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Apple OS woes: The Lion ate my laptop

When the new Apple Lion OS seized up the computer of a CNET blogger, it was a good case study of Lion's early glitches and possible solutions.

Lions prefer fresh meat. seeka/Morguefile

When a new Apple OS locks up the laptop of a CNET writer, it's in the United Nations charter that he or she must document the problem and relay the story.

Last week, the new Apple OS X Lion stopped my Macbook Pro in its formerly reliable tracks, so it was time to do a bit of first-person reporting.

I turned to Lion in my 2009 Macbook Pro exactly one week ago and experienced no complications during the download and install process. I was a few days into learning the ins and outs of the new OS when I needed to pack up my laptop to cover the X Games in downtown Los Angeles. That meant turning off my computer and toting it to work in the field. But when starting the MacBook Pro once again, the machine booted up to the new Lion user log-in screen--only to freeze out any opportunity to enter log in information.

The computer was still running. The fan was engaged. I could adjust the brightness and audio. I could launch Lion Recovery Mode to check out the health of the Apple hardware. I could shut down or restart the computer, but it would boot up to the log-in screen and go dormant again. I simply could not enter my username and password to enable me to work on my machine. It cost me a day of work, and I couldn't allow another day to go by--so I consulted with the nearest Apple Genius Bar.

I'm not the only one who has experienced problems with Lion locking up, but my local technician reported that this was the first time he'd seen any Apple machine with Lion load up to the log-in screen and continue operating while preventing the entry of log-in information. We tried reloading a fresh install of Lion. That fixed nothing and simply reintroduced the same problem.

So, we had to configure the Apple system settings to allow the computer to skirt around the log-in screen that was freezing up the MacBook Pro. If you are experiencing similar symptoms, you can try this. First, if you have access to another Apple, reboot your sick machine by restarting and holding down the "T" key. Once you start up in firewire drive mode, you can perform a backup to another Apple. It's a good idea to do a backup just in case everything goes south.

After the backup, restart the computer in Single User Mode and see if it boots up at all. If all elements short of system extensions load properly, you're most likely not having a hardware problem. Restart again in Safe Mode. That should get you past the log-in screen and allow you to access the System Preferences panel to set your log-in settings. Go to "Users and Groups" and click on "Login Options." You want to select "Name and Password," instead of "List of Users."

Once you've changed the settings, restart the machine. If it's the same problem I experienced, your machine should bypass the Lion log-in screen and go directly to a cleaner, graphic-free Username and Password entry screen. The Genius Bar consultation took about 90 minutes, and the fact that I'm composing this piece means it worked for me.