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Running latest OS X Mountain Lion. I shut down hard (held power button until power off) after an application froze and rather than doing force quit I got frustrated and just shut the system down.

Reboot, get to login screen and enter password. Get spinning gear (NOT the beachball) which never stops and login never completes.

Unable to get past this.

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Some of your notes suggest you using FileVault 2 (full-volume encryption); is this correct? If so, the "login screen" you're referring to is actually the pre-boot authentication screen, which is quite different (and the Safari-only "Guest" account isn't really an account at all). –  Gordon Davisson Mar 29 '13 at 23:20

2 Answers 2

Your operating system is quite possibly damaged, which would likely require a reinstall. If that's the case, you'll need to look into backing up your data if you haven't already. Then you can boot from an OS X disc by holding "option" during boot.

Basic hardware and system troubleshooting steps are also listed in this article: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/1515281?start=0&tstart=0

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One observation is that I am able to log on as the Guest user and get a browser-only environment. Could this then be user profile-specific, and I could try logging on as root? Also regarding backing up the data, I am running Filevault but I assume there is a way to mount a Filevault volume as an external drive. –  Howiecamp Mar 29 '13 at 4:05
    
If you're able to log in as guest, you may also want to try opening Disk Utility and running a verify or repair on the OS disk. –  JimNim Mar 29 '13 at 20:32

There is a nice website that maybe helpful for you: http://www.cultofmac.com/50685/how-to-fix-common-mac-startup-problems-macrx/

It says about the spinning gear:

Apple Logo with Spinning Gear

Once the spinning gear appears the BSD kernel (Darwin) has assumed command and begins loading device drivers. Shortly thereafter it transfers command to the almighty (and controversial) launchd process. Such are the workings of UNIX.

What this means for us mortals is that when a Mac stalls at the Apple logo or the logo with a spinning gear, it probably has a corrupt Mac OS X installation. It may also be having trouble accessing an internal or external hardware component, but this is less-likely.

Rebooting your Mac in Safe Mode can sometimes get things working well-enough that a second, normal reboot then works normally Hold down the Shift key at startup to boot in Safe Mode. DiskWarrior is also worth a shot (this is by far my most used disk utility). If that doesn’t work, an Archive & Install may be needed.

Hope this helps....

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