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Thread March 21, 2015 editorial: comments

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1 March 21, 2015 editorial: comments

Drive-Reformatting: A Survival Story

I was in software purgatory. My computer, a Mac Pro from 2009, had been acting quirky for a long time. Programs crashed more than they should, and there was a general instability that got me thinking that maybe it was time to start with a clean slate — in other words, reformat the hard drive.

Because I was (and still am) in the middle of an enormous mixing project, I was hesitant to take such a radical step. I couldn’t afford extended downtime. But after resisting the idea for a while, I finally realized that I was spending so much time restarting after crashes and troubleshooting strange software anomalies, that it was time to bite the bullet and start afresh.

After some research I discovered that Apple's OS X includes a "Recovery Mode," which makes it possible to first erase a drive and then download the latest OS X and install it. Although I was not thrilled at the prospect of all the software I'd have to reinstall after I got the new system going, I decided it was time. I made sure I had a backup of the drive in case I needed any files from it, and I rolled up my sleeves and got started.

All I can say is, it's lucky that I have a lot of experience with Mac troubleshooting, because things started going wrong right from the start. According to Apple, restarting and holding down the Command and R keys would initiate Recovery mode. I tried it once, and when the computer restarted, I was back at my familiar home screen. I tried it about three more times, all with the same result, and was starting to think I was at a dead end.

Then it occurred to me that maybe I should try plugging the keyboard into one of the built in USB ports on the computer, rather than the hub it was in, and voila, the Recovery Mode screen appeared after I restarted again. (No mention of this in the online instructions, of course).

I then erased the drive, after which Recovery Mode was supposed to let me reinstall the system software, but instead, I got an error message telling me that the system could not be installed. Yikes. Now what? I looked online, and found a bunch of articles about how to create a bootable installer for OS X Yosemite, a somewhat convoluted process that required, among other things, putting in text strings in the Terminal, OS X's command line interface.

Thankfully, I was able to create it successfully, and I installed the system. It was at that point that I realized that I'd forgotten to de-authorize some of my plug-ins, which meant I might have lost installs for them. As it turned out, I didn't because the installs were pegged to my computer ID, which didn't change even though I reformatted. Whew.

It all turned out ok, but the whole thing, including the reinstalling of all my various applications and plug-ins, took the better part of the day, and I still don't have everything restored. But Pro Tools is working, as are my plug-ins, so I'm happy. And yes, my computer is behaving a lot better.

So, if you're thinking of reformatting your computer, proceed carefully, make sure you have all the files and installers you'll need before you reformat, and be ready for anything.


Have a great week.

Mike Levine

U.S. Editor, Audiofanzine

I sympathize with the re-install blues. I have found, however, that the Apple on-line techies are excellent and patient (b'lieve me, I need their patience) in walking you through the reinstallation process. Even if your Macbook is out of the free support period, you may be able to get free phone support if you are installing a new OS. I have a 2011 Macbook Pro, long out of the free tech support period, but installing Yosemite proved too much for me, and because I was installing Yosemite, a new OS, they gave me free phone support. I had some issues with reinstalling my backup with their Time Machine, but a senior techie walked me through using Migration Assistant to bring back what I wanted without all the dross that I'd collected in the Apps. Kudos to the Apple support people--the best I've encountered in phone support.
That's good to know. I assumed that since my computer was out of warranty, I wouldn't be able to get tech support without paying. Next time (which hopefully won't be for a long time ;)) I'll try. Thanks!
I too have a 5 year old MacBook Pro that I reformatted and installed a new 1TB hard drive. I'm finding that the MacBook is too outdated to run the newer programs and OS systems. After fresh format, it will work for a short time but after every OS update I have more and more problems that crop up. I'm convinced my MacBook has outlived the software updates that it is having problems keeping up with.
Hopefully yours will fare better than mine.
Tried replacing it with a Windows 8 laptop. Big mistake. Very limited in Music applications, always freezing, major problems. Took it back and saving for the new MacBook Pro.
I've also found (after many many hours on the phone with apple tech support) that the old MacBook and the new iPad do not easily exchange files. I spend so much time re-figuring out how to transfer files from SONGBOOK, ONSONG and GARAGEBAND each time iTunes is updated.
Anyone working with back tracks with SONGBOOK or ONSONG know the problems I'm talking about.
Transferring from iPad GarageBand to iTunes iPad is a nightmare. I would entertain alternatives if I could find any.
I'd be curious as to how others are handling these problems. The last iOS update rendered my ONSONG backtracks useless.

Deb Erney




Just a few months ago I had similar issues. I wanted to reformat my old 2011 Macbook Pro, remove everything and make it entirely dedicated to music production.

I didn't know where my old OS CD was, nor did I want to update to Yosemite after all the issues I heard about. Long story short, after much research, many recovery mode resets, and a boatload of other IT drama, I successfully restored it with 10.7 (Lion) and upgraded it to 16GB of RAM.

Unfortunately, I think that, while it works much smoother than before, it still has many issues and the fan runs hot every time I use my DAW (regardless of how much or little my CPU is being used by my various plugins). I don't know if it's the hard drive or just a slow processor, but I'm just gonna have to work with it until I finally upgrade to another system.

Glad to hear everything eventually worked out for you, Mike!
Glad to hear everything eventually worked out for you, Mike!

Thanks! I'm glad that you were able to improve your situation, as well.
after much research, many recovery mode resets, and a boatload of other IT drama, I successfully restored it

Like what happened with me, it sounds like you had to deal with a lot of unexpected curve balls during the reformatting and restoration processes. It appears that it may be par for the course, at least on the Mac. If there are any Windows users out there who have reformatted system drives, I'd love to hear what that experience was like.