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Troubleshoot OS X like it’s OS 9…

Yesterday a client in Bradford on Avon had an emergency, a deadline and no replacement install disks for raft of applications that suddenly failed to open. A bit of detective work later I realised that the affected applications were all Carbon based and it was the OS that was causing the problem, not the applications themselves. I could reinstall the OS, but that might mean the applications would need installing and they had no disks. What to do?

The standard advice you’ll hear when trying to fix problems in OS X usually comes down to Repair Permissions or reinstall the Mac OS. Repair Permissions has become the modern equivalent of rebuilding the desktop database – it’s a zero effort fix to try, but personally I’ve never seen it solve any problem. Reinstalling the OS is a significant effort in time and hence cost to the customer.

Back in the days of the classic Mac OS, you frequently found that critical system files would get corrupted after a system crash, leading to boot failure or related weirdness. The joy of the old Mac OS was that you could simply drag and drop files from a backup system to solve the problem.

OS X has made life much more complicated. You not only have to worry about file permissions and ownership, but also PPC vs Intel Macs and the plethora of different incremental OSes.

But if it’s a specific file or folder that has got damaged, you can copy the required files over, as long as you reapply the correct permissions. So we identified the damaged files, dragged over the damaged Framework from a matching System install we happened to have, reset the permissions and tested. Worked like a charm!

Sometimes it pays to be an old-skool Mac genius, not someone with a black tee-shirt who works in a shop…

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