Mac OS forum



by Terri N. Peate / August 22, 2011 2:02 AM PDT

After years of reliability, my eMac, OS 10.4.11, started to experience slowdowns and freezes. The screen will freeze, though it's possible to wave the cursor helplessly around. There is no response to force quit or other key commands such as control-command-eject. The machine must be shut down by holding the power key.

Disk Utility and Disk Warrior report nothing. Neither did Clamxav, until I removed it from suspicion. I did an archive and install, which has speeded up the machine noticeably, but the freezes persist. These seem to be random, not particularly specific to an activity or application. I have a bootable fairly recent clone on an outboard Firewire/USB drive in Firewire mode, but whether it is mounted or not seems to have no bearing.

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All Answers

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How about other maintenence?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 22, 2011 5:23 AM PDT
In reply to: Freezes

Are you keeping up with yearly cleaning of the vents? I use canned air.

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by Terri N. Peate / August 22, 2011 7:09 AM PDT

Thanks for the suggestion. I have some canned air, and gave the vents a blast.

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So if you boot from
by Jimmy Greystone / August 22, 2011 10:53 AM PDT
In reply to: Freezes

So if you boot from the clone, and just run that for a few hours, do the freezes still happen? What you describe sounds very much like a failing HDD, and I'd be willing to bet that if you paid closer attention, you'd notice that the freezes seem to coincide with things that involve accessing the HDD, like trying to open an app or save a file.

If it is the HDD, you may want to think a little on whether or not to repair this yourself. Normally I'd say go right ahead, but the eMac is an all-in-one based around a CRT display, and CRT capacitors can store lethal charges of electricity for days at a time after being unplugged. They can even build up secondary charges after discharging. So, check the iFixIt site for a teardown, and make sure to take note of them mentioning anything about shock hazards along the way. The HDD may not require you go anywhere near the high voltage components, but it would behoove you to check first, unless you have a CRT discharge tool laying around and know how to use it. If it does bring you close to any of the high voltage stuff, it might be worth the $100US or whatever it would cost to get someone else to put it in. You value your life at more than $100US, right?

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by Terri N. Peate / August 22, 2011 1:26 PM PDT
In reply to: So if you boot from

In the way of these things, it has now been running from the internal drive for several hours without freezus. Did blowing the dust out really do that? Did posting a question on MacFixit set up quantum fluctuations?

Your suggestion about running from the clone is a good one. I have the teardown manual in PDF, including discharging the HV, if it comes to that. I have something called SMART Reporter running that is giving the drive the green light, but I don't know how much to rely on that.

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by Jimmy Greystone / August 22, 2011 11:15 PM PDT
In reply to: Freezus

None is what I'd say. I've been employed as an Apple repair tech for going on three years now, and honestly out of probably over 100 HDDs replaced in that time, I'd say fewer than 1% had some kind of SMART reported failure. I pretty much always had to use a certified tech only diagnostic tool to run a scan of the drive. Every now and then I don't even need that because you can hear the drive making the click of death, but even that is more likely to happen than SMART failures.

There's also no need for a separate program to monitor SMART status, since Disk Utility already does it and comes with OS X.

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More freezus
by Terri N. Peate / August 23, 2011 1:31 AM PDT
In reply to: None

The odd freeze-free period ended when I mounted the outboard drive and started playing a slideshow of a folder of images on the outboard drive with an application on the boot drive. Updating the Java and security update for the newly-installed system resulted in more freezus, though there may be no particular significance in that. It seems like a very random phenomenon. This morning, it froze waking from sleep.

It sounds like I don't have much further recourse but to take the machine in to the shop. Should I try an incremental backup of the boot drive to the clone first with CCC? The clone is a bit out of date.

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You may as well
by Jimmy Greystone / August 23, 2011 10:31 AM PDT
In reply to: More freezus

You may as well. Those things are heavy, so if you can more or less prove that it's the HDD, then you could probably just buy a new HDD yourself and put it in. Save yourself the hassle of lugging it to the nearest AASP (since I believe Apple retail stores don't support any PPC units). Worst case scenario, you still end up having to lug it to an AASP, and you're no worse off than you are now.

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by Terri N. Peate / August 23, 2011 1:12 PM PDT
In reply to: You may as well

I was able to make a fresh clone and am running from that, so far so good. It makes sense that reading from the drive wouldn't be problematic, where writing to it could be. I think it may indeed be the hard drive. So next I'd better study that teardown manual.

There is a Buddhist Mac repairman in the neighborhood (how Boulder is that?) from whom I can get a quote. Hiring anyone to do anything would be a luxury for me. Thanks for your suggestions, and I'll report back on how this is resolved.

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Well, maybe not
by Terri N. Peate / August 24, 2011 7:56 AM PDT
In reply to: Clone

Although running from the clone appeared to resolve the problem, I am still getting completely random freezes. I can really detect no common element to these. Since the outboard drive is newer with many less hours on it, I don't think it can be a HD problem.

Apple hardware test passes everything. I'm really stumped.

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It could still be a Software problem
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / August 24, 2011 8:34 AM PDT
In reply to: Well, maybe not

given that you cloned the drive that was having the same problems as you are experiencing now.

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by Terri N. Peate / August 26, 2011 3:09 PM PDT

An archive and install was one of the first things I tried, before cloning the boot drive to an external. After applying all the software updates and doing maintenance with Onyx on the cloned new system things do run a little faster, and the freezes are *perhaps* less frequent. It is hard to tell, they are so random. The machine can be used all day without incident, then freeze. On the other hand, it can freeze waking from sleep. At this point, I have cloned the new drive back onto the internal boot drive and am running from that. I can't detect any difference in behavior.

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Could be an overheating issue
by wolborsk / August 26, 2011 11:37 AM PDT
In reply to: Freezes

We had very similar symptoms on our iMac and I went to several forums for help. A common fix we saw was to download a free program called smcFanControl. This allows you to manually set your fan speed higher and facilitate cooling. It also displays the internal temperature and we quickly learned that as the temperature reaches ~60 deg C, the freezeups begin. We set our speeds a little higher than the baseline and the freezeups have diminished. I also go to max cool if I see the temperature rising quickly toward 60 deg. The Mac version is at Hope this helps!


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I would STRONGLY advise against that
by Jimmy Greystone / August 26, 2011 12:16 PM PDT

I would STRONGLY advise against that. The SMC on Macs are already very finely calibrated, and if you mess with them, you disrupt that delicate balance. It can also lead to false-positives if you ever have to take the system in for repair, which just delays things and adds to the expense.

You do NOT want to have ANY program installed that claims to alter the fan speed up or down.

I know when I have a system come across my workbench and it seems to be having thermal issues, I'm always looking for programs like that. If I find it, I send it back until the customer has removed it, or gives me permission to remove it. I'm not going to waste my time trying to sort out what is and isn't a valid thermal error when there's a program that can cause false-positives installed. I am not going to replace a fan or anything else until I know for CERTAIN that is what the problem is. Every time you crack open the case on a system, there's a chance of something going horribly wrong, and the more components you have to remove in order to replace some other part just increases the odds that something bad may happen. With newer iMac models (2007 and on), two of the three fans requires you remove the logic board to replace them. Removing the logic board tends to necessitate removing a bunch of other components. If you're going to remove the logic board, you should have a VERY good reason.

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heating issue?
by Terri N. Peate / August 26, 2011 3:12 PM PDT

Should I take the case off and blow the dust out with canned air?

At this point, I can't think of much else to try.

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On an eMac
by Jimmy Greystone / August 27, 2011 12:53 AM PDT
In reply to: heating issue?

On an eMac, I'd say no, because then you're going to have to be very careful not to touch the high voltage parts of the unit. Even unplugged, it can store lethal charges for days at a time, at least. You so much as accidentally brush against the wrong part, you might be waking up on the other side of the room, if you wake up at all.

Your problem sounds more like a software issue. Try doing another fresh install, and this time eschew all the "maintenance" stuff. Programs like Onyx and Cocktail are designed for very specific purposes, not general maintenance. They're not quite on the same level of scam as registry cleaners for Windows, but they're not too far removed. People tend to look at them as these miracle cure-alls, and the reality is that if they're not used properly, they can create problems and/or exacerbate existing problems. Mac OS X is based on Unix, FreeBSD to be specific, which can trace its roots all the way back to the original BSD Unix. All Unicies (and Unix-like operating systems such as Linux) have a large number of general maintenance programs that run automatically in the background. There's no reason to run programs like Onyx or Cocktail unless you have a very specific need. That very well could be the source of your problems, or at least a significant contributing factor.

So download a copy of the 10.4.11 combo update (just save yourself some time later), then do a fresh install of just the core apps you need to function for say the weekend. Keep everything to a bare minimum. If you don't ABSOLUTELY NEED this or that program, don't install it. Just update to 10.4.11, and those handful of absolutely necessary apps. Don't copy over the programs from the archive section, install them as if it were a brand new computer. One other thing, is once you've got the OS installed, go into disk utility and unmount the internal HDD (I'm assuming you're installing to the external) just to make absolutely sure you aren't running a program off of the possibly dodgy internal drive. Once you have a bare minimum OS install, you can spend a day or two evaluating things. And again, be sure NOT to use programs like Onyx or Cocktail this time.

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by Terri N. Peate / August 27, 2011 2:52 AM PDT
In reply to: On an eMac

I'd still like your opinion on the cleaning issue. I am used to HV, and the CRT isn't too hard to discharge, if needed. I have the teardown manual and a nice how-to from the web on installing a new HD. I'm inclined to do so, because this place is very dusty and the vents had a lot of dust in them.

I keep the combo updater on a CD. Software Update has to install a boatload of stuff after it's done. iTunes seems to need manual updating. Are you suggesting I reinstall the other apps, or just do a selective clone?

Thanks for your suggestion. I'll try it.

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I doubt
by Jimmy Greystone / August 27, 2011 3:31 AM PDT
In reply to: Thanks

I doubt that your issue has anything at all to do with the fans being clogged with dust. Not that it's a bad idea to clean them out now and again, I just don't think it's going to do any good in your case.

And I'm suggesting you do a fresh OS install, and then REINSTALL only the most critical apps you need to get through the next couple of days. And that's REINSTALL, not just copy them over from the archive. We want to eliminate as many possible sources of contamination as possible, so we want everything to be as pristine, and close as possible to the first time someone turned this thing on.

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nightmarish computing
by Terri N. Peate / August 27, 2011 6:31 AM PDT
In reply to: I doubt

Since the last time I posted, the computer, after a stretch of untroubled behavior, started freezing on reboot, or shortly thereafter, say, from emptying the trash, and did this several times. I managed to change the startup disk and fled back to the outboard drive, where there has already been a freeze. When it is not freezing, it is noticeably faster than before this whole headache began.

How well is the OS able to handle being shut down repeatedly with the power button? Will this, in itself damage the system software?

I'll try implementing your suggestion on the internal drive.

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It's gotten better.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 27, 2011 6:36 AM PDT
In reply to: nightmarish computing

But all it takes is a lock up at "just the right time" and you get to learn about things most of us want to avoid. It does not matter what system but the moderators always write "we only lose what we didn't backup."

I'd review all that is above as well as do your canned air maintenance.

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Nearing the end of the rope.
by Terri N. Peate / August 30, 2011 1:08 PM PDT
In reply to: It's gotten better.

I did open the computer and blew quite a bit of dust out. I also broke the incredibly delicate eMac stealth power button and had to spend a lot of hassle replacing it with a clunky but workable substitute.

I erased my boot drive and did a scratch install of 10.4.11 plus the other updates from the Software Updater. I installed one application, the TenFour Fox browser, version 6. I quit that, put its software zip archive in the Trash, chose empty Trash from Finder menu and it froze.

I can surf the web and use email while booted from this, the Firewire outboard drive, for periods of time, but trying to use InDesign gets a freeze about every couple of minutes. I suspect I'd get similar results with other applications.

I don't know what happened to this computer, but I don't think it's a software or hard drive issue.

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A freeze or a pause?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 30, 2011 1:17 PM PDT

Not to sound like I want this well defined (but I do), a freeze means it never comes back. A pause may be legit on old hardware and new bigger OS and apps.

What RAM does this have? You may be on the low end where it has to swap like mad.

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It's firewire
by mservin--2008 / January 14, 2012 1:50 AM PST
In reply to: Freezes

I have the same issue, exactly as you describe, Mac 10.6.8. Forum search led to a long discussion of firewire situation on snow leopard. I have an OWC mercury elite pro attached to the 400 firewire port. The freezes were getting more frequent especially after waking from sleep. I used disk utility to repair permissions, repaired the HD of the mac, same for the OWC drive. Reset PRAM, uninstalled recent software, ran memtest, unplugged USB devices, found no problems, but no improvement.

I unplugged the drive from the mac and problems went away. OWC replaced the drive under its 3 year warranty, but the prob is back! Lots of disk activity, and freezes. Drive works perfectly on USB. No snow leopard update has solved the problem. It's possible it's the drive itself, or the enclosure, or the conversation between the computer and the drive. for a quick fix I replaced the firewire cable. But it's definitely not working as expected. Sorry no solution for you but you're not alone.

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