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Disk Utilities First Aid is a reasonable first step. It can repair permissions as well as diagnose and repair some problems but there are more robust utilities out there and the most robust of which is Alsoft's $100 Disk Warrior. As you can see by the interface Disk Warrior doesn't offer dozens of features; rather it offers a few features that are invaluable when the data on your hard drive is corrupted, specifically it can rebuild the hard drive's data base directory, a directory that if corrupted badly enough can cause your Mac to refuse to boot.
It can also check your files for damage and it can report on the health of your hard drive, to run it, launch it either from the Disk Warrior CD or run it from a drive other than the one that you need to diagnose. Similar to Disk Utilities First Aid you can't repair the disk you boot from. The most important test here is the directory test, this is the one you run if your Mac is misbehaving in such a way that it won't boot or it crashes consistently and we will give it a shot. We have 2 hard drives, we can't repair the drive that we start up from but we can look at hard drive too that we have it attached here.
We click rebuild, and we see what happens. During this process, Disk Warrior checks the disk for problems and rebuilds the drives directory, at the end it creates a report that compares the old directory to the new one and allows you to compare the two. Along the way it repairs any minor problems that it finds. If you see any red text that indicates that Disk Warrior has found a problem and in all likelihood has repaired that problem, currently we are looking at a detailed report, let's look at the one that's not so detailed, gives you a summary of what's been done and a lot of this stuff is really minor, text incorrect text encoding values repaired, not a big deal.
Incorrect custom icon flag again, not a big deal. Incorrect text encoding again here, not a big problem, and incorrect values in the volume information that can be a bigger problem and it is a good thing that these were fixed. Now at this point you can click Preview as I said, and you will see 2 versions, the real version of your hard drive and then the Disk Warrior version. If you want, you can compare the two to see how it would look. And finally, once you are ready to go, simply click Replace.
At this point as the sheet says Disk Warrior replaces the directory with one that it's rebuilt. If you like you can save a report or not, in this case I will choose Don't Save, and it is done. Now if Disk Warrior can't repair the drive it will tell you so, and it will then offer to let you copy any of the drive's data off to another hard drive and this is a good idea. If Disk Warrior can't fix it, it is unlikely anything else will either. Let's look at the files entry, here you can choose to check all files and folders on the drive if you care to.
We have just repaired this drive so we are not going to do it, but that's another option. And finally the hardware test this will check the drives SMART data, that's the internal diagnostic test that hard drives have on them and they all report the results, we will test the drive, this takes just a second. It says the hard drives built in SMART diagnostic indicates that the drive is functioning normally. If you see anything other than that, that the SMART test failed, it's time to get the data off that drive and retire the drive, it is not reliable at that point, and that's it.
It may not sound like much but Disk Warrior has saved my bacon on more than a couple of crucial occasion, it is a tool that every Mac user should own.
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