Yosemite: A Take Control Crash Course
by Scholle McFarland

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Get Help from OS X Recovery

Maybe the trouble begins with errors when you try to save or open a file. Or, you might find yourself staring at an unchanging gray screen. When your Mac is on the fritz, your first instinct may be to launch Apple’s Disk Utility and select Repair Disk from the First Aid pane. The problem is, Disk Utility can’t repair an active startup drive. So, what now? When you installed Yosemite, you also gained a hidden partition made just for such moments. Here’s when—and how—to use OS X Recovery .

① 	When you boot into Apple’s Recovery mode, you can access a number of troubleshooting tools.

① When you boot into Apple’s Recovery mode, you can access a number of troubleshooting tools.

First, Try Basic Troubleshooting

OS X Recovery can be a life-saver, but using it shouldn’t be the first step when you’re troubleshooting your Mac. Make sure you’ve exhausted easy options first. Here’s the least you need to know.

Tip: The best way to prepare for disaster is to have a good backup plan in place, see Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac, Second Edition.

Zap a Frozen App

Is your problem the dreaded, endlessly spinning beach ball? Try these tricks before more drastic methods:

② 	Press Command-Option-Esc to force-quit a stalled application.

② Press Command-Option-Esc to force-quit a stalled application.

When Your Mac Won’t Turn On

Are you staring blankly at this chapter because you can’t even get your Mac to turn on? Try this:

Solve Slowdowns

If force-quitting and restarting doesn’t stop your slowdown problems, you might need to do more:

③ 	See how much RAM you have and whether you can add more.

③ See how much RAM you have and whether you can add more.

Note: Sorry, you can’t upgrade RAM in the MacBook Pro with Retina Display or MacBook Air.

Tame Troubled Startups

For problems with startups, try these tricks first:

Tip: Still stumped? Take Control of Troubleshooting Your Mac has detailed advice about how to troubleshoot tricky problems.

Turn to OS X Recovery

If your attempts to fix your Mac aren’t working or you think you need to repair your drive, boot your Mac into OS X Recovery: Hold down Command-R at startup until the Apple logo appears. Or, press and hold Command-Option-R at startup to see the Startup Manager, and select Recovery HD from there.

In OS X Recovery, you see four choices: Get Help Online, Disk Utility, Restore From Time Machine Backup, and Reinstall OS X.

When Recovery HD Is Missing

Some Macs don’t have the invisible OS X Recovery partition. Check before you’re in trouble by restarting while pressing Command-R. Even if you don’t, you can still prepare for the worst:

Get Help Online

If you’re not sure what to do, start here. First, make sure you’re connected to the Internet by clicking the Wi-Fi icon at the top right of the screen and choosing a network . Enter the network’s password, if necessary. Then, choose Get Help Online and click Continue.

④ 	Click the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar to connect to the Internet.

④ Click the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar to connect to the Internet.

Safari opens to a description of how to use OS X Recovery. Click the link to the general Apple Support site, click the Mac category, and then browse help topics. Or, click the search icon and type a description of your problem to see if fixes turn up. You may also want to do a more general Google search.

Repair with Disk Utility

If you’re in Recovery mode because of disk problems, Disk Utility is the option you’ll choose first. After the utility launches, select your startup drive’s name in the list on the left. Click the First Aid button and then click the Repair Disk button .

⑤ 	Once in Recovery mode, you can select your startup drive and click Repair Drive (circled).

⑤ Once in Recovery mode, you can select your startup drive and click Repair Drive (circled).

If Disk Utility repairs your drive—or can’t find problems to repair—but the problem still occurs, try reinstalling OS X.

If Disk Utility can’t repair the drive:

Reinstall OS X

Sometimes your copy of OS X is the problem and you’ll need to install it anew. You can do this, in theory, without harming your files and settings.

For this option to work in OS X Recovery, you must be connected to the Internet. Click the Wi-Fi icon at the top right of the screen and choose a network. Enter the network’s password, if necessary.

Choose Reinstall OS X and click Continue. OS X downloads over the Internet from Apple’s servers, and is installed. Be prepared for this to take anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours, depending on your connection.

Note: When you reinstall your OS using OS X Recovery, you may not initially get the latest version of OS X. Be sure to use the App Store app to check for available OS updates.

Restore from a Time Machine Backup

Say the worst has happened and you must wipe your drive and start fresh (or install a new drive). If you back up your data using OS X’s Time Machine, then you can restore your system—OS, files, and all—using the Restore from Time Machine option .

⑥ 	If you have complete Time Machine backups, the Restore From Time Machine option may save your bacon.

⑥ If you have complete Time Machine backups, the Restore From Time Machine option may save your bacon.

Warning! If you’ve been selective about your backups—for instance, using Time Machine’s exclusion list to leave out system files—you can’t restore your system using this tool. Instead, you need to reinstall OS X and then use Yosemite’s Migration Assistant (in /Applications/Utilities) to transfer data from your Time Machine backup.

When You Don’t Have a Backup

Speaking hypothetically—because I know this will never, ever happen to you—what do you do if your drive is toast and you don’t have a backup? Time for damage control:

If you use iCloud to share passwords, calendars, contacts, and the like among various Apple devices, you can now say a prayer of thanks to Steve Jobs. You don’t need to worry about this data.

If you use Gmail, iCloud, or any other Web-based email service, you don’t need to worry about your email messages and settings, either.

Assuming you have a complete Time Machine backup (see the warning above), and you want to wipe the destination drive clean and restore your backup to that drive, select Restore from Time Machine Backup and then click Continue.

On the next screen, select your Time Machine drive, the particular backup you want to restore from, and the destination drive.

Erase and Reinstall OS X

If you’re sure that you don’t need a new drive, but you want to start from scratch, you can erase the disk and reinstall a fresh copy of OS X.

Boot into OS X Recovery, choose Disk Utility, and click Continue.

After the utility launches, select your startup drive’s name in the list on the left. Click the Erase button. In the Format pop-up menu, choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled), name your disk if you like, and click…(you’re sure, right?)… Erase.

Once this process is done, go back to the Reinstall OS X section and follow the directions there.

Note: For more about OS X Recovery, see Apple’s article, OS X: About OS X Recovery.

Do You Still Have AppleCare?

Every Mac comes with a year’s warranty and 90 days of phone support. But you can buy more coverage with an AppleCare Protection Plan, which extends your coverage to 3 years from your Mac’s original purchase date.

See if you’ve still got coverage by choosing Apple  > About This Mac, and clicking Service. Click the Check My Service and Support Coverage Status link. A warning appears, telling you your serial number will be sent to Apple. Click Allow.

Safari opens to a Web page with your coverage details.

Coverage or not, you can still take your Mac to your local Genius Bar. Just be prepared to pay for repairs.

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