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Is there a best-practice way of dealing with a system crash or a system freeze? I know of the "force-quit" keyboard shortcut. But what if it doesn't work? I just bought a MacBookPro and I am switching from Linux. In Linux there is a possibility to shutdown the X window system, and log in from a text console, or one can communicate with the kernel directly via magic SysRq-key, and for example, remount a hard disk read-only or reboot the system.

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If force-quitting doesn't work you have a few options:

  • Sit it out and wait for the Mac to churn through whatever it is stuck on (this doesn't always work, but I've had beachballs go away over time).
  • Trying opening Activity Viewer and see if you can kill the process there. Same caveat as above.
  • Force-shutdown the Mac by holding the power button for seven seconds. This always works.

The relationship between Mac OS X and the Unix underpinnings aren't the same as they are between X window/GNOME and the kernel. It isn't nearly as open, so there is really no messing with the kernel near as I can tell in Mac OS X. I usually go the route I mentioned above and as long as I maintain the system properly and regularly I always seem to get back on my feet without any problems.

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  • I must admit, this is a bit surprising. Isn't the use of the power button dangerous? Again, on Linux it's usually the wost thing you can do, resulting eventually in a corrupted file system. Thanks! Oct 25 '10 at 18:20
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    I've never had a problem with the file system upon killing the power to a Mac ever. I've had open files get corrupted, but I save early and often, so it's been a long, long time since that has last happened. Oct 25 '10 at 18:29
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    Recent versions of OS X use file system journalling by default, which means the file system can almost always heal itself after a crash. Mind you, this does nothing to protect the contents of open files... Oct 25 '10 at 19:35
  • I bought a new MacBookPro last thursday, and I already had a system freeze three times. Two of them while copying data from an external hard disk and one after a system update.. not a very lucky start :( But you are right Gordon: with journaling a file system should be able to rewind to the last working state. Oct 25 '10 at 21:24
  • Journalling doesn't work by rewinding, it actually does more the opposite: it completes whatever file operations were in process when the computer crashed. Oct 28 '10 at 22:09

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