OS X not so fool proof

Yesterday my Mac Mini let me know there was an available security update. Should be easy enough I thought so I clicked the “Install” button. After about 2 minutes of installing I received the error that the updated failed to install and had been moved to the trash. If I wanted to attempt to reinstall the update I should remove the package from the trash and click on it. Again, seems easy enough, so I tried.

Nothing happened.

When I clicked on the package, it just sat there. None of my open programs were responding anymore and I couldn’t even run commands via Terminal. As a last resort I rebooted. Well, that didn’t go so well either. The machine was unresponsive so I had to power cycle it by holding down the power button in the back. After it came back on, it just sat at the grey booting screen. I waited for a few minutes and when there was no progress, I knew something was wrong.Being a linux admin, I figured the next step was to boot into single user mode and figure out what the problem was. How to boot into single user mode on OSX? A quick Google search told me that I should should hold down Command + S when the machine boots. I did that, it started to boot, and then I received the following error:

Load of /sbin/mach_init, errno 88 trying etc/mach_init
Load of etc/mach_init failed, errno 2


Another Google search for this error shows that others have had this problem, on many different hardware combinations. Most of the solutions suggest an operating system reinstall. As I didn’t really want to do that since installing OS X takes forever I decided to look around a bit more. I came across a forum post where someone suggested copying the update package onto an IPod (or any USB drive), connecting the drive to your computer, booting off the OS X installation DVD and reinstalling the update. Seemed like a lot of hassle to me considering I already had the update on my Desktop, I just couldn’t get there to re-install it. Here is what I did:

  • Scrounged up my OS X installation DVD
  • Put the DVD in the Mini and booted holding down “C” on boot to tell it to boot off the optical drive
  • When the installer loaded, I used the menu bar at the top, went to the “Utilities” menu and launched Terminal
  • From Terminal I ran this command (all on one line — your paths may vary):
    /Volumes/Untitled/usr/bin/open /Volumes/Untitled/Users/barry/Desktop/SecUpd2006-004Intel.pkg

Bam! The update installer launched, the update installed and I was able to boot into OS X once again. Thanks Apple!

4 responses to “OS X not so fool proof”

  1. Yikes! I’ve always taken the ease of Apple updates for granted. That’s a nasty mess you got into. I’d be worried that you have a hardware problem going on that corrupted the update process the first time.

  2. I thought about possible hardware issues, but a lot of people seems to have these types of problems and the machine has never done anything else that would make me think of faulty hardware. I guess we’ll see when the next update comes out…

  3. Thank you! My MacBook had the exact same problem and after some googling and finding this and other similar posts, I was able to fix.

    Of course it requires having a second Mac, an external HD that can mount on both Macs, and a decent amount of technical know-how. I’m glad it’s possible, but it’s prett bad they let this slip through.

    I was *really* not looking forward to re-installing.

  4. Barry, awesome job sharing your knowledge!

    I am surprised you expected otherwise. Almost all long time users Mac OS X I know feel you have to reinstall OS X annually because of these very issues.

    I have experienced it myself on 10.3, but in my case the package would just never install and no later packages would either.

    On those days I cursed Apple for not making Mac OS X “powered by Linux”.

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