 Step by Step to fix your Mac

Last Modified: Apr 26, 2012 12:13 PM

Hello and welcome to my User Tip



This tip is designed to act as a methodical catch all, step by step guide to resolving unknown issues for 10.6-10.7 users.


It's meant as a method for you to try to fix your machine on your own with known methods avaialbe to you.


It's not meant to repair hardware, although there is a few things like SMC and PRAM reset that do have affect on the hardware.




None of the steps will hurt your machine and shouldn't have a effect on the other steps, if followed as intended and it increases in complexity the further it progresses.



STOP if you feel anything is overwhelming you and seek professional assistance.


STOP and report back to your original thread any kind of warning or irregular behavior any of these steps give.


STOP if the procedure has resolved your issue obviously...duh and a thank you/response so I know what worked for you.



I will give adequate notice if any of the steps may possibly or will delete your data.



Please report back what steps you have completed to your original thread so we can assist further.


Also any machine specs, your OS X version, software installed, etc etc so we can visualize your machine as we can't see it.


Thank you.




If your using a wireless keyboard, you may need to use a built in or wired USB keyboard (no hubs) to execute the "hold this key or that key" boot key commands.


Obviously if a firmware password has been applied the boot key commands won't work.


Also disconnect all non-related hardware, like external drives, monitors etc. Port powered drives may need a powered USB hub.




Very Easy




1. SMC Reset https://support.apple.com/kb/HT3964


Machine is not booting, power button pressed and nothing happens, problems with indicators, Magsafe has wrong lights, battery is not charging, monitor issues etc.


If the battery is not charged (from like letting it sleep too long), let the Mac charge up awhile first.



2. PRAM reset http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?path=Mac/10.6/en/26871.html


A small amount of your computer’s memory, called PRAM, stores certain settings in a location that Mac OS X can access quickly.


The settings include your designated startup disk, display resolution, speaker volume, and other information.




3. Hold Option key boot  - Startup Manager


Wait for the chime nad hold it, and select your OSX boot drive, once in select the Startup Disk and your OS X drive.


This is usually for "Flashing question mark"" or if you have Windows in Bootcamp and it doesn't boot back into OS X


If this doesn't solve your issue, could be the drive is corrupted, dead or the Mac is having hardware issues.


   Create a data recovery, undelete boot drive


Startup Manager  allows one to select bootable clones, OS X installed on external drives, disks or USB, or the Lion Recovery USB or thumb drive.





4. Hold Shift key boot  - Safe Mode  and restart normally again




You will see a progress bar go across the screen, if it completes your good and you reboot and everything is fine, then good.


If your machine only operates in Safe Mode: Do 5-7, 9-13, and repeat #14 &15  until you've cleared all third party software as a culprit, if that doesn't fix it then do #18 or even #20


If you've always seen a progress bar upon boot, you likely have a drive issue. Go on with the steps, but you may have to do a #19-20




5: Disk Utility > Repair Disk


10.6 users - hold c and boot from the 10.6 installer disk, select the drive or partition on the left, Repair Disk & Permissions.


10.7+ users - hold command r boot from Lion Recovery HD, select the drive or partition on the left, Repair Disk & Permissions.


If DU repairs the drive, run it again to make sure.


See if that cures your problem, sometimes there are two or more problems and this step only cured one of them, so keep going


If DU gives a error and can't repair the drive, you have a more serious drive issue.


 Create a data recovery, undelete boot drive




6: Reset User's Permissions


On 10.6, hold c or option key boot off the 10.6 disk and use the Password Reset  under the Utilities menu.



For 10.7 Lion follow these steps:


Hold down the Command and R keys while booting.

Select Terminal in the Utilities, Type resetpassword and hit Return.

Don't reset if your Repairing Users Permissions, instead click on icon for your Mac’s hard drive at the top. Select the user account where you're having issues.

You'll see an area labeled Reset Home Directory Permissions and ACLs. Click the  button.


7: Hardware Test  https://support.apple.com/kb/ht1509


If it gives anything, write it down and consider taking it in for service.




8: Can't get into the machine at all?


Check on the forums with your problem, consider taking it in for service if it's a hardware issue.


Consider professsional assistance at this point if the machine is not booting up and the Steps #18-21 are beyond your ability.


Consider doing Step: #18. Reinstall Just OS X  if you can determine it's a software issue why OS X is not booting up


Consider doing Step: #19-21 if you can determine it's a software or drive issue why OS X is not booting up and you can't get into the machine.





You can get into the machine! 




9. Drag and Drop to copy


your Users file folders off the machine to a external storage drive (no TimeMachine setups now) and disconnect all drives.


If you have a TimeMachine drive or clone backup, do this step regardless because either or both of those could be corrupted.


If you can't do this now, the first opportunity you do, do this step, saving your Users data is priority #1 a all times.


If you don't know what a storage drive is or don't have a backup,


 Most commonly used backup methods explained




10. Software Update fully under the Apple Menu


Then reset your router, disconnect your network/Internet and reboot. Test.


Is the problem a network issue or not?


If so, then check for network related issues, reset your router etc.


I have some possible fixes here


WiFi, Internet problems, possible solutions


WiFi security issues, at home and WiFi hotspots


Some of the tips below may actually assist in fixing so continue.




11: Disk Utility > Repair Permissions from the Utility folder


Select your drive on the left, click First Aid, then click Repair Permissions.


You can choose to Repair Disk, but if it gives any error or "drive can't be unmounted" etc you need to proceed to next step. #8 as that is more reliable method to Repair the drive and is advised.


If you see it giving the same list of permissions fixed, "Warning SUID file changed and won't be repaired" type messages can be safely ignored.




12: OnyX cache cleaning


This routine cleans all possible corrupt caches, doesn't delete your data or programs.


If any of the initial checks OnyX does gives a warning, then Stop and report, you have a serious drive or other issue.



Sometimes a corrupted cache file can cause strange behavior, slow machine, Dock and fonts, doesn't work, beachballs effect, just general strangeness that can't be explained. Web browsing slow when all the other machines are fast etc.,


Use the free OnyX matching your OS X version and run all the initial checks


Run all the maintenance and cleaning aspects (except don't delete the log files) and reboot at the end (must)


This will give OS X a enema of sorts (won't delete file or programs) and let it rebuild all the cache and other files, including Spotlight.


http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/11582/onyx    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OnyX



OnyX also has a Verify > Preferences


(plist) file checker, show the corrupt ones and write them down. So while your in OnyX cleaning your caches, check for corrupted plist files too.




13: Corrupt Preferences files


Preference files are basically that, they store your user preferences for that particular program inside the Users/Library folder (now hidden your protection in 10.7+)


If the program launches and doesn't work, or doesn't save the changes you made in it's preferences, then likely it's corresponding .plist file is corrupted.


It's a easy fix, find it, delete it, reboot and launch the program, it recreates it's own again automatically.



They are usually located in the: (use Finder: Go menu  > Go to folder)  ~/Library/Preferences 


Trash the corresponding .plist file manually, reboot and relaunch the problem program again and reset preferences.








On 10.7 there may be two copies of the same .plist file, one is the original lock file and can not/should not be deleted. Delete the other that you can easily drag out to the Trash.


You don't have to perform routine maintenance on a Mac, it does it all by itself, consider this OnyX routine a "nuke the caches"  and find the bad plist file sort of troubleshooting and repair step in resolving your issue.




14: Check your Console Logs and Activity Monitor


Activity Montior (Utilities folder) look for runaway processes (select "All processes") notice anything odd? taking 100%+ CPU and your not doing anything? Report that.


Check your boot drive is not past 80% filled. If your drive is full then


See "Storage drive" here    Most commonly used backup methods explained



Open your Console > System Diagnostic log file for a section like the below



Example only:  yours may be different, or may not contain any third party kext files :


loaded kexts:

com.sophos.kext.sav          7.3.0 

com.AmbrosiaSW.AudioSupport          4.0

com.rim.driver.BlackBerryUSBDriverInt          0.0.68 (

com.apple.filesystems.cddafs          2.4.3 - last loaded 33453549226

com.apple.driver.AppleHWSensor          1.9.3d0

com.apple.filesystems.autofs          2.1.0


Notice the first loaded kext (kernel extension) files (in bold) are not from Apple?


If your machine only boots into Safe Mode (Shift key) these may be  the cause.


Update the software, reboot normally to check, notify the devleoper if it doesn't work, use their uninstaller to uninstall and reinstall, or remove pernamently to get a working machine again..



Advanced tip:


One can  open the System/Library/Extensions folder and drag out any of these non-working third party kext files out as a last resort and reboot. However I advise using the developers uninstaller as there may be other parts located elsewhere.


Be careful not to select a Apple one or one your not sure is from the third party software else your machine will fail to boot.



Reboot and see if your problem is resolved, if so, then Done. If not, use the Shift key and try again.


Look in your Console log files for other conflicting software "kernel protection failure notices" and continue to the next step.




15: Check, update, uninstal/reinstall all your third party software


Including any third party system preference panes, software to run keyboards or other devices, plug-ins,  menu items etc for updates.


Uninstall or Reinstall (using their installer/uninstaller) all third party software, install one at a time and test to find the culprit.


Third party browser: uninstall add-ons, uninstall and reinstall browser,  plug-in check:





Safari can be installed from Apple's web site. If the installer says "You have a newer version" then just delete the installer and either wait for Apple to update the main site (use another browser in the meanwhile) or you can proceed.


Apple bundled programs can be reinstalled along with a #18 Reinstall Just OS X method.



If you were at this time only getting into the machine using Shift Key (Safe mode), try it now without it, see if your problem is resolved.




16: Create a new User Account


This method is for determining if the problem is in located within the one User account or not.


Create a new Admin account in your System Preferences then log into this new user.


Test programs to rule out a Apple bundled program issue or OS X issue, you'll see right away if your problems discontinue.


If it's OS X or one of the bundled programs with OS X, then a #16 Reinstall Just OS X method will work.



Programs store it's User specific attributes in the User account (User/Library, now hidden in 10.7+) and these can become corrupted.


Uninstalling and reinstalling the program responsible may not work, the files remain in the (hidden) User/Library folder.


#17: Delete and Recreate the Problematic User Account will restore a new blank User/Library



Sometimes it's a file problem, you'll have to do a tedious process of elimination to find the culprit, like a corrupt picture in a huge iPhoto Library. or a song in a large iTunes Music folder.





Not as Easy



Consult on the forums about your issue before proceeding here on, it might be unnecessary or another issue altogether.


Ask questions on the forums the following procedures will resolve your issue or not.


You'll get a good idea if so by this time and then can come back.


Please mention you have done the steps above and the results so others can grasp where and what you have done to this point.




17: Delete and Recreate the Problematic User Account


Warning: Deleting the problematic user account will destroy any data in that user account.


If you don't have a copy of the files (like you can't log into it), you need to consider the Data Recovery Step here first before proceeding.


 Create a data recovery, undelete boot drive



If you want to save web browser bookmarks, you should try to export those first while in that problematic user account if possible.


If your problem is localized to the one user account. likely in the Users/Library folder (which is now hidden in 10.7+), you can try restoring this folder from TimeMachine or backup.


Create another Admin account, copy files out of the problem user, delete the old account, reboot and re-create the old named account and return files, thus recreating the User/Library folder devoid of corruption and settings


Sometimes the problematic user account can't be logged into, thus use the second Admin account to access the other and transfer files out.


If you have only one Admin account on the machine and can't log into it, there are ways to create another Admin account via Single User Mode (root, dangerous) via the command line. It's a advanced step, so ask on the forums or in your thread as to receive guidance in it's procedure for your OS X version.




18. Reinstall Just OS X



This method is used if it has been determined that the problem rests in OS X itself, it can be used as a process of elimination or if the OS X fails to work that all the above steps don't work because OS X isn't working.


So by giving yourself a new OS X + Software Update, you cure any problems in OS X and Apple bundled programs, then can tackle the third party programs and/or isolate the problem in the User accounts.



OS X 10.6-10.7 has the ability to reinstall right over itself, doesn't touch users or most programs, will kick out anything "non-Apple" out of OS X.


Warning: Possible user data destruction with this method, but I haven't heard of it happening, backup regardless or see #19 first.



You need to Software Update fully right away after this procedure is undertaken to get OS X and bundled programs up to date with your files.


Also you will find out some software is no longer working, check for issues others are having and reinstall these non-working third party softwares one at a time until your problem (if it does) returns.


If it does and you can't boot, hold the Shift Key down (Safe Mode), that will disable it and then perform a update or remove the problematic software and notify the developer.


Use the "Reinstall Just OS X" method, not the "Erase and Install OS X"


How to reinstall just OS X or erase/install OS X






19: Data Recovery efforts


Used if you don't have a recent copy of your files off the drive, like it's not booting, or it's been reformatted, or files accidentally deleted, file structure of the drive is not functioning etc.


 Create a data recovery, undelete boot drive


 Data recovery efforts explained


 Most commonly used backup methods explained




20: Zero Erase and Fresh install OS X 


Cures "Pinwheel" issues not explained by other reasons


Warning: permanent data destruction on the entire drive or partition selected. No recovery possible.


Wipes everything method. Everything erased, the hard drive bad sectors mapped off, everything new except files from storage drive, no clone or TM restores unless you know it's not corrupted.


Reducing bad sectors effect on hard drives


How to erase and install Snow Leopard 10.6


How to reinstall just OS X or erase/install OS X



For secure deletion for the paranoid read this:


How do I delete data from the machine?






21: Replace the hard drive


if allowed for your machine, else take it in and have it done, reinstall the OS and everything.


Only should do if you're out of AppleCare/ warranty or for security reasons as Apple needs the filevault password to fix the machine.



 Create a data recovery, undelete boot drive


 Data recovery efforts explained