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iMac Woes

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

I seem to be in business again, at last. As I noted in passing a week ago, one reason I’ve posted so little this month is that I have been having troubles with my iMac, the one I ordered the day after Thanksgiving and have had for almost three months now.

The problems started in early January. I would go to my mail app and each of my four inboxes would have a little spinning sign, showing the app wasn’t connecting with the mail servers. This would happen on occasion after an hour or two of activity on the computer and consistently after I woke the computer up from sleep. Sometimes the computer would, apparently, awaken overnight and presumably go through this state, then crash (a kernel panic), requiring that I hold the power button down for a few seconds to get the computer to shut off before I could restart.

If I was working with some other apps and the mail app went into this state, I could continue to work for a while, but soon my RSS feed would lose its connection to the server, then Safari would crash, then I’d have to restart, but I wouldn’t be able to restart. It would begin the shut down process and then stall, requiring the multi-second push of the power button.

This wasn’t conducive to working. At the beginning of this month, I brought the computer to the Apple Store Genius Bar for diagnosis. My genius soon found that the hard drive was failing. They ordered a new one, I got the call that it was in, but I deferred bringing in the computer for two weeks because I was extremely busy, I had learned to suck it up and shut the computer down multiple times a day, and I wanted to do a full backup before turning the computer in. Joel got tired of my passivity and finally did the backup himself.

So two Wednesdays ago I dropped off the iMac for its new hard drive. The store called Friday to say the work was done. I picked up the iMac on Saturday, eight days ago, and reinstalled all the data. Over the next eight hours, the computer proceeded to have four mail failures or kernel panics, one in the middle of my writing a blog post. Overnight it had a fifth. Gail made a new appointment with the Genius Bar and I brought it back in first thing Monday morning.

This was my chance to get tough. I explained that these trips and the crashes, and the backups and re-installs, were a waste of my time. I suggested I just be given a new machine so I could get on with my life. The kind genius pointed out that this sounded good, assuming the problem was one of hardware, but if it was software? Specifically, she explained that there could be a problem with my data, so I could reinstall it on yet another machine and find the same problem. Hmm. I realized she had a point. So much for playing tough guy. She ran some diagnostic tests, then proposed that they keep the computer, let it run for a while in the back, and see what they could learn. I meekly agreed.

Tuesday afternoon, Apple left a message that they were convinced the hardware was fine. It must be the software, and specifically something embedded in my mail settings. They proposed that they rebuild the operating system, then have me come in with my back up hard drive and have the data put back on the computer carefully. I called back Thursday morning, said sure, and Friday they said the work was done. So I made yet another Genius Bar appointment, 10 AM yesterday.

Back I went, with Gail at my side, to help me stay calm. Genius Nate helped us this time. Good guy. Rather than install everything from the backup, we first brought over all my files — music, photos, documents. This would take about a half hour, during which Gail and I went off for breakfast (Gail) and a snack (me). Back to the store, a 5-minute wait for Nate to be free, then we started from scratch to re-build my mailboxes, and to verify that the music, photos, and documents were all there.

We were home by noon, at which point the real work began. I downloaded apps, set up all my system preferences, set up preferences in all the apps, and on and on. Over two hours of work. Fortunately, I’m getting used to the routine, having done it last month with my new MacBook Air and in September with my iMac in my office, after it had to have a new logic board put in. In fact, I now have written down a check list of everything I do to set up and customize a Mac.

The good news: it seems to be working. And now I can go back to blogging. Sorry for the spotty posting of late.

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