How To Use Free Apple Repair Utilities To Troubleshoot Your Mac

If you suspect a problem with your Mac there are several different maintenance applications you can use to troubleshoot a variety of Mac hardware issues. Which Mac repair utility you end up using will depend on both the specific problem that you are trying to fix on your Mac and also your comfort level and experience with troubleshooting Mac hardware.


Apple Repair Utilities


The first thing to try when you are starting to experience any semblance of hardware problems on a Mac computer are the free repair utilities that come included with all Mac purchases.




Apple provides a few different free Mac repair utilities in the operating system.  The AHT boot CD tests all of your basic hardware functionality such as the hard drive, memory, CPU processing, and video. These utilities that are included with the Mac computers for consumer use only tests for very basic hardware functions. A consumer version of an Apple Hardware Test that says all the hardware is passing does not always mean that is the case.






The Apple Hardware Test is mainly only used to rule out major or more obvious hardware problems. If your Mac is having a hardware issue and acting abnormally, the Apple Hardware Test is a good place to start troubleshooting your computer.





Disk Utility

Another Apple repair utility that can be helpful is Apple’s Disk Utility. This tool can be found inside the Utilities folder, in the Applications folder.




The app can also be found on your OS X installation disc if you are not able to boot your Mac from the internal hard drive. The primary objective for the Disk Utility app is to screen or scan hard drives for serious problems like disk file structure errors (misplaced files or corrupted files), SMART failures (early warning signs of a hardware failure), or permissions issues.


General Disk Maintenance and Basic Repair


Most software problems that occur on Mac OS X are usually permissions-based issues. Permissions set the read/write characteristics of every file on the Mac and who those files can be viewed by.  Luckily, it is generally pretty easy to repair permissions on OS X.


Below are a few steps that will (A) Fix common issues on Macs, and (B) Keep your Mac running smoothly.

Step 1: Backup Your Data and Repair Permissions


* Use one of these methods to backup your data before proceeding:

Local Incremental Back Up – This sounds complicated but it is one of the easiest, failsafe ways to create a mirror image of all the data on your hard drive.  One easy method of this type of back up is to use Apple’s Time Machine app, in Mac OS X Snow Leopard or later, to perform the incremental backups. This means that the external back up hard drive will copy all the data from your Mac as it accumulates and start backing your data wherever it left off every time you connect the external drive to your computer.  The Time Machine app will reorganize, and keep track of all your data, so that it only makes one organized, mirrored, copy of all your files onto the external hard drive.




Off-Site Incremental Method –

This data back up method is good:          

  • If having secure data is more important for you or your business
  • If you do not want to spend the cash on a local secure storage system
  • If your OS or software are not important


These types of off site back up services usually will not backup your OS and other software files, so if you want to avoid manually restoring your entire system, you will want to double up with one of the other methods mentioned in this article. For this method of back up, if you happen to have a lot of data, the first back up will take you a very long time even on a fast Internet connection. Don’t worry though, after the first initial back up the incremental back ups will be much speedier.





Off-Site Clone Method – This method of data back up often times allows you to create a bootable clone on an external drive. This means that you will be able to restore your Mac’s data in no time, whenever necessary. These back ups can be scheduled, or just set to run automatically anytime you plug in a dedicated external drive.



Step 2: Verify and Repairing Disk Permissions in Disk Utility – 


[Go to the Applications folder, then go to the Utilities folder and you will find the Disk Utility app in there.]
  • Select the icon named ‘Macintosh HD’
  • Select ‘First Aid’ from the tabs
  • Hit ‘Verify Disk Permissions’ and let the process run


Verifying disk permissions can take anywhere from just a few minutes to much longer like several hours, but just let the Disk Utility app do its thing and complete the process.




After you have verified the permissions on your Mac, look right underneath the verify button, and click the “Repair Disk Permissions” button.

This could also take anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour, and the progress bar is not always accurate, so just let Disk Utility do its thing again here.  The last step is to restart your Mac.


Step 3: Restart your Mac

[Make sure to select ‘Restart’ from the hard drive, not the DVD]

Did that solve your problem? No? Don’t reach for the bottle quite yet. It’s time to do some drive repairs.


Fixing A Corrupt Directory

Another common problem that can affect the Mac’s performance is a corrupt directory file. The directory organizes and keeps track of how all the files are connected together. If the directory gets messed up on the Mac OS, your computer will basically have no idea what files to put where. But don’t worry! This can be fixed.


Repair Disk            

  Disk Utility FirstAid

  • Insert your OS X Installation DVD
  • Restart your Mac
  • Press and hold the ‘C’ key until the Apple logo appears (you are now booting from the DVD)
  • Open Disk Utility
  • Select the Macintosh HD icon on the left side
  • Select First Aid from the tabs
  • Hit Repair Disk (NOT ‘Repair Disk Permissions’)
  • Restart your Mac

If you are still having problems after following these steps you may be having a hardware issue with your Mac.