Spinning Beachball of death

I had thought I would be safe from BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) that Windows would subject me to a couple of times a year. Having switched over to the Mac as my primary home system, in the hope that I don’t need to worry about such irritations and unproductive waste of time, i was in a shock when, after a few months of usage, yesterday I was hit by SBOD (Spinning Beachball of Death). The boot up screen with an apple and a spinning wheel was constantly going on for hours, without giving a clue as to what was happening.

After a bit of reading and messing around with various tools, I got the system back up. However, it entailed the waste of a Sunday.

Some lingering questions remain:

1. Wonder why a Journaling file system like HFS+ should get a problem like I did.

2. When i went into Verbose mode of booting, it would go on booting till it came to an error “disk0s2: 1/0 error” and then keep repeating that error. I wonder – Why Apple can’t give a meaningful message when it apparently gets a file system error, instead of showing a spinning wheel forever?

3. When I went into single user mode (a unix prompt), I could see the file system mounted. I did the familiar ‘fsck’ to see if there is any file system errors, and it came back saying everything is normal. Typically when Linux has a boot up issues fsck would either fix it or indicate something being wrong. Apparently fsck can’t detect system related problems in Mac.

3. I had to use the Mac Install CDs to get to Macintosh Diskutility to check the File system. And it too indicated file system was ok. I asked it to check the Permissions and it came back with some 20 errors. Apparently my permission database was the one which was messed up. This would be somewhat similar to the Windows Registry mess up..

4. I asked my permission database to be repaired, and it went through a time consuming process and came back and told me it is done! I reboot and problem not solved. Go back to the disk utility, it still reports Permission database verification problems. Apparently the tool can’t fix it, but it still tells me it has done it. Why?

Since I had exhausted all options of fixing the error I wanted to rule out a Hardware problem, and went in to a Very time consuming advanced hardware tests routine. After 2.5hrs it came back saying everything is normal.

So, I decided to reinstall the OS, retaining existing data “Archive & Install”. And that fixed the problem somewhat. i.e. it consumed some 8GB of space (perhaps for retaining the older kernel somewhere) and putting in new kernel in place. Couldn’t figure why that needs to be done if permissions database is corrupt. I’d guess there can be a way to rebuild permissions database or recreate one from scratch. But, couldn’t find a way other than fresh install!

Bottom line: MacOS can be as time wasting at times as Windows.