What Happened to My Happy Mac?

Some tips to help solve problems that arise and prevent others from ever happening.

Rebuild Permissions

Directories get written to the disk when you shut down or restart. Usually, everything works fine. But if your computer crashes or some other problem occurs, these directories may not get properly updated. There is a procedure called Rebuild Permissions which can restore your Mac to a state of digital bliss. A sure sign that your Mac may need this done is if your machine takes a long time to shutdown or applications seem to take a long time to load.

As a general practice, I would recommend rebuilding permissions any time you crash, install new software, update existing software, etc. This will ensure your smoothest operation. You are advised to do this procedure in Safe Boot Mode

  1. Restart your computer holding the SHIFT key down.
  2. When the blue screen appears, let go of the Shift key (notice the words, Safe Boot that appear on the screen)
  3. When your system boots, go to Applications → Utilities → Disk Utility
  4. Open Disk Utility
  5. Select your boot disk
  6. Run Repair Permissions
  7. When done, restart your computer

Unix Background Utilities

Because OSX is Unix based, our Macs now have built-in system utilities that are designed to run when the user is least likely to be at the machine, i.e. the wee hours of the night. Most UNIX machines are left on for years, maybe centuries. So leaving the machine on was neveran issue. But for those of us who would like to maybe save a few bucks on the electric bill, we don’t necessarily keep our machines running for long periods of time. So those utilities don’t get to run. And they are critical for keeping your machine at peak performance.

To solve this, here is what you can do: Let your system stay on over the weekend at least once a month. Or, install a utility program that will run these programs for you automatically. Here are a couple of programs that can do it:

The Simple Things in Life

These things will also help you keep your Mac purring like a kitten

  • Try to keep your drives from getting more than 85-90% full.
  • If using external storage, including Firewire and USB storage devices, make sure you eject them before pulling the cables.
  • Avoid installing software that you will not use. A cluttered machine is an unhappy machine.
  • Just because it is a Mac and life in Macville is usually pleasant does not mean the hard drive can't fail. DO backup your drive(s). Time machine works excellently if you can dedicate an external drive or partition, and Carbon Copy Cloner is a good utility for making an exact clone of your hard drive. You can never have enough backups. (Okay, maybe you can, but still this is something that can save your life/reputation/the world some day.)
  • If all else fails and you are banging your head against your desk trying to figure out why your Mac won’t run properly, use a disc utility from a 3rd party. I’ve listed some below. I recommend not installing the preventative portion of these applications, especially if you are doing any kind of video work. They tend to cause problems when the video app goes to access the drive.

Repair Utilities

  • Disk Utility on your OS X install disk - Booting to your OS X install disk will give you a variety of utilities, and sometimes running “Repair Disk” through Disk Utility is an easy way to get your mac back up and running.
  • Disk Warrior X (version 3.1 or higher) – This utility is indispensable for restoring corrupted disk directories. It has saved me on a number of occasions. The best in its class.
  • Tech Tool Pro (version 4.01) – This system test and maintenance tool can help you spot trouble before it occurs. Only run this when you need it. But keep it close at hand.
  • Macaroni - Forces key background UNIX utilities run in a timely fashion.

Final Thoughts

Just like a car needs an oil change, your Mac needs some maintenance too. Keeping up with it will give your Mac longevity. And it will keep you from banging your head on the desk too.