When Force Quit Doesn’t Work & Other Tales of Horror

Let’s face it. Most of us barely remember when we didn’t have the Force Quit option to save us if an application suddenly freezes. In the old days the only choice we had was to restart our computer and hope for the best. Of course, that also meant that any work we may have created and not saved was also lost, but we took our lumps. Fortunately those are indeed the old days.

Dealing with Frozen Apps on Your Mac

For the uninitiated, the Force Quit option is found under the Apple menu.

Force Quit option

When an application freezes you just open Force Quit — which you can almost always do even when things are frozen— click on the frozen app, and click on Force Quit. Your problem is solved.

Force Quit in action

Most of the time. There is a gotcha here. Some things won’t show up in the Force Quit window. Like your Dock. Like some of the utilities you might be using. But that doesn’t mean you are forced back to the old choice of restarting your machine. Apple has another option for you: Activity Monitor.

The quickest way to launch Activity Monitor is to go to Spotlight and enter Activity Monitor in the search field, but you can also retrieve it from the Utilities folder in the Applications folder, if you like to do things the hard way.


Activity Monitor window

As you can see from this image there is a whole list of stuff, most of which you probably don’t even recognize, but all that stuff is running somewhere on your Mac. Assuming my Dock is frozen, I just find it on the list, highlight it, and click on the bright red Stop button. The Dock quits and comes right back, only now it should be functioning properly.

If I quit out of most anything other than my Dock, it will just quit and I will have to open it to get back into it.

Recovering Lost User Account Passwords


That is one horror, but perhaps it is small potatoes compared to the real horror of forgetting your administrator password.

Luckily, there is more than one way to recover your password in OS X 10.7 (Lion). One involves going into the Terminal, something I urge beginners to never do. You can fry your whole system by misplacing a character in a string of information. If you are desperate and have no other choice, I found some instructions for this method at osXDaily.

The method I suggest for beginners requires a bit of preplanning, but it is a lot safer. First of all you have to have an Apple ID. That is the same Apple ID you use to purchase apps from the App Store and apps and music from the iTunes Store. If you don’t have one you can sign up for one for free at the Apple website.

You need an Apple ID because your Mac, running Lion, is going to allow you to use that ID to reset your administrator password, if you have made two selections in your preference settings.

To make those selections choose Apple Menu > System Preferences > Users & Groups. Choose your Administrator Account. If the preference is locked, unlock it using your administrator password (see the red arrow in the image below). Under the Password tab put a check in the box next to “Allow user to reset password using Apple ID”.

Users & Groups window - password tab

Next, click on Login Options (see the blue arrow in the image above).  When that window opens put a check next to “Show password hints.”

Users & Groups Login Options window

Now you are set should the day arrive when a senior moment hits and you can’t remember that password. When you enter an incorrect password three times, a question mark will appear next to the password box. Click on it and you will be asked the answer to your password question; the one you entered when you registered your computer. You know the one — Where did you go to grade school, or your team mascot, or whatever you set up. Answer the question and you can use your Apple ID to create a new password and you are ready to go.

Restoring Safari’s Toolbar

This last horror is no big deal, well, unless it happens to you. Then it is a very big deal. You open the Safari browser and you can’t find the fields that let you enter a URL address or search in Google.

You expect to see Safari’s toolbar…

Safari page in normal format

…but instead, you see just the window title.

Safari page missing major fields

You don’t know what you did, or how to undo it. I didn’t know what I did either. Still don’t. But after I had my mild panic attack I found out how to fix it.

With Safari open, select View > Show Toolbar. You are back in business.

I’m off to Macworld|iWorld next week to see all the great new Mac products, see old friends, and make new ones. I’ll report back on the best of the best.