Maybe repairing permissions cures the common cold after all

After nearly a year, I’m still happy with my MacBook Pro. But lately, it has been having some issues. Random, annoying stuff. Nothing that brought it to a complete halt, but still little things that I knew I had to try and troubleshoot one of these days when I had a free minute.

This was what finally drove me to the end: Web pages were getting “stuck.” It didn’t matter which browser I used (Safari, Firefox Mac or PC or IE). The page would begin to load, and then never completely redraw. What was interesting was that I was able to watch the network activity using a Dashboard app, and no traffic was actually going in and out. Or just a trickle. It was happening whether I was home or at a Starbucks, so I couldn’t blame the modem or the ISP. But not every day and not every site.

Restarts weren’t making a difference.

The other day, I was at Borders and random websites just wouldn’t load. And I couldn’t log on to MSN with the stand-alone MSN Messenger application or Adium (leave me alone, that’s what we use for instant messages at work). The person sitting near me at the store had no problem with the same sites I couldn’t get to.

I have AppleCare. I thought, let me get my money’s worth on it and have Apple walk me through troubleshooting all these stupid problems. Could I have figured it out for myself? Sure. I used to do this sort of thing all the time for fun. But now my time is precious and I didn’t have all day to trial and error and Google problems. Maybe there was something wrong with my Airport card.

The Apple tech guy has me create a new user. Same problem. Then he asks me to boot from the OS X install CD, run Disk Utility and repair permissions on the drive.


I roll my eyes. Yeah right, like this is going to work. Anytime anyone has any trouble with their Macs, the knee-jerk reaction is “Did you repair permissions?” I rarely saw it make a difference.

Guess what? It made a difference. 3 screens worth of repairs scrolled by. I restart in 1/2 the time. No problem connecting to any website or service. Battery shows over 2 hours of life when it was only showing an hour before. Internet in Parallels works in Bridged Networking, when it only worked in Shared Networking before. Less spinning beach balls all around. I have my computer back! No one was more surprised at my Mac’s miraculous recovery than the Apple tech, who admitted to me that he suggested it, not really believing it would work.

So Mac OS X users, next time someone suggests “repair your permissions” as a catch-all problem-solver, they may very well be right. Oh, and carry your original install/recovery CDs in your laptop bag. You never know when you’ll need to call tech support from Borders and they’ll come in handy.


2 responses to “Maybe repairing permissions cures the common cold after all”

  1. Part of my root cronjob is this:

    ## Update locate db


    # Repair permissions on the disk

    /usr/sbin/diskutil repairPermissions /

    Two things that may not do “much” (well, the first helps), but which can’t really hurt much either.