Common Fixes for Minor Mac Problems

By Edward C. Baig

Sometimes all your Mac needs is a little first aid rather than major surgery. Here are a few easy, common fixes for those minor problems you may encounter on your beloved computer.

A jumpy mouse

Real mice live for dust and grime. For a long time, so did computer rodents. But 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.

Optical mice deserve some care and feeding too, however. Be aware that the species doesn’t like glass or reflective surfaces, so if you find your mouse on one, place a mouse pad or piece of paper underneath.

If your mouse doesn’t respond at all, 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 it’s turned on and that the batteries are fresh. You can check the battery status of a Bluetooth device on the Mac’s menu bar.

Meanwhile, if you want to change the speed of your onscreen mouse pointer or want to change clicking speeds, visit Mouse Preferences in System Preferences.

A stuck CD

It’s cool, the way most Macs with optical drives practically suck up a CD or DVD. Here’s what’s not cool: When the drive, particularly the slot-loading kind, won’t spit out the disc.

Take a stab at one of these fixes:

  • Quit the program that’s using the disc and then press Eject on the keyboard.

  • Open a Finder window, and click the little Eject icon in the Sidebar. Or try dragging the disk icon from the Mac Desktop to the Trash.

  • Log out of your user account (on the app menu) and then press Eject on the keyboard.

  • Restart the computer while holding down the mouse button.

If all else fails, you may have to take the computer in for repair (if possible) or replacement. Can’t you imagine a toddler sticking an SD memory card into the slot, thereby preventing the DVD that was already inside from escaping? Apple would have to replace the drive. In fact, the slot-loading drives that are included on modern Macs can’t handle anything but full-size CDs and DVDs.

My Mac can no longer tell time

If your computer can no longer keep track of the time and date, its internal backup battery may have bitten the dust. On some models, you can’t replace this battery yourself; you have to contact an Apple Store or an authorized service provider.

Kernel clink

Out of the blue, you’re asked to restart your computer. In numerous languages, no less. Your machine has been hit by a kernel panic. The probable cause is corrupted or incompatible software, though damaged hardware or a problem with RAM can also unleash this unpleasant situation.

The good news is that a system restart usually takes care of the problem with no further harm. If it doesn’t, try removing any memory or hardware you’ve recently added. Or if you think that some new software you installed may be the culprit, head to the software publisher’s website to see whether it has issued a downloadable fix or upgrade.

SOS for DNS

If you’re surfing the web 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 (or your own Internet provider) is having temporary problems. DNS is computer jargon for Domain Name System or Server. Similar messages may be presented as 404 not found on this server errors.

Curing the trash-can blues

In the physical world, you may try to throw something out of your trash can but can’t because the rubbish got 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 choose Finder→Empty Trash.

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

A file may 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 the item is indeed closed. Moreover, you may be trying to ditch a file to which you don’t have sufficient permission. Perhaps a file has been opened and temporarily locked by some running application.

The other most likely explanation is that a locked file is in the Trash. You can unlock it by choosing File→Get Info and making sure that the Locked check box isn’t selected.

After a program unexpectedly crashes, one or more Recovered Files folders may appear in your Trash after a restart. Temporary files are often used and disposed of by your applications, but during a crash, the files may not get disposed of. If any file is valuable, drag it out of the Trash. More often than not, however, it’s safe to discard these files with the rest of the garbage.