Mac OS X: Cannot print, use Classic, start file sharing, burn discs, or update software if /tmp missing

This article has been archived and is no longer updated by Apple.

If you start up the computer from Mac OS 9, certain items are visible in the Mac OS 9 Finder that are normally invisible in the Mac OS X Finder, including "/tmp" (which looks like a folder). Don't throw "/tmp" out!

What might happen in Mac OS X if the "/tmp" symbolic link is missing? Lots of things:

  • Classic won't start.
  • Attempts to print fail, with the alert message "error while printing".
  • Software Update fails, with the alert message "An unexpected error has occurred".
  • File sharing will not start.
  • You cannot burn CDs or DVDs in Mac OS X 10.3.9 or earlier, the message "Burning a disc cannot proceed because the startup disc is full (Error code -34)" appears.
  • A PPP dial-up connection attempt fails, with the alert message "An incorrect PPP option has been set".
  • Repair Privileges Utility (Mac OS X 10.1.5 only) unexpectedly quits.

To avoid these issues, you guessed it, you shouldn't delete the /tmp symbolic link from the Mac OS X volume.

If /tmp is missing, it's easy to make a new one by following these steps:

Mac OS X 10.3 or later

Recreate the missing /tmp link by using the Disk Utility application to repair permissions on your Mac OS X startup volume.

Mac OS X 10.2.8 or earlier

  1. Open Terminal (/Applications/Utilities/).
  2. Type: ls -la / | grep tmp
  3. Press Return.
  4. Look at the resulting text. If it matches the following line (which would indicate that /tmp is still present) then this document does not apply to you, and you should stop here and try another troubleshooting path.
    lrwxrwxr-t 1 root admin 11 Jan 15 11:00 tmp@ -> private/tmp
    The timestamp following "admin" will reflect the current date.

  5. If you do not see the line above, then type:
    sudo ln -s /private/tmp /tmp

  6. Press Return.
  7. Enter your administrator account password when prompted, the press Return.

Tip: If you have Safari 1.0 Beta (v48), update to Safari 1.0 or later to reduce the chances of this issue recurring. Choose About Safari from the Safari menu to see which version you have.

Related documents

106908: "Mac OS X: Issues After Removing 'etc' and/or 'var' Directory Alias When Started Up From Mac OS 9"
106805: "Mac OS X: "Broken Folder" Icon, Prohibitory Sign, or Kernel Panic When Computer Starts Up"
Published Date: Oct 7, 2016