B. Troubleshooting Whether it's a car engine or an operating system, anything with several thousand parts can develop the occasional technical hiccup. Mac OS X is far more resilient than its predecessors
Whether it's a car engine or an operating system, anything with several thousand parts
can develop the occasional technical hiccup. Mac OS X is far more resilient than its
predecessors, but it's still a complex system with the potential for occasional glitches.
It's safe to say that you'll have to do less troubleshooting in Mac OS X than in Mac OS 9
or Windows, especially considering that most freaky little glitches go away if you just try
these two steps, one at a time:
• Quit and restart the wayward program.
• Log out and log back in again.
It's theother problems that'll drive you batty.
B.1. Minor Eccentric Behavior
All kinds of glitches may befall you, occasionally, in Mac OS X. Your desktop picture
doesn't change when you change it in System Preferences. A menulet doesn't open when
you click it. A program won't open—it just bounces in the Dock a couple of times and
When a single program is acting up like this, but quitting and restarting it does no good,
try the following steps, in the following sequence.
B.1.1. First Resort: Repair Permissions
An amazing number of mysterious glitches arise because thepermissions of either that
item or something in your System folder—that is, the complex mesh of interconnected
Unix permissions described in Chapter 12—have become muddled.
When something doesn't seem to be working right, therefore, open your Applications
Utilities folder and open Disk Utility. Proceed as shown in Figure B-1.
This is a really, really great trick to know.
Tip: Many Mac mavens, in fact, believe in running this Repair Permissions routine after
running any kind of installer, just to nip nascent problems in the bud. That includes both
installers of new programs and of Apple's own Mac OS X updates.
Figure B-1. Click your hard drive's name in the left-side list; click the First Aid tab;
click Repair Disk Permissions; and then read an article while the Mac checks out
your disk. If the program finds anything amiss, you'll see messages like these.
Among the text, you may recognize some Unix shorthand for read, write, and
execute privileges (Chapter 17).
B.1.2. Second Resort: Look for an Update
If a program starts acting up immediately after you've installed or upgraded to Mac OS X
10.5, chances are good that it has some minor incompatibility. Chances are also good that
you'll find an updated version on the company's Web site.
B.1.3. Third Resort: Toss the Prefs File
A corrupted preference file can bewilder the program that depends on it.
Before you go on a dumpfest, however, take this simple test. Log in using adifferent
account(perhaps a dummy account that you create just for testing purposes). Run the
problem program. Is the problem gone? If so, then the glitch exists only when you are
logged in—which means it's a problem withyourcopy of the program's preferences.
Return to your own account. Open your Home foldera Library Preferences folder,
where you'll find neatly labeled preference files for all of the programs you use. Each
ends with the file name suffix .plist. For example, com.apple.finder. plist is the Finder's
preference file, com.apple.dock.plist is the Dock's, and so on.
Put the suspect preference file into the Trash, but don't empty it. The next time you run
the recalcitrant program, it will build itself a brand-new preference file that, if you're
lucky, lacks whatever corruption was causing your problems.
If not, quit the program. You can reinstate its original .plist file from the Trash, if you'd
find that helpful as you pursue your troubleshooting agenda.
Remember, however, that you actually havethreePreferences folders. In addition to your
own Home folder's stash, there's a second one in the Library folder in the main hard drive
window (which administrators are allowed to trash), and a third in the System Library
folder in the main hard drive window (which nobody is allowed to trash—at least not
without one of the security-bypass methods described in the box on the next page).
In any case, the next time you log in, the Mac creates fresh, virginal preference files.
B.1.4. Fourth Resort: Restart
Sometimes you can give Mac OS X or its programs a swift kick by restarting the Mac.
It's an inconvenient step, but not nearly as time-consuming as what comes next. And it
can fix problems that cropped up when you started up the computer.
B.1.5. Last Resort: Trash and Reinstall the Program
Sometimes reinstalling the problem program clears up whatever the glitch was.
First, however, throw away all traces of it. Open the Applications folder and drag the
program's icon (or its folder) to the Trash. In most cases, the only remaining pieces to
discard are its .plist file (or files) in your Home Library Preferences folder, and
any scraps bearing the program's name in your Library Application Support folder.
(You can do a quick Spotlight search to round up any other pieces.)
Then reinstall the program from its original disc or installer—after first checking the
company's Web site to see if there's an updated version, of course.