Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
After more than three decades as a Mac user, trainer, and consultant, I’ve seen and resolved more than my share of Mac snafus. Over those years, I’ve developed a checklist of things to try when a good Mac goes bad.
What does “bad” mean? If your Mac won’t start up, or it freezes, crashes, quits unexpectedly, or misbehaves in other ways, that’s bad. Fortunately, my checklist of tips and techniques can resolve many (if not most) cases of macOS wonkiness. Rest assured, these techniques are (mostly) non-destructive and should fix the issue or do no harm.
Do This First
The first thing to try when your Mac misbehaves is restarting it. I know that sounds simple, but it’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to eliminate problems. So, start by restarting your Mac. If that fixes the issue, you’re done.
If That Didn’t Fix It, Try This Next
If that didn’t do the trick, and your Mac still misbehaves, the next step is to apply some first aid, namely Disk Utility’s First Aid function. If you still see a prohibitory sign, the spinning rainbow of death, or a kernel panic alert when you start up your Mac, restart while pressing Command + R to boot from your Mac’s built-in Recovery partition. When the Recovery window appears, click Disk Utility.
In the Disk Utility window, click the disk causing the issue in the sidebar, click the First Aid button in the toolbar, and click the Run button. The First Aid process can take a minute or two, or an hour or two. Leave it alone for at least an hour. You can click Show Details if you care to see (mostly unintelligible) details as it repairs (or tries to repair) your disk.
When it’s done, click the Done button, quit Disk Utility, and choose Restart from the Apple menu.
If You’re Still Having Issues, Try This
If your Mac still doesn’t start up normally or your issue persists, the next thing to try is Safe mode, which requires you to press and hold down the Shift key during startup.
Type your password if necessary, then press and hold the Shift key again before clicking the Log In button. The words Safe Boot appear briefly in red type in your menu bar, but if you blink, you’ll miss it.
Booting into Safe mode does three things to help you troubleshoot your issue:
- It forces a directory check of the startup (boot) volume.
- It loads only required kernel extensions (some of the items in /System/Library/Extensions).
- It runs only Apple-installed essential startup items (some of the items in the /Library/StartupItems and /System/Library/StartupItems folders).
Note that the Startup Items in the Library folders are different from the Login Items in the Users & Groups System Preferences pane. Startup Items launch before the log in window appears; Login Items launch after you log into your user account.
Also note that some features won’t work in Safe mode, such as DVD Player, video capture, and many audio input or output devices. So, boot into Safe mode only if you’re having issues, and reboot into normal mode as soon as you can.
Tune in next week for three more non-destructive techniques you can try before you have to seek professional help.