Fix Common Mac Problems: Easy Troubleshooting Steps To Try

Fix Common Mac Problems: Easy Troubleshooting Steps To Try

Troubleshooting your Mac involves two basic tasks: figuring out what the problem is, and then fixing it. Usually the figuring out part is a LOT more difficult than the fixing.  Many of the following steps require a modifier key at boot, for this to work a wired USB Keyboard must be used.

 Signs of a Mac computer crash or  malfunction:

  • In rare situations, your Apple computer may stop responding and display a message stating, “You need to restart your computer”, in four different languages.  This is called a kernel panic.  A kernel panic is an action taken by the Mac OS X operating system when it detects an internal fatal error from which it cannot safely recover.

  • A blank folder with a question mark in it indicates a corrupt Operating System (OS) or that the OS cannot find essential files.  This is your Mac’s way of saying that it cannot find a valid System Folder.

  • Check the Startup Tones and Blinking Lights.  Apple computers have a distinctive startup chime and it indicates a successful hardware (POST) test.  If you do not hear the chime but instead hear a single tone, a series of tones, or see blinking lights, your Mac is indicating a hardware problem.  This may be a problem with the logic board, RAM, power manager, a video card, or other hardware.

Steps To Troubleshoot Your Apple Computer:

  • Try rebooting your Apple. It might work fine after that. If it does, you can repair permissions and spend some time making sure that your Time Machine backup is up to date (just in case).
  • Try booting into “Safe” mode by holding down the SHIFT key at boot up, this can be a slow process and it is possible for it to take up to 15 minutes as the OS verifies the system files. If you are successful with the “Safe” mode boot then shut down the computer and do a normal boot.
  • Reset the PRAM. Resetting PRAM is a good first step for troubleshooting, since it restores many minor settings to their defaults, such as screen resolution, time zone and volume level. This step is not a cure-all, but it can sometimes fix strange hardware problems such as the internal iSight camera or USB port not being recognized.  To reset the PRAM, hold down the ⌘(command), OPTION, P, and R keys when booting your computer and hold them down until you hear the Mac chime three times.

  • If your Mac hardware has recently changed like upgraded memory, remove the new memory and replace it with the old hardware and try booting your computer again. Maybe the new hardware is bad.
  • Bad RAM can cause hardware problems for your Mac, a blinking sequence of lights at startup can indicate this condition.  Fortunately this is easy to test for:  shut down the computer, remove one RAM DIMM at a time (remove in pairs on the Mac Pro or PowerMac G5) then reboot the Mac after removing the ram.  Repeat this step for each ram stick in succession until you find the faulty ram.

  • Reset the firmware. In cases where you have just upgraded the firmware, specifically “firmware” where no other update applies, and the computer has kernel panics after the upgrade, you may need to reset the firmware to the factory default settings. You can do this by downloading a firmware restore image from the Apple support website. Burn the image to a CD and start up your Mac by holding the power button until the power / sleep light flashes. If your computer has a cd tray, it will open at this point, if it is just an insertion slot you will be able to insert the CD.
  • Try restoring from a backup, a Time Machine back up is best.  But if you do not have one here are a few ways you can do a back up of your Mac:

  1. If you have another Mac available, place the two computers close to each other. Start up the problematic one while holding down the T key. This will launch “target mode” and you will see a firewire logo on your problematic Mac’s screen. Connect the problematic one to your good Mac using a Firewire cable.  At that point you will be able to open the problematic Mac’s drive from the good Mac.  If you have space for it on the good Mac, back up the entire volume. If you do not have space for that, at the very least grab anything important and save a backup. You can also perform simple troubleshooting tasks from here such as repairing permissions.
  2. If you are running Leopard or any Mac OS X thereafter and are using Time Machine, insert the Mac OS X install disc and power your computer up. Follow the install prompts to restore from a Time Machine backup. This should be straightforward and relatively simple.
  3. If you are restoring from a cloned disc image (Super Duper, Carbon Copy, etc.), connect the backup drive and boot the computer while holding down the option key. Select the backup hard drive, and continue booting. This will allow your Mac to boot directly from the backup. Now clone your data from the backup drive to your primary hard drive, in other words, reverse the backup direction. If you have not backed up in a while and your backup is old and dated, you should try to copy at least your user data from the primary volume to some other location, like another good Mac or external hard drive, prior to performing this restore.

If these steps do not help you to resolve the issues you are having with your Apple computer then please call iComputer for help.  We have Apple certified technicians that can help.