The Snow Leopard Pixelated (Fuzzy) Icon Bug – Possible Fix?

I wrote a post a while back about the problem I was getting with pixelated (fuzzy) icons under Snow Leopard. As soon as you start to use more than a few, the icons become fuzzy – almost like they’re enlarged versions of low-res icons. Sometimes a reboot will temporarily fix the problem, and sometimes using a utility to clear caches can also help, but it’s usually short-lived. If the Apple Support pages are anything to go by, it’s a common problem affecting quite a few people and there’s no fix in sight from Apple.

After a little research (thanks to ‘steepleton’ in the Apple Discussion Forums), I might have found a fix. It’s early days but I tried this about 5 hours ago and all my custom icons are still fine whereas normally they would have been fuzzy within 5-10 minutes of a reboot. Now before I go any further – a warning. The fix involves deleting a hidden system file that Apple probably didn’t envisage people messing with. On the plus side, OS X will recreate this file from scratch after you delete it, but it’s worth noting that while I haven’t experienced any undesirable side-effects on my Mac, your mileage may vary. So… don’t say I didn’t warn you 😉

The fix involves removing a file called thumbnails.data which is located inside a folder called com.apple.QuickLook.thumbnailcache on your Mac. Now, the path to this file seems to vary slightly because on my Mac Pro I found it in the following location:

<bootdisk>/private/var/folders/+h/+hEv5zBBEWiHP7q4dTC3WU+++TI/-caches/com.apple.QuickLook.thumbnailcache

On my Mac Mini the path was almost the same except the +h… part (shown in red) had a different name. The best way to locate the file is to use something like Find Any File. It’s an excellent utility by Thomas Tempelmann that let’s you search for files, including ones that Spotlight doesn’t index (which will be the case with thumbnails.data. Although there’s a free version, I highly recommend you get it from the new Mac App Store as it’s a great way to track down things on your Mac that Spotlight doesn’t help you with.

Anyway, back to the matter in hand… Once you’ve located the file you’ll need to navigate to it with your preferred file manager. If you’re using Finder then you’ll need to go to the View menu and turn on the setting that says ‘Show System Files’. If (like me) you use Path Finder then you go to the View menu and select ‘Show Invisible Files’. Having done that, navigate to the thumbnails.data file and copy it to a temporary folder somewhere – a temporary folder inside your Documents folder is probably a good place. Having done that, delete the original file and then empty your Trash. Next, reboot your Mac and everything should look just how it should be – custom icons and all.

I noticed that in my case, the thumbnails.data file was almost 370Mb in size before I deleted it. The new thumbnails.data file that OS X has created for me is under 35Mb and that’s after 5 hours since a reboot and with me exploring every folder I can think of to check on my custom icons. Obviously once you’re happy that everything is working ok, you can delete the copy of the old thumbnails.data file that you made.

I’m hoping that the fix continues to work, and if it does work even for a few days or weeks then I’ll be happy. I hope it works for you too, but as I mentioned above, do proceed with caution because this is an OS X system file that your fiddling with. To be doubly sure, I’d make a full backup of your Mac before trying this. Oh and one last point – when you’ve finished, it’s a good idea to turn off the ‘Show System Files’ option in Finder (or Path Finder) so that system files are once again hidden.

Good luck!

Icons Fine Again

No more fuzzy icons! (For now)

Upgrading the disk in a LaCie d2 Quadra

Following on from my post about upgrading one of the internal drives in my 2008 Mac Pro, I moved on to upgrading the disk inside my LaCie d2 Quadra external drive this morning. Once again pretty straightforward thanks to SuperDuper, my Voyager Q and a Philips screwdriver. If you’ve got one of these LaCie drives and you’d like more space for whatever reason (and the existing drive is out of warranty), then dive in because in less than ten minutes you’ll be enjoying lots more free space.

The LaCie d2 Quadra is a solid and well constructed external unit which actually makes replacing the drive inside it very easy because all the parts are machined to fit together just so. You won’t be struggling with screw holes that don’t line up or bendy bits of plastic as the case is a nicely machined piece of aluminium (or aluminum depending on your side of the Atlantic!).

1. Ok first step is to remove the four screws at the back of the unit. You’ll discover that these screws hold on both the back and front bezels as they go right the way through the case!

(Click images to enlarge)

2. Having removed the front and rear bezels, next remove the thin masking plate that covers the ports on the rear of the device. Take care to do this gently and to not bend it.

3. Turn the unit on it’s side and remove the two screws that hold the internal assembly in place.

4. Now you can slide out the whole internal assembly which is basically a mounting plate, a circuit board and the drive itself.

5. Turn the assembly over and remove the four screws that hold the drive onto the mounting plate.

6. Next you can gently slide the drive off the SATA connector. I found the best way to do this was to just rock the drive slightly from side to side while gently pulling it.

7. From here on in it’s pretty much a case of reversing the procedure starting by gently sliding the new drive on to the SATA connector then re-attaching it to the mounting plate. The screws really don’t have to be that tight as the drive barely vibrates and isn’t going anywhere once re-fitted.

New drive fitted and ready to go back in the case.

8. Slide the whole internal assembly back into the case, making sure that the two screw holes on the side of the assembly line up with their corresponding holes in the side of the case.

9. Secure the assembly inside the case using the two screws on the side.

10. Replace the masking plate over the ports at the back, again taking care not to bend it.

11. Replace the front and back bezels and secure them in place using the four long case screws.

Everything back as it was, only with more space!

That’s it, pretty straight forward eh? The procedure for cloning my existing 1.5Tb drive in the LaCie on to the new 2Tb disk was much the same as for the internal drive upgrade I just did. I popped the 2Tb drive into my Voyager Q, created a single Mac OS Extended (journalled) partition with a unique name then used SuperDuper to copy everything from the existing LaCie drive to the new one. Finally I ejected both drives, did the hardware swap, powered up the LaCie with the new drive inside and renamed the volume back to the original name (so that I don’;t have to change any backup routines, etc).

Choice of Hard Disk Drive

It’s worth noting that the LaCie d2 Quadra is a passively cooled drive enclosure, i.e. there is no fan to pull air through it. For this reason I have stuck with a Western Digital ‘Green’ SATA hard disk – the WD20EARS SATA 3Gb/s 3.5inch IntelliPower 2Tb 64Mb to be exact. I have used WD Green drives before and found them to be both very quiet and not too hot, plus they are plenty fast enough for data and backup drives like the LaCie.

Update 05/December/2012

I have been using Western Digital ‘GREEN’ drives in both my Lacie Quadra (Firewire) drive and in a number of Synology NAS devices. While they have performed well, I have had two failures out of eight drives in the past year – that’s a 25% failure rate. These have not been catastrophic failures resulting in data loss, rather drive errors found by software like Drive Genius or S.M.A.R.T. utilities. Western Digital make it very easy to return drives, they have a long warranty period and seem to be very quick at replacing drives without any argument, so I am happy to continue using WD drives. However, I am now looking at moving from their ‘GREEN’ drives to their ‘RED’ drives for storage that is external to my Mac Pro. The ‘RED’ drives are around 25% more expensive than the ‘GREEN’ drives, e.g. current price of a 2Tb RED drive on Amazon UK is £90 compared with £74 for a 2Tb GREEN drive, but the RED drives are optimised for NAS and external storage as opposed to power saving.

Upgrading drives on a Mac Pro – childs play

Voyager QWhat with all the American TV shows that I’m obliged to store (for the ladies that like that kind of stuff), the 1Tb data drive on my 2008 Mac Pro was starting to look a little squeezed. So, I dropped the cash for a new 2Tb SATA drive and set about the upgrade, and I have to say it was easy as pie (largely thanks to my Voyager Q). The whole process went something like this:

  1. Pop the new 2Tb drive into my Voyager Q and use Disk Utility to format it as a single 2Tb partition (Mac OS Extended Journalled) with a volume name of DataDrive2.
  2. Using SuperDuper, copy my existing DataDrive in it’s entirety to DataDrive2. The Voyager Q is connected via Firewire 800 to the Mac Pro but the copy still took over 5 hours.
  3. Once the copy is completed, remove the new drive from the Voyager Q and attach it to a spare Mac Pro ‘sledge’ (drive carrier) that I have.
  4. Take the side off the Mac Pro and slide out the existing DataDrive and slide in the new DataDrive2.
  5. Boot up the Mac and relabel DataDrive2 to DataDrive.

Actually, while I had the side off the Mac Pro I decided to take it outside on to the patio and give the inside a good clean with a can of compressed air and a soft brush. As for the Voyager Q, it’s a really handy device if you ever mess around with 2.2.5″ or 3.5″ drives, and it just gives you such great flexibility when upgrading drives. It connects via USB 2.0, Firewire 800 or eSATA and I usually have a 1Tb scratch disk in it. In fact you can ‘warm’ swap the drive in it just by ejecting the drive in Finder or Disk Utility then physically ejecting the disk from the Voyager Q and dropping in a different one. OS X will then happily see the new drive and mount it, or tell you it needs to be initialized (if it’s a brand new drive).

As for SuperDuper, I use it every day for doing backups of my system partition, and the partition with my VMware virtual machine images, and it’s been a godsend. I’d highly recommend it.

Next on my list of things to do is to upgrade my Lacie d2 Quadra by putting a new 2Tb drive in that. Once this is done, I’ll have two spare 1Tb drives and two spare 1.5Tb drives and I was planning on getting a Drobo to slot these all into as a dumping ground for my video collection when I start ripping all my DVDs. However, I’m starting to lean towards a four bay Synology instead. While it lacks the hot swap capability of the Drobo, it’s so much more than just a plain NAS device plus it supports hybrid RAID using different sized disks, rather like the Drobo. I already have a Synology DS210j and it’s brilliant for both backing up to as well as making photos, music and video accessible to the Mac Mini and the PS3 in the lounge. Just need to save up first!

Tech Specs

In case you’re wondering, I use a Mac Pro (early 2008), 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon, 12Gb RAM, 1 x WD Caviar Black 1Tb drive (system partition & VM partition), 1 x WD Caviar Green 1Tb drive (system drive clone & VM drive clone), 1 x WD Green 2Tb (data drive), 1 x WD Green 2Tb drive (Time Machine). In hindsight I would have gone for the 2 x Quad-Core but I was trying to keep costs down when I made the initial purchase. Shame Apple doesn’t really support upgrading this machine to dual Quad-Cores after purchase.

So why 12Gb RAM? Well I run VMware Fusion 3.x and can run up four Windows virtual machines simultaneously, each with 2Gb of RAM and still have 4Gb left for Snow Leopard. I do remote support and having 4 VMs open at once allows me to switch between different client VMs very quickly. I would struggle to set up and run 4 Windows clients like this on any other platform so easily.