Leopards Ate My Baby!

October 26, 2007

Well, not so much leopards as OS X Leopard.

And by my baby, I mean my MacBook Pro.

And by ate, I mean trashed my hard drive.

But other than that, yeah – Leopards ate my baby!

I did the preorder from the Apple Store, and the Fed Ex guy dutifully brought it by at about 8:40 this morning. Apple had marked it “signature required”, so I got a chance to ask the guy whether he had seen a lot of them; he told me that he had at least 300 on his truck alone, and wondered what it was, so I ‘splained.

The early arrival gave me a couple of hours to play with it before I had to run off to a meeting, so I threw caution to the wind and decided to give it a whirl.

My initial plan was to do a clean install of Leopard on an external drive, boot off of it, and slowly move essential apps over. This would give me a chance to do some housecleaning, and get away from an install that I’ve been carting around since Panther.

Unfortunately, Leopard was having no part of this — it would only install on the internal drive; not sure why this is the case.

When I said I was throwing caution to the wind, that’s a pretty mild breeze – I have two backups that are done automatically overnight, including a bootable clone, so I wasn’t overly worried.

That being the case, I decided to go ahead and upgrade the install on my internal drive.

After starting the install, it went through an interminable “consistency check” of the DVD. I let this run about 20 minutes and hit the skip button, and started installing.

The installer ran for about five minutes, and failed claiming that it had a problem copying one file, and that I needed to reboot and try again.

Attempting to reboot back to the internal drive failed spectacularly — it would attempt to start up, and then shut back down again.

Booting the Leopard DVD again, I attempted another install, and it indicated that there was a problem with the internal drive, so I started up Disk Utility off the Leopard disk, and tried a verify. That failed, so I tried a repair. That failed, so I dropped the partition and created a new one, and went back to trying to install. It failed again, in the same place.

Switching my startup disk to my clone backup, I booted off the backup, and tried Disk Utility from Tiger. It was also unable to verify or repair the internal drive, so I erased it, and it looked okay.

At this point I figured that the Leopard DVD was actually corrupted, so I tried it again, and this time let it complete the entire (45 minute) consistency check of the DVD.

No problem. So I decided to try the install again, and it completed about an hour and twenty minutes later, with no problem. I let it transfer my stuff from the backup drive (another 2 hours), and I’m now running Leopard.

I have no idea at all what happened; my best guess is that there was a formatting error on the internal drive, but if so, this does not seem to be a terribly robust way of handling it. After spending 45 minutes verifying the DVD, it might have been nice to verify the target drive too before trashing it in this manner.

The moral of the story is that BEFORE you do something like installing Leopard, be absolutely sure that you have a good, current backup. This isn’t the first time it’s saved my ass, and every time I become more of a believer. “Time Machine” is doing its backup at the moment, but I’ll still be doing a clone backup overnight, just on general principles.

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