Mac Troubleshooting Summary

With over a thousand articles here about Macs and their problems, it can be tricky to know where to look first. Here’s a selection of starting points for troubleshooting and solving issues.

Pick your Panacea: how to select a generic fix
Prepare your Mac for service/repair, and restore it later

Crashes, freezing, panics

Was that a crash, freeze, panic, or spinning beachball?
Did that Mac just restart itself? About kernel panics
Tackling sleep and wake problems
Diagnosing a Mac which can’t complete booting

Problems after system updates

What to do when a macOS update goes wrong (Catalina edition)
The universal panacea for macOS problems: install the Combo updater
A plain guide to Mac firmware and its problems
Reset and maintain your SMC and NVRAM

Crash recovery and disk problems

Making sense of Disk Utility and disk structure in macOS 10.13-10.15
Should you trust Disk Utility’s First Aid or fsck?
Recovering from a hard crash – when your startup drive is missing or damaged
Monitoring SSD wear and ageing
Checking your drives with DriveDx
Q&A – Dead Mac recovery – recovering files from a dead Mac
S.M.A.R.T.ypants – hard drive failure detection

App problems – preference settings

Preference settings: where to find them in Mojave
Global defaults in macOS Mojave
Working safely and effectively with preferences in Mojave

Keychain problems

Why do I have to keep entering my keychain password in Sierra?
How to repair your keychain by making a fresh one

Time Machine problems

Time Machine: 1 How it works, or fails to
Time Machine: 2 What it writes in the log
Time Machine: 3 Analysing automatic backups
Time Machine: 4 Problems with backups
Time Machine: 5 Changing Macs and more
Time Machine: 6 Networked storage

Logs – Sierra and later

Use Ulbow on Sierra and later
macOS Unified log: 1 why, what and how
macOS Unified log: 2 content and extraction
macOS Unified log: 3 finding your way
Capturing the moment in your log: how to identify a problem
Investigating Time Machine errors with T2M2 and Consolation 3
Investigating a crash using Consolation 3
Waking your Mac from sleep: log highlights
Mac shutdown and sleep cause codes

Logs – El Capitan and earlier

Log race – understanding and using Console’s logs
Reading logs: shutdown and startup
Reading logs: waking from sleep and backing up
Getting El Capitan to run clean – using Console and guesswork to stop repeated service crashing
Service with a Smile – advanced troubleshooting of services and the startup process


Small Networks Without Big Headaches – setting up and diagnosing a small network
My email is broken – how to diagnose and fix mail problems
The medium of the message – email clients and types

iCloud and cloud services

A break in the clouds: when cloud services won’t work – including links to service status for iCloud, Adobe CC, etc.
What to do when your account might have been compromised

Generic approaches

Pick your Panacea: how to select a generic fix
My Mac don’t work – troubleshooting tools and techniques
How to tell whether a problem is in your Home folder
Generic troubleshooting: how to fix something that doesn’t work

Tackling the serious and insoluble

Reviving the hopeless Mac: what to try before visiting the Genius Bar
Prepare your Mac for service/repair, and restore it later

Useful references

Conventions and Standards for Mac Articles
Which startup mode?
Startup and shutdown key combinations for macOS Sierra
Reset and maintain your SMC and NVRAM
A plain guide to Mac firmware and its problems
Which EFI firmware should your Mac be using? (version 4) – for Catalina
Which EFI firmware should your Mac be using? (version 3) – for Sierra, High Sierra and Mojave
Which EFI firmware should your Mac be using? (version 2) – for El Capitan and earlier
Safe Booting in Catalina has changed
My Mac only runs properly in Safe mode
Which Recovery Mode?
Recovery mode and its tools
Hardware diagnostics
More About This Mac: where to find that UUID, MAC address, etc.
macOS Catalina Boot Volume Layout revised for 10.15 release
macOS Mojave Boot Volume Layout
How clean re-installs change in Catalina
How to check quarantine, 64-bit, signature, and notarization for almost anything
What happens when you run an app in Catalina?
How Catalina handles app first run
Will Gatekeeper let me run that app in Catalina?
Why are my Mac’s fans running at full blast?

Further details

Full categorised listing of Mac articles here.