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Beyond HFS+ Nightmares

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- 12 October 1998 - Tip Jar

In HFS+ Nightmares, I wrote, "I sincerely hope my experiences with HFS+ are not typical." Feedback from dozens of readers confirms that it isn't.

For the most part, users have had no problem switching to HFS+, but a small percentage have experienced similar problems. This article shares their findings, which I have not yet attempted to verify. However, I do intend to give HFS+ another try when I can invest a day in making the switch.

But next time, I'll budget enough time to try a lot of different solutions, inclulding all those suggested below. (Some are far from intuitive.)

Software conflict

The most common suggestion is a software conflict, most likely an extension or control panel. This is usually the first place to look, but with the number of extensions on my computer, I simply didn't have the time.

One writer specifically noted that disabling PC Exchange had solved the problem on one computer. Another solved the problem by turning off Crash Guard, Disklight, and FileSaver, utilities that came with Norton 3.5.

Don't run Norton

A surprising number said not to run Norton Utilities 4.0 unless I was having problems. In many years of running Norton Utilities (going back to 1.0), I've never had Norton cause a problem.

Then again, Norton 4.0 is brand new. Although very heavily tested, there's a slim chance it was causing problems.

On the other hand, I was also using Norton to try to fix a problem - but it didn't detect any problem with files, media, or drive structure.

Bad prefs

A surprising number of writers suggested a damaged preference file might be causing the problem. In particular, many mentioned Finder Prefs as a culprit on their computer.

This would be the easiest thing to try: trash Finder Prefs and restart. But if it is the problem, I wonder why it only occurs with HFS+ but not good old HFS.

Zap the PRAM

A good number of readers said zapping the PRAM (cmd-opt-p-r or use TechTool) solved their problem after moving to HFS+. Frankly, this hadn't occurred to me at all. After reading an article from an Apple technician that zapping the PRAM rarely solved anything, I've just about stopped using it unless the problem is related to data that might be stored in the PRAM (date & time, startup disk, network connection, etc.).

But several readers did zap the PRAM and solve their HFS+ problem.

Don't boot from HFS+

One reader suggested always booting from an HFS partition and only using HFS+ on other drives and partitions. It's not practical in my situation, since almost 1GB of my 1.2GB drive is my boot, application, and work partition. I would gain very little using HFS+ on 100 MB and smaller partitions.

Apple Menu Items

I know this one isn't causing my problem, since I use MenuChoice 2.1 instead of Apple Menu Items. But one reader said that he only solved his HFS+ problem by wiping out all the aliases created by Apple Menu Items.

Don't run virtual memory on HFS+

Another reader noted his problem disappeared when he turned off virtual memory. I've seen several recommendations that if you use virtual memory, it should be on a HFS partion, not HFS+.

Then again, I'm not using VM, so it won't solve my problem.

Where from here?

I do want to move to HFS+, which will free about 10% of the space on my 1GB partition. Since I'm usually below 100 MB free, that will double free space. (And I'll want to do it on my 2.1GB drive at home, too.)

But at this point, I think I'll wait until we get Mac OS 8.5 to make the next attempt. At least I have a good list of things to check if the problem returns.

Thanks to the dozens of readers who wrote with their suggestions.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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