Fix common problems, and handle uncommon problems like a pro!

Take Control of
Troubleshooting Your Mac

Third Edition
Joe Kissell

This essential guide teaches you 17 basic troubleshooting procedures and how to solve 21 common problems, along with an easy-to-follow way to troubleshoot novel problems. Whether your Mac fails to boot, loses its Internet connection, or won’t cooperate, this book has the advice you need to find a solution.

All Take Control books are delivered in three ebook formats—PDF, EPUB, and Mobipocket (Kindle)—and can be read on nearly any device.


Note: This book is currently out of date for users of macOS 10.15 Catalina or later. We plan to release a new book in the second half of 2022 to provide up-to-date instructions on this topic.

Macs are generally quite reliable as computers go, but they can still experience significant problems. In this essential guide from best-selling author Joe Kissell, you’ll learn key troubleshooting skills that will help you address the most common and frustrating Mac irritations. You’ll also learn what to do when you encounter a problem for which you can’t find a ready-made solution. (Step one: Don’t panic!)

Whether your Mac won’t turn on, experiences crashes or kernel panics repeatedly, can’t connect to the internet, or exhibits any of numerous other misbehaviors, this book has the calm, friendly advice you need to find a solution.

This book covers 10.9 Mavericks through 10.14 Mojave. It does not cover 10.15 Catalina or later.

You’ll learn these 17 basic troubleshooting procedures (along with the reasons they can help):

  • Force-quit an app
  • Restart your Mac
  • Log in to another user account
  • Start up from another volume
  • Run disk repair utilities
  • Erase and restore from a backup
  • Repair permissions (in Yosemite and earlier)
  • Start up in safe mode
  • Check preference files
  • Reset NVRAM or SMC
  • Use Activity Monitor
  • Check free disk space
  • Check log files
  • Clear caches
  • Check your RAM
  • Test for reproducibility
  • Get system information

Joe also explains how to solve 21 common problems, including:

  • Your Mac won’t turn on
  • Your Mac stalls during startup
  • Your Mac keeps turning itself off
  • Your fan runs excessively
  • Your Mac is abnormally slow (read Take Control of Speeding Up Your Mac for full details)
  • You can’t empty the Trash
  • An app grinds to a halt
  • An app crashes
  • You experience repeated kernel panics
  • The keyboard or mouse doesn’t work
  • You lose your internet connection
  • Printing doesn’t work
  • Spotlight searches fail
  • Keychain (seemingly) forgets passwords
  • Apple Mail fails to connect
  • Time Machine misbehaves
  • A volume won’t unmount
  • The Open With menu contains errors
  • iCloud Data doesn’t sync properly
  • Continuity features fail
  • Your laptop’s battery misbehaves

What happened to Troubleshooting Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide?
Long story short, this is an updated version of the same book, with a different title. The Joe On Tech book started out as Take Control of Troubleshooting Your Mac, and now it’s back home in the Take Control catalog.

Joe Kissell

About Joe Kissell

Take Control publisher Joe Kissell has written more than 60 books about technology, including many popular Take Control books. He formerly wrote for publications such as Macworld, Wirecutter, and TidBITS. He lives in Saskatoon with his wife, his two children, and his cat.

What’s New in Version 3.1

Version 3.1 is a minor revision that brings this book up to date with macOS 10.14 Mojave and various changes in third-party software. Along with numerous small edits, this version contains the following significant changes:

  • Updated the discussion in Get a Disk Repair Utility to reflect the current state of support (or lack thereof) for APFS and Mojave in third-party disk utilities
  • Clarified the instructions in Use Disk Utility in El Capitan or Later to cover repairing an APFS volume
  • Added the topic You Can’t Boot from an External Volume, which includes issues affecting Macs with T2 chips
  • Revised and expanded the instructions in Apple Mail Fails to Connect to reflect recent versions of Apple Mail

The third edition (version 3.0) of this book contained a large number of minor changes, but only the following major changes since Troubleshooting Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide, version 1.1:

  • Updated the book for compatibility with macOS 10.13 High Sierra, including instructions for the latest versions of Console, Disk Utility, System Preferences, and other apps
  • Updated the text throughout to cover Macs with USB-C connectors, including mention of the fact that Macs thus equipped can use USB target disk mode
  • Updated my advice in Think About an Insurance Policy, since Safeware no longer offers individual policies
  • Revised my recommendations as to how much available disk space you should have in Check Available Disk Space
  • Removed obsolete advice about fonts and Time Machine
  • Significantly updated the instructions in Fix Incoming Mail Problems and Fix Outgoing Mail (SMTP) Problems to cover Mail in Sierra and High Sierra
  • Read Me First
  • Introduction: Don't Panic!
  • Troubleshooting Quick Start
  • Prevent Problems
  • Prepare for an Emergency
  • Learn Basic Troubleshooting Procedures
  • Solve Common Problems
  • Troubleshoot Novel Problems
  • Learn More
  • About This Book
  • Joe Discusses the New Editions of His “Mac Fitness” Books

    Posted by Joe Kissell on December 29, 2017

    I joined Chuck Joiner on MacVoices (audio and video) to discuss the new editions of Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac, Take Control of Maintaining Your Mac, Take Control of Troubleshooting Your Mac, and Take Control of Speeding Up Your Mac—including their transition from Joe On Tech books back to the Take Control world:

    MacVoices #17227: Joe Kissell Releases Four Take Control Titles Updated for High Sierra

    April 30, 2022—This book is currently out of date for users of macOS 10.15 Catalina or later. We plan to release a new book in the second half of 2022 to provide up-to-date instructions on this topic.


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