Yes, we all know that there’s the almighty Blue Screen of Death for Windows. Well, the macs got their own not so mighty Grey Screen of Death – with or without spinning wheel.

I got the GSOD with the spinning wheel. And btw, the spinning wheel here is not the beach ball of death but this:


Apple Grey Screen of Death (with spinning wheel)

Apple Grey Screen of Death (with spinning wheel)

It’s last night at around 10pm or so. Was so glad that I could be back home so early after having dinner with friends. Switched on my iMac – usually it takes a minute or so to boot up but this time… just stuck on the grey screen. The normal sequence is: grey screen with apple logo and spinning wheel, then a very brief moment with a pure blue screen, then wall paper will pop up and startup items start loading, then it’s up and running. But last night, it’s just grey screen forever. Got stuck!

Tried switching off and on for a few times, no luck. Then got online with my little apple (i.e. my ipod touch) and googled something like “apple grey screen forever". Voila! got related posts in several mac forum and a repair suggestion from Apple support pages as well. Then came the supposedly-not-so-lengthy process of repairing and recovering the system.

1) insert OS X install DVD before restart.

2) restart Mac while holding C down to boot up with optical drive.

3) Choose preferred language on menu then on next page, go for “utility -> disc utility" on top menu bar.

4) in Disc Utility, choose First Aid -> Repair Disc (then just let it run. if something’s wrong, it’ll repair it)

5) Repair Permissions (again, just let it run.)

If repair is successful, then may just restart and see if it boots up. Obviously the repair wasn’t successful in my case… 

6a) If time machine has got the latest backup, then just go ahead to reinstall OS X and restore from time machine on the OS X DVD screen menu.

And obviously… my laziness results in a time machine with a backup from like almost a month back… so…

6b) Get another mac computer (macbook in my case), connect it with the mac in coma (iMac here) with a firewire cable. On macbook, go to “application -> migration assistant". Just follow the steps in migration assistant, then you may have everything in iMac migrated to the macbook. (I have two accounts on my iMac but I only wanted to migrate one of them. However, I checked the wrong box and thus migrated the wrong account. I was about to click “reinstall OS X" on my iMac but suddenly thought of checking if the migration was right, then found out my stupid mistake. Then migrated again… but the account I wanna migrate is bigger than the hard disc on my macbook. So, I had to delete some files on my iMac first – oh my! there’re so many useless files in my iMac =P Anyways…)

7) Migration done. Restart iMac (remember to hold C down on boot up), and reinstall OS X (btw, make sure you have the install disc of the current version, not previous versions). Choose  ERASE AND INSTALL so that you may have a clean drive. (Some suggested to first use disc utility to zero out the HD before installing. I didn’t have the patience to do that. btw, zero out means a complete erase. It’s the second tap in disc utility.) Let installation run – this may take 30 minutes to an hour. I didn’t time it.

8 ) Answer the questions on screen (only a few) then choose to migrate files from older mac when it asks about it. Choose the account that you wish to migrate back. Migration done, OS X running.

9) Run Software Update (under apple menu) 

10) iMac revived!

It took me a whole night to recover my iMac. If I had done time machine back up frequent enough, should have saved myself the 2-3 hours I wasted on migrating back and forth between two macs. Then the time required for the whole repair should be around 1.5 hours.