Kernel panics with OS X 10.8.2 on 2009 Mac Pro with NVIDIA GeForce GT 120

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
September 20th, 2012 • 3:31 pm

Remember the good old days when your Mac would experience a hard crash at least once a day, if not more?

Well, it looks like I am back in this familiar territory with OS X 10.8.2 on my 2009 Mac Pro. It started with early builds of 10.8.2 that I obtained as part of my AppleSeed membership. All of a sudden, I started experiencing regular kernel panics, i.e. complete system failures.

I haven’t added any new hardware to my configuration in recent weeks, so 10.8.2 is the only obvious suspect. And the contents of the kernel panic log look suspicious to me:

      Kernel Extensions in backtrace:
         com.apple.NVDAResman(8.0)[A4C53A36-22B6-3075-82B9-9DE612A9C015]@0xffffff7f91f28000->0xffffff7f9222afff
            dependency: com.apple.iokit.IOPCIFamily(2.7.1)[9901C237-547C-3B52-99DE-C4870A19E2B5]@0xffffff7f91e96000
            dependency: com.apple.iokit.IONDRVSupport(2.3.5)[86DDB71C-A73A-3EBE-AC44-0BC9A38B9A44]@0xffffff7f91f14000
            dependency: com.apple.iokit.IOGraphicsFamily(2.3.5)[803496D0-ADAD-3ADB-B071-8A0A197DA53D]@0xffffff7f91ed1000
         com.apple.GeForce(8.0)[2E56ED9A-D848-3795-9E52-56BABDC9000C]@0xffffff7f92d63000->0xffffff7f92e25fff
            dependency: com.apple.NVDAResman(8.0.0)[A4C53A36-22B6-3075-82B9-9DE612A9C015]@0xffffff7f91f28000
            dependency: com.apple.iokit.IONDRVSupport(2.3.5)[86DDB71C-A73A-3EBE-AC44-0BC9A38B9A44]@0xffffff7f91f14000
            dependency: com.apple.iokit.IOPCIFamily(2.7.1)[9901C237-547C-3B52-99DE-C4870A19E2B5]@0xffffff7f91e96000
            dependency: com.apple.iokit.IOGraphicsFamily(2.3.5)[803496D0-ADAD-3ADB-B071-8A0A197DA53D]@0xffffff7f91ed1000
         com.apple.iokit.IOSurface(86.0.3)[578CEAAD-1465-3B29-B34F-09586288ED88]@0xffffff7f9299c000->0xffffff7f929adfff

It’s the same each and every time. This, to me, suggests that the kernel panic involves my graphics card, or rather cards, since I have two NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 cards on my Mac Pro driving my two 30″ Apple Cinema monitors. (The two cards were installed as part of the custom configuration that I ordered from Apple.) Discussions with other AppleSeed members seem to indicate that these drivers were recently updated, although that’s not clear just from looking at the .kext files in the system files. All I can see if that the 10.8.2 update appears to involve updates to at least these three files:

IOGraphicsFamily.kext
IONDRVSupport.kext
IOPCIFamily.kext

On my machine, they were last modified this morning at 8:23, i.e. when I installed the final build of the 10.8.2 update. They probably were updated in previous builds as well.

It is rather disappointing to be reminded of an era when system crashes were a daily occurrence. Thankfully, the combination of my use of a SSD for my startup volume and of Mountain Lion’s ability to reopen all applications and document windows that were open at the time of the crash means that, after a kernel panic, I am typically back up and running within a few minutes. But still… Not all applications support Mountain Lion’s features, and there are a number of things that have to be restored or reopened manually each and every time. And if I was in the middle of downloading a large file, I have to start all over again.

Of course, I cannot be entirely sure that issue was really introduced in OS X 10.8.2. Maybe it’s a sudden failure of one of my graphics card, that just happens to coincide with this latest update. But I find this rather improbable.

I also suspect that Apple’s engineers would advise me to do a clean install of OS X. But in fact last week, when I was experiencing kernel panics in the middle of an important project, I did just that, and ran the Mountain Lion installer (10.8.0) again, and then applied an early 10.8.2 combo installer that was a build with which I had not experienced any KPs for several days. So in effect I did do a fresh install of the OS. Unfortunately, I still experienced a kernel panic with that build as well a couple of days later, so I ended up reinstalling the latest 10.8.2 build on top of it anyway.

So here we are. I now have a KP every other day on average, and it’s annoying. It’s not connected to a specific application that I might be using and that might make heavy use of the graphics card’s processing power. I get KPs while I am writing Mail, working in Pages ’09, etc. I am really afraid I am going to have to live with this situation for quite a while. Not an encouraging prospect…


5 Responses to “Kernel panics with OS X 10.8.2 on 2009 Mac Pro with NVIDIA GeForce GT 120”

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