Thursday, November 01, 2018

An iMac and the Mojave Update

"What did you do to the computer?"  That question from my wife was the first indication that we had a problem.

We have an iMac that's two years old and had been running well.  The previous day, we had a notification from Apple that we should update to the new OS, called Mojave.  Earlier updates hadn't been much of a problem, so that evening, I started the update.  Several hours later, when we were calling it a night, I checked and the progress bar showed about 75%.  Slow, but these updates were slow sometimes, so no problem.

The next morning, though, it was still at 75%.  No progress at all over 10 or so hours.  I did a bit of research on my old Dell and there were recommendations on restarting the process.  So I shut the iMac down and restarted it.  And discovered major, major issues.  Boot time was about 15 minutes.  Once booted, it didn't recognize the keyboard and mouse for a long time.  When it finally did, the response time to a mouse click or keyboard entry could be 30 seconds or more.  I rebooted and it was the same.  So I started looking at how to dump the Mojave update and revert to the previous operating system and quickly discovered that it was going to be beyond my skill level.  I shut the computer down, unplugged it, and hauled it off to Charlotte Street Computers.  This is Asheville's best Mac store and repair shop and we've had super service out of them before.

Even our technician at Charlotte Street had problems with our computer.  First, he verified that our hardware was all working correctly.  Then he tried the usual assortment of tricks and fixes, but nothing worked.  The next step was to duplicate all our data, wipe the drive, reformat, and do a fresh install of either High Sierra (the previous OS) or Mojave.  I decided on Mojave, since it'll have to be done sooner or later, anyway, so why not have a pro do it?  Except this fresh install of Mojave didn't work, either.  It was still incredibly slow and acted up.  More research by the tech indicated that Mojave seems to have been designed for computers with solid-state drives instead of hard drives.  Hard drives are spinning discs and, while they operate extremely fast, they can only do one thing at a time.  Mojave wants to the processors to access the drive multiple times simultaneously.  No problem for a solid-state drive, but impossible for hard drives.

So I decided to upgrade to a solid-state drive.  Our tech did the installation, ran some tests that showed it was running as designed, then migrated all our data back onto the new drive.  While he was at it, he took our old drive and mounted it in an external case to use as our backup drive.  Great!

The only remaining issue seemed to be that all our passwords were gone.  I'd have to re-set our computer and application passwords, and we'd have to re-set all our internet passwords when we visited various sites.  A bit of an annoyance, but not a problem.

So I took the computer home and, over the course of a couple of hours, discovered that there were till two problems.  One was that my mail application didn't want to work at all.  It did for Janis's account and for the tech's, but not mine.  The other was that the computer didn't see the ethernet port anymore.  Wifi worked, but not the ethernet.  Back to Charlotte Street.  Our now-harried tech fixed the mail problem (a known issue with Mac upgrades), but couldn't for the life of him figure out why the ethernet port wasn't working.  So he gave us a Thunderbolt-to-ethernet connection (Thunderbolt is another port on Macs, apparently; I have no idea what it's all about).  I picked up the computer again yesterday and set it up again at home.  Knock on wood, everything seems to be just fine now.

According to our tech, this Mojave update has been fraught with problems.  It was really bad when first released a couple of months ago and has gradually gotten better, but it is still problematic, as we just proved.  This was NOT a well-designed Apple update.  They released it too early and didn't think some things through.  The hard drive issue, for example.  Apple's poor development work wound up costing me about $350, five days, and a lot of heartburn.  So for all the Mac users out there, think twice before jumping on the Mojave update.  Wait several more months before trying it, and be prepared to take your computer to a pro if it crashes.  So far, I haven't seen anything that jumps out at me as a major step forward from the older OS, so I can't say this was all worth it.