Why does my Macintosh OS X crash? Tips for diagnosing problem symptoms

When you are responsible for advertising, marketing, public relations, graphic design, and website files of hundreds of clients within your system, computer failures, at the risk of possible data loss, can be a major reason to panic. To do?

I’ve been in the marketing business for over thirty-five years. I have active clients whose work I need to tackle frequently. I also have inactive clients who pop up unpredictably from time to time and need immediate attention as well.

Regardless of who asks, I need to be ready, willing and able to do what is needed at any time. This means that I must keep a complete file of the work done that I can access at all times to review, update, reference or adapt to new applications as requested.

This working library includes huge, high-resolution Photoshop files that may have taken hours, days, or weeks of work to improve the original images in some way; extensive Quark files of final text, photos and illustrations composed with a sophisticated and meticulous design, which undoubtedly required many, many hours to set up, not to mention customer reviews and final reviews; extremely complicated Dreamweaver website files; equally involved Flash files for stunning website animations; Immaculately produced vector files of artwork created in Adobe Illustrator; a multitude of various drop-down menus for use by websites created in Fireworks; hundreds of PDF files created with Adobe Acrobat Distiller for high-quality results; and a medley of other works using music, movies, videos, and other miscellaneous files.

Since thirty-five years is a very long time, and it has spanned several technological (and not-so-technological) eras in the process, this work is in a variety of formats, including scans of previous work, as well as actual digital files. of native programs, some of which are now obsolete or no longer produced. Having learned years ago that trying to store files and work on them on the same hard drive with limited space can lead to problems, I have resorted to always having one or two external hard drives as extensions of my computer system, so I always have enough . of open disk space for digital “leakage,” for lack of a better term.

My external hard drives have included firewire and USB data transfer systems, with firewire being the fastest and most expensive version. And unsurprisingly, every time I’ve needed a new external drive, the capabilities have increased dramatically, while ironically the costs have not.

Over the years, I have owned many different Macintosh computers, usually the most expensive, fastest, and most glorified versions available. But I am currently working on a more conservatively priced iMac running OS X 10.4.11, with 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 1GB of RAM (memory), and an internal hard drive with 232.89GB of storage capacity. I bought this system several years ago, have used it for nearly eighteen hours or more every day, and have loved every minute of it, particularly its gorgeous monitor. I intend to update my entire system probably later this year when the new OS X operating system is released. I say this with full knowledge that such an update will require that I also update all of the aforementioned software programs that I use, which is it will add up to a nice, considerable, but necessary investment.

Until about two weeks ago, I had two external hard drives connected to this system: a fully-loaded Firewire that I stopped using on a daily basis because it was making a strange noise and I thought I should keep what was left of it; and a “My Book” from Western Digital, which has about the same storage capacity as my internal hard drive (about 232GB). After about two years, I have only used about half of their available space. So when my system started crashing repeatedly one recent afternoon, I was deeply concerned because I didn’t know what was causing the problem.

I was immediately suspicious of “My Book” because I had shown some disturbing symptoms over the past six months, which I could usually dismiss or deny. These included taking a long time to assemble, or not mounting at all on the desktop, without obvious provocation. However, upon restarting the computer, the drive would mount and I chose not to dwell on the incident.

In discussing the accidents with my husband, who is a retired IBM specialist engineering technician and consultant, he immediately asked me what I had been doing just prior to the accident. I said that I was trying to save my work in any of the programs that included Quark, Photoshop, and others. He also felt that MyBook was the culprit because that was the purpose of my save data. Said I hadn’t even gotten to the point where I had said where to save the data, so I still had my doubts that that was the problem.

I decided to do some testing in an effort to eliminate some possibilities. I ran a Disk Utility diagnostic test on the internal hard drives and MyBook and both were reported to be free of problems, something I seriously doubted. Then I copied some of the most frequently needed files onto my nearly empty internal hard drive and rebooted my system without turning on the MyBook. I was able to work and save files without fail. That seemed to confirm to me that the MyBook was to blame. But why?

I bought a new external hard drive online and, reading and researching the problem, found that external hard drives do not like being put to sleep and then abruptly awakened to suddenly perform some immediate function. As I tend to be an impatient person driven by not having enough time in the day and too much to do in the time I have available, I realized that this scenario was a common phenomenon in my work life. When checking my system preferences under Power Saver, I noticed that my system was set to sleep if it was idle for more than 15 minutes (the default setting), which happens quite often when the phone rings or I get up to answer something. other activity. periodically throughout the day. Probably as MyBook has gotten older and slower (as we all do as we get older), it just can’t keep up with the pace that I’m trying to do. Maybe it’s also a function of how much data is on the drive, you just need more time to get everything done, especially to wake up and function.

Also, I read that it can be too demanding of a computer system to multitask with many programs open at the same time, all of which use available RAM, albeit a generous amount. My husband chimed in with the thought that maybe I hadn’t mapped my memory correctly. That rang a distant bell in my mind … a very distant bell. I remembered the days of allocating memory for each of my programs, dividing my available RAM according to what made sense: more for Photoshop, less for Quark, for example. I realized that I had not done that task in many years. But researching the subject on Google, I quickly discovered that those days were over with the arrival of OS X, which automatically allocates RAM as needed. It is not surprising!

So I decided to reboot my system with My Book connected and try to limit my program’s use to one at a time and set the sleep mode to “never”, allowing it to sleep. That seemed to be the magic bullet. However, knowing that MyBook was getting old and possibly overwhelmed by data, I decided to invest in a new external hard drive with the goal of putting all my most essential files on it as an additional backup.

At the Mac Mall, I found a very reasonable 1TB Fantom GreenDrive eSATA / USB 2.0 external hard drive with the help of a customer service representative that was compatible with Windows and OS X 10.4 or later, for approx. $ 50 after refunds and free shipping, which I couldn’t resist. Following the instructions, I installed it on my USB hub and formatted the new hard drive for use with OS X.

As with MyBook, it is recommended to always boot the hard drive before turning on the computer and always unmount before turning off the computer to avoid any damage or loss of data. What no one ever seems to mention is that when the power goes out unexpectedly, like every time the wind blows the other way where I live, the computer shuts down abruptly and no hard drive is properly unmounted in the process. So far, the new Fantom unit appears to ignore such events and mounts immediately without any apparent repercussions.

However, from past experiences, I know that MyBook does not react favorably to such incidents and I recently learned that the best way to deal with any negative results is to completely disconnect the MyBook from its power source and allow it to clear for about a five-minute breath. minutes before plugging it back in while the computer is off. I also find that if I reboot my computer system once and shut it down between startups with external hard drives connected, as a similar “cleanup” interlude after a power outage or any crash incident of any kind, the whole system works. better later.

Simply using common sense has helped me solve this problem, find a solution, and work to rectify my situation with the team I have to work with. I booted up my system with MyBook and Fantom connected, set the sleep mode to “never”, waited a long time for MyBook to mount, and then judiciously dragged many of my files from the old hard drive to copy to the new one. hard drive while I sleep at night so as not to disturb the system with multitasking demands. While MyBook has continued to misbehave periodically when asked to unmount after a long session, locking the entire system again, I was able to move all my important files to the new drive and now I don’t even need to power up the drive. MyBook at all. Now I can successfully work on the Fantom or my internal hard drive with multiple programs open simultaneously without worrying about crashes as long as I keep my sleep mode set to “never”. When I plan to be away from the computer for an extended period, I unmount the Fantom and shut it down, restore the default sleep settings, and leave knowing that my system will be able to wake up when I return without worrying about crashing and losing data. What a relief!

Of course, the motivating factor that ultimately led me to focus on this problem – the total loss of an entire MyBook folder of some extremely important data that I had been working on when my attempt to save a simple file caused a recent system crash – has been a valuable lesson in dealing with what is important when running a business: you can never have enough reliable backup systems!

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