I thought in the spirit of Halloween I would talk about some rather scary things to see on your mac. The kernel panic isn’t that sensation when you realize you are out of candy corn, but rather a system message telling you that something went wrong.
What is a kernel panic:
A kernel panic is an error that occurs you guessed it, in the kernel of the system. For those not familiar with UNIX based operating system the kernel is the core of the system and such errors tend to be rather severe and will interrupt that game of solitaire that you were playing. When an unexpected instruction to the processor is received it sends you a message in a black (or grey) box telling you to restart your computer. It also includes other languages just to keep you in practice with the german you learned in grade 12. Some times it gives you strings of white text with a black background across the top of your screen.
What to do when you get one:
Unlike the name, you should not be the one panicking. Whenever a kernel panic happens it generates a log that includes the error message to help in diagnosing the problem. It is called Panic.log and is found in /library/logs/ The one real benefit of this log is it date stamps every time it happens so you can see the frequency of it. Frequent kernel panics is a sign of a hardware issue that should be resolved. I have had a random kernel panic in my processing of ipods but not every kernel panic is a sign of the apocalypse as there are many causes for a kernel panic. Simply restart and see if it happens again.
How can you fix a kernel panic:
As I mentioned there is many causes for that pesky black box of death (System crashes: Not just for Windows anymore). The most common (and easiest to fix) is caused by bad ram. One of the first steps in isolating the problem is to take out any 3rd party ram and swap for good ram. Also, disconnect peripherals such as that used ipod you bought on ebay. A kernel panic at startup could be a sign that there are bad sectors on your hard drive. If the system can boot off a CD or an external drive you isolated it to the hard drive. If ram, peripherals, and the hard drive are all ruled out the logic board is the culprit and that is a pesky repair in your future.
Don’t panic, and don’t forget your towel (RIP Douglas Adams)