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Fixing .mac sync problems

I’ve been having .Mac sync problems of late. I have fairly modest needs: I have two macs (MBP/work and G5 iMac/home, both running 10.4.10) and I only synchronize my addressbook and Safari bookmarks between them. For me, keeping this data in sync between the two machines is incredibly useful.

However, recently I’ve been running into a problem on my MBP — it simply wasn’t syncing (and not telling me that it wasn’t syncing). I noticed it when I added a bookmark on my home iMac but several days later, it still hadn’t shown up on my MBP. Doh! So I started digging deeper.

Upon closer investigation, I found two distinct failures on my MBP:

  1. If I forced a manual .Mac sync, I would get an error like this sometime during the sync, and then the sync would stop:
    Sync Error:
    [ISyncConcreteSession pushChange:]: 
    you can't modify a record that doesn't exist: 
    <ISyncChange 0xblah>{ modify record id 'blah blah blah'
    set com.apple.ical.type = local
    set title = Unfiled }
    (that’s not verbatim — the important part is “you can’t modify a record that doesn’t exist”)

  2. If I went to the .Mac system prefs, I could see that I had my username/password entered correctly (because it would accurately show how many days I had left in my subscription and how much space I was currently using on my iDisk), but if I went to the “advanced” tab, it would popup a window saying:
    An error occurred during this operation.
    Could not retrieve .Mac configuration.

    (I’m parphrasing the first line because I never wrote it down, but I know the 2nd line is right)

    And then no computers were listed in the advanced tab. Checking the same Advanced tab in the .Mac preferences on my iMac, I saw that both computers listed.

So it seemed to be a problem that was local to my MBP.

I googled around a lot and trolled through the .Mac help. Most of the information that I found consisted of the following:

  1. Backup your data, unregister the problematic computer via the .Mac system preferences, and then register it again, and/or
  2. Use the ‘Reset sync data’ button in the .Mac system preferences

Well, I couldn’t unregister or reset the sync data on the MBP because the “Advanced” tab was greyed-out on my MBP (assumedly because of the error message that it couldn’t retrieve the .Mac configuration information for the entire Advanced tab). I tried unregistering the MBP on the working computer/iMac, but I still got the same errors on the MBP.

It seemed that the MBP thought that it was still registered, even if it wasn’t. Hrm.

I found older help posts (circa 2003-2005) that talked about removing sync history through iSync. But .Mac is no longer performed through iSync, so that seemed a dead end. Indeed, I don’t use iSync for anything at all. But since I was desparate, I poked around in iSync anyway. I found the following two things in iSync preferences:

  • A “reset sync history” button
  • A master checkbox for “Enabling syncing on this computer” that specifically mentions .Mac (which seems odd, since iSync isn’t use for .Mac syncing anymore).

Here’s what I did:

  1. Launched iSync, went into preferences menu
  2. Unchecked the “Enabling syncing on this computer”
  3. Clicked the “Reset sync history” button (and confirmed to erase when prompted)
  4. Closed the iSync prefs window
  5. Closed iSync
  6. Closed System Prefs (I still had the .Mac system prefs open)
  7. Re-launched iSync, went into preferences menu
  8. Checked “Enable synching on this computer”
  9. For good measure, reset the sync history again
  10. Closed the iSync prefs window
  11. Closed iSync
  12. Launched System Prefs, went into .Mac prefs
  13. Went into Advanced tab — it worked!

Doing this allowed the “Advanced” tab in my .Mac system prefs to start working again. Woo hoo! I could then perform the other suggested recovery actions, such as unregistering the MBP and then re-registering it, etc. Now things seem to be working (let’s give it a week to see if it keeps syncing properly…). As I’ve been typing out this entry, I see that my new bookmarks have appeared in Safari. Woo hoo!

But since I played with both options in the iSync system prefs at the same time, I unfortunately don’t know which of the two fixed it, or if both are required. YMMV.

Hopefully, others will find this entry via googling and find it useful…


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Comments (3)

sybil miller:

i’ve been trying to fix this for days. i found you by googling, tried it, it works again! thanks so much!!!!


Apple Tech Support helped me solve the problem by putting xxxxxxxx in the .Mac user name and xxxxxxxx in for a pass word. you can use anything for xxxxxxx. Sign in and it will give you an error message. Try to sign in with your correct user name and password. This worked for me.

Bill Green:

I have an old e mac and a 12 inch power book (the 6 year iron warrior that goes everywhere, everyday) and an ipod touch ( to get a few more months out of the warrior with less travel).

That strategy worked for me and I thought I had tried everything.

Many, many thanks.


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