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Archive for the ‘Troubleshooting’ Category

by Tom Nelson

You just turned on your Mac and all you see is a dark display. That’s OK; you know it can sometimes take a little while for your Mac to boot up. But after a minute or two, you start to think something is dreadfully wrong with your Mac. Let’s take a look at the possible causes of a moribund Mac, and what we can do to fix them.

Check the Basics
We’ll start our troubleshooting by checking a few basics. I suppose this step is a bit out of order from a logically flowing troubleshooting process, but hey, it’s the simple stuff that most often causes these types of problems, so let’s start there.

If you’re using an external display, check to make sure it’s turned on: While you’re at it, make sure the video cable is seated properly at both the display and the Mac ends of the cable. Check the power cable as well. If either cable is loose or unplugged, the dog did it; at least that’s what the cat always says. Regardless of who was responsible, if it’s loose, you need to reconnect the cable firmly at both ends.

Check that the display’s brightness is turned up to a reasonable level: This applies to both external displays, which will usually have one or more buttons on the monitor to adjust the display (check the monitor’s manual for instructions), and those built in to your Mac. On an Apple-supplied keyboard, including those built in to a MacBook, the F1 (decrease) and F2 (increase) keys are used to adjust the brightness. On non-Apple keyboards, the F14 (decrease) and F15 (increase) keys will adjust the brightness.

Is the power turned on?: You already verified that the display is turned on, but you should also make sure that both your Mac and its display actually have power. Check to see if the power cables are plugged in, and make sure that any power strip or UPS that the display or your Mac is plugged into is also turned on. If you’re not sure if the power is on, try plugging a known good device, such as a lamp, into the same plug that your Mac or display uses.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Once you’re sure your Mac and its display are connected properly to a power source, the appropriate cables are connected, and the display’s brightness is at a reasonable level, it’s time to move on to more detailed troubleshooting.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

You just upgraded to macOS High Sierra and you’re amazed at the overall performance improvement you’re experiencing on your Mac.

OK, I just made that up. Most of the time, upgrading to a new version of the Mac operating system doesn’t bring performance increases. In most cases, performance remains about the same, with any efficiencies in the new OS offset by new features that take more than their fair share of your Mac’s resources.

But sometimes after installing a new OS, your Mac may seem to have had its performance rug pulled out from under it. Luckily, such problems are usually temporary or easy to fix. If you’re experiencing speed issues after installing macOS High Sierra, give these tips a try.

Spotlight Slowing Things Down
One of the perennial performance hits that occurs after a Mac operating system upgrade is Spotlight indexing the startup drive, or for that matter, any new drive(s) you may have added recently. The indexing process can really slow things down after an upgrade since the startup drive had a lot of information changed on it.

Adding a drive to Spotlight’s Privacy tab prevents it from indexing the volume. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Spotlight needs to build an accurate index of the files on your Mac so that search results are fast and correct. Thankfully, this is only a temporary problem. Once the indexing is finished, your Mac’s performance should return to normal.

If you can’t wait for the indexing to be done, you can disable indexing using these instructions:

Launch System Preferences, and select the Spotlight Preference Pane.

In the Spotlight window, select the Privacy tab.

Click the plus (+) button in the bottom left corner of the window.

In the list that opens, use the sidebar to select your Mac (it will be listed under Devices), and then select the startup drive, usually named Macintosh HD. Click the Choose button.

You’ll be asked if you really want to prevent Spotlight from searching in Macintosh HD. Click the OK button.

The startup drive will be added to the Spotlight privacy list and indexing for the drive will stop.

You should only add the startup drive to the privacy list as a temporary measure. I highly recommend that you remove the startup drive from the privacy list as soon as possible to ensure that all of the Mac’s search functions will work correctly.

To remove the startup drive and allow indexing to continue, select it from the Privacy tab and click the minus (-) button.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

It’s almost become a tradition; one we wish we didn’t have to put up with. It seems with each new release of the Mac operating system, there are some features that just don’t seem to work the way they used to. The tradition lives on with macOS High Sierra, so we’re gathering a list of what High Sierra broke and how to fix it (when you can).

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Drive Encryption Can Change Formatting
Encrypting an entire drive to add a level of security has been an easy task in the Mac OS ever since FileVault 2 was released as part of OS X Lion. Full disk encryption has been a boon for Mac users who worry about their personal data being easily accessible on their Macs or external drives. This is especially true for portable Mac users, who need to worry about their Macs being lost or stolen.

macOS High Sierra continues to support full disk encryption, but Mike Bombich, who created Carbon Copy Cloner, has verified a bug in High Sierra that will cause an external drive to have its format changed from HFS+ to APFS when the drive is encrypted in High Sierra.

Enabling encryption on a drive should not alter the underlying drive format. If the drive was HFS+ (Hierarchical File System) before you chose to encrypt it, it should remain an HFS+ drive afterwards. The same is true for APFS (Apple File System) formatted drives; choosing the encryption option shouldn’t change the APFS format of the drive.

Related: A Note On High Sierra Compatibility with Third Party SSDs

Under certain conditions, encrypting a drive will modify the format to APFS without the user being aware of the changes.

The specific conditions are:

  • Must be an external drive
  • Must not have a Mac operating system installed on the drive

If these two conditions are met, and you select the option to encrypt the drive, by right-clicking the drive icon and selecting Encrypt from the popup menu, the drive will be converted to APFS format and then encrypted.

Even though the drive has been converted to APFS and encrypted, it will continue to work just fine with your Mac running macOS High Sierra. The problem comes about should you ever connect the drive to a Mac running an earlier version of the Mac operating system, or if you boot your Mac to an earlier version of the OS. In either case, the external drive won’t be recognizable by the older operating system.

Our recommendation is not to encrypt your external drive, unless converting to APFS is acceptable to you, and you have no plans to use the drive with earlier versions of the Mac operating system.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

MacOS High Sierra is finally ready for release. It endured the summer beta program, and is now available through the Mac App Store for anyone to download and install.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

We’re always grateful that new versions of the operating system go through an extensive beta process, but it always seems a few issues will still be lurking, ready to pop up and surprise us.

With that in mind, here are some of the more common problems you may encounter when upgrading to macOS High Sierra.

Note: Before upgrading to any new or updated operating system, it’s a good idea to have a current backup in place.

Upgrading From the Beta
If you’re a beta tester, you may have a slightly more difficult time upgrading than the rest of us; it all depends on whether you installed the new APFS (Apple File System) during the beta testing. Apple backed away from its original goal of having APFS ready to go for all Mac configurations. Instead, it’s releasing macOS High Sierra with APFS only for Macs using SSDs (Solid State Drives). If you converted a Fusion drive during the beta, it needs to be reverted to HFS+ before you can install macOS High Sierra.

Unfortunately, Apple isn’t providing any tools to revert the file system. Instead, you’re required to back up your current data with Time Machine, erase and reformat the affected drive(s), install macOS High Sierra, and then migrate your backed up data to the fresh install.

Apple includes instructions for the process, specifically using Time Machine as the backup app. It seems you should also be able to perform this task by creating a clone using Carbon Copy Cloner or one of the other popular cloning tools. Nevertheless, even if you decide to create a clone, we highly recommend you also create a Time Machine backup, especially if the clone is the only copy of your data you will have.

You’ll need a drive partitioned as HFS+ for the Time Machine backup. This can be an existing Time Machine drive as long as it’s formatted as HFS+. You’ll also need to create a bootable macOS High Sierra installer; a 16 GB or larger USB flash drive or an external drive can serve this purpose.

Warning: The process of creating the bootable installer will erase the contents of the selected drive volume.

Apple has posted instructions in its support area for Preparing Your Fusion Drive Mac for the macOS High Sierra Install. It covers two methods for converting a Fusion Drive back to HFS+ and installing macOS High Sierra. The instructions are a bit sparse, but should be sufficient for getting the job done. If you have any questions regarding the process, be sure to post them in the Comments section below.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

A few weeks ago, we looked at How to Fix and Avoid the Most Common Mac Error Messages. One of the issues we ran into was which problems we should showcase; there were way more possibilities than we could fit into one Rocket Yard guide. We also asked you, our readers, to let us know which Mac errors you’re encountering that we haven’t covered.

In this, the second edition of the common Mac error messages guide, we’ve included some of the errors that you commented about, as well as a few that we dropped from the original article, for lack of space.

So, once again, in no particular order, even more Mac errors and how to fix or avoid them.

‘Can’t empty the Trash’

There are a few variations on the can’t empty the Trash messages, including:

  • Cannot empty the Trash because a file is in use.
  • The Trash cannot be opened right now because it is being used by another task.
  • Cannot empty the Trash because there are some locked items in the Trash.
Some of the error message text varies with the version of the operating system you’re using, but you get the idea; the trash is simply not working as it should, and you’d like to get the trash taken out pronto. Sometimes the error message shows up when you try to put a file in the trash, and other times the error pops up when you try to empty the trash. Either way, here are some workarounds for the problem.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

A ‘file in use’ message occurs when the file is marked as in use by an app or background process. An easy fix is to quit any open apps, and then try deleting the trash. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, then it’s likely that a background process is making use of the file. You can try restarting your Mac in Safe Mode to prevent apps and services that may start automatically from launching (restart your Mac while holding down the shift key to enter Safe Mode). Once your Mac desktop is visible, try deleting the trash and then restarting your Mac normally.

If you would rather find out which app or service is making use of the file, you can download Sloth, a GUI wrapper for Terminal’s lsof command. Sloth will display all of the apps and services that are using various files on your Mac. You can then use the search tool to filter the results to the file or files in the trash that are causing problems. Once you know which app is responsible, you can use Sloth to kill (quit) the app, and then delete the trash.

You can delete locked files from the trash by unlocking the files. If you haven’t already done so, try emptying the trash, and when you see the locked files dialog box, select the option to Remove Unlocked Items. This will leave the trash containing only the locked files.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Next, open the trash, select one of the locked files, and press the Command + I keys. The Get Info window will open. Look for a checkbox labeled Locked, and remove the checkmark. Repeat for each locked file. You should then be able to delete the locked files. If the locked files originated from a network source, such as another Mac or a Windows PC on your network, you may have to go to the original computer to unlock the files.

‘Spinning pinwheel or beach ball’
The Mac’s spinning pinwheel or beach ball is an indication that a process or app is waiting for a task to finish before it can continue.

The pinwheel can be very annoying, especially when it seems like it’s not just an app, but your whole Mac that’s locked up. Thankfully, there are quite a few steps you can take to combat the spinning pinwheel, as outlined in the Rocket Yard guide: Tech 101: How to Troubleshoot a Slow Mac.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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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.

macossierrainvert

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.

recoverydiskassistant

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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