Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #201

Today’s Macs are generally trouble-free, except when they’re not. While some users go for months or years without experiencing an issue, every so often an otherwise trouble-free Mac will become wonky for no apparent reason.

What do I mean by, “wonky?” Glad you asked. Anytime your Mac doesn’t perform as expected I consider it “wonky.” If starting it up takes longer than it used to, that’s wonky. If an app worked yesterday but refuses to launch today, that’s wonky. If you see the spinning pinwheel of death for more than a few moments, that’s wonky. If you receive cryptic error messages about permissions, that’s wonky. When it gets halfway through booting and then stops, that’s wonky. And so on.

So, the next time your Mac misbehaves in any of the aforementioned ways or any way at all, really, here are a pair of painless, safe, and relatively quick procedures that often fix what’s ailing your Mac and avoid a trip to the Genius Bar. My experience has been that one or the other fixes many types of wonkiness in less than ten minutes.

Procedure #1: Reboot

If your Mac does anything out of the ordinary or misbehaves in any way, the first thing to try is rebooting. And, in fact, rebooting is the first thing you try with any electronic device that becomes recalcitrant. iPhone or iPad acting up? Reboot it! Printer not printing properly? Reboot it! Wireless network not working properly? Restart the router!

Note that some devices (including many routers), don’t have an on/off switch. If that’s the case, you’ll have to disconnect the device from its power source for a minute or two to force it to reboot.

Rebooting is the first thing I recommend for almost any issue on almost any device; be sure to try it before you waste any time trying to diagnose or troubleshoot a problem.

Procedure #2: Safe boot (aka Safe mode)

If rebooting doesn’t fix it, try a safe boot (aka safe mode) next by starting or restarting your Mac and immediately pressing and holding the Shift key until the login window appears. If you see “Safe Boot” in the upper-right corner of the login screen, it worked; if not, try again.

If you see Safe Boot in the upper right corner of your screen, it worked; if not, try again.

If you see Safe Boot in the upper right corner of your screen, it worked; if not, try again.

A safe boot does several things, any of which could cure whatever is ailing your Mac, including (but not limited to):

  • Verifying your startup disk and repairing directory issues, if needed
  • Loading only required kernel extensions
  • Preventing Startup Items and Login Items from opening automatically
  • Disabling user-installed fonts
  • Deleting font caches, kernel caches, and other system cache files

When the Finder appears after your safe boot, restart your Mac without pressing any keys during startup to exit safe mode and, with any luck, fix your problem as well.

Yes, it is just that simple. And yes, a safe boot fixes wonkiness as often as not. So, the next time your Mac acts up in any way, try these two quick and painless fixes before you do anything else. You’ll be surprised at how often they cure the ailment, so there’s nothing else to do.

And that’s all he wrote…

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