Crashed: too many corpses being created — How to Recover High Sierra

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Thanks to the amount of passion folks showed in wanting assistance there’s now a much better guide to recovering Sierra and High Sierra in a new blog post. You should ignore the instructions here and go there. In the case of my organization, this cropped up because of an improperly tested JAMF script that set the permissions to core folders incorrectly. However, lots of situations can cause this to crop up, and the new blog post should go a long way to addressing most of them.


So, this isn’t going to have much instructions along with it. If you are on High Sierra and especially on High Sierra with JAMF and having issues with users seeing full progress bars that never go away after the log in, and get a too many corpses error when booted in verbose mode (CMD+V on power on), these instructions should allow recovery.

Recovery time with this method is about 2 hours, although it can be left unattended for long periods.

    1. Start the Mac while holding down ⌘-S
    2. Check the startup disk for errors using:
      /sbin/fsck -fy
    3. Mount the startup disk using:
      /sbin/mount -uw /
    4. Remove the setup complete flag using:
      rm /var/db/.AppleSetupDone
    5. Now to reboot into Recovery Mode, which we’ll do by running the following command and holding down ⌘-⇧-R while the machine restarts:
    6. Once you reboot into recovery you should see an option to Install macOS, click that to begin.
    7. Run though the macOS installer to completion, making a new user in the process.
    8. Once done, you’ll have a new user account, and you’ll be able to navigate back to the other user by opening Finder, pressing ⌘-⇧-G and entering /Users and pressing Go
    9. You’ll need to manually copy out Documents and Desktop items you care about from the corrupted user.

We’re addressing this issue where I work now, and, I want to get instructions out there as these seems to be an issue with the latest High Sierra updates released for Spectre and Meltdown (10.13.2 and 10.13.3). Hopefully it helps! If you know what causes this and how to prevent it, please comment!

23 thoughts on “Crashed: too many corpses being created — How to Recover High Sierra

  1. I have different issues. May be you can help me. Thank you in advance.

    Here are some error message.

    bash: /ect/rc.server: No such file or directory
    Sat Feb 10 13:04:12 2018 localhost[1] Early boot complete. Continuing system boot.
    Waiting for DSMOS…
    Process[171] crashed: opendirectoryd. Too many corpses being created.
    Process[172] crashed: opendirectoryd. Too many corpses being created.
    Process[173] crashed: opendirectoryd. Too many corpses being created.
    Process[174] crashed: opendirectoryd. Too many corpses being created.

    Then same word will continue……

    1. My solution above should work for this as well; an alternative even quicker would be to mount the problem Mac in target disk mode if you have another device and copy off the user folder, then format and reinstall and copy the folder back.

    2. I have the same issue, my Macbook Pro has been working fine until yesterday and today I had been having this issue, I tried all the possible solution for this from resetting NVRAM to reinstalling Sierra High, but nothing worked. I’ll try this solution later today and try to find if it works.

  2. Hi Robin
    I have a question with regards to point 4 in your list. I did all the points 1 to 3 and my iMac still does not reboot but still is stuck at 100% progress. Is it supposed to reboot without this issue? And how exactly do I unlock the disk from the login screen?
    Thanks for any help!

    1. It should; if it doesn’t then there may be additional problems that my instructions won’t solve. I’d recommend moving off your user home directory (/Users/) to another device either through recovery (mount the drive with disk utility and then open terminal to cp -rf your home folder to an external drive) or by booting the problem Mac in target disk mode. Then format and re-install MacOS, and move the user directory back post-install.

  3. Hello, I’d like to try your method to unblock a Mac with High Sierra but I have a few questions.
    1) What if there is no “/var/db/.AppleSetupDone”? If there are multiple disks with the OS, which one should have that file?
    2) What is the difference between your points 5 and 7?

    1. The idea is to convert one of these user accounts “back into” the old user. However, to make it even simpler you can move the home user directory to another device, re-install, and move the home directory back as well.

    1. Yes and yes; we tracked down the issue to a Jamf script that was setting some /etc/-space items to be owned by 501. Corrected that has prevented the issue from happening further for us.

  4. Hi Robin! thanks for posting this but I still can’t do it
    First of all, I can’t unlock drive in disk utility because there is no option to do so.
    Secondly, when I launch terminal, I can’t delete /var/db/.AppleSetupDone because there is none of that. In my terminal it only shows -bash-3.2#

    So is there any other way to tackle this problem? thank you very much

    1. Boot into recovery mode, and attach an external hard drive. Go into Disk Utility and mount your internal drive and the external hard drive. Then, close Disk Utility, open Terminal from the Utilities menu and run a command something like:

      cp -rf /Volumes/Macintosh\ HD/Users/Chance/Documents /Volumes/Sandisk/Documents

      Just change the paths to what’s relevant for you.

      Find more directions for Recovery mode, and how to reinstall after your files are off here: macOS recovery options.

  5. I am a novice with all this stuff. I’m not sure how to “unlock drive in disk utility”
    I know how to access the terminal add type stuff in, not sure to delete it, though.
    Steps 4 to 15 I think I might be able to figure it out, once I have the screens in front of me. I am sorry for all the questions. Hopefully you can help me.

  6. Hello! I am starting my MAC in recovering mode – Disk Utility – continue – clicking my hard drive, and getting stuck there. How do I launch terminal from here?

  7. Hey Robin, I have and iMac G4 Desktop that I purchased in 2010. I unmounted the Hard Drive in Disk Utility but when I open Terminal it only says -bash-3.2#.

    Any thoughts?

    This whole experience has been very frustrating for me to say the least. Please help me!

    1. Heya! I have a new blog post that should be a bit clearer and has more details stages for attempting recovery. I’d suggest reading through that and commenting there if you still have questions!

  8. I fixed it by booting from a USB stick with the fist version on High Sierra on it and reinstalling over the updated one. It booted staright up after that and I am studiously ignoring the reminders to update after what happened last time.

    1. We definitely had some weirdness updating to 10.13.2 and 10.13.3. My belief is the cause was the rushed release due the Spectre and Meltdown issues. 10.13.4 is getting a lot more beta testing and, fingers-crossed, will be stable. Now that you’re back and running it’s a good time to get Time Machine backups in place if you haven’t yet.

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