Mac OS X’s Finder: Now saves open windows in real time?

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
January 7th, 2010 • 3:45 pm

It used to be that Mac OS X’s Finder application would only save its current status—i.e. its currently open windows, along with each window’s size and position—when quit.

Since Mac OS X’s Finder does not have a “Quit Finder” command in its application window, the only way to quit it is to go through the Activity Monitor application (where you can select the “Finder” process and click on the “Quit Process” toolbar button) or to use a third-party utility such as TinkerTool to add a “Quit Finder” command to the “Finder” menu in the Finder.

But even the use of such a “Quit Finder” command did not solve the fundamental problem, i.e. that the Finder would only “remember” its currently open windows when quit. Unless you remembered to quit and relaunch the Finder on a regular basis, there was no way to force the Finder to save its status more often.

This wouldn’t have been a problem in an ideal world where computers never freeze and require a hard reset and the Finder application never crashes or freezes (requiring force-quitting, which, unlike regular quitting, does not save the current status, for obvious reasons). In the real world, however, the Finder does occasionally freeze or crash and even Mac OS X itself occasionally throws a fit, in the form of the dreaded multilingual kernel panic screen that requires a hard reset.

In all those situations, until recently, the current status of the Finder would be lost and, upon relaunching, it would reopen the windows that were open the last time it was quit “properly,” which could be several weeks before and might have no relation to what you were last busy doing in the Finder.

Well, something has obviously changed in this department, because, after several weeks of perfect system stability (I didn’t have to restart my Mac Pro once during the holiday season), my computer suddenly had a kernel panic this afternoon. (It might be related to my use of the Elgato Video Capture device, especially since the kernel panic report specifically mentioned an error related to the “” extension and I also see all kinds of “IOAudioStream“-related errors in my kernel log.)

Much to my surprise, upon restarting the machine, I found that, when relaunching, the Finder reopened, not all the windows from the last time I properly quit the Finder, which was some time in December, but all the windows that were open today, just before the kernel panic.

In other words, the Finder now seems to “remember” its current status, even in the event of a system crash and hard reset.

This is a welcome improvement. In the real world, crashes do still happen (though thankfully much less than they used to do ten years ago!), and it is always frustrating to have to painstakingly rebuild one’s work environment the way it was before the crash. Now, as far as I can tell, there is one more thing that does not need to be rebuilt, namely one’s current window setup in the Finder.

I don’t know exactly when this improvement was introduced. I don’t remember noticing it before today, and I have had crashes in Snow Leopard before, so it cannot have been in Snow Leopard itself, i.e. in Mac OS X 10.6.0. It might have been introduced in Mac OS X 10.6.1 or Mac OS X 10.6.2. I also need to experience a few more crashes in order to confirm that it does indeed happen every time.

Out of curiosity, I just made a slight change in my window setup and then option-clicked on the Finder’s Dock icon and chose “Relaunch,” and the slight change that I had just made was not preserved when the Finder was relaunched. It returned to the previous state, i.e. the state that was correctly preserved when the kernel panic happened.

As far as I can tell, using this “Relaunch” command is the equivalent of force-quitting the Finder, which should mimic what happens in the event of a crash.

So it does not look like the Finder saves its current status all the time. Maybe it saves it at predefined intervals of a few minutes or something. It’s hard to establish for sure.

But it certainly looks like the Finder does save its status more often than it used to do, i.e. not just when at the time it is quit “properly,” when the user logs out or restarts his machine or when the “Quit Process” button is used in Activity Monitor.

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