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I have a 2011 Mac Mini Server. It is the unibody model that has two hard drives and no optical drive. I got this second hand so I don't have anything other than the machine itself.

The way I understand these things to be set up is that one drive is the primary drive and the second drive does time-machine backups.

The primary drive is starting to go bad, I connected it via USB to another Mac and ran Disk Utility which tells me:

  • Verifying volume “Server HD”
  • Checking file systemError: This disk needs to be repaired. Click Repair Disk.
  • Verify and Repair volume “Server HD”
  • Checking file systemVolume repair complete.Updating boot support partitions for the volume as required.
  • Error: Disk Utility can’t repair this disk. Back up as many of your files as possible, reformat the disk, and restore your backed-up files.

It looks like the secondary drive (Time Machine backups) is fine.

I believe the operating system is OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server.

What do I do?

  1. Replace the primary hard disk and try to boot it?
  2. Connect the time machine volume and a new (blank) HDD drive to another mac and try and run Disk Utility / Time Machine?
  3. Replace the primary hard disk in the Mac Mini Server and then Boot up an OS X install via a USB Drive?

If number 3, do I need to get a copy of OS X Snow Leopard Server server that I can boot from - or can I just use the Mountain Lion USB boot stick that I already have?

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This does not necessarily mean that the actual disk is broken, just that the file system (think zip-file with your files in it) has gone stale and cannot be fixed, so you need to rebuild it from scratch. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Nov 14 '12 at 19:25

2 Answers 2

I am unfamiliar with the two disk Mac Mini Server. I have, however, had a Time Capsule for several years.

First of all:

  • Your file system is damaged beyond what Apple themselves can fix. Take the warnings very serious - you may loose data. I do not think that the hard disk is physically damaged, though.
  • You may risk accidentially loosing your internal Time Machine backups by accident.

At this point in time, I would suggest that you first create an extra backup of your Time Machine data (this most likely require an extra external drive the size of your Time Machine harddisk) which for the Time Capsule can be triggered from inside Airport Tool - I do not know how to do it for your hardware.

That done, get a copy of your installation media as suggested by soxman. After ordering with AppleCare - due to the severeness of this problem - you may want to consider downloading a torrent with the dvd images so you can get started before you loose data.

When you have it fixed, consider upgrading to Mountain Lion Server (if possible on your machine). I do not know if the installer can reformat the file system and restore the time machine backup, but it might be a shortcut to the 10.6 start.

A final note: I would recommend against using third party file system tools for anything else than salvaging files before reformatting the partition. File systems are so important that I would only trust Apple itself for OS X file systems.

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I always thought that message was a bit harsh, since it seems to usually indicates a corrupt file system structure but makes things sound much worse.

In most cases with OS 10.6 and prior, the necessary repair is usually remedied by booting from the install media (or the media for the OS that you are running, whichever the case may be) and running Repair Disk from Disk Utility. Alternatively, you can do the same thing if you have a bootable clone on hand. The reason that an "external" volume is needed is because Disk Utility cannot repair the OS of the currently mounted volume, since the volume that needs repairing has to be unmounted first. In either case, Time Machine will not do what the system is telling you needs to be done. Before you begin, you will ideally want the correct build number for your machine if you wish to keep the current OS version.

I see the following solutions (any will suffice - your discretion):

  1. Obtain a copy of the correct media by contacting Apple Care Support, which is mentioned in this knowledge base article:

    I do not have the restore media that originally shipped with my Mac, what should I do?
    Contact AppleCare and request replacement of the correct restore media.

    • After getting the correct version of OS X Server, your next step depends on whether you've got a USB or DVD.
      a) If you've got a DVD disc, boot your other Mac off the disk, and attach the Mini's HDD to it. b) If you get it on USB, boot the Mini itself

    • From there you can run Disk Utility again, though with the exact, correct build. This might work. If not, back up what you have one last time (if you haven't already) and reinstall. After install you will asked if you want to restore data from one of several sources, Time Machine included.

  2. Disk Warrior can repair your file structure as well. This application comes at a cost - $99.95 - but if you have the extra scratch it is well-worth having.

  3. Upgrade to Mac OS X Mountain Lion Server. Installing a new OS will by default "fix" the problem as it will be installing its own file structure. You'll need to make sure that your mini is capable of running it, though - it only runs on early 2009 or newer models.

  4. Scour the interwebs or hit up a friend for the proper media. This is the least reliable, and would only be a desperate, last-resort way to fix things. Getting a second-hand product always carries greater risk - a fact of which you're now well aware.

As an addendum, it probably also would not hurt to run the Apple Hardware Test just to rule-out a hardware problem. Also, when you get this issue resolved (and you will), go get a copy of Carbon Copy Cloner.

The instructions above will get your Mac up and running again for sure. The main challenge will be obtaining the necessary external media. Good luck!

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Using third party programs to fix disk problems is not a good long term solution, fix it, save your files and rebuild it with Apple-tools. With Time Machine you most likely do not need to do even that, just reinstall and rebuild. Also an install of a newer operating system will only work if the disk is reformatted, and you then need to import your files as above. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Nov 14 '12 at 19:27
    
I agree completely with the third party app not being long term. The idea behind my answer, though, was to offer the OP several possible ways out of this problem. Please also note that I provided multiple links in my answer so that the OP can evaluate for himself what the best possible option(s) is/are. Finally, you would be totally right about Time Machine being adequate - the problem is that the OP cannot "just reinstall and rebuild" because he lacks the necessary tools to do so in the first place. –  soxman Nov 14 '12 at 19:39
    
If you think so, you may want to reword your answer? A casual reader may decide to upgrade to a newer operating system and end up with data loss because the installer chose to reformat the drive. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Nov 14 '12 at 19:59
    
I appreciate your thoughts; however, I worded my answer carefully, suggesting to repair, not erase and reformat, as the first option. You seem to have some good thoughts. Perhaps you should post your own solution rather than commenting on mine. –  soxman Nov 14 '12 at 20:18
    
Hmm, isn't what you're suggesting the same as what I'm doing already - i.e. connecting the hard drive as an external USB device to a working Mac and running Disk Utility? that is what is giving me the error message... –  cwd Nov 15 '12 at 0:47

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