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A Sad Mac code indicating that an illegal instruction occurred on a Mac model introduced in 1987 or later.

A Sad Mac is an alert used by the earliest Apple Macintosh computers with Old World ROMs to indicate that a severe hardware or software problem has prevented startup from occurring successfully.[1] The Sad Mac icon was displayed on a black screen, along with a set of hexadecimal codes that indicated the type of problem at startup. Different codes were given for different errors. This was used in place of the normal Happy Mac icon, which would indicate that the hardware tests during startup were successful.


A Sad Mac that appears immediately upon turning on a Macintosh, before the system software has loaded, indicates a problem with the hardware or firmware. A Sad Mac that only appears upon loading from a specific startup disk indicates a problem with the system software on that disk that is making it unbootable.[1] A Sad Mac may be deliberately generated at startup by pressing the interrupt switch on Macs that had one installed, or by pressing the Command and Power keys immediately after the startup chime.[2]


An older code indicating a ROM checksum error on a Mac Plus.

The codes that appear with the Sad Mac screen can represent different information on different Macintosh models.[1] On older 68k compact Macs, from the Macintosh 128K to the Plus, the Sad Mac has a checkerboard pattern around the icon, making it appear to be within a 32x32 gray square while on a black background. It appears silently with no audible tone, while displaying a hexadecimal error code on a single line.


PowerBook 5300c - Sad Mac

One of the last models capable of displaying a Sad Mac.

Starting in 1987 with the release of the Macintosh SE and II, the icon was modified to appear as if on a completely black background, and the error codes were expanded to two lines.[1] An error sound called the "Chimes of Death" was also introduced in the Macintosh II to play with the appearance of a Sad Mac. This chime, like the startup sound, varied depending on the model. Early Power Macintosh models played a sound effect of a car crash, and computers equipped with the PowerPC upgrade card used the three-note brass fanfare death chime (A, E-natural, and E-flat).

The Sad Mac was no longer displayed with the introduction of Macs based on Open Firmware and PCI architecture in 1995, though the chimes were still played to indicate problems. More recent models running Mac OS X or mac OS will display the Prohibitory sign instead.[3]


Sad iPod

Sad iPod icon.png

A "Sad iPod" appears on a non-iOS iPod model if a serious problem arises in the hardware or firmware, such as missing or corrupted system files, or the detection of an unrecoverable hard drive error in a disk scan. This is similar to the Sad Mac, but instead of a computer, there is an iPod with a sad face, and doesn't play a death chime. The icon also lacks a nose, and the trailing mouth is off on the other side.[4]

Sad browser tab

Chrome Aw Snap tab.png

On the Google Chrome web browser, there are conditions that can "kill" the loading of a web page. This will cause the appearance of an alert that is referred to as the "Sad Tab" screen of death, which requires the user to refresh the page by force. The icon is displayed as a cartoonish sad browser tab with a comedic "x~x" facial expression, and a caption that states "He's dead, Jim.", "Aw, Snap!", etc.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Macintosh: "Sad Macintosh" Error Code Meaning. Apple (November 30, 2003). Archived from the original on June 17, 2009. Retrieved on August 24, 2008.
  2. CarnelProd666 (2012-01-06). One Sad Mac. YouTube.
  3. What you should see on startup by Bob LeVitus, Mac OS X Leopard For Dummies p.14, John Wiley & Sons. 2011-02-08.
  4. iPod displays a sad iPod icon, Apple Support. 2002-09-30. Archived 2006-04-07.
  5. Chrome's New Sad Tab Page by Alex Chitu, Google Operating System (Unofficial Google Blog). 2011-01-25.

See also

External links