Mac troubleshooting: What to do when your computer won't turn on

Joe Kissell Senior Contributor, Macworld

Joe Kissell is a senior editor of TidBits and the author of numerous ebooks in the Take Control series.
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One of the scariest things that can happen to your Mac, short of actual flames and smoke billowing from the case, is a failure to turn on at all. You press the power button and nothing happens—no startup sound, no light, nothing. If this happens, you can check several things before hauling your Mac to the nearest Apple Store for repair—as often as not, this seemingly difficult problem might have a simple solution.

Electricity, e-lec-tricity

First, make sure that your Mac is getting juice. To do this, you may need to trace the entire flow of electricity to your Mac. Check your Mac’s power cord to ensure it is firmly seated where it connects to the computer as well as where it plugs into the wall. If it goes through an outlet strip or a UPS, make sure that’s also connected and turned on. Also check that any surge protectors are still working—a power surge might have knocked them off.

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Mac troubleshooting: How to handle freezes and crashes

Joe Kissell Senior Contributor, Macworld

Joe Kissell is a senior editor of TidBits and the author of numerous ebooks in the Take Control series.
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Crashes and freezes in OS X are mercifully rare, but they do occur. Fortunately, most of them can be resolved readily; and even though a crash or freeze may have any of numerous causes or symptoms, the same procedure works for troubleshooting most of them.

Crashing apps

Your first step should be to determine the scope of a problem. Is just one application having difficulties, or is the whole system affected?

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How to troubleshoot a kernel panic

Joe Kissell Senior Contributor, Macworld

Joe Kissell is a senior editor of TidBits and the author of numerous ebooks in the Take Control series.
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Most crashes on a Mac affect just one application. But you may encounter a type of system-wide crash that brings down your entire Mac: a kernel panic. When this occurs, there’s no warning and no way to save your work or do anything else without restarting. And, because kernel panics can have many different causes, diagnosing the problem and preventing its recurrence are difficult.

How do you know if it’s a kernel panic?

If you’re running OS X 10.7 Lion or earlier, kernel panics usually result in your screen dimming from top to bottom, and a message appearing in several languages telling you that you must restart your Mac (by holding down the power button for several seconds to turn it off, and then pressing it again to turn it back on).

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Stop squinting: Make text bigger in OS X

Kirk McElhearn Senior Contributor, Macworld

Senior contributor Kirk McElhearn (@mcelhearn) writes The Ask the iTunes Guy column and writes about Macs, music and more on his blog Kirkville. He's also the author of Take Control of iTunes 11: The FAQ.
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When you’re on the other side of 50, as I am, you become less concerned about how fast your Mac is, and more interested in how well you can see the text it displays. Whether your eyes are aging, your young eyes need glasses, or someone that you provide computer support for could use a boost in seeing the screen, no one should have to squint when surfing the Web, reading email, or writing documents. A few key techniques can increase the font size in applications where easy-to-see text makes the biggest difference.

Bigger fonts and word processing

Most applications that let you compose text also let you adjust the font size. If you’re using a word processor such as Apple’s Pages or Microsoft's Word, or a text editor such as Apple’s built-in TextEdit, you have numerous font and size options. It’s a good idea to increase your font size by a few points if you use corrective lenses; even if the font looks all right, you might not realize that you’re squinting.

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Mac troubleshooting: What to do when your computer is too slow

Ted Landau Senior Contributor, Macworld

It happens to every Mac user sooner or later. The virtual gears inside your computer begin to act as though they're running in a vat of tapioca pudding. No matter what you try to do, your Mac moves at a pace that a snail could run circles around. But before carting your Mac off to an Apple Genius Bar, try these fixes.

Restart your Mac

One of the simplest steps you can take is also one of the most effective. Restarting your Mac cures most slow-downs, because it forces background processes to quit, frees up RAM, and generally lets you begin afresh.

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Automator workflow of the month: Easy email replies

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Do you routinely receive correspondence that contains a load of email addresses within the body of the message? Say, you're in charge of pulling together a meeting for the company's worldwide accounting department or you receive behind-the-scenes "Get out now while the getting's good!" missives from recently laid off co-workers. You’d dearly love to compose a message to the people associated with these addresses but it’s a bother to copy and paste them into a new message’s To field. If only there was a way to automate the process.

Of course there is. That way is Apple's Automator—specifically an Automator service that uses an AppleScript to work the service’s magic. It shakes out this way:

Compose your workflow

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Mac troubleshooting: What to do when the Trash won’t empty

Joe Kissell Senior Contributor, Macworld

Joe Kissell is a senior editor of TidBits and the author of numerous ebooks in the Take Control series.
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When you drag files or folders to the Trash icon in the Dock, OS X doesn’t delete them immediately. Just as you can pull something out of a physical trash can before the garbage collector arrives, you can remove files from the Trash until you decide you want to get rid of them for good (and thereby recover the disk space the files were using). When that time comes, you choose Finder > Empty Trash.

Ordinarily, emptying the Trash is immediate and uncomplicated. But occasionally something goes wrong and your Trash won’t empty; the Finder may display an error message indicating a reason (though not how to fix the problem). If that happens to you, here are several solutions you can try.

‘The file is in use’

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