Two weeks later and my PowerBook’s running again. If you’re not interested in the gory details, which are more for my therapy than your entertainment, you can stop reading here.
Disk Utility and fsck (essentially the same thing) showed up lots of errors that indicated there were overlapping files. A Bad Thing they couldn’t fix, and every write to the disk could have made the problem worse. I had backups, but from a few weeks ago and, crucially, not containing a weekend of work on my new Secret Project. So, after asking around for advice, I bought DiskWarrior to fix the problems and hard drive to copy salvaged documents on to.
The DiskWarrior CD, which boots into OS 9, let me copy all my documents onto the drive. But some of the corrupted files were part of the System so a fresh install of OS X was called for. I did this (I’d forgotten how long it takes to install and update the thing) but had problems whenever the hard drive was switched on — failure to boot, failure to shutdown, freezing etc. I then noticed a post on Macintouch that suggested the standard LaCie firmware might not be compatible with OS X 10.2.2 and there was an updater that fixed the problem. Unfortunately the updater only works in OS 9 and I hadn’t installed this.
So I wiped my internal drive again, installed OS 9, update it, upgraded the external drive’s firmware, installed OS X, updated it and things were better. A little. I managed to mount the external drive’s partitions, but as soon as I tried to copy anything off it the system froze again. Great. So I copied my backup back to the PowerBook by booting into OS 9 but I’m now stuck with a drive that doesn’t seem to work properly with OS X. I’ve spent several days fiddling and installing and upgrading software now and am very, very tired of it.