a terrible death

There is a thing I never heard of called “kernal panic.” This is a term to describe a sudden, terrifying system failure that can happen to a Mac. We’ve all heard of the “blue screen of death.” Well, this is the Mac version, also known as the “black screen of death” and yesterday, I experienced it first hand, and I have to say, it was way more dramatic that what happens to a PC when it crashes.

I had just begun to work when a semi-transparent gray veil slowly fell over the image. It dropped from the top of the monitor and smoothly scrolled down over the display, like a curtain over a stage. Then the words (in four languages). Here’s an image of what I saw:

A most shocking computer crash! I shut the machine down. Restarted. Blackness. Nothing but blackness. No startup noises, no wiring of the fan, nothing. I ran from my office, banged on the bathroom door (brni was showering) and told him I needed him right away.

Some might think I overreacted, but I have over 7000 image files that I was convinced I’d lost. I hadn’t done a full backup since December, and only one minor backup for the job I’m working on a few days ago. So, this was a majorly HUGE loss.

Thinking back a day later, it’s quite amazing to me how panicked I was. How the breaking of a computer, an appliance, a tool, could cause a reaction akin to a medical emergency or the death of a loved one.

After Brni valiantly tried to perform Mac-CPR on the thing, he declared it thoroughly dead. There was nothing to do but rip the hard drive from it’s gaping belly and run to the Mac store to see if we could salvage my files. An hour later, we were home with a shiny new iMac and this cute little case that looked just like a tiny Mac Pro in which we placed the disembodied hard drive in, basically turning it into an external drive. My files were all there!

So, a warning to all Mac owners: back up on an external drive every day and make portable backups to DVD as often as you need. Oftener even. And, BUY THE 3 YEAR WARRANTY!

4 thoughts on “a terrible death

  1. mouseworks says:

    I have an external hard drive that does automagical backups
    If you’re running OS 10.5, you should have Time Machine which can run on an external drive (get something really big if you’ve got image files to back up or put those on a separate USB HD). Buy giant hard drive and split it into at least two partitions. One of them will be for Time Machine and the other will be for a bootable backup using CarbonCloner or something like it (couple of programs out there). You can even use two USB drives with an Intel Mac or even swap two drives that Carbon Cloner works from and take the drive that is the current back up and put it somewhere safe.
    I have one 500 GB drive separated into three partitions — one for TimeMachine, one for Carbon Cloner, and the other for photographers.
    The advantage of TM and CC is that you just set them up and they save stuff. If your HD absolutely dies, the CC bootable external drive will save your butt.

    1. elainecorvidae says:

      Re: I have an external hard drive that does automagical backups
      I agree; definitely make use of Time Machine and an external drive. I’ve never had a problem–my one black screen of death was nothing a reboot didn’t fix–but you never know.

      1. lsaboe says:

        Re: I have an external hard drive that does automagical backups
        thank you both for the advice. i checked out the prices on humongous external hard drives….wow…millions of gigs for minimal bucks! still hard to believe i’m thinking in gigs instead of megs.
        size really does matter, huh?

      2. elainecorvidae says:

        Re: I have an external hard drive that does automagical backups
        My first computer had no internal drive and 128 K of memory. K! Now I have a terabyte backup drive. I’m not sure if that makes me feel old or excited, lol.

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