3 steps to test, troubleshoot common Apple Mac computer problems yourself

With Macbook laptops and desktop Macs, there are a few common problems that users may come across. While they can be quite frustrating to face, there are a few tricks and tools that you can use to figure it all out. Here are some common Mac issues and how you can fix them yourself.

Common Mac issues

Start up issues

When you’ve had your Mac for a while, parts may start to fail. These hardware failures can cause some pretty bad issues, where you may experience some trouble while starting up your Mac. These start up issues may include: the question mark folder error, infinite loading bar, or in some situations, your Mac may not turn on at all.

These issues usually can be traced back to hardware issues related to the parts that are essential to the macOS start up process. The hard drive, logic board, RAM, and video card should be thoroughly checked out to solve this problem. You can also try resolving possible software issues as well.

Spinning beach ball

The spinning beach ball as a “loading” indicator is considered an iconic Apple symbol. But it can also be pretty frustrating to get it all the time while you’re working.

This could be a sign that your Mac’s processor is overworked and cannot manage all the processes that you’re working on. Or you might not have enough RAM space to handle the many tasks you have open.

It shouldn’t be a problem if it goes away after you close some programs from the Activity Monitor. By closing background apps that you’re not using, you can smooth things out and reduce your system’s workload. But if the problem persists, you might have to figure out what’s really wrong with your Mac by running diagnostics.

Slow performance

Similar to the constant spinning beach ball problem, slow macOS performance is also a common issue that Mac users come across. Most of the time, this can be identified as a hard drive issue. Hard drives can start to lose functionality over its 3-5 year lifespan, and cause all sorts of issues. Some of these issues may be apparent from when you start your Mac, or you’ll notice that some files are lost or you’re unable to open them. A slow Mac could also be a sign of hard drive failure. It might not be completely failed, but could be getting there. It’s a good idea to catch these issues early before you’re met with the tragedy of complete hard drive failure. Backing up your data regularly is also something you should be doing.

Known hardware issues across different Mac models

Certain models of Mac computers have some widely-known hardware issues that Apple offers recall programs for. Some publicly acknowledged hardware issues include the butterfly keyboard, video cards, and screens on Macbook laptops. Apple offered free replacements for these parts in various limited recall programs.

However, some Mac users may not experience problems with the part until after the program has ended, or just simply missed it. This just means they can’t get a free fix from Apple. It’s helpful to be aware of these issues, so when something comes up, you will definitely know what it is.

How to fix Mac issues

When you find that your Mac isn’t working properly, you can try out some software fixes first. Even if you solve the problem with these fixes, it’s still a good idea to run checks on your hardware. That way you can make sure that everything is in tip top shape.

1. Restart and reset

A small but mighty fix for a lot of computer issues is a quick restart. Don’t underestimate the power of the simple computer restart, it can actually solve a lot of software and driver issues. We recommend restarting your Mac as a first step to fix your Mac issues.

If your Mac has frozen up and you can’t restart it from the power options, you can turn it off manually. Press down the power button for about 6 seconds until it powers down. Just remember, only do this when you absolutely have to.

Some more soft fixes include resetting the SMC and PRAM / NVRAM. These two resets are specific to Mac laptops and desktop computers. They can solve a range of issues related to startup, power and the battery.

SMC resets

The System Management Controller (SMC) is where your Mac stores information related to things like startup, fan and temperature control, the keyboard, and more. If the SMC is not working properly, you might notice problems with power, performance, or battery.

By resetting the SMC back to default settings, you might be able to resolve software related issues. To do so, you’ll have to refer to the kind of Mac you have:

Desktop Mac: Disconnect the power adaptor and reconnect it after 15 seconds. Then wait another 5 seconds before turning the Mac on again.

Macbook laptop with T2 security chip: Shutdown the Mac and hold down Control + Option + Shift. This process may turn on the Mac. Hold these three keys for 7 seconds, then press and hold the power button as well. Your Mac will turn off after these 7 seconds. Wait for a few seconds before turning on the Mac again.

Macbook laptop without T2 security chip: Shutdown and unplug the Mac, then hold down Control + Shift + Option + Power button for 10 seconds. Then you can plug the power cord back and turn on the Macbook again.

NVRAM / PRAM resets

While they seem to be different things by name, the parameter RAM (PRAM) and non-volatile RAM are essentially the same thing. It’s only that newer Macs use NVRAM rather than PRAM.

The main difference is that the NVRAM stores less information. It is a slimmed down version with just the essentials like the time zone, screen resolution, and the selected startup disk.

When your Mac is taking forever to boot, you could try resetting the NVRAM. This resolves startup disk issues by reverting the NVRAM back to default settings.

To reset the NVRAM or PRAM, restart your Mac and hold down Command + Option + P + R for 20 seconds (your Mac may restart). Release the keys and start the Mac up normally. For older Macs that chime at boot, hold the four keys until you hear a second chime.

2. Reinstall macOS

MacOS Utilities

Sometimes you just need a clean slate to get things going again. You can do this by reinstalling macOS from macOS Utilities. This is another way to resolve software issues by refreshing your OS. Just make sure you have a Time Machine backup, or a backup on an external hard drive before you do so. This is because the process can wipe your drive.

To reinstall macOS, restart your Mac and hold down Command + R when you boot it up again. This gets you to macOS Utilities where you can pick “Reinstall macOS”. Then, as long as you have an internet connection, you Mac should download and install the right version of macOS for you.

3. Run diagnostics

Testing your hardware is always useful when you want to thoroughly find out what’s wrong with your Mac. Even if your problem does seem to go away after fixing software issues, underlying hardware issues might cause more problems down the line. So you might want to take some time to run checks on your Mac’s hardware.

Apple diagnostics

Apple Diagnostics

One easy way to check on almost everything on your Mac is by running Apple Diagnostics. Apple Diagnostics, or Apple Hardware Test, can help you test hardware on your Mac, including the hard drive, battery, fan, and more.

To run Apple Diagnostics, restart your Mac and hold down the “D” key until you reach a language selection page. After picking the language, a loading bar should appear to indicate that the test has started. If Apple Diagnostics finds any problems, it will report them with reference codes and suggest solutions as well.

Other specific apps and software

Apple diagnostics is only a base-level type of hardware test that can only do so much. Say you’ve narrowed the problem down to the hard drive. You can run First Aid from Disk Utility to check and possibly repair your hard drive.

You may also try some other branded hardware analysis software to test your hard drive, RAM, or video card. These apps can help you run extensive tests with thorough results.

Expert Mac repairs at Safemode Computer Service

Maybe you end up with a problem with solutions that are out of your reach. That’s where we can help. At Safemode Computer Service, we deliver the most trusted and reliable computer repair services in Sydney. Our experienced technicians can help you test and offer the right advice for any computer issue you have, from desktop Macs to Macbook laptops. Come on down to our Inner West store today, or call to make an appointment.