 Step by Step to fix your Mac

Last Modified: Apr 29, 2012 3:57 AM

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 available 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.


If you were directed here via a link I gave you on a thread you created, please post back there your condition if this has assisted, give credit, as I get a email notification and can respond much faster. I also like to tweak this user tip so it's as good as it possibly can be in resolving others future issues.




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 back on your thread 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 i



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.




If you see references to Apple Support documents that only say 10.6 for instance, don't worry it also applies to 10.7+ users as well.


Unless instructed to do otherwise, perform these steps in order starting with #1 and proceeding with #2, #3 and so forth, even though it appears the action you took had no immediate effect on your particular issue. It's a methodical catch all process and a learning experience for you.




Very Easy



1. SMC reset how to: 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 how to: 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.


If and when you get into OS X, you will need to reset  time and other settings.




3. Hold Option key boot  for "Startup Manager"


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


Once in select the System Preferences > Startup Disk and your OS X drive. Reboot normally to test.





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


Wait for the chime and hold option key down, and select your OSX boot drive.


If this doesn't solve your issue, continue with the steps below.




4: Disk Utility > Repair Disk



10.6 users - clean and polish the bottom of the disk with a soft clean cloth and a tiny bit of rubbing alcohol.


• Insert the disk and Hold c key down and tap the power button to boot from the 10.6 installer disk.


• Select Disk Utility from under the Installer Utilities menu.


• Select the drive or partition on the left, click First AId > Repair Disk & Permissions.



Don't use a 10.5 or 10.4 install disk for 10.6 and/or is a machine specific disk from another Mac.


Force eject a stuck disk - hold the trackpad or left wired mouse button down while booting, the hardware should force eject the disk.



10.7+ users - hold command r boot from Lion Recovery HD partition, it's a bootable section on the boot drive itself that's like install cd.


• Select Disk Utility from the menu option.


• Select the drive or partition on the left, click First AId > Repair Disk & Permissions.



Don't use a 10.6, 10.5 or 10.4 install disk for 10.7 repairs. 10.7 changes things when installed that the 10.6 disk can't fix.



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


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



5: Reset User's Permissions


This resets the user permissions on the User account selected as Disk Utility doesn't repair user permissions, this is usually for "in a user account" type issues. Since you already have the 10.6 disk out or in Recovery HD partition, might as well.


On 10.6, hold c or option key boot off the 10.6 disk and use the Password Reset under the Utilities menu, write this password down on paper so you don't forget for now.



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.



6: Hardware Test how to:  https://support.apple.com/kb/ht1509


This will test the hardware for issues related to drive, sensors and other things with hardware.


For those machine that have it, you need to have a internet connection and hold the D key down for quite some time to load it from Apple's servers.


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


If it's out of warrantly/AppleCare and it's hard drive or RAM issue in a Mac that you can change these items yourself, you may wish to do so see #19+




Attempt to get OS X to boot



7. Hold Shift key boot for "Safe Mode"


"Gray Screen with spinning gear" type issues (can also be white or blue screen)  https://support.apple.com/kb/TS2570


Restart normally again and see if that works    Apple: About Safe Mode


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 not reboot holding Shift key down again and proceed. Proceed anyway to check for any other problems with your machine.



If your machine only operates in Safe Mode: Do 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 Reinstall Just OS X  or even #20


If your Safe Mode progress bar gets stuck and doen't complete then you've got a drive problem as #4 above should have repaired it.


Or 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




Continue with the steps below if your problem is not resovled




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 professional 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.


Create a bootable external drive here: Create a data recovery, undelete boot drive


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 off the machine is priority #1 at 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've did the Repair Permissions from the Recovery or disk, but this one supposedly is slightly better as it's recently updated.


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. #4 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.





Continue with the repair steps below




12: OnyX cache cleaning


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


Apple doesn't include a easy for the user, system wide cache cleaning process in OS X, something they need to consider implementing.


So we have to depend upon third party software to do this and the best, time tested and free one is OnyX


Sometimes a corrupted cache file can cause strange behavior, slow machine, Dock and fonts doesn't work, beachballs effect, something won't install, Safari acting up etc., 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)


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


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.


You must be through running all the maintenance and cleaning aspects as this is a "catch all" method and any number of corrupted caches may be responsible for your issues. Don't worry, OS X will work fine (and likely faster again) after the caches are cleaned out and rebuilt from their original sources provided you REBOOT when finished using OnyX.


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 for the next step below.




Program issues



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 "your user name"/Library/Preferences folder


Use the Finder: Go menu  > Go to Folder and paste:  ~/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.


On 10.7+ Apple has hidden the User/Library for newbie reasons, you need to use the Go menu as instructed above.


You don't have to perform routine maintenance on a Mac, it does it all by itself, consider this OnyX routine a "nuke all 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 Monitor in your Utilities folder, look for runaway processes (select "All processes") notice anything odd? taking 100%+ CPU and your not doing anything? Report that. Reboot and see if that clears the issue. If not then investigate or ask questions.


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


Create a bootable external drive here: Create a data recovery, undelete boot drive



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 developer if it doesn't work, use their uninstaller to uninstall and reinstall, or remove permanently to get a working machine again..


At boot kernel extension files are third party software that loads when the computer boots up, if there is a problem with these you get the famous "Gray screen, Apple logo and spinning thing" perhaps even a white or blue screen. Holding the Shift key down prevents these from loading and lets you get into the machine to repair the third party software responsible.


Kernel panics are those black screens with the "You need to restart" and are caused by buggy or outdated third party software, regardless if they have a at boot extension or not.


Why looking over the Console logs  is important for detecting what third party software is causing the problems. See #15.



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, uninstall/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.


When software is reinstalled, it's written to a new space on the drive, thus possibly avoiding a failing sector on the drive that's possibly causing your issue.


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 (including Safari) 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 and continue with the Shift key method until all third party software has been cleared.


Continue to the next step




User account issues



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 #18 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 that is automatically loaded when the program launches, like iPhoto for instance, you'll have to do a tedious process of elimination to find the culprit, like a corrupt picture in a huge iPhoto Library folder.


One can right click on the iPhoto Library and "show package contents" to access the Originals folder containing one's original photos.


If you've eliminated all third party software as a problem, and created another user account and the problem continues there, or you can't boot normally (no shift key), then you need to do #18 Reinstall Just OS X method to rule out OS X and bunded Apple programs as a culprit.


Continue to the next step #17 if your sure it's a problem with the original User account.




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 user 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.


Programs that are stored in the global folder called Applications  is accessible by any user,  you don't need to bother backing  these up when deleting the account.


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


OS X 10.6-10.7 has the ability to reinstall right over itself, doesn't touch users or most third party programs, will kick out anything "non-Apple" out of OS X so you get a working machine again.


This method is used if it has been determined that the problem rests in OS X itself and/or the bundled programs that come with OS X.


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 + bundled programs + Software Update, you cure any problems in OS X and those programs, then can tackle the third party programs and/or isolate the problem in the User accounts.



10.6 this process is easy because  you should have a 10.6 install disk/USB (or 10.6.3 upgrade disk) that's included with each Mac sold.


10.7 this process is hard as Apple has restricted OS X installs to only via Interent, if you don't have over 5 mb/s reliable downloads speeds or unreliable, or can't get it good Internet anywhere, then you should be looking at buying the $69 Lion USB thumb drive.


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 third party software is no longer working, check for issues others are having and reinstall these non-working third party software 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



If you have performed this Step #18 Reinstall Just OS X and you managed to get into the machine normally when before you couldn't (like from Step #8), then you need to return to Step #9 and proceed from there, your not done yet.






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.


Don't despair, as long as the storage drive is functioning mechanically, even if the Mac is not or you can't boot into OS X, you can still recover data off the drive, even if it was deleted (but not overwritten)


It's even possible, even if the hard drive is NOT functioning mechanically to recover data from it, but lordy it's going to cost you a lot.


Your first step is to make a data recovery boto drive, this way you likely can boot the computer and see if you can access the internal drive to attempt recovery or "undelete" type operations.


 Create a data recovery, undelete boot drive



Your next step if the Mac isn't working, is to get your Mac fixed or if Apple or you replaced the drive to get the old one back for data recovery efforts.


Your last step if you don't want to spend the money to get the computer fixed, is to open it and remove the storage drive and access it from another computer.


 Data recovery efforts explained    Most commonly used backup methods explained




20: Zero Erase and Fresh install OS X 


Cures "Pinwheel" "Gray Scree" boot and drive 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, (MacBook Pro, MacPro) 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 likely needs the filevault password to fix the machine.



 Create a data recovery, undelete boot drive


 Data recovery efforts explained