Thursday, May 04, 2017

My iMac Crashes For 1st Time

This story telling about my computer may help those that have Apple computers more than PC users. It would be the same process with different terminology for those that use Windows PC computers. Since I have been retired for 3 years and no longer use a Windows PC (at work), I have forgotten much of the Windows language and know nothing of their latest updates.

It finally happened ... after 6.5 years of heavy use, my almost 7 year old iMac crashed last night and crashed hard. I am saying it's the first time because when it crashed before it was my fault (user error) when I tried to activate Mac's File Vault program to encrypt my hard drive. I found out later the build date of my computer was just outside the date range for File Vault to work.

In that case I took it into the Geek Squad at Best Buy because I had that service at the time. I blogged about that terrible experience, so of you that are interested in that story, just do a search on "Geek Squad" on this blog and it will show up.

Last night my computer crashed just out of nowhere, like it happens to other people at the most unexpected time. So that is why I am calling this it's first time to crash because it was not user error. I surprised myself and remained calm throughout the many failures of trying to restart my computer.

It happened just before midnight as I was shutting it down. I was on Twitter and just clicked on the tab at the top to go to HughesNet to get my data usage for the day. It would not move from the Twitter website. It was locked up.

I got the spinning beach ball instead. (Same as Window's 'blue screen of death')

I shut it down by holding the power button in back of the iMac. Then the surprise came when I restarted it ... the start up process froze halfway across the Apple progress graph.

I shut it down again the same way so I could restart it in the "restore" mode by holding the 'command' and 'R' keys down at the same time until I heard the Apple chime and/or the Apple icon.

I was able to get into disk utilities and run the repair feature under the "First Aid" tab. It found I had a missing major file in the directory and then a few other missing files during it's search and repair process. It told me everything was corrected so I quit the Disk Utility program.

I tried starting the computer again ... same thing ... it froze at the halfway point. With my laptop I was able to get online search for possible solutions. Next was trying to start the computer in 'safe mode'. That was another restart and holding down the 'shift' key until you heard the Apple chime at startup.

It froze again almost at the end of the graph.

My computer had crashed !!!! For the first time !!!!

I had nothing to lose by restoring the hard drive from my Time Machine backup. But if I did that process, it would erase my hard drive before restoring any backed up files. Like reviews of different products you buy, there are all kinds of horror stories, negative comments and warnings of don't do it when it comes to restoring from the Time Machine backup.

There was nothing else to do though. I'm not an IT guy, I wasn't going to buy and install a new hard drive. I wasn't going to write commands on a screen that I could not get to.

So "Restoring HD from the Time Machine Backup" was my only option. If it did not work as it was designed to do then I'd go to Best Buy and purchase a new, faster, better screen iMac, a 2017 version. By clicking the 'continue' after highlighting the "Restore HD from Time Machine Backup" .... my damaged hard drive would be erased !!!!

I chose to do a restore from the 8:15pm May 3rd backup file. That was two backups before the most recent one because I was hoping to miss the problem that caused the crash and may have been caught by the latest backup ... if that was even possible.

By this time it was almost 2am. It took a lot of time to run Disk Utility twice. It took a long time trying to boot up the computer 4-5 different times. As the restore started the clock for completion kept adding hours up ... I was at 20 hours to complete when it had only done 2% of the restore.

I went to bed and let it run on it's own. I didn't know what to expect when I got up this morning. Would the program run while the computer put itself into the 'sleep mode'? Would it crash during the restore like I had read online happening to other people? At least in every instance it had booted up far enough to turn on the monitors, I had a screen to see.

One thing to remember in this process for those of us that use the touch pad as our mouse ... it won't work ... you have to use your wireless mouse that came with the computer, all the way up through the log in process in the end.

So going to bed expecting this hard drive restore to take all day today and most of the night tonight based on the time estimate ... it was good to have a backup as in my laptop and my iPad Mini to read emails, and normal internet surfing.

About 7:15 am, after 5 hours and 15 minutes of solid deep sleep, I get the bloodhound nose nudge on my hand from the side of the bed. Stella is standing next to the bed and is at eye level. She wants to not only go outside to pee but also eat breakfast.

I'm sure with her eating breakfast is her main purpose to wake me up to start 'her' day. With it still semi-dark and I could hear rain, I told her to go back to sleep ... Heidi and Sadie went back to their sleeping spots.

Then I remembered ... my computer has been restoring!!  At least I can get up and see if it crashed again or how many hours to go, if it processed at all. The hounds were happy I changed my mind within minutes, they were going to have breakfast.

It not only had finished the restore, it had restarted itself as designed, and was waiting for me to click on my user icon and enter my password to access the computer. Of course it would take a little time to go through the process because it was going to be like a new computer booting up ...

Yet, the photo file and mail file would have to be rebuilt. That is over 22,000 photos in my library and mail must have pulled even the emails I deleted years ago because it was importing over 11,000 emails back into my Apple mail system.

That gave me time to make coffee, feed the hounds, let them out in the rain to dump their tanks. Heidi was the only hound to come back inside dry because she stayed behind the Yews and under the roof overhang ... the bloodhounds are not that creative.

By the time the hounds were fed and back inside, and my first cup of coffee had been poured ... my monitor was showing me my regular bookmark icons on the dashboard and my taskbar at the bottom of the screen.

Everything looked normal.

The 'new' computer opened files faster than before since it had erased all the hidden junk from 6.5 years of use from the hard drive before restoring the files from my Time Machine backup. All of my photos and their individual folders were there. Apple mail worked.

Everything was good and working normal, just a bit faster.

My almost 7 year old iMac was back in action better than ever and good for another 7 years of use I suppose. I plan on using it until it drops. The build date for my iMac is 2010 mid-summer.

So for anyone that has read this far, whether you use a Windows PC or an Apple ... ALWAYS ... back up your files because all computers crash and you never know when it will happen !! I'd say 6.5 years of no problems is pretty good for a computer addict before it's first crash.

It started raining last night, it's still raining and I'll have some interesting photos in my next blog post around noon today ... it's good to have a working computer again ... at no cost to fix.

The morning has started off great, here in 'the tropics' of southern Indiana.

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