So, I was an idiot.
I got so excited about the Mac OS X Lion features that Apple was touting that I downloaded and installed the developer preview of the new OS. That’s not idiotic. What was idiotic, though, was that I installed the Lion preview on my main machine. On its sole partition.
Stupid, stupid Lex.
Don’t get me wrong: Lion is awesome. Or, more accurately, Lion clearly shows indications that it will be all kinds of awesome. But right now, it’s still a developer preview. Which means, it's not yet an officially released Apple product.
After some time with Lion as my primary OS, it was time for me to go back to an officially released and supported operating system instead. Again, let me stress—there’s plenty to love in Lion. The features that Apple has touted for Lion work great. But as befits an unreleased product, it’s not ready for primetime, and I’d given it the 8pm Thursday slot on my Mac. It was negatively impacting my ability to work and get things done.
I was ready to admit defeat, by which I meant downgrading back to sweet, stable Snow Leopard (and then potentially reinstalling Lion on a separate partition, like I should have done in the first place).
I grabbed my Snow Leopard install disc and prepared to begin anew.
And then my MacBook Pro told me that I couldn’t install Snow Leopard anymore. You can’t install it on top of Lion. I uttered various profanities, but quietly enough that my kids couldn’t hear.
But I knew there had to be a solution.
I launched Disk Utility and created a second partition on my Mac, upon which I then installed Snow Leopard. When Snow Leopard booted up, it asked if I wanted to run the Migration Assistant. I said yes; I should have said no. My Mac copied oodles of stuff from one partition to the other. But then when Snow Leopard finally started up completely, it wouldn’t let me into my account. I had to restart from the Snow Leopard disc again and run its Reset Password utility. That worked.
Then, since I trusted my backups, and since I had just (mostly needlessly) copied all of my files from one partition to the other anyway, I decided to play with fire. While booted into Snow Leopard on the new partition, I went to the main Lion partition and deleted the System folder. More accurately, I just dragged it to the trash. I wanted to rename it instead, but permissions issues were making that a challenge.
I rebooted from the Snow Leopard disc again and attempted to install that OS on my Lion partition. The installer ran! It no longer complained that it couldn’t install Snow Leopard on top of Lion, which was good news.
Finally, it was time to reboot on my main partition.
Instant kernel panic.
More profanities. Still quietly uttered, of course.
I could still boot up to the secondary Snow Leopard partition, which I did. I poked around the main partition and saw that everything looked right, even though things were clearly amiss. Then I decided to try installing Snow Leopard on the main partition a second time.
When that process completed, the Mac restarted, and this time it indeed booted into Snow Leopard successfully on the main partition! Hooray!
At the login screen, though, it rejected my password for my account. I rebooted again from the install disc, and again ran the Password Reset utility, and again restarted the Mac on its main partition. And again, for some reason, it rejected my password. After another reboot from the Snow Leopard install disc, I ran the Password Reset utility another time, and reset the password for the root account too.
For whatever reason, while resetting my main account’s password continued to prove ineffective, I managed to log in as root, and Snow Leopard worked on my main partition. Mostly. Enough that I went ahead and removed the secondary partition and gave that space back to my main (and now sole) partition again.
But every time OS X wanted me to authenticate, it continued to reject my main account’s username and password, even when I reset and verified them in System Preferences. I’d instead need to type in a username (root) and my root password. Which sucked, and meant lots of extra authenticating.
Eventually, I turned off my main account’s administrative rights, and then turned them back on and restarted. Ta-da!
That restored my ability to log in as my Lex Friedman account. So now my Mac is 99% back to normal, running from a nice fresh Snow Leopard install with a freshly-applied combo updater to boot. The only residual weirdness is that it doesn’t seem to remember to rejoin my Airport network upon wake from sleep, but that’s a problem for another day.
The moral of the story, in case I haven’t made this abundantly clear, is don’t be an idiot: install pre-release versions of operating systems on unimportant computers or unimportant partitions.
In other words: Yes, Dan Moren. I should have listened to you.