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Covering Common Mac Problems

Your computer won't have to visit the emergency room or undergo major surgery, but a little first aid is probably in order here and there. The solutions to several Mac problems are offered in the following sections.

Fixing a jumpy mouse

The optical-style mice included with the most recent Macs don't get stuck like their ancestors because this kind of critter doesn't use the little dust-collecting rolling ball on its underbelly. However, optical mice don't particularly like glass or reflective surfaces, so if you find your mouse on one, use a mouse pad or slip a piece of paper underneath it.

If your mouse just doesn't respond, unplug it from the USB port and then plug it in again, just to make sure that the connection is snug. If you have a wireless mouse, make sure that the batteries are fresh.

Dealing with a stuck CD

When your Mac won't spit out a disc, take a stab at one of these fixes:

  • Quit the program that's using the disc, and then press Eject on the keyboard.
  • Log out of your user account (under the Mac menu), and then press Eject on the keyboard.
  • Restart the computer while holding down the mouse button.

Fixing your Mac's clock

If your computer can no longer keep track of the time and date, its internal backup battery may have bit the dust. You can't replace the battery yourself, so you'll have to contact the Apple store or visit an authorized service provider.

Making programs open nonnative files

The Mac makes certain assumptions about which application ought to open a particular file when summoned. But say that you want the Adobe programs Photoshop and Reader to be responsible for JPEGs and PDFs, and Mac's own word processor, TextEdit, to take care of Word DOC duties.

Here's what to do:

1. Highlight the icon of the program that you want to be opened by a different application and press Command+I.

2. In the Get Info panel that appears, click the right-facing triangle next to Open With and choose the application to handle the document from here on out.

Alternatively, access the Open With command by highlighting the file icon in question and choosing File --> Open With. You can also bring up the Get Info pane from the same menu. Still another way to get to Open With: Press Control while clicking the icon (or right-click if your mouse has two buttons).

3. If you want the application to open each and every file you beckon in the future, click Change All.

Handling kernel clink

Out of the blue, you are asked to restart your computer — in numerous languages, no less. Your machine has been hit with a kernel panic. The probable cause is corrupted or incompatible software.

The good news is that a system restart usually takes care of the problem with no further harm. If not, try removing memory or hardware you've recently added. Or, if you think some new software you installed may have been the culprit, head to the software publisher's Web site and see whether a downloadable fix or upgrade is available.

Fixing DNS problems

If you're surfing the Web with Safari or another browser and get a message about a DNS entry not being found, you typed the wrong Web address or URL, the site in question no longer exists (or never did), or the site is having temporary problems. DNS is computer jargon for Domain Name System. Similar messages may be presented as a 404 not found on this server error.

Curing the trash can blues

In the physical world, you may try and throw something out of your trash but can't because the rubbish gets stuck to the bottom of the can. The virtual trash can on your Mac sometimes suffers a similar fate: A file refuses to budge when you click Empty Trash under the Finder menu.

Try junking the files by holding down the Option key when you choose Empty Trash.

A file can refuse to go quietly for several reasons. For starters, you can't delete an item that is open somewhere else on your computer, so make sure that it's indeed closed. Moreover, you may be trying to ditch a file to which you do not have sufficient permission. The other most likely explanation is that a lockedfile is in the trash. You can unlock it by choosing File --> Get Info and making sure to deselect the Locked check box.

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