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

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