Troubleshooting Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide (2015)

Introduction: Don't Panic!

You’ve always heard that Macs are easy to use and less prone to misadventures than Windows PCs—and that’s true. But they’re still only machines. Sure enough, one day it happens: you encounter a serious problem with your Mac and have no idea what to do. Perhaps, since you’re reading this book, that day is today.

Repeat after me: Everything is going to be all right. Now take a deep breath and try again, this time with feeling! Everything is going to be all right. I want you to believe that. Even if you’re feeling panicked right now because your Mac is doing something wonky and you’re facing a deadline, I want you to set aside your anxiety for a moment.

Almost every Mac problem you may encounter has a solution. True, some solutions are more elusive, more time-consuming, or more expensive than others, but still: don’t worry. I’ve been solving problems with Macs for more than 20 years, and I’m here to tell you that solutions come more easily when you have a clear head and approach a problem systematically. That’s what this book helps you to do.

Make yourself a nice cup of tea. (Keep the tea away from your Mac, by the way—let’s not add to your problems, eh?) Close your eyes and think happy thoughts. Then page through this book to learn the most efficient way to deal with whatever difficulties you may be having.

I’ve seen more than one Mac troubleshooting book that was upward of 600 pages long, and troubleshooting websites with thousands of pages of suggestions. By contrast, this book makes no attempt to be comprehensive, because merely listing vast numbers of problems and their accompanying solutions doesn’t help if you have a different problem or don’t realize how your problem is like some other one. What I hope to do, instead, is show you some handy troubleshooting techniques, provide instructions for solving numerous common problems, and then help you figure out what to do when a problem’s cause or solution isn’t immediately apparent. In other words, I want to teach you how to be your own tech support person—to do what I do when something goes wrong with one of my Macs.

Because my focus is on getting your Mac back into working order, I intentionally skip over lots of background information and technical details. So don’t worry if you’re unsure exactly why some technique solves your problem. If you’re really interested in the background, some exploration on the web will probably turn up oodles of detail.

As confident as I am that most Mac problems have straightforward solutions, I must point out that some problems can’t be solved with a few mouse clicks or other clever fiddling. If flames are shooting out of your Mac or the screen is in a thousand pieces, you’ll need more help than I can provide here. Even simpler hardware problems, such as a faulty component on your logic board or a busted power cable, may require a trip to the repair shop. And a few—very few—hardware problems are either entirely beyond repair or more costly to repair than is worthwhile. Nevertheless, don’t panic. By the time you finish this book, you’ll not only know how to solve most problems, you’ll have the tools and techniques you need to prevent many problems in the first place, or at least to nip them in the bud. And even if you have a problem that requires professional help, following the steps in this book will help you talk to a repairperson more effectively.

If you don’t have any problems right now and are merely reading this to prepare yourself for future mishaps, good for you! You’ll especially appreciate the information in the first couple of chapters about preventing problems and preparing for an emergency.

This book is designed to help troubleshoot problems with any version of OS X from 10.9 Mavericks through 10.11 El Capitan, though many of the techniques also work with older versions. Use the link in About This Book, near the end of the ebook, to check for any new information or updated versions of this ebook.