PowerBook boot failure

Update 2005-11-10 20:55:29 UTC: Posts concerning my Powerbook boot failure are tagged with powerbook and boot_failure. Posts about my experiences with DiskWarrior are tagged diskwarrior.

Nooooo! My trusty PowerBook won’t boot this morning. The screen lights up, the Apple logo appears, and the spinner starts spinning — and it hasn’t stopped after more than an hour. A little googling turned up a post on how to boot a PowerBook in single-user mode, so I held down Command-S while powering on. That worked, cool! Then I tried /sbin/fsck -y. It turns out that my disk has journaling enabled (I didn’t know that), so I had to use the “force” option, /sbin/fsck -f, which gives Bad News:

localhost:/ root# sbin/fsck -f
** /dev/rdisk0s9
** Root file system
** Checking HFS Plus volume.
** Checking Extents Overflow file.
** Checking Catalog file.
   Invalid key length
(4, 4341)
** Volume check failed.

So, time to try the Disk Utility from the install CD — hold down the Option key while powering up. This gives me three options: boot from local disk (which I already know doesn’t work); boot the install CD (which I’ll try in a minute); and Apple Hardware Test, which sounds like something I should try right now.

Apple Hardware Test (PowerBook version 2.0.6) loaded and I selected the Extended Test. After about 3.5 minutes, the utility reported that the Mass Storage system had passed hardware test, so it looks like my hard drive is okay, although the data on it appears to be corrupted. I let the rest of the hardware test run, just for kicks. My PowerBook has 1 GiB of memory, which took about 26 minutes to test. Total test time was 33.5 minutes, with everything passing. (phew!)

I rebooted holding down the Option key again, this time booting from the installer CD which took about a minute to load. When the “Install Mac OS X” window opens, select the Installer menu then Open Disk Utility... item. In the Disk Utility, I selected the disk device (vs “Macintosh HD”) and clicked Verify Disk on the First Aid tab. It reported:

Verifying volume "Macintosh HD"
Checking HFS Plus volume.
Checking Extents Overflow file.
Checking Catalog file.
{red}Invalid key length
The volume Macintosh HD needs to be repaired.

Volume check failed.

Error: The underlying task reported failure on exit (-9972){/red}

1 volume checked
  {green}0 HFS volumes verified{/green}
  {red}1 volume failed verification{/red}

(Looks very much like the fsck -f output.) So I tried “Repair Disk” and got the following:

Repairing disk for "Macintosh HD"
Mounting Disk(S,"Checking HFS Plus volume.",0)
Checking Extents Overflow file.
Checking Catalog file.
{red}Invalid key length
Volume check failed.

Error: The underlying task reported failure on exit (-9972){/red}

Repair attempted on 1 volume
  {green}0 HFS volumes repaired{/green}
  {red}1 volume could not be repaired{/red}

This post suggests using Disk Warrior. I can’t use a download version, since I need a bootable CD to repair the non-bootable drive in my laptop, so I’m off to CompUSA to pick up a physical copy.

Back from CompUSA, with my wallet $100 lighter, ouch! This had better work… I booted the DW version 3.0.3 CD (hold down the C key while powering on and insert the CD). The single-sheet instructions indicate that it will take 5-15 minutes to boot. In my case, it took about 6 minutes. After a few prompts, the software got to work. It got through the first few steps quickly, but then started “Step 5”, something about locating directory information. A message appeared on the progress window, “(Speed inhibited by disk malfunction)”. I assume this means file structure corruption, as opposed to a hardware malfunction of the actual disk. Well, the speed was definitely inhibited! It took 14.75 hours to complete “Step 5” on a 75 GiB disk which was approximately half full. The worst part about this was a complete lack of any sort of progress indicator. The only way I could tell that anything was happening was to put my ear right on the laptop case over the disk, so I could hear the disk chattering once in a while. (Fortunately it wasn’t the cyclic series of sounds that a failing disk makes; instead, it was the purposeful sound of a disk doing random seeks. If you’ve listened to disks, you know what I’m talking about.)

After the excruciatingly slow “Step 5”, the next step, “Constructing optimized replacement directory…”, went relatively quickly. I didn’t keep track of its elapsed time, since I was trying to get ready to go to work and I missed the transition from step 6 to 7. In fact, steps 6, 7, and 8 all completed too quickly for me to note their elapsed time, but they took about an hour total. I started to hope that maybe I might have my PowerBook operational very soon, but then “Step 9: Recording any file or folder differences…” started. This took about 3 hours, but at least this step had a progress bar!

DiskWarrior has finally finished, after about 19 hours. After reviewing the log file and the new directory structure, I accepted the changes (as if I really had a choice). It took about 40 minutes to update the disk, then reported:
DiskWarrior encountered an unexpected error while attempting to show the disk "Macintosh HD" on the desktop.
Rebuild this disk again. Preview the disk and backup all files from the preview disk (2168, 4203).

ARRRGHHH!!! After doing some post-DW diagnostics, it appears that the disk was hanging by a thread, and the heavy disk activity caused by DW was too much for it. The system will no longer boot into single-user mode. 😥

This post is getting too long already, so I’ll publish it in it’s current “unresolved” state. I haven’t given up yet, though…

About Jim Vanderveen

I'm a bit of a Renaissance man, with far too many hobbies for my free time! But more important than any hobby is my family. My proudest accomplishment has been raising some great kids! And somehow convincing my wife to put up with me since 1988. ;)
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5 Responses to PowerBook boot failure

  1. Pingback: SonicChicken weblog » Blog Archive » PowerBook boot problem revisited

  2. thomas says:

    ..so what happened? i was reading, hoping to see the light.. but no light. my hd failed in my powerbook g4 after 2 years.. i’ve been three months without backup, so would like to recover my drive. the failed drive was my startup disk, so i’ve replaced it with a new internal drive and connected the failed drive by usb with a nifty little case i got off newegg. disk utility does nothing for me and i can’t mount the drive. i have the same “invalid key” message.. so, my catologue is screwed.

  3. Pingback: SonicChicken weblog » Blog Archive » DiskWarrior wasn’t able to help me

  4. Steve says:

    Did DiskWarrior every resolve your problem?

    I have the same file length error and started running DW but thought that it had stalled.

    I am looking at trying to repair a 250 Gig drive in a G5.

  5. jim says:

    Sadly, it didn’t; however, I was able to recover quite a bit of my disk using Data Rescue II. It turns out that I would have done better to start with DR2, since all the disk activity that DW performed was likely the cause of the data loss I experienced with DR2.

    Check out posts tagged “powerbook+boot_failure”, especially “The continuing PowerBook saga” for DR2 vs DW.

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