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Zip Causing Crashes
March 6, 2012 1:31 PM   Subscribe

[MacFilter] My MacBook Pro won't open large zip files. Details and other oddities below.

My MacBook Pro (running Lion) starts acting strangely whenever I try to open large .zip files. At first I thought it was the particular program I was using, something called The Unarchiver, but it happens even with the built-in archive utility. Trying to open any large .zip file (over 50MB, let's say) will cause the Finder to lock up completely. It also wont' relaunch, which means I have to either log out or restart the computer.

I've noticed the following things about the problem:

-Running unzip on a large file from the Terminal causes the Terminal window to freeze, but doesn't take down the Finder. Running unzip on a small file works just fine.

-Every time I try to open a large .zip file, CPU usage (as reported by Activity Monitor) jumps to almost 100% and the computer's temperate starts to increase rapidly. The fan kicks in a few seconds later.

-The Finder is loading icons with unusual sluggishness. If I open a folder, it will often take a few seconds for the proper icons to appear. Until they do, I get the generic 'app' icon for applications and an empty grey box for files.

-The computer is running just fine in every other way.

Any help would be appreciated. I've been Googling this for days, and nobody seems to have had the same problem as me. The closest I've come is people reporting an issue with a version of Stuffit Expander, but I've never installed that.
posted by anaximander to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
These kinds of problems typically happen because you've installed a preference pane which attempts to modify system behavior, and the version you have is out of date with respect to your operating system version.

One thing to try is:
* copy the zip file to /Users/Shared
* create a new user account
* sign out of your current account, then sign into the new user account
* try to uncompress the zip file.

If that still fails, it tells you the problem isn't with your account, but something installed system wide on your computer.

Use the System Profiler application (Apple menu/About This Mac/More Information) to get a list of preference panes. Disable any which aren't from Apple, then reboot. Does it work better?
posted by blob at 1:45 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

When this has been a problem for me in the past it has always been something which caused excessive reads and writes on the drive.

a) I was decompressing an archive which contained many thousands of files (such as oodles of HTML or XML files) and Spotlight began indexing the files right away.

b) The above, plus I had a backup program that would kick in immediately and begin scanning and backing up the new files as the indexing was taking place. Mozy, TimeMachine, or similar.

c) Incipient hard drive failure, perhaps also including both or either of the above items.

Not sure what blob is talking about in reference to prefpanes. Which preference panes? That do what? Under what conditions? The advice to try a brand-new account is sound, however.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:56 PM on March 6, 2012

Use the System Profiler application (Apple menu/About This Mac/More Information) to get a list of preference panes. Disable any which aren't from Apple, then reboot. Does it work better?


So far, anyway. I had a bunch of old/slightly dodgy preference panes (most of them intended for Snow Leapord) installed. I just removed them all and then unzipped a 116MB file with no issues whatsoever. I'll try a much bigger file as soon as I can download one.
posted by anaximander at 2:03 PM on March 6, 2012

50MB, or 50GB? Because OS X's built-in unzip is broken* for large files, and the exact size seems to vary with the number of files in the archive. I've also come across a few that The Unarchiver - which normally handles anything I throw at it - chokes on.

I'm told BetterZip handles them OK, but I haven't tried it myself.

(* The built-in zip is also somewhat broken - it seems to produce slightly non-standard zip64 files which most unzip utilities can't handle. There is a way to recover most / all of the data intact from these 'broken' zips using other OS X command-line utilities. I think I outlined it here, but I'll double-check when I get back to my computer tonight)
posted by Pinback at 2:07 PM on March 6, 2012

The limit was around 50MB. The reason it became so obvious is that I went from being able to routinely unzip ~100MB files (I've been getting a lot of stuff for a computer programming course) to suddenly not being able to do do so. Removing those preference panes seems to have worked. I'll try it with a few more large files to confirm.
posted by anaximander at 2:10 PM on March 6, 2012

Would you report on which prefpanes were the dodgy ones?
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:29 PM on March 6, 2012

Would you report on which prefpanes were the dodgy ones?

Something which I believe was intended to crack the DRM used on the App Store, among other things. It never worked properly. (I was installing it for the 'other things'.)

So, the problem isn't entirely fixed after all. I can now unzip the large files I couldn't unzip before...sometimes. The first time I try unzipping the file that's giving me the most trouble (a zipped version of XAMPP), it works flawlessly. Running unzip from the terminal outputs it going through a huge number of files with no issues. Trying it a second time after deleting the output folder results in a crash. This is better than before, but it's obviously not ideal.

I also tried doing this on a new account, with similar results. I then tried copying a different large zip file from a USB drive, and the OS choked even on trying to copy it from the desktop. So now I've got no idea what's going on.

What are the odds reinstalling Lion will fix this?
posted by anaximander at 3:13 PM on March 6, 2012

Er, that should have been that the OS choked on trying to copy it TO the desktop.
posted by anaximander at 3:14 PM on March 6, 2012

Okay, FINALLY solved it.

The process using so much CPU whenever I opened a zip file was 'Intercheck', which is associated with Sophos Anti-Virus. Basically, the on-access scanner was slowing things way down when I tried to open certain files. I stopped it and the zip file that had been freezing the Finder instantly opened. Everything is now working without any trouble.

Phew. Thanks for the help!
posted by anaximander at 4:01 PM on March 6, 2012

Ah! That makes sense reminds me of a months-long problem we tracked down at one client's office where the gigantic Entourage database files were being rescanned after every new email was received. What a headache. You'd get one new 4K email and all 2GB would be rescanned.
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:34 PM on March 6, 2012

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