For reasons unknown, my Mac’s user account spiraled out of control. A few moments after login the MacBook Pro’s fan kicked in, mouse pointer became erratic then unresponsive, and the spinning beach ball stayed for good. Only way out of this deadlock was a hard reboot.
I only had a few moments to launch Activity Monitor to discover the Spotlight service (mdworker, etc) was pegging the CPU. Unfortunately, nothing related to Spotlight resolved the problem. Here’s what got me working again…
This is a summary of what I did and not meant as a step-by-step solution. You’ll need a decent grasp on the UNIX command line for success.
- Login as root (enable it via Directory Utility from an admin account).
- Open Terminal and create a tarball of the home folder to a destination volume with enough space: tar cvf [dest] [home-folder]; this is critical because you need hidden files not always copied by Finder.
- Create a new user account.
- Delete the contents of that (new) home folder.
- In System Preferences / Accounts, delete the problematic user account; don’t delete the home folder in case you need it later (the old home folder is renamed with the suffix “(Deleted)”).
- Rename your new user account to that of the old one.
- Untar the tarball: tar xvf [tarball] [home-folder].
- Rename the new home folder to that of your old one: mv [new-home] [old-home].
- Edit the new user account and verify it’s pointing to the new home folder.
- Ensure the new user account is the owner and has RW permission to the new home folder; may require chown -R [new-user] [home-folder].
Result? A new, and working, user account with the same configuration and files as the old one. This solution has the benefit of retaining the identical user and home folder name to avoid issues with configuration files.
There are probably variations to this process but this worked for me. I should note this was performed under OS X 10.5.1. Be sure to disable the root account when you’re finished.