Mac Woes

After a security update my 12″ Powerbook asked me to reboot, after which it decided that it will only boot to a command line. I have no idea how to even start to fix this, I can navigate around it like it’s Linux but there is no indication of what went wrong or how to fix it. I’m going to take it to the Genius bar in hopes they can do something, but all-in-all this is pretty disappointing.

29 thoughts on “Mac Woes

  1. Nothing interesting on the console. It’s perfectly functional… except for having a graphical user interface. If I navigate the command line it looks like all my files are there and fine.

  2. if you haven’t rebooted it, give that a try. the command for a safe reboot is: shutdown -h now
    this will safely shutdown your system. wish i could offer you more help.

  3. heh, douglas said what i was thinking. except x runs inside quartz.
    maybe startquartz?

    backup your files before you go to the genius bar. they have a habit of charging you to protect your data if you haven’t already.

  4. Update

    The guy at the genius bar booted into single-user mode and ran fsck which found some core files and system information corrupted, and repaired it.

    On another reboot it did exactly the same thing, it looks like it boots perfectly and then it dumps out to the command line.

    He suggested I do a re-install of the OS, which I guess I’ll try after I get all my data off.

  5. Dang brother that is the suck.

    How did the fsck look? The security update was likely a red herring then. Boot is the most likely time a bad disk will rear its ugly head.

    How did the fsck look? Do additional fsck find anything? Had you previously noticed slow boots?

    I would be cautious about a bad hard disk, and depending on how important your productivity is on that computer be ready to replace it, or even replace it now.

  6. I’ve seen this happen a couple of times on my wife’s iBook. The solution mentioned in comment #5 worked both times.

    Clearly, what is happening is the GUI is dying before getting to the stage of presenting you with a graphical login prompt (from I would strongly recommend perusing /var/log/system.log to see what’s failing between the reboot and when the system drops you into single-user mode.

    A corrupt .plist file is far more likely a culprit than something requiring a full OS reinstall.

    (Of course, in all the years I’ve used MacOSX, I’ve never done an OS reinstall. So maybe I’m just prejudiced.)

  7. Matt, if you just install OS X over the old version you shouldn’t lose any data or settings. Just a couple of custom preference panes may need a reinstall. At least that was my experience with my last reinstall after I did some bad things to my system (removing all PowerPC binaries instead of the X86 ones on a PowerBook).
    Of course: backup first.

  8. It seems the Apple support guys are taking a leaf out of Microsoft’s pet answer to all ailments: “Reinstall the OS”. Pretty bad, that one.

  9. KO, it’s not a reinstall. It’s called an Archive and Install. You don’t lose your data, only a few system level settings.

  10. The command-line you are in, is it a light colored background with black text? If that is the case, you are in Open Firmware Mode. To fix this, type the following:



    Hit return after each line. That should clear your non-volatile RAM and force the machine to reboot. If that doesn’t solve it and you end up in the same spot, you can also try typing:


    Again, hit return.

    Good luck!


  11. This has happened to me before…….

    You can do an “archive and re-install……” It takes your current OS files, backs them up, and then lays down a new OS. It requires an extra 4G since you basically now have two OSs on your disk but you don’t have to worry about backing up your files.

    I’d do a backup just in case though :-P….. This process is still easier than a full re-format…..

  12. if you have another mac, you could try connecting the two of them with a firewire cable and booting it in target mode.


  13. for this, and many other reasons, i install applejack on every mac i work on:

    works in single-user mode to do fscks, clear caches, repair permissions, find and remove corrupted .plists – most of the things that will cause trouble on OS X. since it works in single-user mode, you can still run it, even if aqua or the finder are b0rked.

  14. It’s interesting to see how resistant people are to reinstalling the operating system “” even more so in OS X land than in Windows. If the OS is corrupt, then fiddling with things until the symptoms go away doesn’t mean there isn’t still some lurking problem. A reinstallation at least means you’re starting with a clean slate and can move forward.

    In many cases, deciding from the very beginning that the OS is screwed and starting with a clean install gets to you to the end much faster “” provided you don’t waste hours trying things at random based on blogger speculation. πŸ˜‰

    The trick is to keep a backup of your clean-install-with-apps, not just your data. That way a recovery is (1) wipe hard drive and install OS, (2) install disc imaging tool, (3) copy disc image “” a procedure which isn’t necessarily “quick” (lots of data to be copied) but at least it’s of known duration and a no-brainer.

    Of course if you know _precisely_ what’s wrong and _precisely what’ll fix it is good “” if you know it.

    And option8 is right “” applejack is your friend. πŸ™‚

  15. Presumably you followed the Mac Update Mantra?!?

    1/ Quit any running Applications
    2/ Repair Permissions
    3/ Run the update
    4/ Repair Permissions

    Don’t forget that re-installing Windows(TM) periodically is virtually a recognised part of system maintenance!!