Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Mac Stuck in Recovery After Login

After writing on my report card that all my Apple hardware was working reliably, I’ve now started having what may be hardware trouble with my 2019 Intel MacBook Pro. Sometimes, whether I’m using it or it’s just sitting there, it will let out the sneeze sound and kernel panic. This Mac has always done that, but it used to be rare and seemingly without consequences..

Now, I’ve had multiple instances where the SSV was reported as damaged and so I had to reinstall macOS.

Other times, after entering my password at the login screen, instead of logging me in it will go to Recovery. Once that happens, future boots on that same partition will keep going to Recovery. I can only log in using a different partition. The kernel panic logs show a variety of problems, from “possible memory corruption” to “panicked task” to possible Touch Bar issues, and the active processes range from WiFiAgent to WebKit.

Reinstalling macOS does fix this login problem, but it takes a long time, and eventually the problem comes back. Oddly, I’ve also found that a safe boot also temporarily fixes the problem. This was surprising to me because:

But the safe boot does allow the Mac to boot, though (until I reinstall macOS) logging in will continue to fail unless I do a safe boot every time. As I said, the login items seemed innocuous, but after manually unchecking all of them in System Settings I could then boot the Mac without safe mode. I haven’t yet bothered to bisect and figure out which login item is triggering the problem, which at root I believe to be a hardware issue.

With this workaround in place, the MacBook Pro seems to still be usable for testing the Intel versions of my apps, but I no longer really trust it as a backup Mac.

Unfortunately, it’s now gotten to the point where I have to do a safe boot every time, even with all the login items disabled. And it won’t install the macOS 14.4 update. Either with Software Update or a manually downloaded installer package, will report the update as damaged. I suspect there’s some sort of internal SSD damage, which is a shame because that’s not easily serviceable. It does work fine with semi-clean macOS installations on an external SSD, so my next step is to get a larger external SSD and make a clone.


Update (2024-03-26): The Mac seems to work properly now that I’ve switched to booting from an external SSD. In order to get that clone set up, I needed to run the macOS installer while booted from a different external SSD. Otherwise, installing macOS on the external SSD would keep failing, seemingly because it was trying to update the recovery partition on the malfunctioning internal SSD.

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Yesterday was the second time of using my Mac laptop that I had to blow away the data partition and use migration assistant to restore it because the APFS file system had a unrepairable error. I started looking because Safari was taking a lot longer to start each time. Luckily, my Time Machine has been very reliable, so I’ve haven’t lost anything.

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