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Recover from a stuck screen after log in System
Playing with Skype and iChat, my Mac froze and I had to force shut down. At the login window prompt, I typed my username and password and pressed Enter as usual, yet only the Time Machine Desktop screen (the one with the galaxy-like picture and stars of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard) showed. It stayed like that forever. Eventually I found that pressing Command-Option-Esc and waiting some 30 seconds returned me to the login screen. From there, the story repeats.

Yet that was handy to reboot or shut down without forcing shut down. Repairing disk and permissions, running DiskWarrior, resetting PRAM, etc. did not help. I even trashed the preferences for Finder, Desktop and Dock. Even replaced the full Library and Desktop folders inside the user account suffering the issue from the latest Time Machine backup. Resetting the login password (after booting from the Mac OS X DVD) did not help either. The issue remained, but amazingly only on the standard booting account, but not on another extra account created for troubleshooting. In such a case, the Mac booted fine. Weird!

Logging in with the troubleshooting account, I found that right at the time of the failed login from the standard account, Console said something about Keychain. Indeed, some caches were corrupt, but Cocktail could not fix them.

Here's how I fixed the problem...
  1. Cold boot or reboot, and after the booting chime, press Command-S to enter single-user mode (command line interface).
  2. Wait until the prompt shows, then type the following line and press the Return key.
    /sbin/fsck -fy
    Make sure to type the line exactly as shown -- you're running as the root user, and any mistakes may cause big problems. This repairs disk permissions. Run it until you see a message stating that no problems were found.
  3. Type and the following lines, pressing Return after each, and making sure to type them exactly as shown.
    $ /sbin/mount -uw /
    $ cd /Library/Preferences
    $ rm
    $ rm
    $ cd /Library/Caches
    $ rm -r *
    $ cd /System/Library
    $ rm Extensions.mkext
    $ cd /System/Library/Caches
    $ rm -r *
    $ reboot
Amazingly, the Mac should reboot and login now like a charm. Once rebooted, run Disk Utility and repair permissions on the boot disk.

Note: the single-user mode used here defaults to the USA keyboard. To type properly using non-USA keyboards, go to System Preferences » » International » Input Menu and make sure that Show the Input Menu in Menu Bar is ticked (the keyboard language flag should show on the main Finder menu).

Use said menu and an application like KeyViewer to find the appropriate keys to type the codes above. For instance, on the 'Spanish ISO' Apple Pro keyboard:
  • / is - key (after . key)
  • - is ? key (after 0 key)
  • * is Shift 8 key
[robg adds: I haven't tested this one. Note that we've run separate hints on the past about removing the windowserver.plist and deleting the Extensions.mkext file to solve other problems.]
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Recover from a stuck screen after log in
Authored by: frgough on Jul 29, '09 10:01:32AM

If you can log into another account, there's no need to boot into single user mode. Just sudo the listed commands from a terminal window.

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Recover from a stuck screen after log in
Authored by: mkennard20 on Jul 29, '09 02:53:40PM

I have found that doing a safe boot then trashing (Don't empty till next reboot) ~/Library/Preferences/ does the trick. Restart the mac and voila.

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Recover from a stuck screen after log in
Authored by: ether on Jul 29, '09 10:34:28AM
When you are running as root, the:

$ rm -r *
commands are dangerous, since if you mistyped the "cd" commands you could end up deleting almost anything (or everything). Instead of the "cd"/"rm" pairs , you can type:

$ rm -r /Library/Caches/* 
$ rm /System/Library/Extensions.mkext
$ rm -r /System/Library/Caches/*
which will make disasters slightly less probable.

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Recover from a stuck screen after log in
Authored by: Patchsmyle on Jul 29, '09 03:13:10PM

It can cause very bad things if try to delete /System/Library/Extensions.mkext while the system is running.

A much better method is to "touch" the extensions folder. The OS will see a difference in the date between /System/Library/Extensions.mkext and /System/Library/Extensions and automatically recreate the Extensions.mkext file at next boot.

Please update your article to prevent people from making the matter worse.

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Recover from a stuck screen after log in
Authored by: dethbunny on Jul 29, '09 03:35:35PM

I'm sorry, but this is well-intentioned misinformation. For example, fsck does NOT perform permission repair. Additionally, it's a good idea to reboot after it completes any and all repairs.

Pressing the force-quit keys did not resulting the logout- the login process merely timed out on itself.

This post recommends the equivalent of voodoo computer repair, taking action without understanding why. As such, I would personally regard it as bad advice.

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Recover from a stuck screen after log in
Authored by: djarsky on Jul 29, '09 07:41:01PM
In my experience, when you receive this 'stuck' screen after login, it's often a corrupt font cache. One easy way to fix this is to reboot into Safe Mode:

Reboot the computer and immediately hold the Shift key. Waiting until the login window appears with the words "Safe Mode." Log in with your username and password. Once you reach the desktop, choose Restart from the Apple menu to reboot the computer back into 'normal' mode.

There are a number of things that happen automatically during a Safe Boot including fsck running *and* the font cache will get emptied. You'll notice that it takes significantly longer to boot the machine while you are holding the Shift key.

More on SafeBoot/Safe Mode is here:


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Recover from a stuck screen after log in
Authored by: rdm on Jul 29, '09 08:37:01PM
You know, this is exactly what the free application AppleJack is for, and why I insist everyone I know install it.


AppleJack knows all the complex commands you need to type at the command prompt in single user mode to clear caches, repair permissions, check the file system, etc. I certainly don't want to try to remember them all!

[Note: I am in no way connected to the AppleJack development team.]

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