until the operation completes, then quit DU and return to the installer.

If DU reports errors it cannot fix, then you will need Disk Warrior and/or Tech Tool Pro to repair the drive. If you don't have either of them or if neither of them can fix the drive, then you will need to reformat the drive and reinstall OS X.

The main difference if you are using Lion or Mountain Lion is that you must first boot from the Recovery HD:

Boot From The Recovery HD:

Restart the computer and after the chime press and hold down the COMMAND and R keys until the menu screen appears. Alternatively, restart the computer and after the chime press and hold down the OPTION key until the boot manager screen appears. Select the Recovery HD and click on the downward pointing arrow button.

Reinstall Snow Leopard Without Erasing The drive

1. Repair the Hard Drive and Permissions

Boot from your Snow Leopard Installer disc. After the installer loads select your language and click on the Continue button. When the menu bar appears select Disk Utility from the Utilities menu. After DU loads select your hard drive entry (mfgr.'s ID and drive size) from the the left side list. In the DU status area you will see an entry for the S.M.A.R.T. status of the hard drive. If it does not say "Verified" then the hard drive is failing or failed. (SMART status is not reported on external Firewire or USB drives.) If the drive is "Verified" then select your OS X volume from the list on the left (sub-entry below the drive entry,) click on the First Aid tab, then click on the Repair Disk button. If DU reports any errors that have been fixed, then re-run Repair Disk until no errors are reported. If no errors are reported click on the Repair Permissions button. Wait until the operation completes, then quit DU and return to the installer.

If DU reports errors it cannot fix, then you will need Disk Warrior and/or Tech Tool Pro to repair the drive. If you don't have either of them or if neither of them can fix the drive, then you will need to reformat the drive and reinstall OS X.

2. Reinstall Snow Leopard

If the drive is OK then quit DU and return to the installer. Proceed with reinstalling OS X. Note that the Snow Leopard installer will not erase your drive or disturb your files. After installing a fresh copy of OS X the installer will move your Home folder, third-party applications, support items, and network preferences into the newly installed system.

Download and install Mac OS X 10.6.8 Update Combo v1.1.

Reinstalling Lion/Mountain Lion Without Erasing The Drive

Boot to the Recovery HD: Restart the computer and after the chime press and hold down the COMMAND and R keys until the menu screen appears. Alternatively, restart the computer and after the chime press and hold down the OPTION key until the boot manager screen appears. Select the Recovery HD and click on the downward pointing arrow button.

Repair the Hard Drive and Permissions: Upon startup select Disk Utility from the main menu. Repair the Hard Drive and Permissions as follows.

When the recovery menu appears select Disk Utility. After DU loads select your hard drive entry (mfgr.'s ID and drive size) from the the left side list. In the DU status area you will see an entry for the S.M.A.R.T. status of the hard drive. If it does not say "Verified" then the hard drive is failing or failed. (SMART status is not reported on external Firewire or USB drives.) If the drive is "Verified" then select your OS X volume from the list on the left (sub-entry below the drive entry,) click on the First Aid tab, then click on the Repair Disk button. If DU reports any errors that have been fixed, then re-run Repair Disk until no errors are reported. If no errors are reported click on the Repair Permissions button. Wait until the operation completes, then quit DU and return to the main menu.

Reinstall Lion/Mountain Lion: Select Reinstall Lion/Mountain Lion and click on the Continue button.

Note: You will need an active Internet connection. I suggest using Ethernet if possible because it is three times faster than wireless.

OS X v10.6- Gray progress bar appears under Apple logo during startup

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The blinking is a for of POST (Power On Self Test) and can certainly help diagnose the issue.

As most people are saying it is most likely a RAM issue.

The following documents can help diagnose POST messages and various issues related to your laptop during the boot process:

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