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My Macbook has crashed once or twice daily ever since I installed Lion. I am unable to return to Snow Leopard because my Time Machine is now coupled with Lion.

I went through the sequence:

  1. Reset the PRAM: Hold down Command ⌘+Option ⌥+P+R on boot. Release after hearing the computer chime twice. http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1379
  2. Reset the SMC: Shutdown. Disconnect power adapter. Remove the battery. Press and hold power for 5 seconds. http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3964
  3. Verify/Repair disk Reboot into the recovery partition (press Option ⌥ while booting) and run Disk Utility. The disk had two problems, which are now fixed. http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1782
  4. Run the hardware diagnostics: Reboot with the original OS X Disk 1 while pressing D. The hardware diagnostics (memory only, apparently) says all is well. http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1509
  5. Reinstall OS X from the recovery partition: Hold Command ⌘+R while booting. Slight reduction in the rate of crash (but that's only an impression). http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4718

What would you try next?

Edit: The machine is out of warranty and out of Apple care.

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What specifically is the crash? Panic.log or console/system.log - have you ruled out RAM or run things on a clean install to an external drive to rule out your OS? –  bmike Mar 2 '12 at 1:17
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5 Answers

Take it to Apple and ask them to fix it under warranty. If you have made a clean install, and can still demonstrate the problem, you almost certainly have some sort of hardware issue.

If you did a reinstall, then added something that has a kext, that might be responsible, though, so in the (unlikely) event, reinstall, don't install that, and see if that fixes the problem.

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+1, never a bad idea to take it to Apple if your machine is under warranty. –  JW8 Mar 2 '12 at 1:06
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The Apple diagnostics that they run at the genius bar now are far more in-depth than any test we have access to. If they want to check it in, even more tests are possible. I would have a paper log of the crashes listed / sorted and hand them a copy when you leave it - knowing exactly when the crashes happen will be of great assistance if they can't reproduce the issue. Keep in mind the "fix" could be software, so asking for a diagnosis might be more productive - depends on your documentation and exact situation, though. –  bmike Mar 2 '12 at 1:18
    
Here are the BSD processes that triggered 9 consecutive crashes: 2 x launchd; 2 x kernel_task; 2 x firefox-bin; 1 x coreservicesd; 1 x quicklookd; 1 x Emacs; The hardware is long out of warranty, but I very much suspect that it's a software issue, both given the diversity of the programs that bring the machine down (even Emacs!) and because everything was fine before Lion. –  Calaf Mar 2 '12 at 3:18
    
Does adding MacPorts, Fink, and Homebrew constitute adding a kernel extension? I can get without the printer driver for a few days, but the machine wouldn't be very useful without this suite. –  Calaf Mar 2 '12 at 15:42
    
No, pretty much nothing they include is a problem there, other than a couple of very clearly identified kernel driver things. (Like the tuntap driver) –  Daniel Pittman Mar 8 '12 at 23:45
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It would be a good idea to check the system logs. Directions can be found in this Apple Support KB:

use the Console application, located in the Utilities folder in the Applications folder.

Errors that you see there can be either googled or supplied to Apple Support for further diagnosis/fixing.

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The only thing that Console tells me is that very many programs are causing the crashes. In most cases I am doing something as harmless as opening/saving a file, closing a program, or shutting down the machine. –  Calaf Mar 2 '12 at 3:21
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@bmike's suggestion is written as a comment, but in fact it's a good answer: do you have an external bootable drive that you can use for troubleshooting? That will at least let you determine if your internal drive is the problem.

Prior to upgrading to Lion I had a strange, intermittent issue with my MacBook Pro logic board. It wasn't a big problem, but became even stranger and much worse after upgrading. I had it swapped out under warranty, but perhaps it's some anecdotal evidence that installing Lion may bring to light pre-existing hardware issues that weren't obvious before. RAM issues crop up frequently in the category of surprising Lion-related problems.

But if you are correct in thinking that you had no hardware problems before installing Lion, it's still more likely to be a software issue. In principle the next step should be reformatting the drive, and doing a true clean install of Lion -- meaning manually migrating your data, rather than using the Migration Assistant.

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It's a useful comment, but whether one is installing OSX on the internal or the external disk, the effort is about the same. The trouble with using an external disk is that the time spent using it is essentially lost as debugging time. –  Calaf Mar 9 '12 at 17:01
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The next step to do is to wipe/reformat one's disk and do a clean install of Lion.

This is radical, and I was hoping there would be a more nimble set of steps. Ask me in a while if you'd like to know whether it has at least helped.

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Let us know how it goes. It's most a software issue. I would start up in safe boot to see if the issue persists, to help narrow it down to 3rd party software. –  hellothere Aug 11 '12 at 6:27
    
@hellothere The machine is indeed now stable. It appears that installing Lion on Snow Leopard was the culprit. Lion still crashes once every 2-3 weeks, which is about the same rate that Snow Leopard crashed. But for a development machine, I would much rather stick to a usable machine than one with the stability of Linux. –  Calaf Aug 12 '12 at 19:53
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Right up near the top of the list of the OP, I would suggest creating another account on the machine and booting into it. I have, in the past, been amazed and chagrinned at what that "fixes." Disk Warrior will check files for errors--there may be other utilities that do, but I'm not aware of them. But for those hard to get at little corruptions, there's nothing--apparently!--like a fresh account.

It's not hard to move the contents of your various Home folders to the new account, particularly if you use BatChmod to change permissions first, on both ends, to make drag and drop proceed without asking for a lot of admin passwords. When done, use Disk Utility to Repair Permissions.

Don't move the old Preferences Folder to the new User Library. The problem is most likely lurking in there somewhere. Just save it in, like, Shared, until you're sure you don't need any of the old Preferences.

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