Mac OS X to the Max: Getting Help for Your Problem

Unless you can instantly see how to solve your problem or one of your tools takes care of it, you will probably need to get help. There are plenty of sources for troubleshooting help, including the following:

  • Manuals and online help

  • Technical support from the manufacturer

  • Web sites

  • Newsgroups

  • Magazines

  • Troubleshooting software

  • Mailing lists

  • Co-workers and other people you know personally

When asking for help from people?regardless of the means you use, such as the telephone or email?be sure that you keep the following in mind:

  • Use basic manners? You have no call to be rude to people who are trying to help you, even if they happen to work for the manufacturer of the software or hardware that is giving you trouble. Besides being the right thing to do, using good manners will probably get you better help. Manners are equally important when making requests via email or other online sources. "Please" and "thank you" go a long way toward encouraging people to help you. Sometimes this basic rule can be hard to remember when you are stressed out about a problem.

  • Give accurate, specific, and complete information? Use the work you did earlier to provide a complete description of your problem. For example, provide information from logs you captured and be prepared to provide System Profiler information. Unless you give the person who is trying to help you a good idea of what is really going on, that person is unlikely to be able to help.

  • Don't wear out your welcome with someone who is only trying to help? You need to be careful not to impose on people who are trying to help you only out of the goodness of their hearts. If you are asking a friend, co-worker, or even a complete stranger to help you with a problem, use her time efficiently. Be prepared to describe your situation. Be specific. And if the person can't help you after a reasonable amount of time, go to someone else. It is not fair to ask a volunteer to spend large amounts of her time trying to solve your problems. You can usually tell if someone is willing and able to help you quite quickly. If you sense that you are butting up against a dead-end, bow out gracefully and try another path.

Getting Help More Effectively

An ineffective request for help goes something like this, "I was printing and Word quit. Help!" This kind of question?which happens more than you might imagine?is just about impossible to answer.

A more effective question might be something like this: "I am using a 500MHz Power Mac G4 running Mac OS X version 10.3.1 that is connected to an Epson 740i. While I was trying to print from Microsoft Word for Mac OS X version 1.1, Word unexpectedly quit. I didn't get any sort of error message. I am able to print from other Mac OS X applications, and I have installed the latest printer drivers. Do you have any suggestions that might help?"

Table 29.3 lists some specific sources of online help with Mac OS X issues.

Table 29.3. Sources of General Help for Problems


Contact Information



Apple's support pages are a great source of information about problems, and you can download updates to system and other software. Check out the Tech Info Library to search for specific problems. You can also read manuals and have discussions about problems. If the problem you are having seems to be related to the OS, Apple hardware, or an Apple application, this should be your first stop.


This is a good source of information related to solving Mac problems. Access to this information is not free, but you can get help on literally every aspect of using a Mac. Most of the information comes from Mac users, and you can ask specific questions?although the answer to your question is probably already available. You can get access to current information free; however, you must pay to access older information maintained in an exhaustive set of archives. The fee is quite reasonable for the quality of the information to which you have access.


This site offers a lot of Mac news that can help you solve problems, especially if those problems are solved by a software update of which you are unaware.


You can email me to ask for help, and I will do my best to provide a solution for you or at least point you to a more helpful source if I can't help you directly.

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Life