Mac emergencies don't happen often, but when they do it helps to know what to do -- that's the knowledge this short guide helps provide.
Don't overreact if things seem to be going wrong, but do ensure your Mac software is up to date and keep regular backups -- just in case of problems.
To identify whether your Mac has a hardware problem, disconnect your peripherals and update software drivers and run Apple Hardware tests (below).
My printer's stopped printing
If you think it's your Mac that's causing the problem, try using different cables. If things remain awry, launch System Preferences>Printers & Scanners and Right-click on the printer(s) in the Printers list and choose 'Reset Printing System'. You'll need to add your printer(s) again once this completes.
I forgot my OS X password
Launch Disk Recovery mode and choose Utilities>Reset Password to create a new (and memorable) password for your Mac.
My CD/DVD is stuck in the drive
If the Eject button isn't working:
- Press Command-E to eject
- Restart your Mac and hold down the left mouse button until the disk ejects.
- Launch Terminal (it's in your Utilities folder) and enter the following exactly as shown: /usr/bin/drutil eject
USB devices aren't recognized
- Switch off your Mac, unplug the power cable, disconnect your peripherals and leave your system for five to 10 minutes.
- Reconnect your Mac, reconnect the keyboard and mouse, Restart.
- Reconnect your devices one at a time.
- If they remain unrecognized, reset the PRAM (as explained below).
This is sometimes all it takes to solve a problem.
Still having problems? Restart your Mac holding down the Command-R keys to enter Disk Recovery mode. Launch Disk Utility in this mode and Fix Permissions on your drive. You can also run Disk Utility in normal mode -- you'll find it in the Utilities folder.
With Mavericks, reinstalling your System Software is a breeze: just enter Disk Recovery mode, from which you can do just that -- just make sure you keep a backup.
Apple Hardware Test
Apple offers a suite of hardware tests you can run on Macs to find out if you truly have a hardware problem. To access these, Restart your Mac holding down the D key; if this fails, Restart again holding Option-D.
The Mac will launch Hardware Tests -- these take a few minutes to complete but will identify any hardware problems you might have.
I rarely do this, as it means system and device settings need to be put back in place. It's the closest thing to a nuclear option for Mac problems.
- Shut down your Mac
- Launch your Mac while depressing the Command-Option-P-R keys on your keyboard. You need to depress these after launching your Mac but before you see the grey screen.
- Your Mac will restart again -- you'll hear the startup chime twice.
- PRAM is now reset.
Software tool kit
Three apps I use frequently when my Mac has problems:
Great software to keep your system happy.
Always maintain a current clone copy of your Mac.
Disk Warrior ($100)
The ultimate emergency tool.
Hardware you need
- Always ensure you have access to a wired keyboard and mouse, in case of Bluetooth problems.
- A hard drive to store a regularly updated (monthly) clone of your Mac.
- Apple's AirPort Time Capsule is both a Wi-Fi basestation and network storage drive that will automatically keep backups of your system using Apple's free Time Machine software.
- An emergency bootable OS X flash drive.
You may also find these reports useful:
Mavericks Tips and Tricks
- OS X Mavericks: 4 speed secrets
- OS X Mavericks: 6 useful Mac tricks
- 6 Safari secrets for OS X Mavericks
- OS X Mavericks: 7 tips for the travelling Mac
- OS X: Taking better screenshots on a Mac
- An A-Z guide to OS X Mavericks (A-M)
- An A-Z guide to OS X Mavericks: Part two (N-Z)
- A simple guide for Android to iPhone/iOS switchers
- Troubleshooting tips for Apple Mail on OS X Mavericks
- OS X Mavericks, iOS 7: Text Shortcuts explained
- OS X Mavericks: Fixing wireless keyboard/mouse connections
- Quick guide: OS X Mavericks for Windows switchers
- OS X Mavericks tips: Control the information you share with apps
- How to improve Mac performance: OS X Mavericks edition
- More Tips and Tricks
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