Mac startup problems.
May 31, 2007 5:13 PM   Subscribe

Mac OSX startup problems. Please help?

I have a Macbook running OSX Tiger, and am having some serious problems.

For the last 10 days or so, I've been getting the spinning beach ball for about 30 seconds at a time, always while running Firefox. When the beach ball appears, the system completely freezes up. I've been trying to figure out what is causing this problem... tried turning off extensions, etc. Have not yet figured it out.

Today the beach ball appeared and was still spinning after several minutes, so I rebooted by holding down the power button. The computer would not restart - I was able to select the user and type password, but then I got a blue desktop picture and it froze.

I tried again, as admin, and got a gray screen instead.

Was able to log in under Safe Mode and run disc utility. I selected "verify disc" and it did a full scan and said it passed. Startup disc is not full - I have about 10 gig avail.

I turned off startup items for my user account and tried to restart - got same problems.

Have now restarted in safe mode again and am going to do a fresh backup immediately. All seems to be working OK in safe mode.

What do I do next??
posted by kdern to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One more thing - while in safe mode, I've noticed the spinning beach ball appearing for a second at a time. This has happened twice in the last few minutes.

Is my hard drive dying?
posted by kdern at 5:15 PM on May 31, 2007

I had something similar start just this week. It got worse before it got better. I eventually just did a clean re-install of Mas OS X.

Definitely back everything up asap.
posted by milarepa at 5:30 PM on May 31, 2007

Have you tried taking a look in the system log (using the Console, should be in /Applications/Utilities) after one of these slowdowns? That might give you an idea of what's happening.

In addition, going into the terminal and typing 'dmesg' can show you the error log from the kernel, which can sometimes be helpful. I'd look through there and see if there's anything that looks strange -- it helps if you have another (working) Mac to compare against, of similar type and OS version.

I would have suspected hard drive problems too, but it's odd that Disk Utility didn't pick up on anything. Given the price of hard drives, though, it might be fairly simple to rule out (get a new drive, put it on the slave IDE channel, duplicate the drive with carbon copy cloner, reboot from it).
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:31 PM on May 31, 2007

Dying, it might be. Open up Disk Utility, and see what it lists for your disk's S.M.A.R.T. status. It's more likely not that though. I would also recommend clearing out your caches, etc. I could give you the commands for this, but I recommend the following, simpler way: Download and install Applejack, boot into Single User mode, and run it with the command "applejack AUTO restart". If your comfortable in a command line, just run it with "applejack" and manually go down the line.

It'll do some basic things that may or may not work. Prolly no, but they are good basic troubleshooting things to try. It does no harm to run, and may fix you right up. (only downside: clearing the caches will remove the little self-picture on the login screen, so if you treasure that pic, copy it somewhere first to readd after running)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 5:32 PM on May 31, 2007

posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 5:33 PM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, if it's only happening in Firefox, Delete Firefox! Delete its cache files, delete its preference file, and then reinstall a fresh copy. Could be as simple as one of them getting all corrupted up.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 5:37 PM on May 31, 2007

(ignore that last one, cause, duh, the reboot issues aren't Firefox. I'm tired, leave me alone)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 5:38 PM on May 31, 2007

Another recommendation for Applejack - not a cure all, but a fine piece of repairware. And free, too.
posted by mosk at 6:11 PM on May 31, 2007

Status update... I used the system disc to run hardware test and disk utility to "repair disc" again. No errors found from either test.

Am still able to start up in safe mode, although it takes about 7-8 minutes. When I try to start up normally, it just stays on the apple screen for about 10 minutes, then I give up.

I've downloaded applejack but am hesitant to use it, not knowing anything about the program or what it does. (I'm not a real techie).

Any other suggestions about what to do? Or can someone explain exactly what Applejack does?
posted by kdern at 8:18 PM on May 31, 2007

To steal from the applejack project page: "repair your disk, repair permissions, validate the system's preference files, and get rid of possibly corrupted cache files."

Really, it does nothing you couldn't do manually, but it, (especially with the capital letters "AUTO" option) does simplify and automate the functions you need. Since you did a disk repair, if any of it helps you, it will likely be the cache file deletion (again, make sure you either manually or via AUTO clear out the user cache files as well). This will make your next boot up way slower, as it rebuilds everything, but it'll fix it if any of those are corrupted.

Again, i do not expect this to fix your problem, but there is a reason these functions are the general troubleshooting suggestions made - when they screw up, the whole damn system can screw up in bizarre little ways. Whenever one of my Macs is acting up (which is common, as I mess with things I shouldn't on a daily basis,) applejack is the first thing I run to clear out the obvious guesses.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 9:28 PM on May 31, 2007

Try creating a new user and logging in as that user. If that new account experiences no issues, then you know the problem lies within your normal user account and is not hardware-based. If that is the case, then it's time to start troubleshooting the contents of your ~/Library folder.
posted by pmbuko at 9:45 PM on May 31, 2007

I like applejack, but feel a little uncomfortable using it...especially in single user mode - it's not that I don't trust it (or unix) - I just feel uncomfortable with.

For general cache cleaning (especially the OS), permissions, etc. I'm a big fan of ONYX
posted by filmgeek at 10:04 PM on May 31, 2007

i know this isn't the whole of your issues, but firefox is an incredible cpu hog. It will take up about 25% + of you MacBook's processor...
posted by roderashe at 10:38 PM on May 31, 2007

Update for future readers: I tried everything I could without installing any third party utilities (like Applejack). After working with Applecare on the phone, we reset PRAM, which didn't work.

I reinstalled system software while preserving and archiving current files and settings, and while I was able to startup and access all my files and programs, the computer was still really slow. I figured if I was going to do it, I might as well go all the way and start fresh.

So I took the plunge - I double checked my backup, backed up my priority files again, and did a full erase and reinstall. All works great now. So far I've only reinstalled the priorities: Firefox and Quicksilver - I'm happy to have my mac back!
posted by kdern at 11:14 PM on June 1, 2007

Later update for future readers: the problems continued. I find corrupt files on a regular basis. Recently the computer starting shutting down and starting up on it's own, at random times.

I've sent it back to Apple for a new hard drive or full replacement.
posted by kdern at 12:35 PM on September 12, 2007

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