Ask Apple Matters: OS X Crashes After-all

by Aaron Wright Aug 01, 2006

It turns out that the whole “no-crashing” policy in Mac OS X Tiger is a bit of a lie after all. If you cast your mind back to the recent ‘Get a Mac’ ads, you’ll recall one advert, called ‘Restarting’, taking the biscuit out of Mr. Windows for constantly crashing at random intervals, whilst our friend, Mr. Mac, stood there arrogantly with little patience for his PC friend. Mr. Windows, it’s time for you to point and laugh, provided you don’t crash in the process of course.  It seems that a few of our readers have come across stalling troubles where a supposed ‘Black Screen Of Death’ appears with a polite message to turn your Mac off and on again. Fortunately for user dr. tongue, you’re not alone and other Apple Matters readers have been kind enough to lend a hand. Thanks this week to MacNuggets and our own chrisseibold for some answers.

Question Of The Week

“I don’t know others who get this problem, but sometimes Mac OS X Tiger (10.4.6) crashes for no reason. Can you advise me on a solution please?” A screen appears which is kind of a transparent black sheet going over my operating system. I can see everything else in the background. A bilingual message then appears asking me to press and hold onto my sleep button to restart my computer. It doesn’t happen often but it is happening more than most other users I know of. Can you advise me on a solution please and, if possible, tell me why it’s happening?  I don’t know if this is directly related but it normally happens after I’ve installed a large program. What’s the deal here?  Thanks.  Submitted by: dr. tongue Answer by MacNuggets: Looks like there’s even been improvements to the grey screen of death to the black screen of death in Tiger. It’s happened a handful of times to me. I tend to run multiple apps at the same time and beat the snot out of my system on a regular basis. Every so often, BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). I used to run Disk Repair after crashes like that, but I’ve stopped doing that and it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. I think OS X runs a diagnostic when it boots as it is anyway.  Answer by chrisseibold: Ah, Dr. Tongue, I’ve experienced the same thing. Often times running the cron scripts seems to fix the issue but, more than once, it has been back to Apple for afflicted machines. In my case it was an iBook and the repair was a logic board replacement.  Answer by Aaron Wright: I too have had this problem on a rare occasion but both times it happened was when I had accidently removed my USB modem from the computer without telling Mac about it. Also, the first time I ever installed Adobe Photoshop I got this problem. I decided to open Disk Utility and then run Repair Disk Permissions and Repair Disk - it seems to have done some good. I think after I installed Photoshop a lot of my permissions were a little messy.

Got An Answer?

Does this problem sound similar to yours? If you’ve got an answer or even some feedback, feel free to pop along to the thread ‘Tiger Black Screen’ in the Ask Matters forum and leave your comments.


Have a technical question? Drop by our dedicated forum and leave a message. You’re sure to get a reply from one of regular readers or even a member of staff. If you want a more direct answer, however, feel free to e-mail Applematters.


  • rebooting once in a while isn’t bad either.

    nana had this to say on Aug 01, 2006 Posts: 63
  • I’ve had that twice. Oddly, I’ve only ever had it happen after trying to restart because of a system patch (eg., 10.4.0 to 10.4.1). It hasn’t happened recently, but in the early days of Tiger it did. Maybe twice? Seriously, though - aside from apps unexpectedly quitting sometimes, my Mac doesn’t crash.

    I don’t think once-in-a-blue-moon hard crashes are equatable to Apple lying. I don’t want to sound like a raving fanboy, but that’s my strong opinion. No computer is perfect. None. Not even close.

    Nana is right, though. As rediculous as my up-times are, rebooting every couple of weeks isn’t a bad idea. Neither is manually running cron tasks like daily, weekly, and monthly.

    Keep your gear clean (hardware and software) and it’ll treat you right. That reminds me, my fans are dusty!

    Waa had this to say on Aug 01, 2006 Posts: 110
  • My problem was tracked down to be Bluetooth headsets that were paired to the G5.  After eliminating them, the computer has gone without crashing.  The cash always happened while using skype or ichat with a bluetooth headset.



    Dorian had this to say on Aug 01, 2006 Posts: 2
  • Do you blame the computer for problems caused by faulty apps and/or games? I don’t.

    Unless of course it happens on a PC.  Then, any and every problem is all Windows’s fault.

    In the past couple of years, I’ve experienced the GSOD twice, from a faulty Firewire drive, and before that, the BSOD twice on my PC from faulty memory.  That doesn’t count app lock ups, which happen numerous times on both systems.

    The sooner we drop these delusions about Macs, the better we will be able to deal with issues and problems and work toward more effective solutions and improvements. 

    As of now, virtually anytime you point out a problem or suggest an improvement, the user base tells you why your problem doesn’t exist, that if it does it’s somehow your fault, or that the OS doesn’t need any improvements.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 01, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • It turns out that the whole “no-crashing” policy in Mac OS X Tiger is a bit of a lie after all.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “lie.”  It’s more like a talking point from Apple regurgitated by loyal Mac-bots.  It’s also a bit of self-delusion on the part of the Mac-bots.  I have a friend who is one, and when I went over to his house to check out his system, it crashed while I was there.  I think the loyal users tend to block events like this out of their heads, and the next time you talk to them, it becomes “it never crashes.”

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 01, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • The one event of my life that saw an OS that “never crash"ed was a SUN OS v7 (Solaris?) running the CDMA call accounts database while at Qualcomm Infrastructure. It ran for several years without rebooting. It was only shut down for hardware replacement.

    Now, that is undoubtedly not the longest MTBF in the computer world but I doubt that honor belongs to Mac OSX nor, <gasp!>, Windows.

    OSX is light-years more robust than OS9 was but still hangs on occassion. To me, it randomly happens upon some app install.

    So, to say Tiger or OSX does not have G/B/SODs is absurd and that would constitute a “lie” from that person. They may think the infinitely-spinning beachball of death (ISBOD?) does not qualify as a OS bug. I myself would say that it is.

    Robomac had this to say on Aug 01, 2006 Posts: 846
  • The official name for this kind of crash is “kernel panic” or “kp.”

    There is a description of it here:

    My iMac Core Duo had a few kp’s from the beta of Adobe Flash 9.0. Apple support had me run the disk utility and repair permissions.

    Also, my motherboard was defective!

    Tiger had this to say on Aug 01, 2006 Posts: 14
  • I’ve seen the odd kernel panic over the past 3 years, usually when waking the PowerBook from sleep.  I think I’ve had 0 when running Jaguar, 1 when running Panther and around 2 when running Tiger.  The increasing number of kernel panics in the OS as the iterations are cranked out may be coincidental but I’m pretty sure that the initial versions of Tiger had issues that caused the increased number since I’ve not seen a new kernel panic (touch wood) in about a year.

    I’m quite certain that the majority of Blue Screen of Death issues under Windows is probably hardware related, or at least hardware driver related.  Given this, if your hardware and its drivers aren’t causing problems then severe crashes probably should not occur.  Unfortunately, given the sheer volume of hardware configurations possible for Windows systems, it’s very difficult to ensure that you don’t hit problems and therefore I still see that Mac less liable to encounter a fatal crash.  When I switched from Windows to Mac I was seeing Blue Screens of Death on a very frequent basis and I was not prepared to risk seeing them again.

    All this said, the statement that Macs don’t crash is absolute rubbish.  Applications crash when they haven’t been written correctly (not Apple’s fault, usually) and the OS can terminally bomb.  Saying that they don’t crash at all is a distortion of the truth and I rather wish they wouldn’t keep saying this.

    Kelmon had this to say on Aug 02, 2006 Posts: 7
  • I run a dual 1 gHz MDD G4 with 10.4.7, and a new MacBook 2.0 gHz also with 10.4.7.  The MacBook is really too new to count, but has given me no problems at all.

    The G4 has taken me through from the early versions of OS X, where kernal panics were not unheard of, to Tiger, under which I think I’ve had to force quit the entire system maybe twice, both times after installing third party software.

    I keep both systems patched, and run Disk Utility both before and after major upgrades and major app installs.  Periodically, I leave the systems running overnight to allow maintenance routines to do their thing.

    I don’t ever claim that OS X NEVER crashes, but I honestly can use the term *rarely crashes*.

    My job involves tech support on Windows machines, and while I see a lot of reasons to dislike that platform, being honest, I must admit that since my employer went to XP Pro, we see a lot less spontaneous crashes.  BSOD’s usually means that the system has gotten corrupted and needs to be reinstalled.  HD issues are usually at the root of this, and often precede the total loss of the HD at some future point.  Not always, but often.

    I think, while Apple’s use of the “Macs don’t crash” line is of course, a marketing tool, there is some honesty to it, depending on how you define “crash” - a pretty loose term, really!  Mostly, a crashing app doesn’t affect the whole system, and seriously, I can’t remember the last time an Apple app crashed on me.  It’s usually a third party app, and the cheaper ones, at that.

    rahrens had this to say on Aug 02, 2006 Posts: 18
  • i had no idea this happens under tiger too. back in the day under panther it happened 2-3 times to me after disconnecting a hook-up via s-video to my tv without puting the pismo to sleep first, while doing other things at the same time. it never occured under tiger which i’m running since last october on my double-layer 15” powerbook.

    hardboiledwonderland had this to say on Aug 05, 2006 Posts: 6
  • Of course, Mac’s crash…

    ... but, only when running Microsoft products.

    Way to go Microsoft!

    “I’m a PC, and having an operating system that doesn’t constantly crash was Apple’s idea.”

    BC had this to say on Apr 29, 2010 Posts: 1
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