Mac OS X: broken install?

Discussion in 'macOS' started by Thomas Harte, Jan 18, 2006.

  1. Thomas Harte macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    #1
    Yesterday I encountered something I thought I'd never see: Mac OS X silently failing to boot. Specifically, after installing the Airport updater, my Mac would get as far as the full screen Apple then just sit silently never getting as far as the circular progress bar that should appear underneath. Prior to halting the onscreen Apple would jump downward about half a centimetre.

    Suspecting hardware failure, I tried booting from the first bootable DVD that came to hand - in this case the 10.4 installation DVD. That worked fine and the mini-OS X on it functioned perfectly. I used the Disk Utility on that to check my hard disk for errors and it reported none. I used it to repair permissions and it found only one mistaken permission and fixed it. Still my HD based OS X would not boot.

    So I used the startup disk selector on the DVD to try booting into OS 9.2, which my [Powerbook 667Mhz G4] Mac is sufficiently old to run natively. That worked perfectly too, so I concluded that the hard disk was not at fault. I also took the opportunity to back up some stuff that otherwise wasn't backed up to a firewire hard disk.

    Now I decided to try reinstalling OS X from the install DVD. My first attempt was an "upgrade" installation, hoping to keep all my data files where they already were. The only change after that was that the boot Apple no longer moved down half a centimetre. Still no circular progress bar though. I did note through the log Window that the installer was declining to overwrite files for which I already had a newer version, so I wasn't really hopeful anyway.

    My last ditch attempt was to allow OS X to do a wipe & reinstall, clearing all old files. That seems to have worked, and I'm writing this from a virgin install of OS X v10.4. Running software updater seems not to suggest an Airport Updater today, so I'm happy about that.

    My question is - is this story credible? Should I be blaming the Airport Updater, or is that a red herring? I'd also run out of hard disk space midway through the 10.4.4 update a week or so ago, leading to a warning that the install hadn't been completed but the system had continued booting without complaint, told me I was on 10.4.4 in the "About this Mac" dialogue and declined running the update again. Could that be related? Those are the only two recent acts I can think of that took my super-user password.

    Has anyone ever seen anything similar occur? And was there a less destructive way I could have fixed my OS X? I considered trashing /System from OS 9, but decided that since I really don't know what I'm doing I'd probably better not try anything "clever".
     
  2. mad jew Moderator emeritus

    mad jew

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2004
    Location:
    Adelaide, Australia
    #2
    How much free space do you have? If possible, always keep about 8GB free.

    By the way, if this happens again then I recommend trying an archive and install instead. That way you should keep all your old data too. :)
     
  3. Thomas Harte thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Nov 30, 2005
    #3
    Now that I've reinstalled, I have about 6 GB free. Prior to that, I was hanging perilously close to 500 MB - pretty much having to delete things all the time. I still have a few small programming libraries to reinstall but otherwise I guess I've just benefited from the cleanout, not reinstalling Classic, not reinstalling Tiger printer drivers and only installing language packs for languages I can actually read.

    Getting to 8 GB almost certainly isn't going to happen without a major iTunes trim. Having discovered that I can use iPodDisk to restore music from my iPod - albeit at USB 1 speeds because my iPod doesn't do Firewire - I guess I could trim some of the fat.
    Presumably I should make an archive as soon as I've installed everything I normally use again? If so how would I do that? Disk Utility seems to have a "Restore" tab but no "Archive". I could dig out an old UNIX manual and try something with tar but I suspect I wouldn't be very successful.
     
  4. mad jew Moderator emeritus

    mad jew

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2004
    Location:
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    #4
    So it's working properly now? It's booting normally?



    Archive & Install is an option on the OSX disks that effectively shifts everything aside and reinstalls a clean system in the free space (not an option considering how little space you had) so that you keep all your old files and settings but they are not used by the system. It's a good way of reinstalling without reformatting and therefore losing all your files.

    Of course, Apple puts it far more succinctly than I ever could. :p
     
  5. Thomas Harte thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Nov 30, 2005
    #5
    Yes - everything is as it was prior to the sudden breakdown, which is lucky since I can't really afford a new computer right now. I guess the only thing I can take forwards from the story is the importance of backups! I'm not planning on installing the Classic OS again, so if this were to happen again I'd have no way of saving my files unless I could find another machine with Firewire. Despite being quite starved of space on my Mac, I have plenty free on my iPod so I guess I'll put stuff there if I can endure the 10 mbits/sec connection.
     
  6. mad jew Moderator emeritus

    mad jew

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    #6
    Good stuff. I can't stress just how important it is to keep that 6GB free so maybe storing things on the iPod is a good idea. :)
     
  7. Thomas Harte thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    #7
    Yes - although having just plugged the thing in and told iTunes to relink with it, it has decided to wipe my entire music collection off the thing and redownload it so there goes another 5 hours of electricity.

    Something I've realised I didn't mention before that pluggin my iPod in has reminded me of - I tried once selecting the broken HD install of OS X as my boot volume from OS 9 and restarting. That time and that time only the on screen grey Apple that should be joined by a circular progress indicator was replaced with the same symbol that the iPod displays when telling me "Do not disconnect" - i.e. a circle with a diagonal bar running from the top left to the bottom right. The same thing a ghost is trapped behind in the poster for Ghostbusters, I guess I'd call it the international symbol for forbidding or something. Does that give any clues as to what possibly went wrong?
     
  8. mad jew Moderator emeritus

    mad jew

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2004
    Location:
    Adelaide, Australia
    #8

    It didn't give you the dialogue box asking if you wanted to resync? :(



    This was before you reinstalled, right? Umm... I think you're describing the symbol OSX shows when it cannot find a System Folder. Who knows why it showed up though. All I can say is that modern operating systems generally need quite a bit of free space for Virtual RAM and if they don't get it, strange things can happen. Sorry I can't be more helpful. :eek:
     
  9. Thomas Harte thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    #9
    It was after the non-destructive reinstall but before the wipe & reinstall, after which I've not seen any problems whatsoever. Other than boredom redownloading XCode 2.2. I swear 1.5 was about 150mb - why on earth is 2.2 suddely almost 900? Probably not a topic for this forum.
     

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