My wife's early 2009 Snow Leopard iMac has started failing to boot properly and I'm looking for some troubleshooting tips.
Booting from cold, it gets past the logon screen and starts loading the desktop. It's quite slow at this point, but does load all the (hundreds of!) icons on the desktop. It also tries to re-open Firefox which had a lot of tabs open. Initially it would load a Firefox window but not complete loading the internals. On one boot I think I managed to close Firefox and now it still tries to load but just displays "Firefox" in the title bar with no windows.
I can initially access a few menus, spotlight, Finder, the dock, but any further action results in a beach ball for these, and they can't be accessed again. I was able to navigate Finder to try to launch Terminal but just it just gave me the beach ball.
I've left it like this for about half an hour but it doesn't get any further and I have to force shutdown (long press of power button).
I tried booting to safe mode (holding down S on startup) but the end result was the same.
I've been able to boot to a live ubuntu USB disk and can access files on the hard disk, so I've started a backup. We have a time machine backup but it's not that recent.
I'm hoping it's just a corrupt file, but suspect it's the hard disk starting to fail.
What's the best way to troubleshoot this?