Submit Hint Search The Forums LinksStatsPollsHeadlinesRSS
14,000 hints and counting!

How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry System
For weeks I have had Font issues. I must have either made some mistake or chosen the wrong option with Font Book, but a number of apps that relied on specific system fonts were beginning to regularly crash, or display awkwardly in a different font. This is a technical hint, but I used this to get back to normal. This may also work with earlier versions of OS X, but I know it works with Tiger.

To prepare, enable Remote Logins via ssh (in the Sharing System Preferences panel) just in case. Make sure you can login from remote before proceeding!

[robg adds: This hint is quite dangerous, as it involves removing system fonts from a live machine. Proceed at your own risk, and probably only after exhausting other methods...]

First, (as root) run:
 $ sudo rm -rf /Library/Fonts/*
Yes, quite extreme. At this point, you either get lucky and Terminal continues to run, or it crashes on you. If it crashes, I hope you made sure you can get in via ssh. If not, you'll be booting single-user, and mounting the root filesystem read/write just to continue.

So, assuming Terminal is still working, or you're logged in via ssh, copy fonts from /System/Library/Fonts:
 $ rsync -av --delete /System/Library/Fonts/ /Library/Fonts/
Important: Ensure you have the trailing / on each path, as this tells rsync to sync the contents of one directory to another. At this point, Terminal may again crash. If you've made it this far, you can probably re-open Terminal and it will find its fonts. If not, use ssh.

Next, you need to remove all the 0 length files from /Library/Fonts:
 $ cd /Library/Fonts
 $ ls -l | grep ' 0 '
This should give you a list. Remove each with
 $ rm font_filename
You will need to use 'or " around the filenames if there are spaces in the filenames. Now, open Font Book. One by one, go through the "Computer" fonts group, selecting each font that has a dot next to it. Use Edit: Resolve Duplicates. Quit Font Book.

Insert your Tiger install disc, and do this:
 $ cd /Volumes/Mac\ OS\ X\ Install
 $ find . -name AdditionalFonts.pkg
 $ open /path/to/AdditionalFonts.pkg
Install the additional fonts to the system.

Double check there are no duplicates to remove, reboot, and your system should be OK as far as fonts go. If you happen to use Microsoft Office, open Font Book and add all the Fonts in the Microsoft Office Fonts directory (/Applications/Microsoft Office 2004/Office/Fonts).

One note, I had some fonts for which the dot would not go away after Edit: Resolve Duplicates. For these, I actually hit the delete key and said OK. The fonts did not go away, but the dot did. YMMV.
  • Currently 2.50 / 5
  You rated: 4 / 5 (2 votes cast)

How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry | 14 comments | Create New Account
Click here to return to the 'How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry' hint
The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry
Authored by: Twist on Mar 29, '06 08:04:37AM

I have had issues with fonts displaying oddly and after a bit of research it seems to be caused by the font cache getting corrupted. Using Tiger Cache Cleaner to clean the caches normally fixes this. I would definitely suggest trying this before taking the more drastic measures outlined in this hint.

[ Reply to This | # ]
How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry
Authored by: crackmac on Mar 29, '06 08:29:21AM
Several of the steps in this article are way too extreme.

Check out page 22 of this paper on typography from Apple:

Some fonts you must have... here's a snippet
Several system fonts are essential. Never remove them. Doing so will prevent the system 
from starting up and will likely require reinstallation of the operating system. They are: 
• Geneva 
• Helvetica* 
• Lucida Grande 
• Monaco 
* For optimal performance, leave the version of Helvetica that shipped with the system. However, you can replace it with another 
version if necessary. In doing so, some application layouts may be affected. 
If you remove these fonts, some of your applications might not display text correctly. 

[ Reply to This | # ]
How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry
Authored by: Baggins on Mar 29, '06 08:56:42AM

I think the point is, here, is that if some of the corrupted fonts ARE these necessary fonts, then the extreme measures are required. Either that or a re-installation of the OS, not a fun task in and of itself.

[ Reply to This | # ]
How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry
Authored by: boredzo on Mar 29, '06 08:37:22AM

I'd suggest using fgrep (or grep -F — same thing) instead. It's faster when searching for a fixed string (as opposed to a regular expression), because it's not looking for (or unwittingly processing, as can happen easily with '.') the meta-characters that a regular expression would contain.

[ Reply to This | # ]
How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry
Authored by: iordonez on Mar 29, '06 09:05:16AM
This short version of doing this would be running this command in the terminal:

sudo rm -R /Library/Caches/

then restart. Fonts fixed.

Isaac Ordonez
Mac OS X Server Tips and Tricks

[ Reply to This | # ]

How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry
Authored by: foilpan on Mar 29, '06 09:43:34AM

i agree with isaac on this. the tip is way too extreme and time intensive.

if necessary, restart in single user mode, mount / read-write, then delete the font cache directories as needed. reboot, and you should be all set.

also, if the installed fonts really are corrupted beyond use and deleting the caches does nothing, it might be a good idea to use font management software to keep things running smoothly. alternately, you could keep a "fresh" stash of the default OS X fonts in some other backup directory and then only copy them into /Library/Fonts if necessary. if you even need to resort to that tactic on a regular basis, you probably have bigger problems to tackle.

[ Reply to This | # ]
How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry
Authored by: babbage on Mar 29, '06 11:30:01AM

The parent hint is the best and most correct solution given here.

The article hint is way too extreme. Single-user mode is far easier and more reliable for this kind of troubleshooting than ssh, and you definitely shouldn't be indiscriminately `rm -rf`'ing anything under /Library unless you absolutely know what you're doing. It's almost never the solution to a given problem.

If you think getting rid of something is going to solve a problem for you, the safer way to test that assumption is to first move it out of the way -- `mv /Library/Fonts /Library/Fonts.MOVED` -- then reboot and test. If the symptoms disappears, your guess was right and you can delete it. If your guess was wrong, you can move it back and have things back the way they were, before going back to test another candidate for removal.

This article is an anti-hint and should have a disclaimer stating as much. It may, in some cases, solve a problem, but it's at least as likely to make things worse if used in the wrong situation.



[ Reply to This | # ]
How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry
Authored by: Gigacorpse on Mar 29, '06 12:17:08PM

Keeping a backup copy of the core required fonts sounds like an excellent idea; I think that I will have to create a backup for emergencies.

And thanks to Crackmac for the required font information. I wasn't aware of that.

[ Reply to This | # ]
How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry
Authored by: gaoshan on Mar 29, '06 11:44:00AM

Here is the safe, accurate, fast way I salvaged my fonts after screwing them up. Using the amazing and free Linotype FontExplorer X go to:

  • Tools->Clean System Fonts folders...
  • Check the "Clean font caches and reboot afterwards..." box
  • Click "Clean..."

That should do it. You can run through the rest of the options under Tools if you want.

This will place a folder of removed fonts on your desktop. You can add back in what you want but all of the removed fonts are extras, i.e. not system related, so removing them simply resets your system fonts while leaving them for you to add later if you so desire.

I've done this on two different Macs and have had spectacular results in each case.

[ Reply to This | # ]
How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry
Authored by: ManxStef on Mar 31, '06 11:57:06AM

Seconded. I've been using FontExplorer X to manage my type collection a few months now and it's great.

I've used the "Clean System Fonts" along with clearing out the caches on a couple of different Macs and it's really handy, allows for better organisation without hosing the default system fonts (it also won't let you delete or de-activate them). It's also got a "Clean application font caches..." option which'll clear out the Photoshop/Illustrator/Quark/MSOffice caches just in case cleaning the system ones doesn't fix the issue.

The plugins (with auto-activation turned on) can be a little quirky -- I've had a few problems with the Quark one -- but overall I'd definitely recommend it. Oh, and the price isn't bad, either :)

[ Reply to This | # ]
How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry
Authored by: gidds on Mar 29, '06 11:49:39AM
'Make sure you can log in from remote before proceeding!'

So, presumably, this hint needs a Mac which is networked, and either a second computer on the same network, or a suitably-configured router, net connection, and a second net-connected computer. How many of us have that? Shouldn't a serious requirement like that have been made clearer?

Also, any reason why the article text needs to be so wide? I had to pick a myopically-small font; at a reasonable size, I'd have had to scroll sideways even with my browser at the full screen width!

While I'm happy the author solved his font problems, iordonez's suggestion seems easier and quicker, as well as not needing any extra hardware.


[ Reply to This | # ]

A related problem and solution
Authored by: TimBonnici on Mar 29, '06 01:45:16PM

This is not going to be a bug that affects a great number of users but in the context of this thread I think it's worth mentioning. I had problems for ages with certain symbols showing up as little key caps symbols instead of what they were meant to be when browsing the web. The most notable offender in this regard was the euro symbol. I tried deleting font caches, reinstalling fonts, and all the sort of things that are being suggested here.

What I didn't realise, until relatively recently, is that fonts, like other files, have versions too and I had been installing fonts from my master font library which I burnt onto a CD ages ago. The thing was that my "master" CD had old versions of Georgia and Verdana and those were the fonts that I'd opted to use as my default serif and sans serif fonts. After a bit of hunting around on the web I found newer versions and these new versions had the glyphs for the euro symbol. Problem solved!

Along the way, I discovered that the key caps symbols (they look like a capital A inside a square) a provided by LastResort.dfont, which is the font that OS X uses when a font doesn't contain the glyph that it's being asked to display.

Hope this saves someone else the trouble that I went through.

[ Reply to This | # ]
How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry
Authored by: malka on Mar 31, '06 07:23:49AM

This seems to be using a hammer to hit a pesky fly - and the hammer's aim isn't always all that good. Deleting the font cache files might have fixed things right away. There are also other more easily performed tasks, like a Safe Boot that might fix things. And, with the problem apparantly narrowed to system fonts, replacing them directly would have been a logical move...

[ Reply to This | # ]
How to salvage OS X when fonts go awry
Authored by: mdouma46 on Mar 31, '06 02:32:48PM
"Next, you need to remove all the 0 length files from /Library/Fonts:
$ cd /Library/Fonts
$ ls -l | grep ' 0 '
This should give you a list. Remove each with
$ rm font_filename
Why in the world are you doing that? Those files don't have a 0 length; their information is in the resource fork, not the data fork, and an 'ls' in Terminal, by default, only shows the file size of the data fork. (You can see the size of these files by doing an 'ls' and tacking on "/..namedfork/rsrc" to the end of the file path).

[ Reply to This | # ]