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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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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