White Macbook no Internet Recovery flashing?

Hi all

I have a used, I am guessing 2009 White Macbook. ( the bottom has the battery that you use a coin to turn to remove battery).I have put a new hard drive in and hit Cmd R but only get the flashing questionmark icon. I also tried Cmd Option R but same. I cant get into Internet recovery mode, ethernet cable is connected.

I have then tried to format the drive in late 2011 Macbook pro and put installed Mountain Lion and pop the drive back into the White MacBook but that said I cant use it…I then took the HD out and formatted it again on the 2011 MacBook Pro popped it cack into White MacBook and trying Cmd R or Cmd Option R only to not get passed Flashing questionmark icon.

I am totally lost as to how to get this new HD to install the white macbook, how to get into recovery mode and install whatever osx it can

Any help would be great

I have also hit Option before power up and nothing shows up, I then put the HD into an external usb case and option before power up = nothing shows up.

Went back to 2011 MBP reformatted ext journalled guid put it back in to white nothing, tried the external usb again nothing

Heres a thought… get a copy of Mactracker (its free) and seek in there, for the exact model you have. I thought it was an ibook but I was wrong… Then check the specs and see which OS it can run. Mactracker is a very useful source of info.


Hey Ross! I have a lot of experience with these MacBooks.

It’s probably 2006/7/8 rather than a 2009. If so, Mountain Lion will not work. Lion is the last OSX that will, 10.7.5.

But I wouldn’t bother, use Linux!


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From experience, it’s nearly useless in a real world situation, with an OS X that old, Benny. Can’t even handle the modern Internet. Ironically, even Windows 10 is more capable on this older hardware than is MacOS. Now, there are ways supposedly to get newer OS X versions on it, but in my own attempts, I never succeeded.

If Ross actually wants to have more than a paperweight, Linux is the way to go.

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Thanks for providing some reasoning on why you believe Linux will be a better OS on this particular machine. Care to elaborate on it a bit more, so Ross can make the decision for themselves?

Sure. I own four of these machines. Two are functional. Two I use for parts.

Essentially it comes down to this:

They’re not much of a collector’s item, because there are so many of them, and they are worth so little. So while Ross could be looking to “restore” the machine to its past status, a display is about all it would be useful for. It’s still marginally useful as a portable DVD player or for basic office tasks, but it might even struggle with the latter, given new formats in, say, Microsoft Office, or even newer versions of Apple’s office offerings.

If the goal is to actually utilise the MacBook on regular basis for daily life in 2020, there are two options: Windows 10 and Linux. Windows, of course, is still a product which requires a license cost. Linux however, pretty much works right out of the box and is free both in terms of cost and in terms of being open source. These machines are so thoroughly supported now that choosing a mainstream flavor, like Linux Mint or Elementary can give you a fully functional system. Even better if you have it on an SSD and make sure the RAM is maxed to 4GB.

I took mine to Vietnam in 2018 and Europe in 2019 as my main laptop and was able to do everything I needed to do with my 2008, as it has the 64bit processor. The display is the weakest part, it’s pretty bad for 2020 standards, but everything else was great for a beater laptop on the go.

If Ross wants to get the most use out of this, this seems the way to go.

I think @kionon is right in that it’s probably slightly older than what you think, I can’t remember any 2009 or newer MacBook using the coin-turn mechanism to replace the battery. Even if it is a 2009 MacBook (non-unibody), it’s possible that it never had the appropriate firmware update to allow Internet Recovery, which might be why it isn’t working for you.

The flashing folder icon just means that it can’t find a valid boot volume. Generally either because there’s some kind of hardware failure, or even if you have a good hard drive, because it doesn’t have a copy of OS X on it. (As you’ve discovered, you don’t get the flashing folder icon when you installed Mountain Lion on it and attempted to boot from that.)

It’s strange that you’ve put the hard drive with Mountain Lion into an external and tried to boot from it by holding down Option. Even if the internal hard drive cable or similar was broken (a common problem on these era-machines, and one that can result in a flashing symbol icon, even when a good boot drive is present), you’d think that it would still show up when holding down Option at boot time.

Hard to know what the problem might be, but maybe try installing an older copy of OS X onto a USB stick, and seeing if you can boot from that? That will at least rule out any version incompatibility and hard drive-related issues.

This could be an early '09 model, I have one right here!

The early 2009 model was the little MacBook that could! It was the last of that design and actually goes all the way up to OS X El Capitan (10.11). Mind you if you have an '08 or earlier your stuck on Lion (10.7).

When it comes to Windows, I’m not 100% if I tried this one or not, but the MacBook Air 2011 refuses to run Windows 10 properly, something I attempted a little while ago. Some drivers not available or something, I don’t really recall anymore. I was going to use it for some basic task but gave up and went back to OSX on that one.

On internet recovery, I don’t believe any of the old MacBook white models supported internet recovery which would be why that doesn’t work.

It’s also worth noting that Lion was a paid OS (unlike the current versions) so is harder to come by unless you purchased one back in the day … or know someone with a copy.

An SSD and 4GB RAM makes these machines run alright, but as a now 11 year old machine you can’t expect too much and if you watch the CPU it spends lots of times near 100% which in turns makes battery life pretty ordinary. On the upside you can still buy new batteries!

What you want is the Disk Maker X (note you need the older version for Lion) available here:

Then you need a copy of the Lion installer. Feed that to DiskMaker X and it will create a USB installer for you which you can then use to install 10.7 onto your old MacBook (assuming it doesn’t have other issues).

I’ve been trying to find one of these, but I never have been able to do so.

I’m generally really happy with the performance of these machines on lightweight Linux desktop environment. I tend to use XFCE and skin it to look and feel like MacOS. It is a bit involved for a total novice, but I’m still very much a hobbyist/beginner compared to my colleagues at my current workplace (I was a social studies teacher who now works in IT and I am reminded of the gaps in my knowledge hourly) so I wouldn’t say it is too difficult for the determined tinkerer and the payoff is worth it.

DiskMaker X is a good suggestion. I use it too. Sometimes Etcher also works. Not all USBs show up using Option though, and I’ve had to sometimes rely on actually burning a DVD and sticking it in the superdrive.

EDIT: Just to include a screenshot of what’s possible for @Ross_Healy . I just rebuilt my 2008 MacBook White out of the best parts from three different MacBook Whites and reinstalled/rethemed it to MacOS Mojave/Catalina over XFCE: