Kernel Panic? Don’t Panic

Posted: March 18, 2008 in Apple, computers, Mac OSX, software
Tags: ,

A client of mine brought me a Mac Mini that was no longer working and basically had no idea what had happened to break it.  “it was working fine and then 10 minutes later – broke.” So much for my declaration about Macs being the way to go  “…they are basically bulletproof and you won’t have to worry about viruses and spam and all that as much.” Little did i know that giving a Mac Mini to a teenager would prove me wrong.

Something happened, the exact details are still a little blurry, but the Mac stopped working and would not start up from the internal harddrive nor from the install disks in the optical drive.  This was the point where my client brought the Mac to me.  As with any computer the first thing i always do is create a backup, and it was with trepidation that i connected the Mac Mini to my MacBook with a firewire cable and started up the Mini in target mode (hold the T key as it starts).  Thankfully it worked and i was able to see that no files had been lost and the directory structure seemed fine.  Next step was to figure out why it would no longer start.  I connected the Mini to a monitor (an LCD TV actually because all there is in my house is laptops), added a keyboard, a mouse and turned the power on.  Nothing.  Not even a warning screen of any kind.  I reset the PRAM and tried again, i got the startup chime but that was it.  i tried again without anything connected and then connected the monitor after it sounded like it was booting and that was my first glimpse into the problem.  I got a screen very much like the one at the top of this post (i couldn’t do a screen capture, because, well, nothing was booting far enough to allow it, so i found one on the interweb).  After many attempts at booting from cd’s and even attempting to copy over the mach_kernel from a functioning machine using mac os9, i stumbled across the idea of reinstalling the latest mac OSX update to fix the issues.  I knew the combo updater would be the best chance of fixing everything so i downloaded it from Apple’s website onto my MacBook and 330 meg later had a dmg in my possession.

I of course made sure my TimeMachine had backed up everything on my MacBook first, and then got ready to apply the file to the Mini.  This is where i was feeling a little nervous.  My MacBook is running OSX.5 and the Mac Mini is running OSX.4 and i wasn’t sure if i was going to be able to apply the update over firewire or not.

Thankfully this was the screen i saw after mounting the updater and agreeing, etc.  It was smart enough to know not to update the Mac OSX.5 volume and let me select the firewire drive with OSX.4 on it.  (insert huge sigh of relief)  So i let the installer run which was relatively quick all things considered, and when completed, closed the installer, unmounted the targeted drive and reconnected a monitor and mouse and with fingers crossed pushed the power button.  I was greeted with a startup tone, the standard Mac screen, and the small but very welcome activity wheel – if you are a Mac user you will know the one i mean.  It took it a while and rebooted once, but in the end there it was – the elusive Log-on screen that had been missing for some time.  A cheer arose from the gathered crowds and a celebration ensued!  (Okay, maybe just a big smile from me and a hearty pat on my own back.)

I connected to the internet and downloaded the outstanding updates, installed them and a few restarts later all is running nice and smooth, the way all macs, or any computer for that matter, should.  Right now i’m running a few tests to make sure everything works but so far as they say in Texas “‘It’s all good”.


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