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When all else fails, reinstall — maybe. Recently, I started having problems with my iMac and preference settings. Changes wouldn’t stick. Some settings wouldn’t even let me make a change. Repair permissions — didn’t work. I finally decided to just quit fooling around and reinstall the system.

I tried using the Restore partition created during the original install, but guess what? It wants to do a complete download from the App Store server. Wait a minute? Wasn’t the purpose of the Restore partition to avoid the lengthy download of that lovely system software installer? And the need for Installer Disks? Yeah, right. While it might be great for doing disk repairs, it will never cut it for reinstalling the system. Especially when it had to ask for the password to my router — several times.

As I’ve written before, prior to installing Mavericks on either of my computers, I copied the installer file to a flash drive. I copied the file back from the flash drive, saving several hours of download time. After the reinstall, it was time to run updates. Did it fix the problem? Not this time. Did I have a recent backup to restore from? Only Time Machine.

I didn’t need a full restore, just some preference files in the home library, but Time Machine can’t replace preference files on the boot disk. Try it from a different Administrator account? Nope. It won’t even ask for authorization.

I finally found the plist file that was causing most of the trouble and trashed it. Unfortunately, I forgot to restart the computer after I trashed it the first time. Rookie mistake. (I blame it on the fact that I had a plumber under foot all day. And no water for part of the day. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) Once I trashed it again, then restarted, most of the problems were gone. There’s still one nagging problem, but it’s minor enough that I’ll ignore it for now.

Lesson learned? The full backup that you really need is the one you forgot to make. Time Machine is great for restoring occasional files or setting up a new machine, but when it comes to anything to do with the system, give me a cloned backup to pick through. New Year’s resolution? Update my cloned backup more frequently. Have you backed up your files lately?

Have a safe and Happy New Year.

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  • stevenjklein

    Phyllis asks, “Wasn’t the purpose of the Restore partition to avoid the lengthy download of that lovely system software installer? And the need for Installer Disks?”

    The answers are no to the former, but yes to the latter. The recovery partition, and roughly 600MB, is simply too small to contain the full installer. It contains a few basic utilities, and the ability to download the OS from Apple.

    This is documented in this support article: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4718

    The relevant sentence: “In order to reinstall OS X, you need to be connected to the Internet over an Ethernet or Wi-Fi network.”

    Hope this explanation is helpful.