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Clean install of Mac OS, my experience

Jorgen Udvang

Subscriber Member
Background:
My Late 2014 MBP 15 with all the bells and whistles that were available back then have acted up on me lately, for more than a year actually. Part of it has been physical, so I've had keyboard, trackpad, battery etc. changed (cheap to do in this country). Two issues of problematic nature remained though. It wouldn't connect to 4TB external discs without the power adapter connected (2TB and less, presumably with lower power consumption, was unproblematic), and even worse, the computer froze and switched itself off without warning. Also, the cooling fan started for no apparent reason, even if internal temperatures were low.

I eventually figured out that some things triggered the freezing more frequently than others. Certain Adobe programs like Photoshop and Acrobat Pro (not the Reader though) were the worst, some advanced websites, particularly when running on Firefox. Also, it often stopped while inactive and folded.

I tried more or less everything, de-installing Adobe, re-installing everything using a Time Machine backup etc. I also bought one of these external cooling devices with a couple of fans to place the computer on. But no, computer idling, fans running, I went for lunch, and when I returned, it had stopped.

So I transferred all my data to another MBP computer using Time Machine. After a few weeks, it started getting slower. It was an older model too, so I thought it was the age of the computers and some kind of incompatibility problem. Then I restored to a new iMac. Same thing. After a few weeks, that one started to slow down too.

Only then I realised that it could be a software problem deeper down, something that couldn't just be deleted. So in my mind, I went back to my IBM days during the mid seventies. What did we do when the old 370 became troublesome? We cold started it.

Apparently, if your problem can't be solved using a (Time Machine) backup of your OS, Apple wants you to buy a new computer. It's hard or impossible to find a description of this procedure on heir websites. Makes sense. They make a living from selling computers. I started to search the internet, and the definition of cold (or clean) start can vary, but I found this article:


with some references to these:


Following the instructions is quite straightforward. What is important is that the system drive (Macintosh HD or whatever you have chosen to call it) is erased when starting in recovery mode before attempting to re-install OS. I needed two or three attempt to get the installation procedure started after the erases. What it does then is contacting its mother in Seattle or wherever (it could actually remember the last WiFi network and password), starting to rebuild the system disc with the OS that the Mac came with back then. In my case, that was Mavericks, and it took the best part of 12 hours before it had finished. Once you see a spinning globe in black and white, you're on your way.

After the process was finished, I upgraded to Big Sur without problems. I now have a clean machine which is again very fast, a machine that I will use only for photo and video editing. All Adobe programs run fine, as does DaVinci Resolve (which didn't have much problems to start with. Rendering 4K videos never caused the computer to stop.), and I can now connect 4TB bus powered 2.5" discs on battery power.

Conclusion: don't give up. This saved me $1,500-2,500 depending how I calculate it, at least for the foreseeable future. I hope this can be useful for somebody.

Edit:
Just to be fair to Apple, they do actually describe the procedure on these pages:


However, the explanation is very brief, and I only really understood it after reading the links above.
 
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k-hawinkler

Well-known member
Thanks Jorgen, great going and report.
I too remember the old IBM 370 days very well.
The Big Sur macOS container has the nice feature that only Apple can write to it.
Anybody else can only read it. That’s great security indeed and will keep your computer running smoothly.
 

Jorgen Udvang

Subscriber Member
Thanks Jorgen, great going and report.
I too remember the old IBM 370 days very well.
The Big Sur macOS container has the nice feature that only Apple can write to it.
Anybody else can only read it. That’s great security indeed and will keep your computer running smoothly.
I actually did the routine on a newer (2017) iMac that had Big Sur installed. The routine was much simpler and the result good.
 

Jack

Sr. Administrator
Staff member
I heartily recommend “clean my mac X” for any mac user. It finds all sorts of old crap, deleted software fragments and extensions and cleans them out well. If it cannot, it tells you. Solved numerous performance issues for me. I reco at least trying it before the cold restart.
 

Jorgen Udvang

Subscriber Member
I heartily recommend “clean my mac X” for any mac user. It finds all sorts of old crap, deleted software fragments and extensions and cleans them out well. If it cannot, it tells you. Solved numerous performance issues for me. I reco at least trying it before the cold restart.
I tried it. Cold start worked better. But it's a 7 year old MBP that has been used and abused a lot.
 

k-hawinkler

Well-known member
I tried it. Cold start worked better. But it's a 7 year old MBP that has been used and abused a lot.
Thanks Jack and Jorgen.
Jorgen , could you please spell out for me what “worked better” entails?

I used EtreCheck to analyze my late 2013 Mac Pro running latest Mojave.
It found kernel panics during restart that I need to avoid and get rid of.

My M1, now on Big Sur 11.2.3, seems in great shape according to EtreCheck.
That is as long as my OWC 8-bay RAID enclosure is powered down when booting the M1 computer.
I can switch the RAID on later and use it without any problems.

If the OWC enclosure is powered on during restart/boot Apple’s “medic” feature automatically restarts the M1 and disables all system extensions because of a conflict.

Also the M1 is now at 4.1 TBW after 2 months of use.
Apparently unremarkable and without issues or concerns.
 

Jorgen Udvang

Subscriber Member
Thanks Jack and Jorgen.
Jorgen , could you please spell out for me what “worked better” entails?

I used EtreCheck to analyze my late 2013 Mac Pro running latest Mojave.
It found kernel panics during restart that I need to avoid and get rid of.

My M1, now on Big Sur 11.2.3, seems in great shape according to EtreCheck.
That is as long as my OWC 8-bay RAID enclosure is powered down when booting the M1 computer.
I can switch the RAID on later and use it without any problems.

If the OWC enclosure is powered on during restart/boot Apple’s “medic” feature automatically restarts the M1 and disables all system extensions because of a conflict.

Also the M1 is now at 4.1 TBW after 2 months of use.
Apparently unremarkable and without issues or concerns.
The problem I had with the computer was that it froze, and then after 20-30 seconds shut down. It did so even when cold, although it sometimes started the fan too at low temperatures. I found that it did that more often with some programs than others. Photoshop was one of them, Acrobat Pro another. Even a Samsung monitor I'm connecting sometimes takes it down, while my LG monitor at home doesn't. It's been to repair shops a few times, licensed and non-licensed, and nobody can find anything wrong with it. Still, I'm quite certain that it has a hardware problem that appears under certain conditions.

Some software, like Photoshop, can easilly be removed. Others i have no control over, and after 7 years of hard use, there's bound to be bits and pieces in there that are hard to identify. After the cold start, it doesn't freeze unless I start one of the known problem applications. What I'm running now is a very clean machine that is mostly used for video editing with DaVinci Resolve, which works without problems. It's still a fast computer, and since video editing is the only application that absolutely needs to be fast, I can live with that until Apple launches some upgraded M1 alternatives. For Photoshop, I have a slow iMac that works fine with my 20MP images. Actually, even my MB 12" works quite well with those.
 

k-hawinkler

Well-known member
Many thanks Jorgen. Very interesting case and perspective.

My late 2013 Mac Pro has slightly more than 79 TBW.
Leveling has come down just a tad so I decided to give the internal SSD a break.
I am now booting that computer from an external drive, a 2 TB OWC Envoy Pro FX.
Remarkably in both read and write speed the external drive is about 50% faster.
Whereas the 7 year old 1 TB internal SSD sustains around 800 MB/s,
the brand new 2 TB external SSD sustains around 1,200 MB/s,
using the Blackmagic disk speed test.

BTW the external FX drive is attached via a TB3 port on a CalDigit TS3+ Dock.
As the TS3+ has its own power supply I assume it also powers the FX drive.
I tried attaching it via a TB2 to TB3 adapter cable directly to a TB2 port on the Mac Pro.
But the FX drive didn’t show at the desktop. One couldn’t try this with an EX drive.
It is a physically larger device with an integrated non-detachable TB3 cable.
However the TB2 to TB3 adapter cable requires a TB2 cable be plugged into it.
With the TB3 cable firmly attached to the EX SSD that’s impossible.
Of course there is no issue attaching an Envoy Pro EX SSD via the CalDigit TS3+ Dock.

I’ll keep the older Mac Pro system on macOS Mojave as it has many 32-bit apps on it.
Those are not supported on macOS Catalina or Big Sur.
 
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