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Archive for the ‘Troubleshooting’ Category

by Tom Nelson

Chances are you’ve never had any problems with your Mac and this guide to common Mac error messages won’t be of interest to you.

Just kidding. It’s much more likely that you’ve seen at least a few of these error messages when using your Mac; after all, we consider them somewhat common.

While the Mac operating system tries to make it as easy as possible to understand error messages, sometimes the description leaves a bit to be desired. For this guide, we selected a number of common error messages, and explained what they mean, and how, when possible, to fix or avoid the condition that caused the error to occur.

So, in no particular order, let’s get started.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

‘Your computer’s clock is set to a date before March 24th, 2001. This may cause some applications to behave erratically’
This error message can indicate that your Mac’s PRAM/NVRAM/CMOS battery has exhausted its charge and may need to be replaced. The battery in question was used primarily in previous generations of the Mac to keep the PRAM or NVRAM, as well as a few other important bits of silicon in the Mac, operating, even when the Mac was disconnected from a power source. This allowed your Mac to remember such things as the time and date, the time zone you’re in, and a number of basic settings, including volume and brightness.

For the most part, modern Macs have done away with the special battery and rely on a portable Mac’s main battery, as well as the use of solid-state non-volatile memory, to store this type of information. But that doesn’t mean you won’t ever see this error message. If you do, then the PRAM/NVRAM likely contains corrupt information and needs to be reset, and, depending on the Mac model, may need a PRAM/CMOS battery replacement.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

‘Kernel Panic: You need to restart your Mac’
The dreaded kernel panic rears its ugly head by imposing a black or gray (depending on the version of the OS you’re using) rectangle over your Mac’s display, along with the words, “You need to restart your computer. Hold down the Power button for several seconds or press the Restart button.”

The best piece of advice we can give you if you find yourself in this situation is to resign yourself to your fate. Documents you had open at the time of the kernel panic likely won’t retain any of the more recent changes you made. At this point, there’s nothing you can do except restart your Mac.

So, what caused the kernel panic? It’s difficult to say. It’s possible to dig through the system logs and find out the last activity the processors were performing when the event occurred, but even this information may not shine a light on the real cause. Suffice it to say most kernel panics are one-off events that are not repeated on a regular basis. There’s a very good chance that the process of restarting your Mac, which will clear out memory and some caches, will be enough to keep the kernel panic from returning.

If it does return, you can try a few basic techniques to potentially resolve the issue so you can get back to work, including How to Use macOS Sierra Disk Utility to Verify or Repair Disks and Reset PRAM/NVRAM and SMC.

When your Mac starts back up, get back to work or play, and be thankful that you have current backups. You do maintain current backups, don’t you?

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Target Disk Mode has been a feature of the Mac OS since the PowerBook 100 (pictured below) was released way back in 1991. This handy feature allows you to connect two Macs via FireWire ports, Thunderbolt ports, or USB-C ports, and then share the contents of the Target Disk Mode Mac’s internal drive.

Target Disk Mode can be used for quite a variety of purposes:

  • Copying files from one Mac to another without having to set up file sharing or create a local network.
  • Troubleshooting the drive of a Mac that can’t boot to the desktop.
  • Using an optical drive on the Target Disk Mode Mac as if it were attached to your Mac.
  • Using the Mac OS operating system on the Target Disk Mode Mac to boot a second Mac.

As you can see, Target Disk Mode can be pretty darned versatile, and may be able to solve a problem you’re having that relates to accessing or sharing data from one Mac to another.

What You Need
The list is short, but essential.

  • Two Macs. That may seem obvious, but it makes sense to point out that Target Disk Mode only works between two Macs; you can’t chain multiple Macs together. All of the connection types (FireWire, Thunderbolt, and USB-C) support hot connecting, meaning you can connect a cable between the two Macs while they are powered on. We recommend shutting down both Macs before proceeding, however.
  • An appropriate cable to make the connection. Ideally, you should connect similar ports; that is FireWire to FireWire, Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt, or USB-C to USB-C. There are, however, exceptions. Using adapters to connect Thunderbolt to FireWire will usually work, as will Thunderbolt to USB-C. But not all adapters are known to work correctly in Target Disk Mode, so if you can, connect directly to the same port type. If you need a specific cable or adapter, MacSales.com has a wide selection of FireWireThunderbolt and USB-C cables and adapters available.
  • AC power. While it’s possible to run a notebook Mac off of its battery while in Target Disk Mode, you forgo any monitoring of the battery power levels. This could lead to the Mac in Target Disk Mode shutting down unexpectedly. It’s best to always power portable Macs from an AC source when using Target Disk Mode.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Once in a while, for no apparent reason, you may encounter the SPOD (Spinning Pinwheel of Death). It’s that multicolored pinwheel mouse pointer that signifies a temporary delay while your Mac tries to figure something out. In this case, your Mac is trying to think but nothing happens, so the pinwheel keeps spinning, and spinning, and spinning.

Luckily, the SPOD is rarely a sign that your Mac is freezing up.

It’s more likely that a single application is stalled or frozen. If that’s the case, bringing another application to the front or clicking on the desktop will likely bring the Mac back under your control. You can then force quit the offending application.

There’s a good chance, though, that the next time you try launching the application that caused the SPOD, you’ll end up seeing the spinning pinwheel again.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

I have to say that seeing a Mac’s display suddenly appear distorted, frozen, or simply not turning on is one of the worst problems to come across when all you want to do is work on your Mac. Unlike most other Mac issues, this is one you can’t put off to deal with later.

Having your Mac’s display suddenly start misbehaving can be scary, but before you start wondering how much it will cost to fix, take a moment and remember: many times a display glitch is just that; a glitch, temporary in nature, and not necessarily an indication of continuing troubles to come.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

For example, I’ve seen my iMac display suddenly show a couple of rows of distorted color; not quite a band of distortion, since it didn’t show edge to edge. A few other times I’ve had a window that I was dragging suddenly leave a seemingly permanent trail of smeared images behind as it was dragged about. In both cases, the graphics issues were temporary, and did not return after a restart.

One of the more frightening display problems I’ve run into was when the display never turned on, remaining black, never showing a sign of life. Happily, this turned out not to be a display issue but instead a peripheral that was causing the startup process to freeze before the display was initialized by the system.

My point is, don’t think the worst until you’ve run through these troubleshooting tips.

Before you start the troubleshooting process, you should take a moment to ensure the graphics problem you’re having is indeed a graphics issue, and not one of the many startup issues that manifest themselves as a display that’s stuck in a gray screen or a blue or black screen.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Ever since OS X Lion, the installation of the Mac OS has included the creation of a Recovery HD volume, hidden away on the Mac’s startup drive. In an emergency, you can boot to the Recovery HD and use Disk Utility to correct hard drive issues, go online and browse for information about the problems you’re having, or reinstall the Mac operating system.

You can discover more about how to use the Recovery HD volume in the guide: Use the Recovery HD Volume to Reinstall or Troubleshoot OS X.

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Image courtesy of Apple

Recovery HD and External Drives

Apple also created a utility called OS X Recovery Disk Assistant that can create a copy of the Recovery HD on any bootable external drive you have connected to your Mac. This is good news for the many Mac users who would like to have the Recovery HD volume on a drive other than the startup volume. However, the utility can only create the Recovery HD volume on an external drive. This leaves out all of the Mac Pro, iMac, and even Mac mini users who may have multiple internal hard drives.

With the help of a few hidden Mac OS features, a little bit of time, and this step-by-step guide, you can create a Recovery HD volume anywhere you like including an internal drive.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance your Mac just suffered a kernel panic and you’re searching for what to do next. We’ve got the answer, and it’s simple: Don’t panic. Instead, take a deep breath, relax, and know that almost all kernel panics are transitory; events that aren’t likely to keep repeating. You don’t need to live in fear that in the next minute, your Mac will crash once again.

On the downside, you likely lost any unsaved work up to the point of the kernel panic. There’s a remote chance that some work may have been saved in the last Time Machine backup.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

What a Kernel Panic Is
In UNIX-based operating systems, such as OS X and macOS, a panic is an unrecoverable error that was detected by the operating system kernel. It’s unrecoverable because the kernel, the basic heart of the operating system, can’t figure out how to get back on track. In essence, it’s lost, and not sure how it got here. When this occurs, the kernel runs the panic function code that tells it what to do in these situations. Unfortunately, about the best the kernel can do once it runs the panic code is collect some data about the current condition of the processors, and what processes were running, and then halt or restart your Mac.

In OS X Lion and earlier, a panic resulted in the screen dimming and a message in multiple languages that said: “You need to restart your computer. Hold down the Power button for several seconds or press the restart button.” The message was white text on a black background.

OS X Mountain Lion changed the look and sequence by automatically restarting the Mac, and then displaying a text message similar to the one above, but with black text on a gray background.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

“To sleep, perchance to dream; ay, there’s the rub.” While neither Hamlet nor Shakespeare had computers available, the famous line from Hamlet’s soliloquy does describe a problem many Mac users have experienced: their Macs being in such a sound sleep that they fail to wake, perhaps enjoying their dreams just a bit too much.

Of course, that’s not the only sleep-related problem we’re going to explore in this Rocket Yard guide. We’re also going to look at problems entering sleep, as well as the various sleep options available for both desktop and portable Macs.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Putting Your Mac to Sleep
The Energy Saver preference pane controls the basic sleep functions. Here you can set sleep options, including how long to wait before turning off the display, as well as the computer, whether drives should be spun down, and if Power Naps are allowed (we’re in favor of that last option). The available options can be different, depending on the version of the Mac OS you’re using, and whether your Mac is a desktop or portable model.

Your Mac will automatically sleep based on the Energy Saver settings, but you can also force sleep by selecting Sleep from the Apple menu, using a Hot Corner, closing the lid of your Mac portable, or using the Option + Command + Eject keyboard shortcut.

Problems Entering Sleep
Most of the time we think of problems occurring when entering sleep, but it’s also possible to have sleep occur for an unknown reason, say right in the middle of a game you’re playing.

If you find your Mac going to sleep when it shouldn’t, the problem is likely to be a sleep parameter that is set incorrectly. You should start by checking the Energy Saver preference pane. Look for the following:

Display Sleep slider set with a very short time frame.

Computer Sleep set to quickly enter idle sleep.

Sleep schedule setting that is forcing your Mac to sleep (click the Schedule button to check).

sleepschedule1280

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Having a hot corner setting on the display that forces your Mac to sleep (check the Mission Control preference pane; look for the Hot Corners button).

Pressing the Power button can put your Mac to sleep, or wake it up. In OS X Mountain Lion or earlier, the ability of the power button to be used for sleep is controlled by the Energy Saver preference pane setting. See if the “Allow power button to put the computer to sleep” option is checked.

Having a magnet near your portable Mac. As odd as it sounds, a magnet can both cause your Mac to be unable to go to sleep, as well as prevent it from waking up. This happens because the Mac uses magnetic switches to detect when the lid is closed. Having a strong magnet near the front edge or palm rest area of your MacBook can affect these switches and send the wrong signal to the power management circuitry, causing your Mac to sleep or wake from sleep.

Failure to sleep can also be caused by hardware connected to your Mac, as well as software running on your Mac. One likely hardware issue is USB peripherals. You can try disconnecting your peripherals one at a time, to see if any are preventing your Mac from entering sleep.

Printer queues are a notorious cause of sleep prevention. The issue arises when a printer queue becomes corrupt, or when one or more pages are stuck in the queue and fail to print. Clearing out the queue or resetting the printer system will cure the problem.

You can use Terminal to help you determine what’s causing your Mac from entering sleep. Using the pmset command, you can discover if anything is setting an assertion against entering display or idle sleep.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

It seems every version of Mac operating system that you install may have a few issues that pop up. Now, we’re not saying you can expect to experience all or even any of the issues we outline here. In fact, the vast majority of users upgrading to macOS Sierra won’t have these problems.

But if you do experience an issue after upgrading, it’s probably going to be one of the issues we mention here. Not to worry; we’ll show you how to resolve it.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

macOS Sierra Freezes During Install

There are two common freezing issues; one can occur during the install process, the other when your Mac reboots after the install is complete.

Freezes After Restart: Let’s start with the easier of the two issues to fix: when your Mac seems to stall during the final reboot of the installation. At this point, you’ve selected the target drive for the Sierra install, agreed to the licensing, and your Mac was displaying a progress bar with an estimate for time remaining.

The screen goes black, and your Mac reboots. So far, so good. The next step is for your Mac to finish the restart and display the Setup Assistant, for finishing up any needed details before the login or desktop is displayed. Instead, your Mac seems to be frozen on the dark screen, or perhaps with a wait icon spinning away.

The problem is that your Mac failed to restart correctly, but because all the install guides warn you that the first restart can take a long time, you don’t know how long to wait. To be on the safe side, a half hour is more than long enough, and if your Mac hasn’t brought up the Setup Assistant by then, you can give your Mac a figurative kick in the pants.

Force your Mac to shut down by pressing and holding the power switch. After your Mac shuts off, you can go ahead and power it up again. Your Mac should power on and display the Setup Assistant, letting you finish the installation of macOS Sierra.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

With each new release of the Mac OS, there always seems to be new features that change how you work, the removal of a feature or two that forces you to rethink how you work, or just plain bugs that make working on your Mac not quite the pleasant experience it used to be.

To put it simply, “macOS Sierra broke my favorite feature; now what do I do?” We’re going to take a look at some of the features that Sierra broke, and show you easy ways to fix them. (Related: How to Fix Scary Issues That Can ‘Possess’ a Mac, Affect Performance)

Safari Doesn’t Display Some Web Sites

As part of Apple’s concerns about web page security, and the wish to promote HTML5-based content, Safari disables some Safari plug-ins, including Flash, Silverlight, QuickTime, and Java.

The result is that when you visit a web page that relies on these older technologies, you may be greeted with just a black page, or a black page with a dropdown sheet asking if you wish to use Flash or one of the other disabled plug-ins on the specific website.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Although the wording can change slightly depending on the plug-in involved, you have the choice of activating the plug-in just this time for this website, always for this website, or to leave the plug-in turned off.

Your choice isn’t permanent; you can change the selection at anytime within Safari Preferences.

  • Select Preferences from the Safari menu.
  • Choose the Security tab.
  • Click the Plug-in Settings button.
  • Select a plug-in from the displayed list, and a list of websites you’ve visited that use the plug-in will be displayed. You can use the dropdown menu to change whether a plug-in may be used on the site.
  • You can select Off, On, or Ask. You can also specify the default for the plug-in’s use when visiting new websites.

You may be tempted to just turn the plug-in on for all websites, which would make browsing the web easier. But that choice comes with issues, including security concerns involving plug-ins, such as Flash, that seem to have a never-ending supply of vulnerabilities. Instead, we recommend using the Ask setting, which will cause Safari to ask what you wish to do each time you visit a website. This way, you’ll always know which sites are using antiquated technologies.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

You’ve just dashed off a reply to an important email message. When you hit the ‘Send’ button, you discover that it’s dimmed, which means you can’t send your message. Mail was working fine yesterday; what went wrong?

smtpsettings

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

A dimmed ‘Send’ button in Apple Mail means there isn’t a correctly configured outgoing mail server (SMTP) associated with the Mail account. This can happen for a number of reasons but the two most likely are that the mail service you use made changes to its settings and you need to update your settings, or your Mail preference file is outdated, corrupt, or has the wrong file permissions associated with it.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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