Big scare

Adel Gabot

I had a shock yesterday afternoon with my iMac, but things ended well enough (I think; remains to be seen if it will happen again).

It all started when I gave my home drive a look-see, diagnosing it using Apple’s homegrown Disk Utility. It found something wrong, and it halted mid-check and told me to reboot in recovery mode and use the app to repair the disk.

So I shut the ongoing apps off, and tried to restart it. The damned bluetooth keyboard refused to be recognized by the computer and it wouldn’t proceed from the reboot screen, and I got stumped. The computer told me to switch the keyboard on and wait for the computer to recognize it. Nada. Did it over and over to no avail. I even got my brother’s wired keyboard to try and use it with the iMac, but the damned thing had a different plug altogether.

So I gave up and restarted it to run as usual, but tried the diagnostic again just to be sure. Same error message, but I read the full message this time very carefully, and noticed that I had misread the rebooting instructions as ‘press Control-C on restart’. It was actually ‘Command-C”. That’s the last time I assume anything again. So I did it one more time, and this time it worked.

But it was fine. I used Disk Utility and repaired the drive, but there was nothing wrong with it. I did it over and over, and it kept telling me that the drive was perfectly fine. But rebooting it into normal mode showed the error message again. I’ll be damned if I could figure out what was going on.

So I continued on my merry way, leaving it to ‘just one of those things that I’ll never figure out’, when an hour later the computer slogged to a halt. It had been hiccuping and giving me odd non-responses since I restarted, and now it damned froze on me. I had no choice but to physically turn it off from the back button, but when it tried to restart, it hung on the opening screen there was a repetitive clicking noise coming from it.

A cold stab of fear went through me; I knew that faint sound: a failing hard drive. At first I couldn’t tell where it was coming from, I thought it could’ve been from one of the external drives, but on inspection, it came from inside the iMac.

It had just gone through its first-year anniversary a couple of weeks ago, dammit. It was practically new. Well, relatively new. It shouldn’t break down this early.

I physically turned it off again and tried to restart. Still the same freeze and click-click-click. Tried it several times over, and by the third or fourth time the click-click-click had progressed to a click-buzz-click-buzz. Oh no.

I weighed my options. Obviously I had to take it to the service center. I had already figured out how to do that – lug it out to where I could get a cab to Trinoma, and take it from there. If I was lucky, they’d keep it for a couple of weeks to replace the hard drive. I can have the screen cleaned while they were doing it too. It was a good thing I kept an up-to-date Time Machine backup of my system, and kept a separate data backup of my stuff on the new Thunderbolt drive. I could use my Air as a replacement in the meantime, suffering the 11″ screen in the meantime. Everything should still be fine.

But I didn’t give up yet. Working on the assumption that it was a fixable glitch, I restarted with my USB Recovery Disk inserted. It showed the spinning globe and a progress bar that told me it could take a while. Still had the same click-buzz-click-buzz noise, but at least there was hope. I could yet fix this thing without going to the Apple Service Center.

Half an hour passed, and the progress bar had from 20 minutes to an hour and a half, and it was increasing. An hour later the noisy click-buzz-click-buzz had finally stopped but the progress bar had gone up to two hours, and rising. I finally gave up, and took the USB drive off the system.

So I was going to take my year-old iMac to the shop. For the first time. Oh, well, it was bound to happen.

Just for the heck of it, I restarted the computer normally – and was surprised that it did!

It started up the way it usually did, and came on without any drive noise or any other odd thing.

After that, everything was normal again. For the whole evening, up to this morning. It ran like it usually did, fast and reliably, with no sign that anything was wrong (save for that damned Disk Utility diagnosis, which still showed errors; I tried that recovery thing this morning again, and it still didn’t show anything wrong).

Now here is the quandary: should I still bring it to the service center? No telling if that was a momentary glitch, or a sign that something was truly wrong and would continue to worsen. Only time will tell. For now, everything’s the way it should be, and I hope it continues to be. In any case, I still have two years of Applecare on the iMac should things take a turn for the worse.



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