Use the Apple Hardware Test to Diagnose Problems

Use the Apple Hardware Test to Diagnose Problems

You can use the Apple Hardware Test (AHT) to diagnose issues you’re having with your Mac’s hardware. This can include problems with your Mac’s display, graphics, processor, memory, and storage. The Apple Hardware Test can be used to rule out most hardware failure as the culprit when you’re trying to troubleshoot problems you’re experiencing with your Mac.

Book Review: Troubleshooting Your Mac

By Joe Kissell, Joe On Tech

troubleshooting-your-macJoe is back with an update to an earlier version of his book published by Take Control in 2012. This latest book by Joe Kissell in his Joe On Tech series is a welcome upgrade to a very useful book.

According to Joe, Troubleshooting Your Mac is not just an update, but a major new edition and reflects many changes that have happened in the past three years. These include the operating systems that have been released since 2012 (Mavericks, Yosemite, and El Capitan) as well as changes in third-party software used for making backups and identifying problems.

Most of us don’t like to think about something happening to our high quality, well engineered, and “perfect” Macs. Well, guess what – our Macs are definitely good computers with good software, but they are not perfect. And neither are we as users. Sooner or later something is going to go wrong – it may be a hardware or software failure, or, (surprise) it may be operator error. In either case you will welcome having a book like Troubleshooting Your Mac close at hand to help you recover from your problem. It is always a good idea to have a copy of the book on another device (iPad, iPhone, Kindle, etc.) so that you can refer to it when your main computer is the one with the hiccups.

Troubleshooting Your Mac covers all the normal diagnostic techniques use to get your Mac running again. It also adds six new topics in the “Solve Common Problems” section that deal with start-up problems, fan control, iCloud syncing, Continuity failures, and battery problems.

As with the other books in this new series, Joe has a knack for expressing difficult ideas simply and clearly. This is particularly important when you may be in a state of near-panic thinking that you have lost that novel that you have been writing for the past three months, or the photos of your new baby. Some of the best advice is right in the book’s Introduction:

Repeat after me: Everything is going to be all right. Now take a deep breath and try again, this time with feeling! Everything is going to be all right. I want you to believe that. Even if you’re feeling panicked right now because your Mac is doing something wonky and you’re facing a deadline, I want you to set aside your anxiety for a moment.

Almost every Mac problem you may encounter has a solution. True, some solutions are more elusive, more time-consuming, or more expensive than others, but still: don’t worry.

Joe makes it clear that this book is not intended as a guide for every possible problem that you might have, but rather a set of troubleshooting techniques and instructions for solving the most common problems. His focus is on helping you solve your problem, not train you to be an expert in the arcane workings of the hardware and software. He wants to help us become our own tech support persons.

The book starts with sections that help you prevent problems, prepare for emergencies, and learn troubleshooting basics. These are good things to know even if everything is running smoothly. Then, when your Mac develops problems, you can dive into the section to help you solve the most common ones. Finally, when all else fails, the Troubleshooting Novel Problems section may bail you out.

I’m still working my way through this book, but based on past personal experience with the first edition saving my bacon on several occasions, I’m glad to have this as part of my “toolkit.”

You may think that “reboot your computer” is a cliche used by help desk staff to avoid work, but it is really one of the first steps to take when you have a problem. After you have forced an offending app to quit, try restarting your computer (advice from Chapter 3). This simple step can often be the answer. Another tip from this chapter is to always have a second user account with administrative privileges. If logging in as a second user fixes the problem, then it is easier to isolate the problem to something that has changed or become corrupted in the primary account.

The book ends with some excellent advice no matter where you go to get help. When your Mac has a problem don’t panic, but ask yourself these questions: (1) Has anything changed recently? (2) What did you do last? (3) Did you get any error messages? (4) What does help say? (5) Is anything else wrong with your Mac? (6) Is the problem reproducible? Be sure and write the answers down, along with the basic information about your configuration (OS version, memory, model, etc.). Then, if you can’t find the answer in Troubleshooting Your Mac, you will be better prepared when asking a friend or a tech support person for help. But with a little luck and some careful reading, you just might become your own tech support guru!

This 128-page book is available now for $9.99 (ebook) or $14.99 (paperback) from the Joe on Tech website.

Reviewed by Phil Davis

Review: Maintaining Your Mac, a Book by Joe Kissell

By Phil Davis

Joe Kissell has published the second book in his new JoeOnTech Guides series – Maintaining Your Mac. You probably will recognize Joe as the author of a number of the Take Control series of books on a variety of Mac topics.

This book covers things that you can do to keep your Mac in good running order and reduce the potential for problems. This book is an update of a previous version published by Take Control Books in 2012. We have seen a lot of changes in the past three years and this version has major updates to every chapter and adds several new topics. It also dispells a few myths.

Some of the new topics are:

  • Test Your Hardware using Apple Diagnostics
  • Use a Surge Protector or UPS
  • Update Weak Passwords
  • Consider a Maintenance Utility
  • Empty Your Inbox

These topics join the list of simple maintenance tasks that, if performed, can help avoid costly system failures and trips to your Apple Service center. Most of the tips in the book are good common sense and are easy to do. But they won’t “do themselves” — they require action by you as the computer owner!

Be aware that this is not a troubleshooting guide. It is more of a suggested set of maintenance habits that can help avoid problems, somewhat like regular brushing and flossing can avoid unnecessary trips to the dentist.

Joe will be updating his troubleshooting guide at a later date.

Although this version of the book is for people using OS X 10.9 Mavericks or later, most of the information will apply to earlier versions of OS X. After OS X 10.11 El Capitan is released in October any necessary revisions or updates will be made available on the JoeOnTech website.

Maintaining Your Mac starts by listing a few things you should do before proceeding with your maintenance tasks, such as doing a bit of housecleaning of old files and activating your backup strategy (you do have one don’t you?).

You will learn about things to do daily, weekly, monthly, and once a year. You will also learn about things that you can skip. Many of these have been recommended by experts in the past, but are no longer needed. You may find a few surprises here – I know that I did.

Here are a few of the recommendations:

  • Daily: Update your versioned backups, check software updates, empty your inbox.
  • Weekly: Clean up your desktop, empty your downloads folder, update your bootable duplicate, install app store software updates, check for third-party updates, restart your Mac, check your spam mailbox.
  • Monthly: Empty your trash, use Disk Utility repair disk function, test your backups, clear certain caches, clean your screen, clean your mouse or trackpad, exercise your notebook’s battery, check for ebook updates.
  • Yearly: De-dust your Mac, clean your keyboard, make archival backups, remove unneeded files, check your UPS battery.

While typing this list of recommendations I immediately found at least five tasks that I have neglected and need to take care of soon. How many tasks have you spotted in the list?

In the chapter Maintenance Tasks to Skip the tip that got my attention was that the Repair Permissions feature is not really necessary as a maintenance task. It may be useful when troubleshooting a problem, but running it routinely as a precaution is unnecessary. In fact the Repair Permissions feature has been removed in the El Capitan version of Disk Utility.

In the chapter Consider a Maintenance Utility (or Two) Joe recommends two apps that can help with some of your maintenance routines – CleanMyMac and Onyx. He also cautions against using MacKeeper and lists his reasoning.

If you are like me you probably know about, or at least have read about, many of the tips included in the book. Things like keeping your software updated to close security loopholes, getting rid of unnecessary files and programs (called “cruft”), emptying the trash regularly, and making regular backups. But, if you are like me, you get caught up in your daily life and find it easy to forget to keep up with these recommended actions. Don’t you hate it when life gets in the way!

Since I have read this book I feel inspired to get back to doing the things I know I should. Maybe I will be better at this than with keeping my New Year resolutions! One can always dream.

Bottom Line: I recommend adding Maintaining Your Mac to your library. You can download a free, one-page PDF handout that outlines the main points and key tips in this book. But to get the most value, buy a copy of the book from JoeOnTech. You can see a video of an interview that Joe did recently with Chuck Joiner of MacVoices that where you can hear Joe talk about the book.

HowTo: Force your trash to empty

Sometimes the trash bin on your Mac gets hung up and refuses to empty. Also, you may have deleted a large number of files and it is taking forever to empty the trash. Fortunately, there is a simple solution using a simple command from the Terminal utility on your Mac.

Here is how to force your trash to empty:

Open the Terminal App: Finder > Go > Utilities > Terminal
Enter the following command after the prompt:

sudo rm -rf ~/.Trash/*

Enter your computer password after the prompt
Click Return
Quit Terminal

Important: Enter the command exactly as shown.

Is There Any Good Reason to Reinstall OS X?

mac-reinstall

Do you need to reinstall OS X regularly to keep your Mac running well? No. Are there times when doing so might be a good idea? Possibly. Here’s when. It’s a truism among Windows users: you should re-install your operating system every year, if not every six months, to keep things running smoothly. This was probably more true of Windows XP than it is of Windows 8, or even 7 – but it’s still something users of Microsoft’s operating system hear, and act on, regularly. Should Mac users do the same thing? If your Mac is running well, move along…

Read the full article: Mac Users: Is There Any Good Reason To Ever Reinstall OS X?