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Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2 Causes Boot Failures

[Update 19 June 2012: Apple has now released Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2.1, with no change in the release notes. The assumption is of course that Apple fixed the problems, but until reports start to roll in, we won’t know for sure. -Adam]

Apple last week released Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2, with the single comment that it “Adds support for the Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter.” Although it’s unclear if all Thunderbolt-equipped Macs were affected, a number of people reported that installing the update caused a variety of strange boot-related problems (kernel panics, getting stuck at the gray boot screen, “Unexpected error” messages, and more). Regardless of the details, in each case, it seems that the Mac is rendered unusable, even thunderstruck. I’ve now heard from some people for whom the update did not cause any problems, but it’s still unclear what the difference may be between those who are and are not suffering boot failures. At press time, Apple had pulled the update and not yet offered an alternative.

In all the reports I’ve seen, reinstalling Lion fixes the problem. Boot into Recovery Mode by restarting while holding down Command-R. Once booted from Lion’s hidden Recovery HD volume, you can select Reinstall Mac OS X (if there is no Recovery HD volume, or it’s damaged, most Mac models introduced since 2010 support Lion Internet Recovery, which enables them to download a new Recovery HD image and boot from that). Of course, redownloading Lion from the Mac App Store will take quite some time, depending on the speed of your Internet connection. Once you have reinstalled Lion, you’ll need to run Software Update to bring everything up to date, all while avoiding the Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2, of course.

If you happen to have a second Mac available, you can also reportedly recover by reinstalling just the Mac OS X 10.7.4 Combo Update. To do this, connect the thunderstruck Mac to your working Mac via FireWire or Thunderbolt and restart the thunderstruck Mac while holding down the T key to put it into Target Disk Mode. Then, start the update, and select the thunderstruck Mac’s boot drive at the appropriate point in the installer. For more troubleshooting techniques and recovery details, see “Take Control of Troubleshooting Your Mac, Second Edition.”

It’s likely that an update will appear soon; either way, unless you absolutely need that Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter (which works only with the MacBook Air with Thunderbolt and the just-released MacBook Pro with Retina Display anyway), there’s no reason to install this update — assuming it’s still somehow available to you — until we’ve seen a fix.

Thanks to alert reader Tom Barry for the heads-up!


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Comments about Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2 Causes Boot Failures
(Comments are closed.)

Peter Bockenhauer  2012-06-12 10:22
I had trouble booting up after the update. Finder wouldn't load and could move mouse but not click on anything. Forced shut down twice and now I'm back up and running.
Than Tibbetts  2012-06-12 10:25
Working on my second Lion Internet Recovery since last night...
Adam Bell  2012-06-12 10:29
Apparently doesn’t affect a 27" iMac -- mine booted perfectly after the upgrade and my second screen attached to one of the Tbolt ports works perfectly as well.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-06-12 10:42
I've seen some reports of people having trouble with that model. In fact, the only models I haven't seen mentioned yet are the MacBook Airs. So I don't think the base machine is the key to the pattern.
I have the 21 inch Thunderbolt iMac and got the "failed to install" message followed by nothing. So after a while I restarted and got the kernel panic screen of death!
Tom Knoff  2012-06-12 10:32
No problems on a iMac i7.
I've read (and it's in the product's description of the Apple Store's page) that this adapter only works on the newly released MacBook Airs and Pros.  So who's installing this already, and why? What are you expecting?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-06-12 10:45
Good catch on the compatibility - added that. It seems clear that almost no one needs to install this at the moment. Perhaps only those who have purchased a new MacBook Air or MacBook Pro with Retina Display at a store today.
Michael Brown  2012-06-12 11:18
Wrong. The compatibility info says
"OS X v10.7.4 or later
MacBook Air with Thunderbolt
MacBook Pro with Retina display"
So, it's compatible with *any* MacBook Air with Thunderbolt, not just the newly released ones.
"..who's installing... and why... what are you expecting?" Well, there was updates for iPhoto, AirPort Utility, Thunderbolt and some others. Why should an average user be suspicious about the Thunderbolt update?
Tom Knoff  2012-06-12 12:38
not to mention that it showed up in software update on my iMac. No problem, but I didnt install iTunes because of time.
Tim Rutter  2012-06-12 11:06
You can boot from another drive or use target mode with another Mac and reinstall the 10.7.4 Combo update again should fix it. Already done this twice.

Who tested this update?
how u reinstall the update from harddrive?
marko krevatas  2012-06-12 11:10
just got off the phone with apple tech support.. they are saying its not thunderbolt 1.2 that it is iTunes 10.6.3 update.. or a possible combination of both that a fix should be rolled out within 4 days.. not to update anything after reinstalling osx
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-06-12 14:20
Oh, that's interesting. I hadn't seen any indication that there was an interaction with iTunes before this.
Michael Brown  2012-06-12 11:14
No problems on my 13" MacBook Air (mid-2011 with Thunderbolt). As for compatibility, the adapter *is* compatible with *any* MacBook Air with Thunderbolt, not just the newly release ones.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-06-12 11:17
Thanks! Because of Apple's largely ambiguous naming schemes, it's often quite difficult to tease out what exactly is meant in compatibility notes. I've moved "just-released" to modify only the Retina display MacBook Pro. :-)
Gregg Morris  2012-06-12 11:32
I guess the bright spot is, I'm not alone. Kernel panic on reboot immediately after installing the Thunderbolt update. 15" Macbook Pro (2011). Thanks for reminding us about recovery options, Adam!
It is affecting my iMac 27 inch... this is so irresponsible... what happens? The developer playing video game with the Manager to build rapport? Or the developer read "Google Resume" to appear capable and went working for Apple?
can verify this update resulted in the gray screen of death on my mbp13 i7 with perpetual "must restart" on attempted reboots. ran disk utility booted from recovery disk then (re)applied 10.4.7 combo updater with success. very glad i didn't have to reinstall. a not so subtle reminder to BACKUP anything you don't want to risk losing forever.
Marshal  2012-06-12 13:21
I had an error after install of updates and a reboot saying update failed. I did a hard reboot, and kernel panics from there on out. I went into recovery mode and am waiting hours for Lion to download from the Apple site.
I bought the new Mac Book Air of Apple's website last night. Does that mean that it will ship with the update already installed? If so does that mean that the update will be included in the Mac OS X Lion if I try and re install it?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-06-12 16:42
There's no telling if the update will be installed - it seems likely, but you never really know until you get it. Personally, if necessary, I'd install the update right away, before you migrate data, since then reinstalling Lion is even less of a concern. And, of course, if you're not using the Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter, there's no reason to install it at all until you hear that Apple has addressed the problems.  2012-06-12 15:11
Another data point: No problems at all on my Core i5 iMac.
Tom Gossard  2012-06-12 16:28
No boot problem on the Mac Book Pro that I bought in March.

- And as far as why I would install this when I don't have Thunderbolt, I usually just trust Apple enough to check "install everything" when the software update runs. (Guess I'd better start looking more closely!)
Kernel panic on reboot 13" Macbook pro
No problem with these 2 updates on MacBook Pro 13" i5. SSD boot HD.
Tom Barry  2012-06-12 18:03
The combination of both the Thunderbolt update and the iTunes 10.6.3 update may hold some merit. That is exactly the combination in my case. I did notice that the iTunes update failed prior to the Thunderbolt update forcing a reboot. Then the kernel panic followed by the gray screen of death. My issues occurred on a 2011 MacBook Pro 15 Inch
How do you go about booting in recovery mode if your wireless keyboard will not connect?

Installed this update on 27" iMac mid 11 build, I can report I'm having the same issues as above
Tom Barry  2012-06-12 18:58
Do you have USB keyboard lying around?
Not for a Mac. God this is a pain.
It seems I am the only one here that can NOT use the Cmd-R or Option boot method to fix it. None of the keyboard combo works for me, and I've tried all of them, resetting PRAM, SMC, safe mode... Nothing worked. Just a grey screen. It seems that only one key works in my keyboard -- power :(
I'm using a mid-2010 MacBook Air 13".
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-06-13 09:34
That sounds like a hardware failure, since those keys are recognized before you even get to software boot. Sorry!
robert blunt  2012-06-12 22:39
I'm having trouble with mac mini 2011 with mission control it freezes and I can't even to a force restart.
Peter Morley  2012-06-13 01:16
Same problem on my 21" iMac. Original update errored out part way through installation and required a restart. Panic error from then on
Jane Lowe  2012-06-13 07:12
spent over 24 hours trying to rectify the situation! Not happy!!
I am trying the "Restore from Time Machine backup" Option. And it is saying 18 more hours to restore. I guess it is another day ruined. The file causing the problem is less than 1MB, yet it takes 18 hours to restore? I am already using Firewire 800 to do the restore, which is several times faster than USB 2.0
Toasted mine! Fortunately, I was able to boot from the recovery partition, reinstall Lion and was back in an hour! Incredibly frustrating though!
Question: I have the dreaded kernel panic and my iMac is now at Apple. Did I lose all my data? [yesterday, I did the right thing and finally bought an external drive]
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-06-13 11:30
No, there have been no reports of lost data. Reinstalling Mac OS X replaces the bad code and lets it work properly again - nothing else on the hard disk should have been affected. Or at least that's my understanding.
Thanks for putting my mind at ease. Just hung up with Apple. Machine is still with a tech, so I don't know for sure whether my data is lost. I hate that I had to learn the hard way how important it is to backup!
My macBook Pro late 2011 crashed after applying the update and would not boot up at all, had to restore from a backup
Dave Hay  2012-06-13 12:18
Just checked Software Update on a 2008/9 Macbook Pro, and I do NOT see the Thunderbolt update, which makes sense as (a) it's been pulled or (b) Software Update is smart enough to know that I do NOT have a Thunderbolt port on this ageing MBP
Dave Hay  2012-06-13 12:33
For the record, these are the updates that I'm being offered: -

iTunes 10.6.3
Java for OS X 2012-004
AirPort Utility
I also just noticed that the thunderbolt update is no longer included, with my updates on my late 2011 MacBook pro
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-06-13 14:11
Yes, Software Update is smart enough to know not to install software if the associated hardware isn't present.
MY MacBook Pro does have a thunderbolt port
After reinstalling is on my Mac pro 2011 I still reach kernel screen. Spoke with senior apple advisor last night and he is calling me back tonight for what he explains are more options.
Etan Greenbaum  2012-06-14 02:35
Looks like Apple pulled the update. Cannot get it to show up on my 2011 Air with Thunderbolt, and I even have the new adapter plugged in. Hope they can fix this soon so I can use my new Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-06-14 07:51
Yes, I was able to verify late yesterday that it was pulled too... Best that way - hope to see a fix soon as well.
Fortunately, the problem didn't affect data or user accounts. I wrote an article at Mac Edition Radio describing the issue, fix and other considerations:

Yikes! Zapped by Thunderbolt Software Update
Richard Costanzo  2012-06-14 18:02
Adam, I'm still running SL so I know I must be missing something. I'm curious as to why no one seems to have had an external drive with a clone back up to just restore their OS exactly the way it was before they downloaded the bad update?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-06-14 18:18
That's certainly one approach, but I don't think it's particularly common. In this case it would have been perfect, but often it's the case where problems don't become obvious until you've done some work and then you have to figure out how to restore from backup and get the interim work back separately.
robert blunt  2012-06-14 22:56
after fighting with the update with thunder chicken on monday night, I finally had to reinstall Lion its taken me about 2 hours and seems to be doing better now
Tonya Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-06-15 10:47
It is going to take a while for me to see "Thunderbolt" and not think "Thunder Chicken". :-)
iPhoto still crashes - had the kernel panic crash then did the combo update to fix it. However, I can't get iPhoto to run, crashes on launch. Guys at Apple store couldnt fix it. Help!
how did u fix with combo update?