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How to Find Help for Your Mac Problems

If you run into a problem with your Mac beyond your expertise, especially if it’s a serious hardware issue, or you lack the patience, inclination, or confidence to fix your Mac, you can find help in plenty of places. Whether it’s through third-party software, AppleCare, Apple’s in-store experts, or your geeky neighbor, help is on the way. Keep in mind, though, that help is not always free.

Third-party software to help you fix your Mac

If you’ve used all the troubleshooting tools included on a Mac, you may want to look to outside software. Here are some programs that may bail you out of a jam or help with routine maintenance. Prices and version numbers are subject to change:

  • Alsoft DiskWarrior 4. A $100 repair utility that warns you of impending drive failure. Check to make sure DiskWarrior is compatible with your model.

  • Cocktail. A $15 shareware utility.

  • OnyX 1.9.6 for Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard). A free downloadable program from Titanium Software that can run a variety of maintenance tasks.

  • Prosoft Data Rescue II. A $99 program designed to help you recover files from a corrupt hard drive.

  • SpringCleaning 9.1.1. A $50 utility that aims to boost performance by helping eliminate stray files.

  • TechToolPro. A $98 problem solver from Micromat.

AppleCare

Your Mac comes with 90 days of free telephone support and a year of free support at an authorized Apple retailer. The extended warranty program called AppleCare lengthens the time you can get phone support to three years (from the day of purchase).

AppleCare covers the computer itself plus AirPort Express and Extreme base stations, Time Capsule, MacBook Air SuperDrive, and Apple RAM (used with the Mac, of course). With certain models, including Mac Mini, you can also cover one Apple display if purchased at the same time.

Fees depend on the gear you’re covering: AppleCare for an Apple display is $99; Mac Mini, $149; iMac, $169; MacBook, MacBook Air, $249; Mac Pro, $249; and MacBook Pro, $349. You can also purchase extended warranties.

Apple’s in-store experts

One of the features of the Apple retail store is the Genius Bar. Apple’s in-store experts can answer questions about your Mac and, if need be, install memory and handle repairs (for a fee). Meeting up with an Apple-branded Genius requires an appointment. Go to the Apple Web site and click the Apple store near you (if there is one). Look for Make Reservation. You’ll have to sign in as a Guest or ProCare member.

If you’re already in an Apple store and it’s not crowded, make a reservation on the spot using one of the Macs in the store.

As a ProCare member, you can book an appointment with a Genius at the store of your choice up to a fortnight in advance. At $99 a year, ProCare isn’t cheap, but you get the following princely privileges: priority repairs, an annual computer tune-up (systems diagnostics, a cleaning for your display and keyboard, and more), and help setting up a new machine.

Another $99-a-year service, One to One Training, provides face-to-face tutorials on a variety of topics, from moviemaking to digital photography. Training sessions are at your local Apple store; you can make a reservation online.

More help for your Mac

Free (or low-cost) help is all around you:

  • The geeky next-door neighbor, your cubicle-mate, or the friends you didn’t know you had on the Web.

  • At a social networking site, such as Meetup.com, you can search for and perhaps find a Macintosh user group meeting in your neck of the woods.

  • Get referrals from Apple's user groups. You’ll find an events calendar; enter your Zip code to find a group close by.

  • For free online answers, poke around the newsgroups and computer bulletin boards.

  • Check out the troubleshooting articles at Apple's support site.

  • Use the Help menu found with most every program you use. Carefully phrase your question.

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