Handling Mac Problems

Even though Mac OS X is more stable than any previous version of the Mac OS, you will inevitably experience problems. You might experience crashes or hangs, or an application just might not work the way it is supposed to. You might even experience minor annoyances, such as having to do something in several steps that should require only one. In any case, one of these days, you will run into a situation that requires you to troubleshoot and solve a problem.

Dealing with a problem, especially related to Mac OS X, can be intimidating even if you are a power user because there is so much going on that you might not understand. Although the top-level Mac interface is still relatively simple and intuitive, the Unix underpinnings of the OS have added a tremendous amount of complexity to the operating system. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you are trying to solve a problem. As you use the various tools that are part of Mac OS X to diagnose and solve a problem, you are likely to run into information that doesn't make much sense to you?unless you have lived in the Unix world for a long time, in which case you'll feel right at home. However, the rest of us Mac users must do without most of the problem-solving tricks that worked so well in the OS in versions 9 and earlier. Instead, we need to learn a new bag of tricks for those times when things aren't going our way.


Some of the most common troubleshooting techniques under Mac OS 9 and earlier, such as rebuilding the desktop, managing RAM, and so on, are no longer applicable under Mac OS X.

Fortunately, you don't need to be a Unix expert to be able to troubleshoot and solve Mac OS X problems. Mostly, what is required is the ability to carefully observe what is happening and to follow logical trails. Being able to communicate clearly to others is also very important when you need to get help from someone else.

From the title of this chapter, you might be under the impression that you will be seeing many solutions to specific Mac problems you might encounter. If that is your expectation, I must be up front with you here. There simply isn't room in this book to provide lists of problems and solutions that would be detailed enough to help you with the specific problems you will face.

Instead, the purpose of this chapter is to help you learn how to troubleshoot Mac OS X problems in general. You can then apply the techniques and tools you will learn about in this chapter to any problems you face; these techniques will help you solve problems on your own. In the long run, the strategies you need to know to solve problems will be much more useful to you than lists of problems that might or might not include those you experience.


The goal of this chapter is to help you learn general problem-solving techniques, but solutions to some specific problems you might encounter are explained in the "Troubleshooting" sections in many chapters of this book.

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