Monday, September 8, 2008

Mac OS X boots to a spotlight icon (blue and white magnifying glass) in top right

If you're running a Mac and all of a sudden reboot one day to find that your desktop won't load and all you   get is a Spotlight icon (the blue and white magnifying glass that usually sits in the top right of your window), don't get worried right away. I've seen this happen many times, and typically it's a simple fix. Here's what you do:

1. Shut the computer off. You may have to hold down the power button for a while since the computer will seem stuck or frozen
2. Once the computer is off, press the power button, then right after, hold down Shift on the keyboard. Holding Shift while the computer is booting up causes it to boot into Safe mode, which is a really good way to diagnose problems.
3. You may have to hold down Shift for quite a while. If it's been 5-10 minutes and you still haven't seen any progress, go ahead and let go. Sometimes it won't progress while the key is still pressed
4. You should get to the login screen, but you'll see Safe Mode in red. This is fine. Sign in like you normally would.
5. This should load your desktop like normal. If it does, then your problem is solved. However, before you continue working, restart your computer again and let it boot into normal mode. Each time I've had a computer boot in safe mode, the next normal boot works like usual too.

That's the easy fix for the problem. There can be other reasons and fixes for it, so feel free to leave comments with your own experiences. I'd say those 5 steps have worked 90% of the time for me though, so hopefully your odds are at least as good. Restarting from the CD and using Disk Utility to repair file permissions is an alternative option if this doesn't work, so go ahead and give that a try too.

1 comment:

J.J. said...

I've had this happen on a number of machines at my office, as well. If the problem persisted, I would dump a few preference files out of the Library (being careful not to toss out anything too important). But, that has seemed to help the problem.