Model A1369, 1.6, 1.7, or 1.8 GHz Processor, 64, 128 or 256GB Flash Storage

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Boot hangs, hard drive full

My daughter uses this Mac Air (2011, Solid State Hard drive), which is upgraded to 10.9 OS. When it is turned on, I see the usual Apple logo and spinning wheel at the bottom. After a few seconds these disappear, and a message pops up saying that the Hard Drive is full and that I need to erase some files to make more room. After a few moments, this message disappears and I get a blank white screen. Shortly, the cursor arrow (which moves as I slide my finger over the trackpad, but can't do anything else) appears at the left upper corner of the screen. Then nothing more. The boot process stops here. And I don't get to the point where I can see the desktop.

Pressing the option key at boot up, I can choose Recovery Mode and use Disk Utilities. It says I still have 148GB free of the total 250 GB capacity. I've run the Fix Disk and Repair Permissions thing but didn't remedy the problem. I can get to Terminal, but I don't know how to navigate. My daughter says I can erase her Blockrock Shooter and Accel folders. How do I navigate to these folders and delete them? Any other thoughts, guys, on what else to try? I'm thinking the OS may be corrupt and I may have to reinstall it. I don't think she saved anything via Time Machine in the past year.

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You have two different Apple applications (Finder and Disk Utility) reporting two different data amounts. The likely cause is catalog/directory damage, not a damaged OS. Normally, the technique for replacing a damaged directory is to reformat the drive, but that erases all the data that's already there. Fortunately, when you format a drive, it constructs a new directory; if you then copy data off a drive with a damaged directory, the new directory is filled in with the relevant data as the copying operation progresses.

There are commercial utilities such as Disk Warrior and Drive Genius which can do directory repair while leaving the data more or less intact, but let's review the brute-force method.

You'll need an external drive to boot from, with an operating system late enough to start your computer and a copy of Disk Utility on it. If you've got a USB thumb drive, you can install a full copy of Mavericks on it. The thumb drive should be at least 16GB; bigger is better. You can then boot into the Recovery partition using the method you've used before, format the thumb drive using the steps outlined below, then install Mavericks on the thumb drive using the installer in the Utilities menu. Once you have a bootable thumb drive, you can boot from that drive using the same Option-key startup, and then selecting the thumb drive (give the drive a unique name, so it's easy to recognize).

The reason you have to have a separate drive to boot from is because the Recovery partition you're using is on the same physical drive as the damaged volume. Since you'll have to reformat the entire drive to eliminate the damage, you'll have to be booted from some other drive.

Since you don't have a recent backup, you'll also need an external hard drive capable of holding all the data on the internal drive. The internal drive is only 250GB, so that shouldn't cost much; most external drives these days are 500GB and up.

Once you've booted off the thumb drive, launch the copy of Disk Utility on the thumb drive (YourThumbDrive>Applications>Utilities>Disk Utility). You should see the thumb (boot) drive, the external salvage drive, and your internal SSD in the left-hand panel.

  • Select the external hard drive
  • Click "Partition"
  • select "single partition" in the pulldown menu
  • click "Options"
  • select "GUID" (we want the external backup to be bootable)

This operation formats the external hard drive so that it will be a bootable drive for an Intel Mac, once the old data has been copied. Now the steps for copying the data to that drive:

  • Click the button marked "First Aid"
  • Click the button marked "Restore"
  • select the internal volume (Macintosh HD or whatever)
  • drag that drive into the Source field
  • drag the volume for the external volume (the one on the external USB drive you just formatted) into the Destination field
  • click "Restore"

What this is supposed to do is to copy all the data on the internal drive and clone it to the external drive. Don't be surprised if the copying takes a long time. If everything works properly, the external drive should then be bootable, and should take you back to where you were when the internal drive started acting up. Once the data is on the external drive, you should be able to get an accurate idea of how much data is actually there, since you've been getting contradictory reports from the internal drive. If you're really only using 102GB out of 250GB, then you don't need to do any data-tossing; but if it turns out that you really were close to 250GB, then you'll need to start looking for things to junk.

Once you have a copy on an external drive, you can then reformat the internal drive; that will repair the catalog. Then you reinstall Mavericks on the internal drive, and reboot off the internal. When you get to the point in the setup process where it asks if you want to restore from an external disk or Time Machine backup, you select the external hard drive. The Migration Assistant utility that takes over will transfer all the user accounts, applications, settings and customization over. When the computer completes the transfer, you should be back to where you were before the problems happened.

And the big lesson to take away from this is: Time Machine backups are easy to make. Turn Time Machine on, keep the Time Machine drive plugged in whenever the computer's sitting at a desk, and let it do its thing. It's a lot less hassle to have a recent backup than to have to recover from a disaster.

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One additional point: Although Apple recommends using Disk Utility as the cloning application, I've had dicy results with it in the past - partly because I have a lot of old crippled hardware, and partly because Apple's functions are cautious; they bail out if anything goes wrong. I usually use third-party cloning utilities like Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper!, which will do clones even of damaged drives. Even if there's damaged data, there's good odds that it's in OS or Apple app files that will be replaced by a clean install. Migration Assistant will restore data that isn't already on the reformatted/reinstalled drive, so you can get back your stuff and deal with whatever damage you find afterwards...and of course, you get an external hard drive out of this, which you can use for backup or as a place to store documents you don't regularly use (you can set it up as your iTunes/iPhoto library, for example).


@ adlerpe

Your suggestion was right on! I was able to make a bootable copy of the internal hard drive onto an external disk. The errors were corrected as the copy process proceeded. However, a few minor deviations from your step by step "flowchart" occurred. Mainly, that I made the copy onto the external drive by using the Recovery Partition' Disk Utility in the internal drive and not the bootable USB flashdrive (which by the way took 4 hours to download the OS files). The USB flashdrive indeed was a startup "disk" but only had the main Mavericks boot files but not the Disk Utility files. Fortunately, the ext drive copy also had the Recovery Partition, which I used to format the internal drive, and Restore (or copy) the USB flashdrive contents into the internal drive. Once rebooted from the now working internal drive, I had Mavericks working and could now copy the work files of my daughter into the laptop itself. From then on, it was a matter of reinstalling the Applications she had. She kept all the installers in a folder which was successfully transferred into the ext drive. Many thanks!


Right, the Recovery partition is too small to hold a full 5.5GB OS installer. The install utility downloads the current version of the installer, which may be more recent than the version you already had installed; that's why you need to have a broadband connection in place in order to use it. And you're right - it's always better to reinstall the applications from original installers, if you still have access to them. For the OS, it's possible to create a USB flash drive with a full installer on it, at least for 10.6/10.7/10.8/10.9. Some of the techniques are a little fiddly, and involve the use of Terminal. These days, I prefer to use DiskMaker X, a proper Mac GUI app.


adlerpe, thanks again for your additional helpful comments.


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yeah need new os.

for save file you must use Msata adapter

after that, remember to erase with disk utility before install new os.

good luck

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