"Too many corpses being created" on laptop reboot
February 19, 2018 2:09 PM   Subscribe

My non-technical friend's Macbook Pro (mid 2012, running High Sierra) won't boot up. On the phone, we've worked through booting into the recovery partition and checking the disk with diskutils. We've reset the SMC. We've unplugged all peripherals. The laptop still stalls out at the white screen with the Apple logo, with the progress bar crawling at about halfway. One clue: in verbose mode, the problem appears to be "Too many corpses being created" as various daemons fail to start up. Have you encountered this before? Any ideas about what it means?

My obvious online searches bring up this discussion page and this random blog, but I'm not happy recommending a system re-install without some understanding of the problem. But the reboot has been stalled for hours at a time, with no progress.

Bonus difficulty level: no direct access to the machine, and a very non-technical friend, who is also very physically challenged. (At the level of - can't carry laptop to the Apple store Genius Bar.) And of course Time Machine backup hasn't been working right lately.

Boston neighborhood, if that is relevant. I'm hoping for either a remote fix that I can talk her through on the phone, or maybe a recommendation for an in-home repair service who won't just erase and reinstall. Or some sort of a minor miracle. Thanks!
posted by RedOrGreen to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm guessing the hard drive is going bad.

I'd boot up from an install disk, or recovery mode and run Disk Utility to check the condition of the disk.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:22 PM on February 19, 2018

Check the SATA cable first. They are known to go bad in 2012 Macbooks, and when they do it looks just like a bad hard drive. But it could also be the hard drive.
posted by COD at 3:40 PM on February 19, 2018

"Too many corpses being created" is due to processes crashing and not being reaped by their parent process. That's a mouthful; let me explain.

In Unix (and Mac OS X is a Unix) you have one main user process (in the Mac OS X case, launchd) which starts pretty much most processes (fork) and waits for the process to signal it's has quit, whereupon launchd reaps the remains, returning resources to pools of resources waiting for another process to launch. Launchd is called the parent process in this case.

You don't need to have launchd to start a new process; there are standard system calls which accomplish the same thing, so any program could try to launch new processes.

When you see that message, it's likely that some recent addition to the OS (a third party library which has hooks into normal libraries is a typical example) is causing processes to crash. You might see crash logs in /Library/Logs/DiagnosticReports, depending upon how far the process got in the tear-down process.

You can boot in safe mode and see if the computer comes up all the way.

It could be hardware failure, but it could also be some malware or mis-applied update to system software.
posted by blob at 5:45 PM on February 19, 2018 [7 favorites]

Is Adobe CC installed by any chance?
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:58 PM on February 19, 2018

If it's what blob mentioned, they're often referred to as "zombie" processes, in case that helps with research. I haven't seen the "too many corpses" error, but have run into a similar symptom for unrelated reasons.
posted by silentbicycle at 7:47 PM on February 19, 2018

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