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Take Control of Troubleshooting Your Mac, Second Edition
Fix common problems, and handle uncommon problems like a pro!
We may love our Macs, but they can still suffer from significant problems. In the second edition of this essential guide from best-selling author Joe Kissell, you'll learn 17 basic troubleshooting procedures and how to solve 15 common problems, along with an easy-to-follow way to troubleshoot novel problems. Whether your Mac won't turn on, experiences kernel panics repeatedly, or won't print or connect to the Internet, this book has the calm, friendly advice you need to find a solution.
The 17 basic troubleshooting procedures (along with the reasons why they can help) you'll learn are:
This ebook contains a lot of information for $10. Seriously, I thought it would be much lighter than it was. It's actually pretty much indispensable. Well done, Joe Kissell and Take Control, I say. —Mark Webster in his mac.nz book review
Joe also explains how to solve 15 common problems, including:
iPad & Kindle
About the Author
Joe Kissell has written numerous books about the Macintosh, including many popular Take Control ebooks. He's also Senior Editor of TidBITS and a Senior Contributor to Macworld, and previously spent ten years in the Mac software industry.
Table of Contents
Read Me First
Macs are easy to use, but they can experience problems like any other machine. When something goes wrong with your Mac, use this book to discover the solution. This book was written by
You’ve always heard that Macs are easy to use and less prone to misadventures than Windows PCs. And that’s true. But they’re still only machines. And sure enough, one day it happens: you encounter a serious problem with your Mac and have no idea what to do. Perhaps, since you’re reading this book, that day is today.
Repeat after me: Everything is going to be all right. Now take a deep breath and try again, this time with feeling! Everything is going to be all right. I want you to believe that. Even if you’re feeling panicked right now because your Mac is doing something wonky and you’re facing a deadline, I want you to set aside your anxiety for a moment.
Almost every Mac problem you may encounter has a solution. True, some solutions are more elusive, more time-consuming, or more expensive, than others, but still: don’t worry. I’ve been solving problems with Macs for more than 20 years, and I’m here to tell you that solutions come more easily when you have a clear head and approach a problem systematically. That’s what this book helps you to do.
Make yourself a nice cup of tea. (Keep the tea away from your Mac, by the way—let’s not add to your problems, eh?) Close your eyes and think happy thoughts. Then page through this book to learn the most efficient way to deal with whatever difficulties you may be having.
I’ve seen more than one Mac troubleshooting book that was upward of 600 pages long, and troubleshooting Web sites with thousands of pages of suggestions. By contrast, this book makes no attempt to be comprehensive, because merely listing vast numbers of problems and their accompanying solutions doesn’t help one bit if you have a different problem or don’t realize how your problem is like some other one. What I hope to do, instead, is show you some handy troubleshooting techniques, provide instructions for solving several common problems, and then help you figure out what to do when a problem’s cause or solution isn’t immediately apparent. In other words, I want to teach you how to be your own technical support person—to do what I do when something goes wrong with one of my Macs.
Because my focus here is on getting your Mac back into working order, I intentionally skip over lots of background information and technical details. So don’t worry if you’re unsure exactly why some technique solves your problem. If you’re really interested in the deep background, some exploration on the Web will probably turn up oodles of detail.
As confident as I am that most Mac problems have straightforward solutions, I must point out that some problems can’t be solved with a few mouse clicks or other clever fiddling. If flames are shooting out of your Mac or the screen is in a thousand pieces, you’ll need more help than I can provide here. Even simpler hardware problems, such as a faulty component on your logic board or a busted power cable, may require a trip to the repair shop. And a few—very few—hardware problems are either entirely beyond repair or more costly to repair than is worthwhile. Nevertheless, don’t panic. By the time you finish this book, you’ll not only know how to solve most problems, you’ll have the tools and techniques you need to prevent many problems in the first place, or at least to nip them in the bud. And even if you have a problem that requires professional help, following the steps in this book will help you talk to a repairperson more effectively.
If you don’t have any problems right now and are merely reading this to prepare yourself for future mishaps, good for you! You’ll especially appreciate the information in the first couple of chapters about preventing problems and preparing for an emergency.
This book is designed to help troubleshoot problems with any version of Mac OS X from 10.5 Leopard onward (including 10.8 Mountain Lion), though many of the techniques also work with older versions. Use the link in Ebook Extras, near the end of the ebook, to check for any new information or updated versions of this ebook.
Font of knowledge: One large category of Mac trouble I don’t cover here is font misbehavior. If you need help troubleshooting a font-related problem, read Sharon Zardetto’s Take Control of Font Problems in Leopard. It hasn’t been revised in several years, but it remains the only book on the market about font problems and much of its advice is still worthwhile.
When your Macintosh has problems, you undoubtedly want to jump right to the solution. So feel free to skip immediately to Solve Common Problems and see if your symptom is listed there. If not, and time permitting, I recommend reading this book in order, because earlier sections provide useful background information for later sections. However, you may also try the steps in Troubleshoot Novel Problems, following the cross-references as necessary to earlier parts of the book where certain procedures are described in detail.
Version 2.2 is a minor update whose main purpose is to add coverage of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (which is almost identical to Lion in terms of troubleshooting procedures). As a result, the book has tiny modifications scattered throughout; the only (slightly) larger changes involve the new behavior of Software Update in Mountain Lion, which I mention in Keep Your Software Up to Date and in the sidebar Update Got You Down? later in the book.
Version 2.1 contained numerous small changes throughout that brought this book up to date with information about Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, other recent software and hardware releases, and my two other Mac Fitness books. I also did the following:
Since the previous version of this book was released in 2009, Mac OS X has undergone lots of changes, as have third-party tools. In addition, I’ve accumulated more troubleshooting advice I wanted to share. As a result, I made extensive changes in the second edition. Some of the most significant changes include:
The book will help you get more comfortable and efficient with troubleshooting on a Mac, so that you can more easily identify problems and possible solutions. The ebook assumes that you are using Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, 10.6 Snow Leopard,10.7 Lion, or 10.8 Mountain Lion.
The book doesn't particularly look at font-related problems, because Take Control of Font Problems in Mac OS X (primarily covers 10.4 Tiger) and Take Control of Font Problems in Leopard (as you can guess from the title, this ebook is about 10.5 Leopard) offer many pages of advice for solving font problems. And, Snow Leopard didn't have enough unique font problems to justify creating another edition of the Leopard ebook. (Sorry, we haven't created a Lion or Mountain Lion edition.)
This book will help you identify if a particular application is causing a problem, and it offers general advice for solving a problem caused by an application, but it doesn't delve deeply into specific problems with specific applications. So, if you need help with a problem such as making your columns work in Pages, making Excel behave, or figuring out if wacky InDesign behavior is a bug or a feature, this book isn't the one you want.
Brendan F. wrote in to ask this question. Here's our reply:
The book doesn't specifically answer your question, but it does help you get into the troubleshooting frame of mind. For instance, you could check if it's just that one address (then likely everything else is fine, but that address needs to be deleted and rekeyed), or if it's several addresses (time to delete your Address Book data file and revert to a backup, with fingers crossed), or if it's all addresses (try deleting caches/preferences, updating the app if you are behind on updates, and/or reinstalling it). The book would give you somewhat more specific directions, but since it's general to all applications, it won't tell you exactly how to, say, find and delete the Address Book data file.
If you need help from an Address Book expert, checking resources such as the Apple Support Forums, a Macintosh consultant, or a Genius Bar, is probably the route to a solution. The book specifically notes these—and other—ways to ask for and find help.
There are lots of great ways to read our ebooks on these devices. For more details, please read our latest Device Advice.
Feel free to ask us if you have a question about this title!
How could we not publish such kind words? If you'd like to send us your comments (good or bad, though we hope they're all good), just click the Feedback link on the cover of your copy of the ebook. Be sure to let us know if we can publish your comment. Thanks!
September 20, 2012 -- Now that we've updated this ebook for 10.8 Mountain Lion, we have no specific plans to update it in the near future.
June 10, 2013 --
If you have ever encountered the problem of your Web browser telling you that you haven't installed the latest version of a plug-in that you are trying to use, even when you think you have—or, in fact, know you have—this Macworld article by Lex Friedman, What to do when Netflix, Google, and other browser plug-ins won't update, explains that the cause may be duplicate plug-in files: one in the System-wide /Library/Internet Plug-Ins folder, and one in the ~/Library/Internet Plug-Ins folder (that is, in the Library folder in the user's Home directory). Note that users of Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" and 10.8 "Mountain Lion" need to hold down Option when clicking the Finder's Go menu in order to open the ~/Library folder.
—Michael E. Cohen
August 6, 2011 --
Take Control author Kirk McElhearn reports in a TidBITS article, Video Viewing in Lion Freezes New iMacs (4 August 2011), about a freezing problem that can occur when new iMacs running Lion attempt to play video after being woken from sleep. Find out the details, the symptoms, and what Apple has done so far to address this issue. (Note: I, too, have a new iMac running Lion, and have seen the problem first-hand.)
—Michael E. Cohen
June 7, 2011 --
You can now listen to (or watch) author Joe Kissell talk with host Chuck Joiner about Macintosh troubleshooting on the MacVoices podcast (episode #1174) or watch the full video version on MacVoicesTV (episode #1163).
Find out what Joe thinks has changed in recent years with troubleshooting and why enhancing your troubleshooting skills remains important, plus get inspired to think like a troubleshooter. Joe also discusses some recent troubleshooting experiences that he's had personally with his own gear, and the solutions that he's found.
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