A Clean Slate

I prepare to wipe my main computer’s hard disk clean and reinstall everything I need from scratch.

If you’ve been following these blogs, you know that my production computer, a 2-year-old dual processor Macintosh G5, has been feeling poorly these days. The symptoms are a general sluggishness, especially when accessing the hard disk. Last week it went comatose and required the intervention of an Apple Genius to be revived. The Genius suggested that I back up the hard disk. He gave me the impression that he expected the problem to reoccur.

My hard disk is backed up — at least my home folder is — in two places. And my important files, like accounting records, address book, etc., are backed up in yet another place. I’ve been burned by hard disk failures twice in the past. Anyone who doesn’t learn their lesson the first time should give up using computers.

I purchased two Macintosh disk recovery tools just in case the computer dies again: TechTool Pro and Disk Warrior. I can’t remember which one the Genius recommended, so I got them both. In all honesty, I should have had them in the first place. There’s no reason I should have to drive all the way down to the Phoenix area to fix a hard disk problem. And believe me, the $120 investment is worth it if it saves me that long drive and wasted day.

But since the symptoms persist and they’re quite annoying, I’ve decided on a major medical procedure: hard disk reformat. I would have done it last week when I got the computer back, but the Geniuses at Apple forgot to give back the Tiger disc that was in the computer’s disc drive when I dropped it off for revival. I finally got it in the mail yesterday.

So today’s the day.

Now although it seems like a lot of work, it’s well worth it. By reformatting the hard disk, I’ll wipe it clean and realign all those magnetic particles on its surface. The directories, which are damaged (possibly beyond repair) will be gone and can be rebuilt from scratch. And in the unlikely event that there’s a virus on the computer, it’ll be wiped away, too. I’ll lay down all the software from original program discs as I need them.

I’ve done this before. In fact, I used to do this on all my computers whenever there was a new release of the system software. But that was back in the days when the OS took up a few dozen megabytes of hard disk space. Not a few gigabytes. Ditto for the software.

It’ll defintely be an inconvenience. I’ll start by installing only the software I use all the time: Office, Photoshop, iLife. Then, when I need to use a program I don’t use frequently, I’ll have to install it the first time I use it.

I’m not going to install Mac OS 9. I don’t use Classic applications anymore and don’t want to waste hard disk space on it. (For readers of my Mac OS X Visual QuickStart Guides: don’t expect to see the Classic environment covered in the next edition. It’s getting pulled out to make room for the new stuff. That book is just too darn fat.)

As for my documents, they should all be in my Home folder. (Let’s hope, right?) So I can just copy the Home folder backup’s contents to the new Home folder and my documents should be all ready to go.

Of course, if this doesn’t fix the symptoms, I’ll be pretty annoyed. And I’ll also be out of guesses as to what could be causing it.

My next new computer will be one of the Intel processor machines Apple is currently developing. But not an iMac. I need something a bit meatier for my daily work, something that’ll last 2- 3 years. I also plan to to replace my 12″ PowerBook with a new Intel chip Mac laptop, but not until they come out with a 12″ version. I like my laptop to be small.

So now you know what I’ll be doing today. Wish me luck!

What do you think?