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My Macbook 10.4.11 completely reset all my computer settings overnight. All my settings are gone, folders rearranged, iTunes playlists etc deleted and browser history cleared. How can I restore my previous settings? My account settings in system preferences are set to 'Automatically log in' as my original account name. I don't have time machine and didn't do any backups, although I did copy paste all my documents and applications to an external drive several months before everything was wiped out. It seems my laptop has automatically reset itself to factory settings overnight? Is there anything I can do to revert back to my previous settings?

Thanks! Sabine

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Can you give us an example of what folders were rearranged? Are they still there, or are they completely missing? If so, which ones? What about your applications: Are they all there? –  slhck Apr 27 '12 at 7:05

2 Answers 2

Settings don't just get reset overnight. You need to figure out what happened in order to know how to fix it. Here are some possibilities to look into:

  • You somehow managed to log into a different user account than you usually do, and this other user account doesn't have the same settings. Check how many accounts show up in the Accounts panel of System Preferences, and make sure you're logging into the one you were previously logging into. Maybe the auto-login has been set to a different account name than you thought all this time, and now that you've set it to the "original account name" that you thought it should be, means you're now logging into a different account than the one you've accidentally been living in all this time.
  • Your disk has become corrupted and a lot of your home directory files have been lost. Use Disk Utility to run a "Repair Disk" run on your drive.
  • The filesystem permissions for your home directory got messed up somehow, so you're locked out of some parts of your home directory where your preferences are stored. Run a Disk Utility "Repair Disk Permissions" run on your drive.
  • Your home directory got moved, renamed, or deleted. Look in /Users to see what home directories you see there.

I'm going to mark this as a Community Wiki so others can add suggestions of things to look at.

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This is a good lesson to learn about making sure you have backups. –  user3463 Apr 27 '12 at 4:29

Another possibility is that your pram has become corrupted, or your cmos battery has died, or both. Would be pretty simple to reset it and test to see if that is the problem.

From Apple's KB article:

Resetting NVRAM / PRAM

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Locate the following keys on the keyboard: Command (⌘), Option, P, and R. You will need to hold these keys down simultaneously in step 4.
  3. Turn on the computer.
  4. Press and hold the Command-Option-P-R keys before the gray screen appears.
  5. Hold the keys down until the computer restarts and you hear the startup sound for the second time.
  6. Release the keys.

After resetting NVRAM or PRAM, you may need to reconfigure your settings for speaker volume, screen resolution, startup disk selection, time zone information. If issues persist, your Mac's logic board battery (not a portable Mac's rechargeable battery) may need to be replaced. The logic board battery helps retain NVRAM/PRAM settings when your computer is shut down. You can take your Mac to a Mac Genius or Apple Authorized Service Provider to replace the battery on the logic board.

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