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This chapter is from the book

Learn Simple Troubleshooting Techniques

When things go wrong, here are a few simple troubleshooting techniques you can try.


It's amazing what a simple restart will fix. Especially if you rarely turn off your Mac, sometimes little things may start acting a bit quirky. Perhaps your Mac can't find the printer you've been using for months, or icons for new files don't appear. For little unexplainable things, restart.

  • To restart, go to the Apple menu and choose “Restart….”

If for some reason you can't get to the Apple menu, try the Restart button that is on most Macs. It's a tiny little round button with a triangle on it.

On laptops, you can press the Power button for one second and you'll get a little message with a button to restart.

If you can't restart, then Shut Down. Either use the Apple menu command, if you can, or as a last resort hold down the Power button for five seconds.

Force quit an application or relaunch the Finder

Sometimes just one application has trouble. You can force quit any application and it doesn't affect any other application or the system. It's great. You can't force quit the Finder, but you can relaunch it, which only takes a minute.

  • To force quit, hold down the Option key and press (don't click) on the application's icon in the Dock. A menu pops up with a choice to “Force Quit.”
  • To relaunch the Finder, hold down the Option key and press (don't click) on the Finder icon in the Dock. A menu pops up with a choice to “Relaunch.”

Delete the preference file

Another tip to troubleshoot an application that isn't acting right is to delete that application's preference file. This is perfectly safe—when the application opens up again, it will recreate a new preference file from scratch. You will lose any preferences you had personally changed in the application, but it can be worth it because this works pretty good to solve inexplicable annoyances.

  1. Quit the application.
  2. Open a Finder window and view it by columns, as shown below.
  3. Single-click your Home icon in the Sidebar.
  4. In the column that appears to the right, single-click the “Library” folder.
  5. In the next column to the right, single-click the “Preferences” folder.
  6. In the next column to the right, find the “.plist” file for the application that's giving you trouble. That is the preferences file.
  7. Drag the application's preference file to the Trash. Empty the Trash.
  8. Restart the application and hope it works better.

Check the Network preferences

If you are having trouble with your Internet connection (that is, connecting to the Internet, not email issues), check your Network preferences. One particular feature to check is the “Network Port Configurations.” Also see pages 263–265.

  1. sysprefs_icon.jpg

    Open the System Preferences: single-click its icon in the Dock.

  2. In the System Preferences pane, single-click the “Network” icon (it's in the third row).
  3. From the “Show” menu, choose “Network Port Configurations.”
  4. In the list of “Port Configurations,” make sure there are no checkmarks in connections you don't use.
  5. Also make sure that your primary connection is at the top of the list. If it isn't, just press-and-drag it up to the first position.
  6. If you've made changes, click the “Apply Now” button in the lower-right.

If you can't get your dial-up connection going, check the settings for “Internal Modem.” Keep in mind that the account name and account password are not necessarily the same as your email name and email password! Call your provider and ask them to verify your account name and account password.

If you keep getting disconnected from your dial-up connection, check the “PPP Options” (circled, above, shown below). Uncheck the box, “Disconnect if idle for ____ minutes.” Click the blue ok button, then click “Apply Now.”

Check for software updates


Make sure you are using the latest versions of all your software. For your Mac os software, use the Software Update preferences to see if everything is up to date (open it in the System Preferences, as described on the previous pages).

It's especially important to check for updated application software when you update your operating system, like when moving from any other os to Tiger.

Create another user and test

If you install new software and it just won't work, like it won't even open, create another user (see Lesson 9 for details). Install the software in the new user's Home and see if it works. If it doesn't work for the new user, the software itself has a problem—check with the package it came in or the vendor you bought it from to make sure it is the corrrect version for your operating system.

If the software does work for the other user, that indicates there is something in your system that is conflicting. Try throwing away the preferences, as explained on page 57. If it still doesn't work, you may need to contact the vendor to find out what sorts of cache files or other files may be conflicting with that particular software.

If you forgot your password

If you forgot the password you entered when you .rst set up your new Mac or installed your new system (called the Admin password), you'll have to use the original install cd to .x the problem. (I think someone told you that you should have written down your password.) If you have created more than one user for your Mac, you can use these steps to change the password of any user.

  1. Get the original CD. Put it in and double-click the “Install” button. Follow the directions to restart. No, you are not really going to re-install the entire system.
  2. All you need to do is wait until the install screen appears. Then go to the Utilities menu and choose “Reset Password….”
  3. Enter your new password—twice. And write it down where you can find it again. Click OK.
  4. Quit the installer from the Installer menu. Your Mac will restart.

If you did not enter a password when you first set up your Mac, then you can leave the password field empty and just hit the blue “OK” or “Continue” button and it will work just fine.

Report crashes

Most of the time when an application crashes, an alert box appears and asks if you want to send a report to Apple. Now, Apple is not going to write you back—this is just an anonymous report you send in so Apple can figure out if there are common issues among many users, enough to warrant looking into. It's good to go ahead and send in the report.

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