Confirmed: OS X doesn't suffer from the iOS "1 Jan 1970" bug

13 February 2016, 12:37

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll have heard about the “date bug“ that can brick iOS devices, including iPads, iPhones and the iPod Touch. All you need do is set the system date to 1 Jan, 1970.

Because iOS and OS X use the same Unix underpinnings I began to wonder if OS X might be affected by the bug too. There was only one way to find out and that was to try setting that date on my MacBook Pro that cost $2,699.00 just six months ago. Yes, really.

Letting my MacBook Pro run down to 3% battery (in case I had to leave it to discharge without being turned on, which fixes the bug in iOS), I opened System Preferences, clicked the Date & Time icon, unchecked Set Date and Time Automatically, and inputted 01/01/1970.* Then I clicked the Save button, and rebooted.

Does the bug affect OS X? Nope. But the reason why is interesting.

As the screenshot above shows, OS X has built-in protection against an incorrectly set system date. You’ll be warned via a notification as soon as you boot to the desktop, and asked if you want to fix the issue. This shows the maturity of OS X compared to the young-upstart that is iOS, which clearly has no such protection.

So there you go. OS X apparently isn’t affected, although I wouldn’t try this yourself, just in case.

* Interestingly, the earliest date OS X would let me set was 2nd January 1969 – a date prior to the Unix epoch. To my knowledge this should be impossible – and if I tried to set this date, by clicking the Save button, the date immediately reverted to the last setting, which in my case was the current date.

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