Forwarding Address: OS X

Thursday, August 22, 2002

How to Go From Kernel Panic to Clean Install in 14 Long Hours

Yesterday morning I booted my laptop only to have it kernel panic in the middle of loading networking. "No big deal", I thought as I did the three-finger salute and started it up again. Was I ever wrong: the machine had flat-lined. The happy Mac would appear, the spinning beachball would appear, and then both would sit for a very, very long time with nary a hint of activity from the screen, machine or hard-drive. My Mac was dead in the water and, much to my horror, my last comprehensive back-up had been almost a month ago (don't call me Dantz, I'm already calling you) so I definitely needed to be able to get the data off of it - a clean wipe and reinstall at this stage was just not an option.

After panicking for a bit, here's what I did to get up and running once again:

First, I read Tech Note 106464: Mac OS X: Troubleshooting a Startup Issue a few times through and then did everything it said, in the order it said it. fsck found a number of problems the first time through and repaired them (a second run of fsck went without issue) but that still didn't rectify the situation. Nor did anything else in this tech note but I did learn a lot about single-user mode and was at least able to see that my data was still all there on the drive. Some consolation, that.

Second, I called up my friend Bones and grilled him for any ideas he might have about how to tackle this issue. He had one, and it was a great one: I would bring my dead laptop over to his place, mount mine in Target mode onto his (see Tech Note 58583: Macintosh: How to Use FireWire Target Disk Mode for details), copy the data off and then be free to do whatever I wanted to my machine.

We tried it and it worked like a charm: a few hours later all my data was backed up to CD and I was breathing a sigh of relief. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank whichever people inside Apple came up with the idea and implementation of Target mode: you're all farkin' brilliant!

From there I clean-installed the OS starting with 10.1 and working my way all the way up to a nice, shiny, super-fast loading 10.1.5. I also took this opportunity to not install OS 9 on the machine. Its time to walk without the safety-net (and I can't actually remember the last time I used 9 anyhow).

Finally, I called up my neighbourhood computer products co-op and bought a 60 Gig Firewire drive to act as a backup source for all my machines. Soon I'll be installing X onto it so I can use it as a boot drive if necessary; for the time being I've contented myself with backing up the contents of my current system to it in its entirety.

At last, 14 hours later, all is well with the world again.