Saturday, September 13, 2008

Keychain First Aid crashing on startup - explained

I was deep into it, trying to solve what looked and smelled like a permission problem. Then I ran into something even stranger. That's the story of this post. The good news for anyone finding this via Google is that the problem was weird, but the fix was trivial.

I'll begin at the end -- it's really cool to be able to migrate laptops using firwire and system migration, but it ain't worth it. This isn't the first weird problem arising from migrating from an 10.3 iBook to a 10.4 MacBook -- where the iBook started out with Mac Classic and 10.1!

In this case, after my aforementioned permissions fixes were finished, I decided to run Keychain First Aid. I went to the utilities folder (hint) and ran it. Crash. Hard. On startup. Launch again. Crash. Instantly. So hard there's not even time to log a report. So I try a few things. Change accounts (clears up various preferences corruption issues, etc). Safe boot. Nothing helps. Keychain First Aid crashes every time. Odd, because Keychain Access works fine.

Somewhere along the line I do get info to check permissions. That's when I notice the date of Keychain First Aid -- the year 2002. Yep, version 1.0:
Mac OS X: About Keychain First Aid 1.0 The Keychain First Aid utility enables you to verify or repair your keychain configuration. Keychain First Aid 1.0 Download Requirements Operating System Mac OS X 10.1 through 10.2.x
That's right, 10.2. Nowadays KFA is a part of Keychain Access, but even when I tried to run it through KA it still crashed.

I had to delete the 1.0 version to get the new version, run through Keychain Access, to work. My Keychain was fine. If memory serves, Keychain First Aid 1.0 was an optional download. It would have been installed around 2002 or so. Somehow OS updates never removed it, all the way from 10.2 to 10.5 -- maybe because it was never delivered as a standalone app with the OS.

I did a few searches on this and found old references to others running into this problem. They all seemed to solve it by basically doing a clean install. Yep, that would fix it! I bet they too inherited Keychain First Aid 1.0. No-one's ever figured out what was going on -- at least that I could find. Until now.

I'm going to do a Spotlight search for other apps and utilities dated prior to 2003, but I bet I don't find much. Bottom line - today's systems are very complex. Don't make things even harder for 'em -- do at least an archive and install upgrade (if not a clean install) and don't try using system migration. Now on to the permissions war. How do non-geeks ever keep this stuff running?

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