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I had what I think was a "system crash" of my 500 GB SSD that was my system disk. I now think it was because a keyboard malfunction was preventing proper boot operations. I have a 2008 MacPro running 10.11(El-Cap). I needed to boot in Recovery Mode and restore from Time Machine. Then the Applications folder was completely empty, leaving me with a rather useless machine. I found the Time Machine files (in the Backups.backupdb folder of an external drive) and one by one have partially repopulated the Applications folder with Finder and a few other apps (including Chrome with which I am doing this) from a older TM section of the backups, since the recent backups appeared empty in /Applicatiosn and /Library/Frameworks. The system disk used to be named SSD_1 and that's how it appears on my backup displayed in Time Machine, but it currently appears as "Macintosh HD2" in Finder. This which used to be the location of my Time Machine image before installing the SSD. There's also the old Macintosh HD displayed in the Devices side panel, which when you look at it with Get Info appears as "Macintosh HD 1". I'm a bit worried that a clean system install will trash all my applications. I'm also concerned that my "past end of life" machine won't get the right OS files from the Apple servers.

Ideas: 1) Use Get Info on the SSD to rename the startup SSD as "SSD_1" so that it matches the entry in the Time Machine backup files. Then <somehow> "bless" that drive to use archaic Mac terminology.

2) Or should I clean reinstall. Not even sure I can. Would need to do it over the network and this box is past Apple's end of life rules. This was originally a Lion machine IIRC. I'm not sure what the latest physical medium that holds a DVD image and my DVD door is stuck in the closed position anyway.

Update: As I use Time Machine more to see what's missing, I'm now seeing my old applications and contents of the Frameworks folder at least in the TimeMachine folders (but not on the "real" disk) . So apparently I was not waiting long enough to see the folder display get updated? Can I now use Finder and right-click/GetInfo to rename the SSD to it's old name and then restore from Time Machine? And how does MacOS determine the boot drive?

Eventually, I ended up buying a new Apple-branded keyboard and the system all came back as it used to be, except for renaming the SSD device. The answer below is correct in suggesting I make a recovery disk.

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Both the directories you lost indicate you should pretty much immediately boot to recovery and re-apply the OS version you had.

You can't trust any tools if frameworks are damaged and you can't trust the apps to fix things if they're compromised.

  1. Boot to recovery and verify you have a good recovery (internet or otherwise) and have internet while in recovery.
  2. Run Disk Utility (from recovery) to repair the drive until there are no errors.
  3. Confirm your backup mounts while in recovery so you know you have a good backup before proceeding. Back anything up that's not good before proceeding.
  4. Run the OS installer to write known good new /Applications and /Library - that will run migration after the blank /Application is run to copy over all the apps / users / settings you have.
  5. Consider checking the install.log for errors and then test the machine to be sure you don't need to recover things from the backup.

Pretty clear case where you'll have to do this eventually - so I wouldn't waste time on not verifying your backup and not reinstalling a known good system. Trying to figure what happened will just delay getting a known good set of apps and frameworks re-installed - then you can look over what failed if you care to.

You can also make your Recovery HD on another computer if needed. 2008 MacPro likely can't internet recovery and any recovery will let you reinstall 10.11 but you may have to choose that if you can't just install the latest OS your hardware supports.

  • I've got a MacAir purchased this year, so I guess I could try to make a boot image on a thumbdrive? – BondedDust Dec 8 '18 at 20:04
  • Not sure what you mean by "confirm your backup mounts". Guess you mean that I should have had a separate backup from Time Machine .... but I don't. And where exactly would I be looking for the install.log? – BondedDust Dec 8 '18 at 20:21

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