I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been getting kernel panics on my MDD PowerMac during disk optimization runs using both Norton SpeedDoctor and Drive 10. This weekend, for some reason (must be because I really don’t have a life!), I decided to troubleshoot the problem to see if I could eliminate it.
I had discussed the problem with tech support at Micromat, and they thought something was wrong with hard drive. All the hardware checks in Drive 10 were passing, but I had not done a surface scan. So, I ran that; and Drive10 found no problems.
Next, to eliminate a bad RAM chip as the culprit, I pulled two of the three memory sticks (DDR) out of the machine, leaving in only the 256MB Samsung stick that came from Apple, and ran the Drive 10’s Optimization routine. The machine crashed at the end of the optimization routine (“Finishing” was displayed on the screen.). I then removed the 256MB stick and replaced it with one of my 512MB sticks bought from Crucial.com. I got the same result. That told me that the problem was not due to bad RAM. I also had used different RAM slots for these tests, eliminating a bad RAM slot on the motherboard as a cause.
To rule out a hardware defect on the disk that Apple’s Hardware Test wasn’t catching, I went out to Best Buy and bought another 160GB hard disk (Maxtor L01P160). (They had a great price on it and it was the same model as the one in my machine.) I brought it home, installed it, and configured it as the only hard drive on that IDE, bypassing the original by leaving it completely unhooked. I then ran the Software Restore Disk that came with the PowerMac to install Mac OS 10.2.3 to it. Once I booted up on the new hard disk and made sure it was working, I then rebooted and ran Drive 10’s Optimization routine. It ran like a champ. There were no crashes.
I then installed the Mac OS 10.2.6 Combo Updater (from a file archived on DVD). After rebooting, I rebooted again from Drive 10’s CD and ran its Optimization routine. It crashed again (kernel panic-corrupt stack).
Suspecting that the 10.2.6 updater might have overwritten or corrupted something in the PRAM, I reset the PRAM (Command-Option-P-R keys held down during reboot until I hear the system chime, and I listen for a second chime before releasing the keys.) and booted to the Drive 10 CD and ran the Optimization routine. No crash. I reinstalled the old 160GB hard disk and ran the Optimization routine. No crash. So, I put the two 160GB Maxtors on the primary IDE and two 120GB Maxtors on the secondary hard disk IDE and rebooted into 10.2.6. Then, I rebooted on the Drive 10 CD and ran Optimization. No crash.
That was at about 1:40 a.m. I went to bed and got up the next morning and tried it again. It did crash, but it did not crash during any part of the optimization routine. It crashed as Drive 10 was moving back to its main menu (“Scanning Volumes” was shown on the window). I also ran the Optimization on one of the 120GB hard drives and got the same result. At least, the Optimization routines are running now. That’s farther along than I have ever been since I’ve owned this machine.
Obviously, it’s somewhat suspicious that the machine is crashing once the version of the OS on the computer is newer than the version of the OS on the boot CD. Both Norton and Drive 10 use OS 10.2.3. I am not seeing any kernel panics during normal use so far. I may shoot a note over to Micromat later in the week. I also may talk to Apple care this week. The lower fan sounds like a horse walking down a road sometimes, which leaves me wondering if it’s on the way to failure. I want a quieter machine anyway.