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Take Control of Troubleshooting Your Mac
Sep 19, 2012

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.

This book stops at Mountain Lion! For troubleshooting advice for a more modern version of the Mac’s operating system, check out the “child” of this book, Troubleshooting Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide.

More Info

The 17 basic troubleshooting procedures (along with the reasons why they can help) you’ll learn are:

  • Restart your Mac
  • Force-quit an application
  • Start up from another volume
  • Run disk-repair utilities
  • Erase and restore from backup
  • Repair permissions
  • Start up in Safe Mode
  • Turn off login items
  • Check preference files
  • Reset PMU, SMU, SMC, NVRAM, or PRAM
  • Use Activity Monitor
  • Check free disk space
  • Check log files
  • Clear caches
  • Check your RAM
  • Test for reproducibility
  • Get system information

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 book review

Joe also explains how to solve 15 common problems, including:

  • Your computer won’t turn on
  • Your computer keeps turning itself off
  • You experience repeated kernel panics
  • Your Mac is abnormally slow (read Take Control of Speeding Up Your Mac for full details)
  • You can’t empty the Trash
  • An application grinds to a halt
  • An application crashes
  • 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
What's New

What’s New in Version 2.2

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.


What kinds of problems does this book help with?

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.

Will this book tell me how to fix the search function in Address Book that causes it to freeze when I search for a particular address?

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.

Update Plans

November 14, 2015 – This book was last updated for 10.8 Mountain Lion. We won’t be updating this book in it’s current form again, but Joe has migrated it to his Joe On Tech ebook series and revised it for later versions of OS X. The new title is called “Troubleshooting Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide.”

Posted by Tonya Engst

  1. When a browser plug-in update fails

    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.

    Posted by Tonya Engst (Permalink)

  2. Video Viewing in Lion Freezes New iMacs

    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.)

    Posted by Tonya Engst (Permalink)

  3. Get Inspired to Do Troubleshooting by Listening to Joe and Chuck

    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.

    Posted by Tonya Engst (Permalink)

The Author

Take Control publisher Joe Kissell has written more than 60 books about technology, including many popular Take Control ebooks. He also runs Joe On Tech and is a contributing editor of TidBITS and a senior contributor to Macworld.