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Trying to fix/diagnose a MAC with a Boot Issue

First of all, I am not AT ALL familiar with MACs, or OSx.   PCs, I can generally handle without issues.

A buddy of mine wanted me to look at his system.  It will not boot and only gets to a grey screen with an Apple logo (sometimes giving a message that the PC needs to reboot).

Researching online, it seemed like it was recommended to run "fsck -f" from Single User Mode (Command + S on startup) to see what it reports and if there is an error to run it again until it reports that it is ok.

Right now the MAC is on the fsck step "Checking Catalog hierarchy".

While running this step, this was reported:
Missing thread record (id=177826)
Invalid directory item count
(It should be 0 instead of 4)
Missing thread record (id=177833)
Invalid directory item count
(It should be 0 instead of 3)

It doesn't seem to be finished as it is just sitting there.  (should cursor be flashing?)

My question is, how long should I let this run?  The first 4 steps of fsck went pretty quick, but it has been about 20 min on this step with no output.

Should I reboot and try again?  or a different command?
6 Solutions
Sigurdur ArmannssonDesignerCommented:
If this is Lion (10.7) or newer system, restart and hold down the alt/option key while it starts up.
Select the Recovery disk from the selection and it should start up on a small partition that contains a system installer.

First use the Disk Utility and run it for Repair Disk. If this is a disk failure DU might be able to fix it. If not the disk needs a replacement.

If DU manages to fix go on and install the system. It's a reinstall that doesn't change anything on the disk and is in my opinion a faster way to fix many things than looking for days for another solution. The installation should take less than an hour if the disk is fine.
pmitllcAuthor Commented:
Unfortunately this seems like it is Pre-Lion System

I only have an option for "Macintosh HD"
I agree with Sigurarm that you should try using Disk Utility from the recovery disk if you are running 10.7 or newer. However, if fsck cannot repair the disk, it is unlikely that DU will either.

However, when you have DU open check the bottom right hand corner of the DU window to see what the S.M.A.R.T. status of the drive is. If it is anything but "verified", then the disk hardware is failing and the drive needs replacing.

However, if the S.M.A.R.T. status is verified, then your problem is likely disk directory corruption and the drive itself is likely fine.

If DU does fix the drive, just reboot. It is not likely that you will need to re-install the system. Re-installing the system is a Windows fix. Mac users hardly ever re-install the system.

If DU (which is really the Mac equivalent of CHKDSK) cannot repair the drive, and if the S.M.A.R.T. status is okay, you have two options:

1. If you have a back up of the drive or have a second Mac that you can use to back up the drive, simply re-initialize the drive and clone back the backup.

2. Alternatively, you can purchase a heavy-duty paid commercial disk repair program like Disk Warrior ( http://www.alsoft.com ) which in all likelihood will repair your drive.

If the drive is not repairable, even with Disk Warrior, and you have no back up, you can probably recover the data with a paid commercial data recovery program like DataRescue III ( http://www.prosofteng.com/products/data_rescue.php ).

Depends on how valuable the data is on the drive.
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Peter LoobuyckCommented:
I suggest you go for diskwarrior. It's the thing you need to repair your catalog In fact it rebuilds and replaces the catalog file.
pmitllcAuthor Commented:
It must be good software because it seems mentioned on every forum.....

I'm going to see if they want to go this route and will report back.
pmitllcAuthor Commented:
Ok, I got the DiskWarrior software DVD, booted to it and tried to do the rebuild.   It gave me the error that the drive has malfunctioned so it can't copy the rebuild over the original directory.  

It said that I should copy the files from the preview as soon as possible, because the drive will likely worsen.

When I click preview, everything looks like it is there (original on left, preview on right).

I plugged in an USB external drive that I have but I am unable to select it from the available drive dropdown.

I am working from a Windows 7 PC, so I downloaded MacDrive (5 day trial) to change the formatting of the USB drive to HFS+ (not a 100% this worked, but it looked like it did).

I still cannot get the drive to show up in DiskWarrior.  I have a feeling that if I could, I could copy the files onto it.

Any ideas?
See if Disk Warrior will repair the USB drive.

Otherwise try to reformat using MacDrive as HFS+ Journalled and see if that works.
pmitllcAuthor Commented:
There is no option in MacDrive that says journalled or non-journalled, but I did do the HFS+.

This is what shows up in Disk Management (I think the only reason it shows at all because I have the trial of MacDrive installed).

Disk Management

Since I don't have a Mac to use the disc utility on , I am also getting ready to try to use Ubuntu & Gparted to create the HFS+ partition as outlined here:  http://agacho.blogspot.com/2011/08/format-disk-with-hfs-using-gparted-on.html

Based on this link, the external drive should show up when plugged in:

I am puzzled as to why there is the 128MB unallocated area. I wonder if that is causing the problem.

Give Ubuntu a try.
pmitllcAuthor Commented:
Well, I used ubuntu and Gparted to look at the drive and that 128 unallocated was a FAT partition and was probably causing the problem of not being seen in DiskWarrior

I deleted all partitions and created a new HFS+ partition in the first postition.

Now back to the MAC boot it up select DW for boot and it crashed.....it did this multiple times.  I decided to try using the "hold c" during bootup method (this failed in the beginning when I first started troubleshooting), and for some reason that worked.

Once in DW, when it was starting up and said "scanning disks", I plugged in the USB drive.
Then it asked what drive to rebuild.  I wanted the "Macintosh HD" but it wasn't listed, only the USB drive.  

Unplugged the USB drive and rebooted again using the 'c' method to DW.  this time it found the "Macintosh HD", I clicked rebuild, but this time during the process it didnt' give me the warnings "performance slowed due to hardware fault" (or something like that) that it did everytime before.

I now have a replace option in DW.

I clicked on preview and plugged in the USB drive, and bada bing bada boom I had access to the USB drive.

I am thinking that this may actually be able to get the MAC in a bootable state after pushing replace, but I'm copying off the files to the USB drive from the preview as I write this.

Unfortunately, selecting all the files and clicking copy doesn't work as there are some files that are giving me errors "cannot complete drag operation"......so I'm going folder by folder to get what I can get, which is most of it.

Once it completes I will push replace and hope for the best.  As long as I got the files off I consider that a win.  I'll update with the final result.
pmitllcAuthor Commented:
While copying the files, I noticed it couldn't copy certain folders because the was a "file missing" inside.  I just copied everything else.

After I was done, I did the Replace option in DiskWarrior and it booted up properly.

What is the quickest way to determine if the HDD truly is failing or if I just received a false positive from DW the first few times I ran it?
Open Disk Utility and see what it shows for the S.M.A.R.T. status. If it shows anything other than "verified", the disk is failing.

You could also download and install the freeware SmartReporter which periodically monitors the health of your drive and will put an alert in the menubar and e-mail you if it detects a problem.
pmitllcAuthor Commented:
If it only will look at SMART data, then it should be ok because DW checked that.

Is there an equivalent to chkdsk on a PC?
Running Repair Disk from Disk Utility is the equivalent to CHKDSK. It won't let you run it while booted from the same volume, but you can run Verify Disk from Disk Utility which will tell you if the drive needs repair.
pmitllcAuthor Commented:
Will do, I will pass along that information as I have already spent too much time dealing with this.

All of the important data is safe, and the computer seems to boot properly.

Thanks everyone!

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