Irony dealt my Mac a cruel hand
March 8, 2007 8:06 PM   Subscribe

I can't boot my MacBook in any way, shape, or form that I try. Much more info inside!

So here's what happened: I was creating a backup of my hard drive to a .sparseimage file, but I decided to stop the backup and continue it when I got home. I stopped the backup program and trashed the file then tried to empty the trash, but it said the file was in use, so I forced the trash to empty. I then noticed that my free drive space just kept going down even after the backup had stopped, so I rebooted, then instead of starting up I got the kernel panic.

I can get into single-user mode just fine and see the drive in read-only mode, but when I try to mount the drive for any use (AppleJack, for instance), I get a panic. I also can't boot to my OS X install disc for some reason - I get the blank blue screen.

Essentially, is there any way for me to get my system to boot? If not, I absolutely CANNOT lose my Users directory, so is there a way for me to back that up from the shell? I have an external USB/FireWire hard drive and also a laptop-size hard drive enclosure if I need to take the drive out completely - but I don't have another Mac and I don't know anyone who does.

What am I to do? This isn't hugely urgent, I suppose, but I'd like to get my computer back ASAP.
posted by joshrholloway to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you tried connecting your macbook to another mac via firewire and mounting yours as a drive? I can't remember what key it is to do that... (googling) ... hold T on your mac when you startup with it connected to another. See if that works. With any luck you can run disk utility or something on it, or maybe copy over the info you need.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:20 PM on March 8, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah, I would do that but I don't have another Mac - if worse comes to worse I could take it into the Apple store early next week and get the geniuses to do that, but I was wondering if there was anything I could do on my own...
posted by joshrholloway at 8:24 PM on March 8, 2007

...but I don't have another Mac and I don't know anyone who does...

I don't think he has access to another Mac.

Good luck to you...that really doesn't sound good. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if you can't save it yourself, you might be able to put the laptop drive into the enclosure, and somehow access the data from a Windows machine.

Sounds like you need to make a friend who owns a Mac :)
posted by DMan at 8:26 PM on March 8, 2007

Beaten to it by the original poster!

posted by DMan at 8:26 PM on March 8, 2007

If you hold down command-v while booting, it should go into verbose mode. It might help (or not) to see exactly what it is doing when it panics (though I suppose it is probably mount). Also, this page has a whole bunch of troubleshooting steps that may be useful for your situation.
posted by advil at 8:31 PM on March 8, 2007

If you can get an external drive mounted, you can backup the Users directory with ditto:

$ ditto /Users /Volumes/ExternalDriveName/Users
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:42 PM on March 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

When it complained about the file being open, it was complaining because the .sparseimage was still mounted, even if you couldn't see it in the GUI.

From single-user mode you might try running `df` and see if it spits out anything about the volume being mounted. Also do an `ls /dev/*disk*` - If you see a disk1 or rdisk1, the .sparseimage is still hanging around.

Also try looking at the end of /var/log/system.log, the kernel logs there as it boots.

When you try to mount the drive, are you doing `fsck-y`? If you can get it mounted you can delete the Kernel Extensions cache and a number of other possible fixes.
posted by blasdelf at 1:32 AM on March 9, 2007

I would have suggested fsck from single-user mode, but Advil's link recommends Disk Utility first. Directions for both are on that page.
Do you have another computer handy, with a Firewire adapter? Those should be able to at least see the disk, although Windows would probably not really do much. It looks like Knoppix & the SystemRescue CD both work with HFS+, so you'd be able to read the disk & copy specific files over.
Also, if you're cautious, the SystemRescue CD would let you image the disk as it is right now to the external storage, so you have a safety net if other solutions fail.
(I'm a Linux geek, & I'm fond of the forensic backup.)
posted by Pronoiac at 1:40 AM on March 9, 2007

This isn't much of a suggestion, but try holding down the option key as you startup. This will drop you in to a screen where you can choose what startup disk you want to use - and you'll be able to see if the boot cd is recognized as a valid boot option. Sometimes when I try to boot from cd, it doesn't "take".
posted by wearyaswater at 5:53 AM on March 9, 2007

Response by poster: Okay, two updates: I have tried everything suggested so far (except the SystemRescue CD, which I will probably try next), and nothing has worked. I can see that the panic occurs right at the beginning of mounting the drive, so I know that's the problem for sure. No, I can't boot from a CD, though I can see it when holding down Option at boot - but when I choose it it just hangs at the blank blue screen.

So two questions though - I do see several things when I run 'ls /dev/*disk', about 14 actually - anything I can do based on that info? And also, how would I go about mounting the external drive from the shell? I've mounted it on this system before, and I know its volume name, but it's not showing up in /Volumes.

Any more suggestions based on all that info?
posted by joshrholloway at 6:21 AM on March 9, 2007

You did read the Apple troubleshooting page Advil linked to? It has info on safe boot, Disk Utility, & fsck.

The second comment here talks about mounting external drives. I can't look into the diskutil suggestion right now; I've gotta go to work...
posted by Pronoiac at 7:37 AM on March 9, 2007

Actually, the Ubuntu live / install CD may have been QAed more for this, because of popularity. The SystemRescue CD has a fairly minimal interface.

I wish I had more time to work on this.
posted by Pronoiac at 7:50 AM on March 9, 2007

« Older Consequences of plagiarism   |   What to do in Brisbane? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.