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In this course, Macworld senior editor Christopher Breen provides a comprehensive overview of Mac OS X Lion, complete with insider tips for getting the most out of the operating system. The course shows how to configure system preferences, personalize the interface, and master gestures, as well as achieve fluency with applications such as Mail, iCal, and Preview. The course also includes tutorials on browsing the web with Safari, automating complex tasks with Automator, sharing over a network, and performing maintenance operations using the disk utility, along with timesaving techniques for using the Mac efficiently.
Except for you and me, dear viewer, nothing is perfect. No, not even your Mac. There will be times when that Mac misbehaves in confounding ways, and it won't start up, it freezes or shows an error when you're trying to boot up, or when it does boot up, applications won't launch or they spontaneously quit, or your Mac runs very slowly. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help your Mac and yourself when things go wrong. So let's talk about those things right now. First of all, if you walk into your room, you press your Mac's power button and nothing happens, the first thing you want to do is take a look at power connections.
I can't tell you how many times people have called me on the phone or emailed me and said, "My Mac won't start up," and I say, "Well, is it plugged in?" And they look at the power cord, they go, oh yeah, sorry. So you want to make sure that your Mac is plugged into power. Also, if it's plugged into a power strip, make sure the power strip is turned on. If it's plugged into a wall socket, make sure that the switch on the wall is switched on so that everything is connected to power. Also check your cable connections. It's possible that the power cord in the back of the Mac or in your laptop isn't seated properly, so it's not getting power that way.
You also want to scrutinize recently installed memory and hardware. So for example, you start up your Mac and you see this bunch of gibberish appear on the screen, and that's called a kernel panic. If you see this kind of thing and you have recently installed memory or some kind of hardware, shut off your Mac, disconnect it from power, reseat that memory, or try moving it to different slots, or take it out all together and go with the original memory, put it back together, restart your Mac, and see if it operates properly.
If so, it's possible that the memory you've put in was either incompatible or bad or it simply wasn't seated. Sometimes you have to press really hard to get memory in. Don't press so hard that you're going to break something, but make sure it's well seated. There are also issues with adding new hardware. Sometimes you'll have a crash or you'll have a kernel panic if you've attached an incompatible device. So what you want to do in that case is shut down the Mac, disconnect everything except your keyboard and your mouse and your monitor, if you use one with your Mac, and then restart.
If it seems to be starting okay, that's an indication that there's a problem with this hardware. In that case, go to the manufacturer's site and see if there's some kind of driver that you can use that's an update of whatever driver it's currently using. It may be that the driver that you originally had was incompatible with Lion. You have a new driver and it will work okay. As I said, disconnect non-essential peripherals. This can be a problem, not only because of startup, but you may have already started off your Mac, and it still seems to be working in kind of an odd way.
Shut down, disconnect the nonessential stuff, start up, see how it works. If it works better, shut down again and start adding in peripherals one at a time. Add it in once, see how it works. If it's okay, shut down, add another one, start up, is it okay? Great. And so keep repeating until you find the problem peripheral. You can also disable startup items at startup. Oftentimes when you install a software, it will install startup items, and these are little programs that launch as your Mac is booting up.
Most of the time these things are very, very helpful, but sometimes there can be a conflict and this can cause a problem with your Mac. If you want to disable startup items at startup, just hold down the Shift key as you startup and you'll boot into something called Safe Boot Mode. If your Mac is working perfectly under Safe Boot but not otherwise, go into Users and Groups, unlock the System Preference with your username and your password, and then go into Login items and take a look there. Remove the items there and then start up again. If it starts up okay, just like with peripherals, add the startup item, see how your Mac runs, add another one, see how it runs, until you can isolate the problem.
If your Mac is still misbehaving, there may be something corrupt on the hard drive. In that case, you want to restart your Mac, hold down the Option key, and then when you have the option to choose Volumes, choose the Restore HD Partition. A shortcut to this is to hold down Command+R when you start up and it will boot into that partition. Once you've done this, run Disk Utility. This will be one of the options in the window. Once you run Disk Utility, launch First Aid, and choose Verify Disk.
If it finds a problem, choose Repair Disk and hopefully that fixes your problem. Disk First Aid is pretty good, but it's really not a miracle worker. If you need a stronger repair tool, there are others out there. Elsewhere in the course I've talked about Alsoft's DiskWarrior. This is a utility that I swear by. It's $100. It can fix low-level corruption that other utilities can't touch. I think it's absolutely worth having. You may only use it one time, but it may save your data, and therefore your bacon, so worth getting.
It's also worth your while to update your software. It's not the case that Apple goes to every software vendor in the world and says, oh, by the way, we're going to be coming out with a new version of Mac OS X in the next six months, so why don't you please update your software so it's going to be compatible with our operating system? Sometimes a new operating system will come out and software vendors need to catch up and make their software compatible with the Mac OS. In this case, if things don't seem to be working right, you launch an application and it's crashing, see if there is an update for it.
It's possible that update will help any problem you're having with the software. Check Activity Monitor. If your Mac is churning along, go into Activity Monitor, as I showed you in one of our other movies, and see what's taking all that processor time. It's possible there's some background process that you can do without, that you can get rid of that won't eat up your processor and therefore slow down your Mac. If you're having a real problem with a piece of software, you've done everything you can, delete it, get rid of it, and reinstall it, because it's possible that it has become corrupted, and with a fresh install of that software, then it will work perfectly.
If everything seems to be going wrong and you just can't figure out what the problem is, there is no shame in restoring from a backup. Of course, you've backed up. I've told you to backup and you've done it. Good for you. So restart your Mac, hold down the Option key, boot into the Restore HD Partition, and when you do, you'll see an option to restore from the Time Machine Backup. Choose that option, restore your data, and everything should be okay. If not, you can go as far back as reformatting the drive using Disk Utility and then reinstall Mac OS X and then restore your software.
And court of last resort, if you've done all these things or if any one of these things seems too difficult for you, give Apple a call. They made the software, they made the hardware, they know the answers. If you have a local Apple Store, you can make an appointment with a Genius. Take your computer in there and they'll help you out. If you have AppleCare, which I think is a good idea, this extends your warranty to three years instead of one. You can give Apple a call on the phone, oftentimes they'll tell you to take your hardware down to an Apple Store, if there is one nearby, or if there isn't, you can ship your stuff to Apple free of charge.
Also, many towns have Apple Authorized Service Centers. These are technicians who have been trained by Apple. They know Apple stuff backwards and forwards and they can fix your Apple gear for you as well. Now this may seem like a long list, but it's a logical one. If you follow these steps, chance are that your Mac is going to be back in the pink in no time at all.
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