Mac troubleshooting for beginners

Sometimes things just go wrong: a keyboard stops working, your Mac freezes up, something ‘weird’ happens. These techniques give you a place to start if your Mac stops behaving.

Accidents, bugs, mistakes and the unexplained
It’s a huge pain when something goes wrong with your computer. And things are always going wrong, even in the best of all possible worlds.

Sometimes it’s because of something accidental, such as not noticing a cable has come loose. Sometimes it’s a mistake you’re making. Sometimes it’s a bug. Sometimes it’s out of your control all together, such as when your Internet provider has a fault.

So where do you start? How do you fix a problem when all you know is that there is a problem? Here are some basic steps anyone can take.

1] Did something change?
If it was working before and now it isn’t, can you pinpoint what changed? Did you change something?

For example: your fonts have gone ‘weird’. Did you just install some new software?

2] Check the cables and the power supply
For example: the keyboard stopped working — try a fresh battery in a wireless keyboard. Try plugging a wired keyboard into a different port.

For example: the printer stopped printing. Check that the cable is still firmly plugged in. Did you accidentally knock out the power from the wall while cleaning?

3] Compare and contrast
For example: Suddenly the keyboard doesn’t type half the letters. Try a different keyboard — does the problem continue? If a different keyboard works fine, perhaps it’s not the keyboard. If the problem persists, perhaps you’re using a keyboard with a Num Lock key and you accidentally engaged it.

For example: someone sent you a .doc file and it looks weird in MS Word. Try opening it in TextEdit or Pages. Does the problem persist? If so, perhaps the sender needs to try a different format. If not, perhaps it’s just a glitch with that document and Word.

4] Disconnect other “stuff’” and try again
For example: your screen isn’t showing some of the windows you should be able to see. Do you have any extra screens attached? If you remove them does it fix the problem? If so, you may need to check how the monitors are arranged in the Displays section of System Preferences.

5] Explore Apple’s Support pages
Apple has a huge section of its website dedicated to helping people use their products. Visit support.apple.com and see which parts of that page may lead you to an answer.

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