MacMost Now 499: Fixing Problems On Your Mac

If you are not a computer expert fixing problems can be difficult. Here are some basic things you can do to troubleshoot issues. But persistent problems can usually only be fixed with first-hand help.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode lets look at how to fix problems on your mac.
I love to teach people how to do things with their Mac, but I also get asked lots of questions about how to fix problems. Unfortunately it's very difficult to be able to diagnose and fix a problem via an email exchange or a series of posts on a forum. Think of it this way: when you have a problem with your car, do you email your mechanic or do you take your car into your mechanic? Right, of course you take your car in because the mechanic needs to see it firsthand to figure out what's wrong and fix the problem. And the same is true for computers. It's very difficult to diagnose a problem remotely.
So, what do you do if you have a problem? Well, here are some basic ideas:
You can use your troubleshooting if you're not a computer expert.
- If you're having trouble with a particular application, one of the first things you wanna do is quit and restart it. This may clear up any problems. Now, it depends on the piece of software and the person who wrote it, but a lot of times quitting out of it can restart a lot of the variables in the program and might clear up some simple problems.
- A more extreme version of that is to logout of your account and log back in. You can do this before jumping all the way to restarting your computer. Logging out of your account means quitting all of the applications that are running in it, and kinda clearing out all the memory associated with you as a user; and then logging back in sometimes can clear up some simple problems as well.And if that doesn't work, of course you can always go to the good old restart. Restarting can be very handy cause it forces all applications to quit, all data to be cleared and sometimes software can find its feet once it restarts from scratch.
- The next step is to search the internet to see if anybody else has had the same problem and has found a solution. Try using the name of your software, say, if you're looking for iMovie, use the term "iMovie", and describe the problem in a series of keywords and look through Google. If you don't come up with a solution try rephrasing the search. Sometimes you have to do this several times before you might come up with a post somewhere where somebody talks about the issue.
- Now at this point if you haven't found a solution, I would try and get some firsthand help. One of the easiest ways to do that is to make an appointment at your nearest Apple store for the Genius Bar. A common misconception is that you need to be under warranty for that, that's not true. Any Apple device at any time, you can bring it in and you can ask their opinion. If there's something broken and they have to repair it, then the warranty comes in; but the advice is free. Now, if you don't live near an Apple store, then you may want to find a local Mac repair shop or Mac expert and have them help out. It's very useful to have a resource like that nearby that you can go to.
-Now a more extreme thing you can do is try reinstalling the application your having trouble with. Now, misconception is this gets rid of your documents that you created with that applications and that's not true at all; it just reinstalls the application itself. Your data is separate. Same thing if you wanna go to the extreme route of reinstalling your operating system. You can do that using the disc that came with your Mac or a Snow Leopard disc. Now, if you reinstall the operating system, you don't wipe the hard drive to do it; that option is there on the disc but don't choose it. Simply reinstall the operating system. All your data and all your applications will remain there, and this can fix a lot of problems and it can fill in gaps of parts of the operating system that may be missing because of something you may have done.
So, here are some more general tips for troubleshooting:
One of the things I find people don't really do is try to narrow down the problem.
- So, say your having trouble with an application, try quitting all other applications. Log out, log back in or restart, and just have that one application running and see if the problem occurs then.
- Another thing is if you're having some trouble with some hardware, or even software, try unplugging all the peripherals you're not using. Say you've got printers and scanners and cameras and everything plugged into your Mac, try unplugging all of that so you narrow it down till you're only using your Mac for that one specific thing and see if the problem still occurs.
- Also don't forget to quit any extensions or add-ons to OS ten that you may be running at the time.
- Another thing to do is check for any updates to the software that may fix your problem. Now, Software Update take car of Mac OS ten and any Apple programs, but if it's a third party program check the website to see if there's an update for that as well.
- Now I would be remiss if I did not mention backups. Make sure you're backing up your Mac. Get an external hard drive ; use Time Machine. You wanna do your backups before you ever run into any problems. Once you run into problems, it may be too late.
So there are some general troubleshooting tips. The most important thing here is to realize that if it's a serious problem, you probably need somebody to look at it firsthand just as you would if you had a problem with your car. So, know where your nearest genius bar is or local Mac repair shop, or make friends with a nearby Mac expert.
Till next time, this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 16 Responses to “MacMost Now 499: Fixing Problems On Your Mac”

    Andrew Murr
    1/6/11 @ 2:26 pm

    Hello There
    When I am adding photo attachments to my e-mails, I click on the attach files tab, then choose files tab, and the IPhoto window appears, Just as I’m scrolling down to find the right picture to attach , it stops half way, and a revolving rainbow coloured wheel comes on. What’s it suppose to be doing? attaching the wrong photo, or are the photos taking up too much hard drive space?

      1/6/11 @ 2:56 pm

      Hard to know without being there (see the video). Could be you have a lot of photos. Could be a problem. Why not just try email FROM iPhoto instead?

    1/6/11 @ 4:03 pm


    My iMac keyboard just stops working randomly. I reinsert the USB and it starts working again. Any ideas?

      1/6/11 @ 6:12 pm

      Could be broken. The wire, perhaps. Can you test with another keyboard?

    Andrew Murr
    1/6/11 @ 5:29 pm

    I transffered all the iPhoto files to the external hard drive, Deleted nearly all the photos except 6 in iPhotos, and it worked. Still would like to know what that spinning wheel is.

    Andrew Murr
    1/8/11 @ 9:09 am

    Has my IDVD trial period expired? because when I click on Video tutorials in the iDVD window, the iLife iWork, Wedpage appears. Should I re-install iMovie and iDVD from the MAC OS. X installation DVD

      1/8/11 @ 9:38 am

      There is no such thing as a “iDVD Trial” — it is part of iLife that comes with new Macs. You have it. The video tutorials are probably referring to the tutorials at the Apple site.

    Andrew Murr
    1/8/11 @ 9:51 am

    Well, when I clicked on the video tutorial tab, it showed a video of how about doing various tasks, in 1, Create a new project, open existing document,Magic iDVD and One step DVD. How do I get the video demonstration back?

      1/8/11 @ 9:56 am

      Not sure. Maybe that was a previous version and Apple switched those videos to the site (so they can update them). Have you looked for them there?
      When I click on that button I get taken to the site too. But I don’t think there is anything you can do to fix it — it is what the button does. Have you tried

    Andrew Murr
    1/8/11 @ 1:43 pm

    Is there any way I can burn an edited project to a a DVD and include chapters.
    I know there’s Themes in iDVD. which one do I use?

      1/8/11 @ 2:09 pm

      There are a lot of things you can do with iDVD. Look through the help for info on chapters.

    1/8/11 @ 2:05 pm

    Thanks Gary for a nice set of basic tips. And let’s not forget that these apply just as readily (well… most of them) to Windows machines too.

    I’d like to throw in one more suggestion, but feel free to counter if you don’t think it appropriate: try installing and running a maintenance application like Onyx. I’m primarily thinking of the running of the daily, weekly and monthly scripts as well as the ‘house-cleaning’ sort (clearing cache, etc.).

    1/30/11 @ 10:26 pm

    I would like to know how to email a home video that is about 10 minutes long?
    I may have to burn a dvd but i haven’t done one yet. i up dateded leopard to snow leopard. confused minerva

    2/7/12 @ 8:55 pm

    Hi Gary … I’m usually successful in finding info on the internet by googling or searching a forum but I am stumped today. My Mac’s warranty just ran out in November so NOW I am having weird things happen :o) Specifically, sometimes I get in a situation where nothing responds when I click on it; it’s just like everything is frozen. Secondly, I saw something VERY weird today. I had a pages document that I hadn’t saved and when I went to something else it asked me if I wanted to save it. I clicked “no” and for an instant the document had only black and white horizontal “blocks” on it, totally filling the page! Have you ever? ! (I’m not sure of the sequence or my actions as I was so shocked, but those weird block DID appear until it closed out … Thank you if you have time to comment.

      2/7/12 @ 9:47 pm

      Hard to say what might be wrong. I would just make sure you are doing your backups so that any hard drive failure is an inconvenience instead of a disaster. But that’s good advice for everyone.

Comments Closed.