Starting fresh on my MacBook Pro

On Monday morning, I woke up to find my MacBook Pro shut down. I didn't shut it down... when I rebooted, I looked at the crash log, and it said something about an hfs issue with trying to write a corrupted block (or something like that, I forgot to save it).

I used Disk Utility to verify the filesystem, it said it appeared to be fine. But when I started it acted like it was the first launch! I used Time Machine to restore my ~/Library/Preferences/ file, that fixed that problem. Of course I wondered what other files might be missing or damaged, but that's not an easy question to get the right answer to.

After wasting a couple of hours trying to diff different Time Machine backups, I decided to forget about it for a while because I was too busy. My instinct told me it was time to re-install from scratch because the integrity of my system was compromised, but I ignored that because I needed to get things done.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I've also been having issues with the display not reacting properly when I wake up the MBP. I don't think it's related because lots of other people are having the same problem and I know some of them tried many fresh installs to try to avoid the problem without success.

Then this evening my system kernel panicked. I think I might now need two hands to count the number of kernel panicks I've had on my machines since Mac OS X launched in March 2001. Damn.

I rebooted the machine and it came up fine, but now I don't really trust the system. Something is up, and I suspect it's related to the unexpected shutdown. I'm running a backup of the system right now and typing this on my old PowerBook G4, which my wife uses nowadays.

Tomorrow morning I think I'll likely make one more (non-Time Machine) backup of the hard drive onto an external hard disk, and then reformat and reinstall everything from scratch...

Time-consuming things I have to install:

  • Mac OS X Leopard
  • Xcode/WebObjects
  • iLife 08 and iWork 08
  • Microsoft Office 2008 (I bought it earlier this month to write my final papers on, Numbers just wasn't going to cut it for my charting/graphing needs)
  • Adobe Creative Suite CS3
  • Eclipse and WOLips

And then there's the dozens of other apps I have in my Applications folders. I won't be copying them across from my current Applications folder this time, because I fear they may be corrupted. So I'll have to re-download all of them and re-install them all.

But what about my Documents and Music and Movies and Pictures folders? Not much I can do about those, I think. At least I've got a few months of Time Machine backups if I ever realize something is missing or corrupt, assuming I'll be able to use those old backups on my new installation.

Thankfully I committed all of today's work to my client's Subversion repository at the end of the day, so none of that is lost.

It's days like this I wish I had a Mac Pro with hot-swappable hard drives.

Written on May 3, 2008