Slow iBook
April 5, 2007 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Why is Mac OS 10.4.9 so slow on my iBook G4? I've tried everything I can think of and am going crazy.

This is probably going to be a little overly wordy, for the simple reason that I really don't know what's important information and what isn't.

For starters, I have a two-year-old PPC iBook G4, 1.2 GHz, 768 MB RAM. Thank God I got Apple Care, as the logic board has already been replaced twice.

About three weeks ago, my computer started acting up. I couldn't open Microsoft Office. Also, I could open iTunes, but couldn't get into my music library. I quickly determined that the problem had to do with Disk Permissions. The Disk Utility gave me the message, "Underlying task reported failure." And apparently when you get that message it's time to cut your losses.

So I did a complete reformat and reinstall. While reformatting, I did the complete disk repair (the one that takes like three hours, whatever it's called). After all this, my computer ran perfectly, just like new.

I don't know how relevant any of that info is, except to say that I should theoretically be starting from a completely clean slate.

About a week after reformatting, I downloaded and installed 10.4.9. And ever since that point, it's been painfully slow. I'm not doing anything fancy. If I have open Firefox, Thunderbird, iTunes, Skype, iCal, and Word all at once, I'll get the spinning beach ball every few minutes. When one program is stuck, I can't switch to anything else. When more than one program is open, switching between two takes 5-10 seconds. Even switching between tabs in Firefox is a pain.

It never completely freezes. I just sometimes have to wait a long time for my computer to respond.

I took it to the Apple store twice in the past week. The first time, the guy deleted some Cache files. He also did some key combination on startup to "restore factory settings." Very little change.

The second time, the guy did a reinstall of 10.4.9. There was some improvement, but it's still prohibitively slow.

Again, I apologize for the longwindedness. I'm hoping that I've provided enough information that the problem might be obvious to someone.
posted by roll truck roll to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
Best answer: Your hard drive is probably dying.
posted by unSane at 8:02 PM on April 5, 2007

Backup now because unSane is likely right.
posted by now i'm piste at 8:50 PM on April 5, 2007

I concur with unSane. My G4 iBook (also running 10.4.9 though I didn't notice any change when I upgraded from 10.4.8) exhibited very similar behavior recently, beachballing frequently at times when the system load wasn't particularly high. It ended up having a catastrophic hard drive failure last week. If I were you I'd make a complete backup straight away and continued frequent backups until you get the issue sorted out.
posted by harmfulray at 8:51 PM on April 5, 2007

Also, for what its worth, I've been told that if you have to undergo a third "major repair" (defined as something that costs you or Apple more than $1,000) there is a chance that Apple will replace the entire unit or give you a comparable credit towards a new unit. I was told this by the Apple Store general manager that I've been dealing with as I've undergone two logic board failures and replacements. I realize this doesn't help your situation now, but keep this in mind.
posted by Asherah at 9:10 PM on April 5, 2007

That sounds like one dying hard drive. My iBook G4 had a similar, intermittent slowdown much like you and harmfulray, just before I woke up to the sound of read/write heads dragging on the platters. Here's to nightly SuperDuper! backups.
posted by CipherSwarm at 9:11 PM on April 5, 2007

Best answer: Gah, didn't check on preview.

In response/addendum to Asherah:
My iBook G4 is actually a replacement of a Logic Board iBook G3. After three logic board failures and one hinge failure (backlight cables frayed), when the second hinge died, and I called AppleCare, I just asked to speak to a customer rep. He immediately offered me a new iBook G4 as a replacement, and we handled all the shipping and return details over the following week. However, I think for a replacement like that to occur, you either have to have a repeat repair history on one part (like my three logic boards and two hinges), or a terrible time with AppleCare repairs in general (that's a guy I know from ArsTechnica, and his experience with repairs and bad machines).

Just my two cents.
posted by CipherSwarm at 9:16 PM on April 5, 2007

Best answer: I will say without fear of contradiction that your hard drive is dying. Back up your stuff, you need a new one.

You can confirm this by popping open the Console tool (it's in /Applications/Utilities) and seeing what it says during these long, long pauses. What it'll say is -- to put it in lay terms -- "Your hard drive responded with an error instead of what I wanted to read from it, I'm going to sit here and try again repeatedly for many minutes until it doesn't. Observe as it fails over and over!"
posted by majick at 9:56 PM on April 5, 2007

Nthing your hard drive is dying, and is probably not going to last much longer.

A very quick and dirty way to check (Although majick is totally spot on, you might not see what you're looking for if you don't know what you're looking for) is to go into Disk Utility, click on the actual physical drive (Will probably say "TOSHIBA 40GB" or something to that effect) thats listed on the left. At the bottom, you should see some information, and one of those will say "S.M.A.R.T. Status" If the message says "Failing" instead of "Verified" (or, really, if it says ANYTHING besides "verified"), you can be assured that the drive is dying.

However, if it DOES say verified, that doesn't necessarily mean that the drive is okay - it's more all drives that say "failing" are, but not all drives that say "verified" are.
posted by plaidrabbit at 10:17 PM on April 5, 2007

I really wish I had read a post like this a week ago. I had the same type of issue (prohibitively slow) but for some idiotic reason I kept telling myself "It's not the hard drive...".

Lo and behold, as soon as I got behind enough on my backups, the hard drive went completely kaput. Gone.

Now that it's been replaced, my mac is extremely responsive. Needless to say, I learned my lesson and now perform daily backups with SilverKeeper (although note that this is not yet compatible with 10.4.9) but there are many free mac backup tools out there.

Please, please, please do a backup right now! Then, get that hard drive replaced.
posted by monarch75 at 9:56 AM on April 6, 2007

SilverKeep works fine on 10.4.9 on my intel mac. The page just says they haven't tested it. I doubt a 0.0.X revision really makes much difference to Silverkeeper which is still not intel native.
posted by chairface at 11:09 AM on April 6, 2007

Best answer: for backups - SuperDuper is the utility of choice among my fellow Mac techies for local backups.

If you want to try some Unix-Fu, I would check out rsync or, if you want incremental backups, rdiff-backup.
posted by Patrick Graham at 1:25 PM on April 6, 2007

I've been having a number of slowdowns too, but I swear I cannot find a goddamn thing in any of the console logs. If there were drive failures going on, which log would t show up in?
posted by spiderwire at 1:15 AM on April 7, 2007

Best answer: I also wanted to point out that while rtr's problem is clearly disk-based, judging by the Disk Utility error, I've been having these weird slowdown problems in the last few months as well. My console logs show lookupd tanking from time to time, but nothing worse than that that I can find. There may be other things going on here besides a bad drive.

so, roll truck roll, here are some additional suggestions:

I find that freeing up space on the drive helps significantly -- the system seems to be doing way, way too much paging. Defragging and doing all the Onyx optimizations helps. If you don't have Onyx, you really need it.

Also, the difference between plugged-in and not-plugged-in has gotten really, really noticeable for me. I am getting the feeling that the dynamic power management is starting to take it really, really easy on the CPU and HD now that they're getting old. Not much way to fix that, but something to keep in mind.

But yeah, replace that drive. You might want to consider getting .Mac. Kind of expensive, but the remote backups are nice, and if you have multiple Macs, the synchronization makes it worth it, I feel.
posted by spiderwire at 1:23 AM on April 7, 2007

Your hard drive is totally dying.

When that happened with my powerbook (twice in two weeks!), I noticed that the long pauses will cease the moment you set the computer down and stand up after being fustrated with the beachball. It's the movement. Totally infuriating.
posted by blasdelf at 3:55 AM on April 7, 2007

I can't say whether your hard drive is dying or not, but I can tell you that I suffered painful slowness with my iBook G4 after I upgraded to Tiger - until I disabled Dashboard.

Once I did that it was like I had a whole new machine again.
posted by Andrhia at 5:28 PM on April 9, 2007

We have 2 iBook G4s, one 14" running 10.3.9, and one 12" running 10.4.9. The 14" became slow very quickly, and then the hard drive destroyed itself. I now use it by booting up from an external firewire hard drive. The 12" which is about a year old has now decided it will not go any further past login, and anything I try to do with single user mode has no effect. I think the lesson we have to learn is that iBook HDs are crap, and are not designed to last much longer than the warranty.
posted by herzeleid22 at 2:04 AM on April 17, 2007

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