your Hard Drive:
Find your Hard Drive icon on your desktop (should be in
top-right corner), select it with one
click (only), then choose "Get Info" from the Finder's File Menu.
The resulting window shows Hard Drive capacity, space
available and used space. If available space is
getting down to 10-15% of drive capacity, your drive is full; less than 10% means trouble is
About This Mac:
Properly identify your machine by collecting its system
specifications and details. Just ask your Mac:
Select "About This Mac" under the Finder's Apple Menu; here
you'll find OS version number, details regarding your machine's
processor(s), installed RAM information, and info about your startup (or boot) volume.
Much more complete and detailed specs may be found in the
System Profile (click More Info button in the "About..." window). Here
you'll find most anything you might want to know about your Mac's
hardware and software.
Illustrated here is System Profile's Memory pane showing
specifications on each installed memory module in each available slot.
Equally detailed and specific information is also available for every
drive, card, bus, port, and device. If you use a notebook, you'll also
find battery and charging status under "Power."
Serial number and specs may be found on a label located
inside battery bay of notebooks (with removable batteries) or on back
panel in wee-tiny print. iMacs have serial number and machine specs on
underside of stand, towers have a label under side door or on back
panel. All Macs also have their serial numbers recorded under
"Hardware" at the top of the System Profile window (where it may be
easily read and copied). The serial number may be used to ascertain
warranty status and further identify machine specs and history.
For some inexplicable reason, Mac
model numbers are seldom used to identify machines, even tho every
model has one. Machines are best identified by specs on their labels or
in System Profile, or by serial number.
with an overall examination. Take nothing for granted.
It might be a good idea to take notes as you go through the
inspection process. Some steps may seem unnecessary, but try 'em
anyway, just in case. Be methodical.
Power down. Disconnect power to CPU and all components.
Two reasons for this: First, it eliminates any possibility
of damage that might be caused by disconnecting/reconnecting powered
devices. Second, removing power from computer and all components for a
few minutes (including printer, modem, router, and all peripherals)
will cause some devices to reset when powered on again, thus
eliminating a few possibilities right off the bat. Test wall outlet for
120v AC. Test and confirm power from each outlet on any surge
suppressors or power supplies (UPS) in use and/or bypass these.
Disconnect, examine, reconnect each cable.
While things are shut off, take a good look at all cables, cable ends
and ports. Are contacts clean and shiny, or are they dirty, dull and
oxidized? Are connectors in good shape and intact? Damaged cables
should be replaced; damaged ports may be another matter. If necessary,
carefully clean connectors, blow out ports and plugs, then reconnect
each device cable. Make sure plugs have a snug fit and cables aren't
being strained, twisted or bent.
If a new device has been added recently - including any
internal cards - remove it and leave that device aside for now.
(Hardware problems often manifest themselves during startup, causing
freezes, hangs and/or blank screens.)
power to peripheral devices.
Turn on each peripheral and allow time for printers, modems, routers
(etc.) to go thru their startup routines. When all external devices are
up and running (typically a minute or two), reconnect power to the
computer and turn it on. If problems remain, go to next step (if
possible). If problem is gone, shutdown your computer, disconnect power
and replace/reconnect cards/devices one-by-one, testing startup with
each. If problem reoccurs, the last connected card/device might be at
If problem never went away or startup to (desktop) is impossible, the
next steps will be unavailable and you might want to bring machine in.
System Prefs (if possible).
If you startup to a date/time error message, your desktop
computer's PRAM battery is probably dead. (Some older machines may
refuse to boot at all with a dead PRAM battery.) Replacement batteries
are readily available but may require partial disassembly for access.
(Notebooks have something more like a capacitor than a battery, and an
overnight charge will refresh most notebook PRAM batteries.) Now might
be a good time to consult your user manual, too.
Open System Preferences and check settings in relevant
control panels and panes. Be sure to check the Accounts pane ->
Login Items (or Startup Items) and make sure there isn't something
launching on startup that might be the culprit. NOTE: Now is not the
time to change anything other than those settings that may be related
to the specific problem you are experiencing; you're likely to see
login items installed by your OS (iTunes, for example) that should
remain. Third-party (non-Apple) items are always suspect, especially
to isolate and identify the problem.
Record any error messages that appear. Is the problem repeatable? What
action or event preceded the problem? Does it seem to be related to a
specific application? If so, check the program's preferences (usually
under the Application or Edit menu).
If problem appears to be related to a peripheral device -
printer, scanner, modem, router, etc. - make sure any suspect device
driver is current by checking its version numbers and system
requirements. (Drivers on CDs included with most devices may be
unnecessary for use with Macintosh, or they may be already be outdated
at time of purchase.) If you've done an OS upgrade, you may need to
download/update your device drivers, too.
The first item under the Finder's Apple menu is "About This
Mac" and will identify your Operating System version, processor info
and installed RAM.
Copy down info and identifiers as it applies to the problem
at hand. See "Collecting System Info" section (top of this page) for
details on where to look and what to look for.
Before you call for
Regardless of where you might turn for assistance, you'll
save yourself time and trouble by having the following information
readily available (and tech support doesn't come cheap):
- Machine type (notebook, iMac or
tower), processor type and speed (500GHz WhatsitCPU), OS version
number, and installed RAM. Hard drive capacity and available (free)
space might be helpful, too.
- Changes or events related to the
issue, especially anything recent, and specs for any peripherals
- A record of error messages, symptoms
encountered, and steps taken.
The amount of relevant information you have on hand when you
call tech support will determine a lot of your success in receiving
help. From a tech's point of view, it's much easier to have a coherent
conversation when both parties know what equipment is in use, under
which Operating System, and exactly what error messages or symptoms are
being generated, when, where, and under what circumstances.
If your Mac is under warranty, you may be entitled to free tech support
- heck your warranty info (also available by serial number from our
Apple links page). Most hardware/software vendors charge for
phone/online support by incident or by the minute. We don't provide
free tech support, either. In fact, it's darn near impossible to
diagnose a problem over the phone, let alone solve it, so we
respectfully request you bring your machine to the shop for a proper
diagnostic evaluation. See our Service Policies and Ops (left).
First, be patient; the beachball cursor is there to indicate
machine is busy. But, if it seems stuck after awhile, there's a "Force
Quit..." command under the Apple (logo) menu that might get you out of
it. If that's not an option, you might have to force shutdown by
pressing/holding power (on) button for 5+ seconds.
much memory (RAM) is installed?
In ballpark numbers, 1-2GB RAM is barely adequate these
days, and 2GB is minimum requirement for OS 10.7 Lion alone. (See
Collecting Specs, above.) RAM is working space, and if the OS is taking
it all, there won't be any left for other apps to use. If you upgrade
your software/OS, be sure to check RAM requirements and upgrade
accordingly. Freezes may be caused by an application running out of
memory, or too many apps running simultaneously. (Polite apps might
warn you before they run out of memory, but don't count on it.) Amount
of RAM required depends on what you use your computer for, of course,
and some apps require much more RAM than others. Check your Dock and
quit the apps you're not using. Or maybe it's time to restart?
Other possible causes related to
slow, unresponsive Macs include failing hard drives, corrupt (damaged)
or missing System segments, wacky application software, optical drives
gone wild, and a whole slew of other things. A damaged input device can
mimic a freeze, too. Bring it in and we'll figure out what's slowing
System Prefs > Network, and Mail.app prefs.
Possibly the most common complaint comes from people who
suddenly are unable to send and/or receive email. The problem might
well be on your server's end, especially if none of your machine's
settings have been changed, all cables and devices are intact, and you're in Nevada County. If it
just keeps asking for your password - and you haven't messed with your
password - the problem is probably not on your end. Sometimes all you
can do is wait a day or so and try again. A lot of changes are going on
with ISPs, too, as they begin to meter data transmission, throttle
bandwidth and calculate extra charges for connected devices. The better
ISPs out there post system status bulletins on their web sites, if you
can get online; Ma Bell and Comcast may provide phone numbers on their
bills. Read on if you can't get online at all.....
If you're on a wireless (AirPort or WiFi) network, your AP menu and/or
Network pane in System Preferences should show name and status of your
selected network. If so, your Mac and router are communicating and the
problem is somewhere between router, modem and ISP. If you use a
notebook, take it out on the town and try connecting to a different
network at a coffee house or a friend's network.
Modems sometimes fail, too, as do
routers. A damaged modem may report any number of odd (and misleading)
errors, it may endlessly try to connect or disconnect, or your network
prefs pane may insist that there is no device connected. First thing to
do is to try resetting your modem and your router:
Shutdown your computer and remove
power to your modem, router and/or gateway (by pulling their plugs, if
necessary). Take a moment to check ethernet
cables and connections. Wait 2 or 3 minutes and
reconnect power to modem, router and devices. After these gizmos have
completed their startup routines (about a minute), startup your Mac and
see if communications have been restored. (That is typically the first
thing tech support at your ISP will suggest, so you'll save yourself 45
minutes by resetting your modem and router before calling 'em.)
sure all connections are intact and power is on.
Sometimes it helps to power-up printers and peripherals
_before_ starting up your computer. Check printer's ink tanks or
cartridge. Look for any physical damage to the device, its cables and
ports, make sure everything is properly connected. Power up peripherals, wait a minute or so, then power on
your computer. Check settings; make sure your printer appears in
Printer List (System Prefs -> Printer and Fax -> Setup), make
sure external drives and devices are mounted and functional.
If printer is producing distorted output (too small or too
large, sideways, missing fonts or styles), check Page Layout settings
(in File menu) in the application you are printing from. If output
appears as a page of gibberish, or machine spews out blank pages along
with the desired job, or output problem persists, try printing
something from a different application. For example, launch TextEdit,
type something, and see if that prints properly. If so, the problem is
app-specific. If not, your printer (and/or its driver) is at fault. If
you've recently upgraded your OS, you probably need to download and
install a newer driver. (Same may be true of scanners and other
devices.) Consult your printer's manual and try running printer's
self-test to see if the printer itself is malfunctioning.
If you are trying to print a page from some
web site, know that web pages are not necessarily designed to be
printed and printer output might be spread over multiple pages in ways
you wouldn't expect, or you may only be able to print a portion of the
page's layout due to frames, tables and other design elements. There
are workarounds for this - but don't blame your printer.
there's just nothing to do.
This message appeared one day for no apparent reason, with
no workaround. Tried every way possible to save this document -
Photoshop simply refused access to anything, no matter what. Sure,
blame it on the disk.
and fine-tune your System-wide settings.
Adjustments in System Preferences will frequently solve
display "problems," while various view options (including those in
Finder's View menu and Finder Preferences). Some commands can show or
hide controls, so sometimes you need to make controls available in
order to change them.
Clockwise from top: Disk Utility, Finder
Prefs, System Prefs, and Get Info windows from OSX
Your System Preferences control the appearance and operation
of your machine's Operating System. System Prefs are available from the
Apple menu and from its icon in the Dock at the edge of your screen
(both illustrated at right).
Accounts, date/time, desktop color/image and screen saver
options, Dock settings, network settings (email and internet), printer,
keyboard and mouse, startup disk and most other controls are located in
System Prefs. Each of these controls can be changed and customized to
suite each user; settings are specific to each user account.
By the Way, while we're on the subject...
Many people think clicking a close button in a window's top-left corner
() is the same as
quitting the application. It isn't. It merely closes the window (in
most cases), leaving the application open, active and running. Why is
this important? Because applications load into memory (RAM) when
launched, and quitting unused applications frees up precious RAM.
Instead of clicking the close box when finished with an application,
choose Quit from the File menu, or type Command+Q.
(Having said that, I should point out an inconsistency with
the close button: Sometimes it _does_ cause an app to quit in addition
to closing a window, as is the case with System Preferences and a few
other System-related windows. Just make sure you quit apps when
finished with 'em.)
Disk Utility periodically.
Applications -> Utilities folder is the Disk Utility application.
Running Disk Utility to verify your hard drive and repair permissions
can fix many minor errors before they become bigger issues.
Check PRAM Battery (aka "backup" or "clock" battery):
If your Mac
is 4-5 years old, its internal battery may be getting weak. Symptoms
include a date and time error on startup, preference settings that may
revert to defaults, and possible startup issues. Many Mac desktop
machines use a 3.6v, half-AA-size lithium battery, but newer iMacs use
a 3v CR2032 button battery. Replacing a battery is an easy
do-it-yourself fix for tower machines (PowerMacs and Mac Pros), just
make sure to note polarity when removing old battery. iMacs require
some disassembly, and newer machines require expertise beyond the scope
of this discussion. Consult your owners' manual for details. BTW:
Notebooks don't have PRAM batteries as such; they rely on main battery
to maintain PRAM settings.
Clear web browser cache:
a simple and convenient menu item that empties Safari's cache (right),
and another menu command just above it - Reset Safari - that will clear
a slew or other records and settings, including history, auto-fill and
every other modification made to Safari (except bookmarks), setting it
back to its original, unused state.
other browsers also allow you to clear the cache, but the command is
typically buried somewhere in browser preferences and can be hard to
out old emails:
mail apps so stuffed with old email - including unemptied trash and
spam - that messages number in the tens of thousands. Nobody has time
to sort thru all that. Get rid of it! Clear out that inbox, empty the
trash, delete all that spam. Your inbox should be kept empty, with
incoming emails either deleted, saved to a mail folder, or otherwise
dealt with every time you retrieve new email.
Archive old mail you
wish to keep:
like, you can collect and export old emails from Mail to a TextEdit
file, including email photos, graphics and live links. Here's how:
First, select the messages you wish to save; the idea is to get them
all into a single group, so you might want to create a Mail folder to contain
them, then drag messages into the new folder. Select all messages by
clicking the first one, scroll down to the last message, hold down
Shift key and click last message.
With all messages selected, choose "Save As..." in Mail's File menu.
From the resulting dialog box (right) give the file a name, select a
destination, and be sure to save in Rich Text Format (to preserve
links), then check the "Include Attachments" box to preserve all images
and attachments - inline - with your messages.
Five easy reasons to clean up those files:
- Your primary hard drive - or boot
volume, if you prefer - requires a certain amount of free space to run
efficiently. Deleting unused/unwanted files frees up space for file and
volume optimization processes to take place. A crowded, near-full hard
drive will be sluggish; a full drive will eventually refuse to even
- Searching thru organized files is
easy. When you save a file, pay close attention to where it is going,
and be sure to send it into the proper folder where it belongs.
Whatever scheme you use to sort and organize things is fine, as long as
it works for you. The Operating System creates a Home Folder for each
user, along with root-level folders for Applications, Documents, Music,
Pictures, Movies and the like, and that's a good place to start.
- A neat, well-organized drive makes
for a neat, well-organized backup. Get all that junk off your desktop
or you'll be seeing double when you mount your backup drive (duh!).
Empty trash (including email and browser cache), run Disk Utility's
First Aid now and then. You _do_ have a backup plan in place, right?
- A nicely organized drive lends itself
well to customization. A nice desktop photo and screen saver, custom
window colors and fonts..... Since you'll be creating special folders
to hold special files, why not create custom folder icons while you're
at it? If you're creative and resourceful enough, have at it. Google
"custom OSX icons" for ideas and custom icons if you like.
- If a drive fails - Heaven forbid! - a
tech will have a much better chance of recovering your data if your
files are well organized and properly stored under named Admin
accounts. Directories get overrun, drives go wonky, video and music and
photo libraries grow at alarming rates, things can ugly in a hurry.
Good thing you have a backup, huh. (Hint.)
leave your computer running day and night, automated maintenance
routines will run periodically - daily, weekly and monthly - as they
are designed to do (usually in the wee hours of the morning). If not,
and you are familiar with the Terminal application, you probably know
the commands to execute these routines, bit if you're like most Mac
users you'll want a graphical interface to these commands. A few
recommended utilities are listed below. Some of these also include a
few additional System tweaks and tricks. NOTE: Be sure to match utility
version to your OS version.
Startup issues are best handled by exploring all the easy solutions before moving on to more
complicated suspects. Start with status of the boot volume. If it's a
notebook, has it been dropped or damaged? Will it boot from your OS
disc or Lion flash drive?
Simple as it may sound, failure on startup arrives in a
variety of ways with a variety of symptoms (and clues). Try to answer
- Did you hear the normal startup
sound? No sound (is sound turned down or off)? A different sound, a
tone or beeps perhaps? How many beeps?
- Does the power button light up? Does
it stay on or go off when released? Is it pulsing? Does any sound at
all come from the CPU (fans, drives spinning, other noises)?
- Does an icon appear onscreen? If so,
what does it look like? If it hangs, what's on the screen? Is the
screen black, blue, or gray? What is the cursor doing? Do you get a message saying that you need to restart in four
languages? (If so, sorry. See Kernel Panics, below.....)
- How far do you get? Nowhere (black
screen), to the Apple logo, to a blank gray, white or blue screen, to
the desktop? What's on the desktop, what's in the menu bar? Anything
launching on startup/login?
checked all the usual suspects and machine still refuses to boot, try
starting up from your (OS-version appropriate <-important!) System DVD:
your Startup Disk (in System Preferences):
- Insert your System Install CD/DVD
into the optical drive.
- If machine is on, shutdown (hold
power button down for 5 seconds).
- Sometimes waiting 5-10 minutes with
power disconnected helps.
- Startup from optical drive by
pressing "C" key during startup.
- When you arrive at the Installer,
ignore it and launch Disk Utility from the menu bar.
- Select your hard disk in DU's window
and run Disk Repair function.
- If repairs complete successfully,
restart. You're all done!
- If you're stuck, call for an
appointment and bring it on in.....
If your startup volume is not specified in your System
Prefs, your Mac may take quite awhile to startup as it searches all
connected volumes for an OS; check your Startup Disk setting and make
sure the proper volume is selected (as illustrated below).
Some machines will not boot at all without
a specified volume. If this applies to you, boot from
(version-appropriate) System disc (hold "C" key during startup with
bootable disk in drive), and set startup disk from the menu command.
special attention to the Operating System:
Having more than one Operating System per volume is not a
good idea. In fact, it can be a disaster. (The lone exception, of
course, was OSX + OS9 Classic Mode.)
Even if Disk Utilities passes all tests, various hardware
tests pass, everything comes up OK, doesn't mean your Operating System
is undamaged; a battered OS can certainly prevent normal startup but
might not produce errors in Disk Utility. Before doing anything drastic
(like replacing your OS) and running the risk of making matters worse,
call for an appointment and bring it in!
dreaded Kernel Panic (KP).
With instructions to restart in four languages, a Kernel
Panic doesn't give you any other choice. Sometimes, a restart is, in
fact, all that is needed and things will return to normal. If it
appears again after a restart, something more serious has gone wrong.
Before putting yourself (and your Mac) thru the trials
listed below, you might save yourself the trouble of trying to deal
with a KP yourself and bring the machine to our shop for service.
Having said that, presented below - for information purposes only - are
a few basic steps toward diagnosing possible causes of a Kernel Panic,
steps which you can do at home. What follows is a brief software test
using disks that came with your computer, and the only type of hardware
test available without use of proper tools and test equipment.
First (as always) startup from OS Install disk and run Disk
It's worth saying again: At the first hint of any trouble, startup from
your OS CD (disk 1) or the OS Install DVD that came with your Mac
(using Option key during startup), and run Disk Utility to repair
permissions, if possible. If you can also verify and/or repair your
hard drive using Disk Utility, the following steps may not be necessary.
Next, disconnect all attached devices and restart.
Normal troubleshooting routines start by checking simple things first
in search of a quick fix, but troubleshooting Kernel Panics is a little
different. We are eliminating possible causes by removing as many
hardware components as possible, then reconnecting one at a time, with
startup and test for KP. Disconnect all external devices and turn off
everything you can, starting with Airport (if so equipped), network
equipment and peripherals.
These can be indicative of both hardware and software
problems, making them rather difficult to troubleshoot. The most common
cause is defective or failed memory (RAM). Other causes include damaged
ports, connectors, and peripheral devices; failed or corrupt hard
drives; and failed or damaged logic boards.
If hardware is not the cause, other suspects include corrupt
or missing Operating System, firmware issues, damaged device drivers,
corrupt fonts, and incompatible application programs.
while running, versus KP on startup:
The timing of a KP's appearance can be a significant clue as
to its cause. If KPs appear during the course of operation, it might be
connected to use of a particular application or a specific OS
component. If so, uninstalling and/or reinstalling the suspect software
might return your machine to normal. (If you're not sure about deleting
things - don't. You can temporarily move a file to the trash and
deactivate it without emptying the trash and actually deleting it. Just
make a note of file's original location so that it can be returned to
its proper location later.)
If a KP appears on startup - on each and every startup - the
problem is probably more serious. It might still be a software issue of
some nature, but more often than not it will turn out to be hardware
changes might suggest cause.
With so many potential causes, it might be helpful to recall
events immediately preceding the appearance of a Kernel Panic. Any
recent changes, additions or hardware/software installations may have
been the cause; KPs might not appear until your next startup, so go
back to the last change that was made before shutdown.
Apple Hardware Test.
Try booting from Apple Hardware Test (AHT) located on disk 1
of the DVDs that came with your Mac: Insert disk 1, and startup while
holding down the Option key (using Startup Manager); if AHT appears as
a virtual volume, select it and continue startup. With older OS
versions, AHT is on a separate (usually silver) CD. Examine contents of
the System Profile tab to make sure all devices are properly
identified. Next, run the Quick Test. If the Quick Test turns up
nothing, try the Extended Test; if no error is produced, you might try
letting it loop a few times.
If all tests pass
without error, and all hardware is properly identified, that - sadly -
does not mean everything is A-OK. We've had machines refuse to boot
from anything _except_ AHT (including the OS Installer) but all AHT
tests passed with flying colors anyway. (Logic board was DOA.)