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Tech tips for you Mac users June 27, 2007

Posted by freezertroll in Freezertroll's Files.
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A coworker had her mini do some crazy things on her this past few days. Still don’t know what was really happening, but we got her back up and running after some priority shifts and a few tense days.

She’s an artist by nature, and quite good at cartooning I might add, and she posted a little piece that I thought should be shared with every mac user out there. you can see it here.

The image not only shows the frustration of computer problems, but also a few simple steps a user can take to help the IT guys sort out some problems without a trip to the desk… didn’t work out that way in this case, but DiskWarrior did the trick.

Zapping PRAM. I don’t know exactly what it does, but sometimes will fix ghosts in the machine. Things acting buggy? Sluggish? Odd things in general? Zap the Pram by holding Option Command (apple to us 2e users) P and R at the same time, wait for the “bongs” and see if that helps.

Command+V: Verbose Mode: Verbose mode is great. Verbose mode will look alien to a mac user growing up with OS 7 to 9. Windows and Unix/Linux users will feel right at home. Basically, verbose mode is a text record of what the machine is doing during that pretty gray and lovely blue screen as the OS loads.  Lots of times if the machine is hanging up before the log in screen, you can see where it’s doing this in Verbose mode and see if there are any hard disk errors as well. Not the end all trouble shooting tool, but definitely helpful.

Command+S: Single User Mode: Now we’re getting into the meat of things. This is the cool one, and also where you can really make a mess of things, so BE CAREFUL! Single user mode mounts the disk in read-only mode and gives you root access to the hierarchy of the disk. Root access means you have complete  read/write/execute access to pretty much everything on the disk. If you delete or change something important, you could render that shiny box a 20 pound boat anchor. The first thing you’ll notice is a few statements about needing to change files etc. and a few lines of commands to start with. For whatever reason, Apple thought it would be a good idea to tell you how to repair the disk first. This is almost a waste of time, because if it finds something you have to run the second command, which may or may not stay on the screen depending on the disk check, in order to make changes to the disk. Read-Only remember? That means you can’t do any repairs.  I almost always mount the disk using that lovely second line of code prior to running the fsck -fy line. That way if it finds something, it can go ahead and fix it. This is also useful if the machine won’t boot because if you know what you’re looking for, you can actually delete preference files that might be corrupt before the next boot. You can clear cache files, look at logs, and all kinds of stuff without even getting the pretty of OSX on the screen.

The last bit of code is important as well. Boot the system but stay in single user mode: This one is helpful because there are things that do load after the machine goes back to the GUI when booting in Verbose mode. If the box is hanging before the log in screen or before the finder actually gets completely loaded, this method usually shows where it’s hanging exactly. A knowledge of the Terminal and Unix/Linux commands is necessary for single user mode. There are loads of pages on the web for it.

Last but not least, if you’re still having trouble after all of this, you have a few options in your arsenal. First, an app like DiskWarrior can save your life and the life of your coworkers. It’s easy to use, boot from the cd and follow the directions.  If that doesn’t fix the problem, you will most likely have to pull a windows last ditch resolution. Reload the OS. Cool thing about OSX, Archive and Install. You won’t lose any critical data, unless you store it in the system folders of the operating system. Some apps might not work and need to be reinstalled, but the majority work just fine afterwards.

That’s it for the midnight tech blogger. Why am I still awake? Oh that’s right, I set up all my macs to never sleep…

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