Fixing slow OSX startup

If you follow my Twitter or App.Net feeds, or you've read through my posts a little, you may know that I've been having an issue with extremely slow startup times on my Early 2011 MacBook Pro. I've tried repairing permissions, upgrading RAM, clearing the PRAM, removing files, everything except buying an SSD and re-installing — what? It's an expensive repair!

After upgrading to 8GB of RAM I thought that my problems would be fixed, and they kind of were - applications opened quicker, compiling code took a little less time etc, yet I still continued to face extremely slow startup times. Yesterday for example it took well over 10 minutes to turn it on.

This morning I was about to backup my MBP to a Time Machine disk and fresh install Mountain Lion as I've heard that upgrading between installs can cause issues. Last time I reinstalled OSX I had issues using a Lion disc I created, so I ended up reverting back to Snow Leopard, then instantly installing Lion plus updates and when Mountain Lion became available I installed that on top.

As I usually do, I raged about it my problems on Twitter and had a reply back from the ever useful @mr_timp who said

I Googled for some more information on booting into Verbose mode and watched my MBP boot up fairly quickly, I noticed however that it hung for a bit on an error BootCacheControl: Unable to open /var/db/BootCache.playlist. A quick Google eventually led me to booting into Single User Mode and clearing the ACL (Access Control Lists). Here is how I fixed the slow startups in the end:

  1. Restart your Mac, hold ⌘ + S which'll boot you into Single User Mode.
  2. Run fsck -y to check the boot volume's file system
  3. Next run mount -uw / which mounts the boot volume
  4. To fix the ACLs run chmod -R -N /Volumes
  5. Type reboot

Afterwards my system booted very quickly, under 20 seconds which was awesome compared to the 10 minute wait.

I then started to hurridly begin writing this blog post (I'm supposed to be getting new tyres right now) but soon after the first paragraph the keyboard and mouse both froze, I was stuck — bizarrely though it wasn't a system freeze, the cursor on Sublime Text was blinking and the time was changing — I just couldn't move.

Thankfully, @mr_timp chimed in again to save the day:

I visited the Apple site for step-by-step instructions on how to reset both PRAM/NVRAM, and after restarting my MBP seemed quicker to restart (possible?) and my keyboard/mouse started to work again!

So thank you to @mr_timp for both; saving me from buying an SSD, a trip to Manchester to see an Apple Genius and then subsequently saving me from throwing my MBP out of the window!

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