I was called in at 9 this morning for some routine maintenance, and an upgrade or two of the computer that Just Works.
Mac Don’t Always Just Work
I started at 9:20am – faced with the 2-year-or-so old Intel MacBook Pro that was still running OS X Common House Cat Tiger, and in desperate need of an upgrade.
The machine was previously used as a photo bank / work horse and was now relegated to the serene pastures of office admin. The 120GiB hard drive was 100GiB full, and would therefore need a good vacuuming.
Still littering the office from previous Mac upgrades, which didn’t go smoothly at all, I had my 2-step upgrade discs handy. I’ve read several posts where people have said upgrading from Tiger straight to OS X Snow Leopard was possible, but my mileage varied quite considerably.
I had to from Tiger to Leopard to Snow Leopard, with all of the 5 or 6 various-aged Macs that I had to upgrade about 3 months ago. Not. Fun. At. All.
Bring in the Leopards
Anyhow, the files on this computer had all been backed up, so I could just fire away. I duly slipped the OS X Leopard 10.5 disc into the drive. The Mac recognised the disc easily enough, and a couple of clicks later the disc was humming along nicely. Leopard was being installed.
About 25 minutes later, as the progress bar neared 100%, I was thinking to myself how smoothly it was all going. Of course, thoughts like this generate a ridiculously strong electromagnetic pulse, and mere moments after forming this thought in my head, the Mac threw up a non-helpful message: “Leopard could not be installed on this system. Please restart and try again”.
Luckily the message said please, otherwise I would have been seriously pissed off at just having wasted 30 minutes.
But the fun was just starting. Restarting the Mac then caused a message that said OS X 10.4 was required for this installation, and that OS X 10.4 was not detected on this system. I chose the main drive as the startup disc, and restarted the Mac again.
This time it try to boot, but just shut down. I tried a couple of times, but it did the same thing and eventually I realised the hard drive got wrecked.
How to the get CD out of a Mac that doesn’t boot up
Hit the power button, and immediately hold down the mouse button (on the track-pad). After a while the disc will eject.
How to then boot again from the CD of a Mac that doesn’t boot up
Power up the Mac, slip in the CD, hold down the C key.
Eventually, I used a retail disc of OS X Leopard to go into Disc Utilities and check the hard drive for errors.
“Oh”, said the Mac, “the disc needs to be repaired”. Wow, that just works.
I clicked on the Repair button and several more wasted minutes later, it apparently didn’t just work as I was told “your disc can’t be repaired. Save as much info as you can and reformat.” Nice one, Apple.
So that’s what I did. I reformatted and started from scratch by running the OS X Leopard 10.5 retail install. After about 30 minutes of that, I treated myself to an immediate additional 25 minutes by upgrading straight to OS X Snow Leopard 10.6. I was up for even more, and thought about immediately installing the patches to bring it up to 10.6.4, but the 900MiB download, and a slow Internet connection in the office, quickly killed off that idea.
Apple Macs Just Work – Eventually
So at 13:00, the Apple Mac finally just worked.
And the crash, which resulted in the loss of all the installed applications with their files, means that the office is now a superbly uncluttered admin workhorse richer.