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Ask Max: I deleted two system fonts and lost my desktop. What to do now?

Asked on 07/20/2009:

Hello Jacob,

After throwing away two system fonts, I lost my desktop. All I see is the background and the time bar in the upper right. I'm in System 10.4 or 10.5 on a 2.3 Dual G5 and experiencing font conflicts. So I naively tried removing all but the bare bones system fonts. Bad idea!

I've tried zapping the pram. I've tried holding the "shift" key after the start up "chime". Still no change. All I see is the background and the time bar in the upper right.

Is there any way to restore the computer - I don't have any OSX startup discs.




It is possible to throw away essential Apple System fonts that will cause your computer to exhibit strange behavior like what you are experiencing. Here are Apple articles on the system fonts for 10.4 Tiger and 10.5 Leopard fonts.

Here's a non-Apple font reference source but still a good article on font management in OS X.

It is recommended that you always use the Font Book to manage fonts because it will prevent damaging font deletion from happening. If you had the system discs, an Archive and Install would fix your problem but as you are missing those disks you will have to reinstall the fonts manually. Look through the lists and identify which two fonts you need back. Copy them from another Mac computer or let me know what they are and I can email them to you.

After that, you will need to install them back to the font folder you deleted them from and restart. If you can not navigate the file system, you will then have to boot the computer into Single User mode and install the fonts from the command line. Although, getting the proper system discs or a OS X install DVD would not be a bad idea, for the next time you have a problem like this.

- Jacob

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