Goodbye Mac mini…

After 2 years of solid, reliable, trouble-free operation, my Mac mini suddenly experienced a hard drive failure.

Yesterday around midnight I was busy working on a school project in Pages on my Mac mini G4. The songs I were playing were skipping like crazy and the computer gradually slowed to a crawling pace. I restarted the machine, but the computer appeared to be stuck at the grey boot screen.

The Combo drive in my mini was half-working (a problem I couldn’t get Apple to fix under warranty over a year ago) but I was able to start from a Tiger CD (not DVD) and ran Disk Utility. Halfway through the repair, the computer froze. I restarted but this time it was really stuck. Booting in verbose mode exposed the nasty error IOATAController device blocking bus a few dozen times followed by a IO timeout on the hard drive, the journal replay failing, and the computer failing to mount the hard drive.

About this time my Combo drive followed in my hard drive’s footsteps and refused to boot my Tiger and DiskWarrior CDs. I hooked up my LaCie FireWire CD drive and used OpenFirmware to clear my NVRAM and boot from FireWire. My DiskWarrior CD couldn’t even recognize my hard drive’s hardware and my Tiger CD failed to load its own kernel.

In short, my mini was completely gone. I had a backup system in place and the only thing I lost was what I was working on that night. I’m thankful for that. Still, I need a computer. I would need to replace the Combo drive and the hard drive to fix the mini. However, I was intending to buy a MacBook later this year for college. After considering some of the annoyances the Rev. A mini gave me (flaky drives, including display artifacts when using DVI digital video, no Quartz Extreme) I decided that fixing the mini for about $200 wouldn’t be worth it considering I’d be migrating to a laptop in the near future anyway.

So, I used my saved up money on a MacBook. I ordered the black one yesterday and can’t wait for it to arrive tomorrow. I wish that I could have waited until the next spec bump but I didn’t really expect my once-trusty Mac to just die. (In light of my experience, I bought 3 years of AppleCare and made sure with an Apple salesperson that I would not need to drive hundreds of miles to an Apple Store to get my computer fixed.) Here’s hoping that I won’t have any problems like this with my MacBook, because this thing is going to last me for the next 4 years.

I’ll update when it arrives tomorrow.

By Reid Burke

Hi, I'm @reid. I work on developer tools at Yahoo. I serve at Awakening Church with a focus on technology. I also enjoy riding motorcycles.