OS X 10.6.4 trouble? Try this simple fix

June 20, 2010

After applying the most recent Mac operating system update, my FireWire external hard drive wouldn’t let me save items to it, saying I lacked the necessary permissions. Additionally, an external USB drive started behaving badly, too, spontaneously unmounting itself. What to do?

Given the huge number of highly specific bug fixes and not a few security updates in Mac OS 10.6.4, there have been very few reports of problems. Yeah, Apple rocks.

Nevertheless, I was one of the few having troubles, though that may have been due more to lax maintenance and than anything the update did.

That said, after a major system update (or software install/upgrade), such as OS X 10.6.4, it’s always a good idea to repair disk permissions, whether you’re having trouble or not. In my specific case, the issues were directly related to permissions and a general lack of maintenance (me bad).

Here’s what to do:

    • 1. Insert the Install Disk (disk 1) that came with your Mac or a retail Install Disk.

      2. Restart your Mac, while holding down the “C” key. Keep holding it until you see the Apple logo.

      3. After start up is complete, choose your preferred language.

      4. At the next screen, choose Disk Utility from the Utilities menu.

      5. Select your Mac’s hard disk from the tray on the left, click “Repair Permissions” and then go get a cup of coffee.

Since you’re already started up from the Mac OS X Install DVD, you should also repair your Mac’s hard drive, as well as any additional internal or external drives. This is an automatic repair and doesn’t require intervention on your part, but can take anywhere from a minute or three to an hour or more per disk.

Self-inflicted wounds

That said, the temptation to put this maintenance off until another day is gonna be strong. However, sooner or later, this procrastination and delay will come back to bite you “” think data gone forever and lost productivity.

So, be smart and get in the habit of rebuilding permissions and repairing disks on a regular basis. Set up a recurring iCal event to remind you and then perform these potentially time consuming tasks at the end of the work day or just before bed (click the button and walk away).

For ordinary users, starting up from an install disk and repairing permissions/disks is something you should do about once a month. Folks doing regular heavy lifting “” i.e. image editing and video professionals “” you should be repairing permissions and hard disks on a weekly basis.

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4 Responses to “OS X 10.6.4 trouble? Try this simple fix”

  1. Mr. Reeee:

    Repairing Permissions may help, but booting from the install disk is a bit extreme. There are numerous utilities that can do that and more, such as clearing font caches and running UNIX maintenance routines.

    Onyx (freeware) and Cocktail (shareware) are the two best in my experience.

    When doing a major System Update, it’s ALWAYS best to first repair permissions, etc. BEFORE running the Update.

    Most important is to take the time to download the Combo Updater, as it can clean up the System. This especially important as more and more Mac OS X point releases (10.6.1, 10.6.2, .3, .4, etc.) appear.

    Sorry I don’t have a more technical explanation of how it works, but sites such as macfixit.com and macintouch.com suggest running the Combo Updater any time there’s a Mac OS X point release.

  2. John:

    You can repair permissions with Disk Utility directly in OS X, no need to use the install disk. However, to repair the directory structure you do need the install disk (or at least be booted from some other disk).

  3. BurkPhoto:

    If you have an outboard hard drive, install your operating system on it, and any utilities for drive repair and maintenance you may have. If you have Applecare, it came with TechTool Deluxe or something like that. I keep that, and Disk Warrior, on my external disk.

    If you have one of the newer Macs that will start from an SD Card, get a big one, and install OS X and your utilities on that. It makes startup from an external drive a lot faster and simpler when you need to repair your startup drive and fix permissions.

    I usually do drive maintenance both before AND after a major system update. I also like to clone my drive after repairing it, before an update. If anything goes wonky, I can revert.

  4. E.M. Dyer II:

    Definitely repair permissions using the installed copy of disk utility. Versions of the os subsequent to the installer may have different ideas of what repaired means.

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