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Fight ATSServer stall at login System
The ATSServer process sometimes stalls the system upon login, and there is nothing you can do to kill it at this point except killing it by ssh from another machine. But what to do when there is no other machine you can use to login from? It gets even worse if you activate/deactive a lot of fonts during your session.

The solution I found, which fits my needs, was to create a LogoutHook, which kills ATSServer on logout.
  1. Create a simple sh script:
    killall ATSServer
    Save it in a convenient place, like /usr/local/bin, and name it Then make it executable via sudo chmod +x

  2. Make it a LogoutHook by entering the following command:
    sudo defaults write \
    LogoutHook /usr/local/bin/
And now everything should be fine. The ATSServer process will be killed on logout. It is started automatically upon the next login. This solution was tested under 10.4.x, and it works well for me. Hope if helps others.

[robg adds: I haven't ever seen this issue, so I can't claim to have tested the fix.]
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Fight ATSServer stall at login
Authored by: Mikey-San on May 15, '06 09:05:18AM
Hmm. I suspect problems with the submitter's rig, and not necessarily a problem with ATSServer that warrants this action over actual troubleshooting.

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Fight ATSServer stall at login
Authored by: ExecutiveEditor on May 15, '06 09:25:05AM

I have seen this repeatedly on several machines here in our office. System-wise, all of them are just about as plain-vanilla installations as you can get.

I suspect that the problem has to do with a non-system font installed by one of our stock programs (such as MS Word), but since the problem is intermittent, it would take perhaps months to diagnose it.

In this case, the quick fix is almost infinitely preferable to troubleshooting.

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Fight ATSServer stall at login
Authored by: foilpan on May 15, '06 09:30:06AM

Whenever I've seen any sort of stall like this, usually indicated by nothing more than the Spotlight icon in the menu bar and a beachball upon login, I reboot in single user mode and move or delete ATS font caches. It works every time and doesn't require ssh or another Mac.

Killing ATS probably won't help if the font caches are are bad.

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Fight ATSServer stall with autologin at startup
Authored by: gabester on May 15, '06 09:36:41AM

I see this problem frequently with designers systems where they're automatically logging in after restarting; all they get is the spotlight logo and maybe their desktop picture but no menubar.

Obviously in this case LogoutHook will not help; although a shutdown script that deletes /Library/Caches/ likely would deal with the problem nicely.

At present, I do as foilpan suggests. Restart in safe mode, delete the offending cache files, reboot again, and wait until the next time it happens (2 days to 2 months...) Sure is annoying.

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More information...
Authored by: gabester on May 15, '06 09:50:51AM

For more diagnostic information, in the hopes of eventually troubleshooting this issue to eliminate the need for a quick fix, the Macs in question are running 10.4.2 to 10.4.5 and have Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite and Creative Suite 2 installed along with a slew of legacy fonts. However, the /Library/Fonts and /System/Library/Fonts folders have been pared down in accordance with Extensis recommended practices; there are no /Library/Fonts and /System/Library/Fonts just contains System, Keyboard, LastResort, and LucidaGrande. Suitcase XI v11.0.4E loads all its fonts from a separate disk image that the users mount at login, and the extra fonts installed by Microsoft and Adobe aren't present on that disk, although all the fonts that Adobe puts in /Library/Application Support/Adobe are present.

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Fight ATSServer stall with autologin at startup
Authored by: shawnwelter on May 15, '06 11:23:02AM

Yes this is a problem with the fonts system. We believe it is mostly Suitcase related. I routinely have this problem with designer's machines but not with other machines in the company.

I do know that Extensis support did admit that Suitcase has issues with remote home directories. There is no information on their support site about this. But though testing I have confirmed that it does have issues. Unfortunately I have not found another font management program that works fully with remote home directories. Font Agent is close but have found bugs that have kept us from switching.

As to dealing with the issue we have been using Onyx to flush the caches. We are able to run this while logged in as a local administrator. We are looking at adding a Shutdown script that could clean up the problem if detected.

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Fight ATSServer stall with autologin at startup
Authored by: ExecutiveEditor on May 15, '06 01:43:10PM
That's good information. In our case, this is happening on stock machines without font-management software (beyond Font Book, of course). But it is happening only on accounts with networked home directories, so that is the common point between your situation and ours.

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Anyone care to explain ATS & ATSServer?
Authored by: jiclark on May 15, '06 10:29:28AM

Since this hint presupposes knowledge about ATS, and I have no idea what that is, could someone explain a little further?

I'm sure I'm not the only one here wondering what the details are behind this. And I attempt to support quite a few local designer types who often seem to have slow login issues due to fonts…


P.S. in the meantime, I guess I'll do a little googling…

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Fight ATSServer stall at login
Authored by: Mikey-San on May 15, '06 10:34:46AM

Months? You exaggerate severely.

Troubleshooting why this is happening to your rigs is ten times more beneficial than summarily killing a process every freaking time you lof out.

If "solutions" of this sort are someone's SOP, it's no wonder his or her boxes are having trouble.

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Fight ATSServer stall at login
Authored by: Mikey-San on May 15, '06 10:37:28AM

Gah. Damned threading. Multiple reply links/buttons == bad UI!

Anyway, the post above was meant for an earlier reply. The Internet has made me too lazy to repost it.

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Fight ATSServer stall at login
Authored by: ExecutiveEditor on May 15, '06 01:40:18PM

No, in fact, I don't exaggerate. If it happened every time the user logged in, it would be relatively simple to troubleshoot. But it doesn't. Have you ever tried to troubleshoot an intermittent problem that may be related to any one of a number of font files? On machines that are in use ten hours per day? Where you may go, as someone indicated above, two months between instances, and then have it occurs two days in a row?

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Fight ATSServer stall at login
Authored by: gabester on May 15, '06 09:21:23PM

And, the nature of this problem prevents the folks who use the machine from getting any work done, usually right when they need to get the most work done!... that's a HUGE problem. Ideally, yes, I'd troubleshoot the issue; but it never happens on a non-critical machine where I can take a full day's effort to properly diagnose the root cause of the problem. So a stop-gap that keeps them working is better than nothing.

And of course, as the support person, I am always careful about things like activating too many fonts and rarely work for hours on end on the kinds of documents that might cause these issues, so I've never experienced this problem on my own machine, and it's not just something I can MAKE happen.

Oh, the luxury of not having to worry about those who understand less than I do about computers!

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Fight ATSServer stall at login
Authored by: adrianu on May 15, '06 05:16:41PM

Yes, this is a big intermittent problem with fonts on OSX. I can't say I know exactly how it occurs - though I can say it only seemed to happen for the iMac G5s I looked after that had MS Word on them and were regularly used by several different non-admin users (i.e. different users logging in, logging out, probably several times a day)...

I think it is related to the 'corrupt font' problem when starting Word -lots of dialogs coming up saying fonts are corrupt. After reading all over the web about that issue, the workaround I put in place for it was to clear out the font caches at logout and to then restart ATSServer -very similar to the fix given above.

I found this fix also stopped the occasional login hang problems I'd seen (at least I didn't see it happen again for the following couple of months - I don't look after those machines any more).

So, roughly speaking, OSX(10.4?) + Word = dodgy fonts (cache?) --> possible login hangs due to ATS

I don't know if it's only something that shows up on machines that have different users log in regularly? Or perhaps it only needs to be a single non-admin user? -I have to admit that I've never seen it on the iMac G5 I use myself, but then I don't get to use it every day, only log in as admin, tend to keep it logged in like that day after day, nobody else logs in, and I rarely use Word, so it's not that surprising I haven't seen it...


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No remote home directories here...
Authored by: gabester on May 15, '06 09:16:30PM

The machines I see this issue on do not have remote home directories... however, the home directories for some users are not on the startup volume at /Users; rather I have followed some hints from this site to move them to another volume; this way I can readily reimage the machine in question when other weirdness, such as Adobe InDesign suddenly refusing to launch, occurs without having to worry about whether or not the day/week/month's work is backed up from the local drive. (The designers in question often don't have good organization, or are pressed for time and insufficient space on their servers to back up all work.)

So the issue would seem to occur then with fonts activated by users not located at /Users?

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Hm... don't use Word?
Authored by: gabester on May 15, '06 09:25:02PM

I too seem to have screwed up my threading on this item - my apologies. To further add to my list, I realize that I don't use Word if I can avoid it, opening .doc files in TextEdit, or, on my personal machine, OpenOffice. The folks who seem to have the most trouble are probably using Word, and the user in question is most likely NOT based in the /Users directory, being either a remote home user, FileVault user, or some other hack job!

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Fight ATSServer stall at login
Authored by: AaronMartin on Oct 17, '06 12:21:53PM

I had the same problem on an intel mini today. The system is running 10.4.8 and gets its home directory from a 10.3.9 OSX Server box. Apparently the ATSServer proc is in persistant mode under tiger as killing the process resulted in another ATSServer process starting right away and ramping quickly up to 95% cpu. I removed the cache directory as per one of the other replies and then killed the offending process. The newly spawned ATSServer had no problems and the user's login process finally completed with their desktop coming up the rest of the way
from the spotlight only menubar section.

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