Mac troubleshooting: Be prepared for hard-drive failure

Ted Landau Senior Contributor, Macworld

When hard-drive disaster strikes, you need to start up your Mac from another drive to repair it. In days gone by, you would typically boot from the install CD or DVD that came with your Mac (assuming you could recall where you stashed it) and run Apple’s Disk Utility from there. But today’s Macs no longer ship with any optical disc—heck, most Macs ship without any optical drive. So what do you do instead? Your best bet is to prepare ahead.

Create an emergency flash drive

An emergency drive contains only the essential software you need to boot your Mac and run troubleshooting utilities (such as Apple’s Disk Utility). I recommend using a USB flash drive (8GB is sufficient) rather than an optical disc. Flash drives are superior because they work with Macs that no longer contain an optical drive, and you can update them as necessary.

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How to think like a Mac geek

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 of us know at least one person who’s not merely a Mac user, but a dyed-in-the-wool Mac geek. You know the type: someone who has a large collection of Macs and is quick to tell you the history of each one; who keeps up with all the latest Apple news and rumors; and who seems to know the answer to any Mac question, no matter how obscure or technical. Though you may be tempted to ridicule a Mac geek’s obsessiveness, you’ll probably resist that temptation because you want to stay on the geek’s good side—since he or she will be the first person you go to for help when something goes wrong with your own Mac!

I bought my first Mac, a used Mac SE, in 1991—but that doesn’t mean I eased into geekdom over a period of decades. The first thing I did after bringing my SE home was to take it apart and install more RAM. The second thing I did (and this is only a slight exaggeration) was to start customizing the Finder, using ResEdit (if you have to ask, you don’t need to know)—in other words, a bit of modest hacking. Within a couple of months, a large local Mac user group appointed me Disk Librarian. My job was to research, download, and catalog all of the best freeware and shareware products, compile new collections of cool tools every month, and duplicate them on floppy disks to raise money for the club. I threw myself into that job and quickly acquired the reputation of being a know-it-all (in a good way).

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iOS

Four ways to get things done with Siri

Lex Friedman Senior Contributor, Macworld

Lex uses a MacBook Pro, an iPhone 5, an iPad mini, a Kindle 3, a TiVo HD, and a treadmill desk, and loves them all. His latest book, a children's book parody for adults, is called "The Kid in the Crib." Lex lives in New Jersey with his wife and three young kids.
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You can have a lot of fun with Siri, the artificially intelligent, voice recognition-based assistant built into newer iPhones and iPads. But fun though Siri may be, it turns out the little voice inside your iOS device can also help you become increasingly productive. From reminding you to perform a task, to sending meeting invitations, to keeping track of book recommendations—Siri proves to be surprisingly helpful for taking care of everyday things. Here’s an assortment of tasks to get done with Siri.

1. Schedule reminders

Though Apple’s Reminders app isn’t the most full-featured or powerful app around, I still rely on it for simple to-do list management. I almost never type in new reminders on my iPhone or iPad; I use Siri instead.

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Mac troubleshooting: What to do when you can't print

Ted Landau Senior Contributor, Macworld

You click Print, and then wait a moment. Nothing happens. Your attempt has clearly failed. A brief check confirms that the problem is not limited to one document or one app. You can’t print anything. Now what?

The number of causes and fixes for print failures runs wide and deep across the Mac troubleshooting landscape. Here’s a checklist of the more common solutions.

1. Check the Print dialog box

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Mac troubleshooting: What to do when you can't connect to the Internet

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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If your Web browser, email program, or any of a hundred other Internet-connected apps on your Mac starts complaining about not having a connection, you may have to do a bit of sleuthing to figure out the cause. After all, a disruption anywhere along the chain between your Mac and a distant server could cause an outage, and it’s not always obvious where to look.

I suggest trying each of the following steps, in order, until you’re able to connect again.

1. Try another site or app

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Emergency backups you didn't know you had

Scholle Sawyer McFarland Senior Editor, Macworld

Your hard drive churns. Every click sets off a spinning beachball. Disk Utility doles out the bad news. When your hard drive’s end is near, your best hope is a good backup. Of course it is. But, what if you don’t have a backup? Or what if you thought you had a backup and it failed? At this point, someone will say, knowingly: “You should have had redundant backups.” Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda. You shoulda, you didn’t. So, what now?

Keep calm and consider your situation. The fact is, intentionally or not, you probably do have backups of at least some of your data.

Your email messages

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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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