50 Common Mac Problems Solved

We present the Ultimate Mac Troubleshooting Guide, so you can banish the peskiest problems once and for all.

Mac problems? Isn’t that an oxymoron? If you just switched to the Mac from Windows, you might be thinking that you accidentally picked up one of your old PC magazines–and, by the way, we’ve got solutions to the seven most common problems switchers encounter, too. If you’re a long time Mac user, you could even be wondering where we get off accusing the Mac platform of being problematic.
Using a Mac is generally painless and trouble free, but things can go wrong. Usually they’re not catastrophic (for solutions to true Mac disasters, click here). Sometimes the things that go wrong are those little annoying things that you just shrug off–over and over, until you finally have to deal with them.
We’re here to help you tackle the 50 most common problems in eight different categories, once and for all.

General Mac Problems

The Mac OS is, fundamentally, as trouble-free as operating systems get. But nothing’s perfect. Here’s what to do when you hit a snag.

1. I want a tabbed finder.

Download the incredibly versatile Path Finder ($40, www.cocoatech.com), which gives you all sorts of features that are missing from the Finder, such as tabs, stacks, bookmarks, and panes. Sounds like fun to us!

Now THIS is the Finder we’ve always dreamed of. Thanks, Path Finder!

2. I can’t print anymore.

This could be caused by a variety of different issues relating to your printer hardware or printer drivers, so you may need to contact the printer manufacturer for more help. But if your Mac is causing the problem, it’s always a good idea to reset your entire printing system by going into your Print & Fax System Preference, right-clicking in the printer list, and choosing Reset Printing System.

3. I travel all over town with my MacBook, and I’m sick of reconfiguring my settings every time I show up at a location I’ve been to before. Why can’t my Mac remember various location settings for me–my default printer, mounted servers, iChat screen name, Bluetooth settings, everything?

Try NetworkLocation ($29, www.networklocationapp.com), which can perform dozens of actions on your Mac whenever you switch to a new location. Best of all, its AutoLocate feature will determine where you are, using the same SkyHook Wireless Wi-Fi Positioning System that your iPhone uses, and it will automatically change all of your settings for you.

If you frequently switch physical locations, NetworkLocation can save you both time and headaches changing your Mac’s settings.

4. I forgot my OS X password.

After retyping your password very carefully at least twice to make sure you just didn’t mistype it, you’ll need to haul out your OS X install disk, insert it into your Mac and restart holding down the C button. After selecting your language of choice, in the menubar, select Utilities > Reset Password. Follow the directions and there you go. Just try not to get a lobotomy after resetting it!

5. My CD or DVD is stuck in the optical drive and won’t come out when I press Eject.

After holding down the eject button for several seconds to no avail, restart your Mac and hold down the primary button on your mouse–the trackpad button will work as well if you’re on a MacBook–and during startup the disk should eject.

6. My Mac is not recognizing devices plugged in to one of my USB ports.

First, make sure your Mac’s firmware is up to date–check Software Update and the Apple Support Downloads page (support.apple.com/downloads/) and install any firmware updates you find for your machine.
If nothing happens, turn off your Mac, unplug the power cable, disconnect all peripherals, and let it sit for five minutes. Plug it back in, reconnect the keyboard and mouse, turn it back on, and try the USB ports again.

Check the Support Downloads page for firmware updates for your Mac.
If they’re still unresponsive, you will need to reset the PRAM (parameter RAM) and NVRAM (nonvolatile RAM), which stores some system and device settings that your Mac accesses on startup. Shut your Mac down. Then position your fingers above the Command, Option, P, and R keys on your keyboard. Turn the Mac on, then immediately press and hold those four keys before you see the gray screen. Keep them pressed until the Mac restarts again and you hear the startup chime for the second time. Then let ’em go. When your Mac is finished starting up, check those pesky USB ports.
If they’re still not behaving, there’s one more thing you can try before making a Genius Bar appointment: resetting the SMC, or system management controller. Directions for resetting the SMC on your MacBook Pro are found at support.apple.com/kb/HT1411. Instructions for all other Macs are linked from support.apple.com/kb/HT1894.

In Search Of…Search Solutions

Leopard makes finding files and data on your Mac relatively trouble-free, but when it comes to search, there are improvements and tricks you can apply to make it even better. Here are two solutions to common search problems we hear about from a fair number of Mac users.

7. My Spotlight results have stopped working reliably.

If it’s a single non-Apple program that isn’t showing up properly in your Spotlight results, try turning off and on the Spotlight indexing in that particular app.
If you’re still getting Spotlight results for an app that you got rid of a while ago, you may not have completely deleted all of the data or databases that are associated with that program.

Spotless gives you a nice GUI for managing, deleting, and rebuilding your Spotlight indexes.
If it’s an Apple program–or your entire Mac–that isn’t working properly in Spotlight, try re-indexing your whole hard drive by going into the Spotlight System Preference, clicking on the Privacy tab, then dragging your hard drive into the list. Wait a moment, and then remove your hard drive from the list again.
If you’re still having problems, you may need to bring out the big guns by using Spotless ($17,www.fixamac.net), a Spotlight index-management tool that can help fix most Spotlight problems.

8. I need more power, flexibility, and customizability with my Spotlight searches and Spotlight results.

Get HoudahSpot ($25, www.houdah.com), which lets you create extremely detailed search requests and customize the results to your liking.

HoudahSpot handles Spotlight searches with much more flexability than Apple’s built-in Spotlight search.

3 Essential Utilities

Three more Mac problems solved–before they happen!

9. Disk Warrior

($100, www.alsoft.com) This is a great preventative maintenance tool for rebuilding your Mac’s directory and keeping your mac running quickly and smoothly. It’s also a great emergency tool for repairing disks that have missing files or will no longer mount.

10. Cocktail

($15, www.maintain.se/cocktail/index.php). This general all-purpose utility will clean the caches on your machine, run the UNIX maintenance scripts, unlock hidden features of your Mac, and much more.

11. SuperDuper

($28, www.shirt-pocket.com). This disk cloning utility is great for backing up or transferring all the data on your entire computer to a fully bootable state.

Email and Web Problems

We know you spend most of your time in front of a Mac online or pounding out email. Here’s how to answer when trouble comes knocking.

12. I use a webmail client to check email, but every time I click on an email link, it launches Apple Mail instead.

You can set up Apple Mail to access your webmail account using IMAP or POP (check with your webmail provider for instructions on how to do this; some charge a fee for this service), or you can install the program Webmailer (free, www.belkadan.com/webmailer), which lets you set any webmail site as your default email program.

We set up Webmailer to take us to Yahoo’s webmail system whenever we click on an email link.
If you use Gmail, you have a few additional choices: You can install Google Notifier (free,toolbar.google.com/gmail-helper) and set that to your default email client in Mail’s preferences. Or you can use the outstanding Mailplane ($25, www.mailplaneapp.com), which provides many more features than the Gmail website.

13. I can receive but not send email messages.

Outgoing email messages are typically sent over the Internet using TCP port numbers 25, 465, or 587. However, in an effort to reduce spam, some ISPs and firewalls are set up to severely restrict the use of those ports. For example, AT&T is notorious for blocking port 25 for its DSL customers, unless you’re sending email with the AT&T email address assigned to your DSL modem. If you’re using AT&T (or another service provider that has similar restrictions), call the technical support number and request that they unblock port 25 for you. If you don’t control the Internet access where you are located, contact your email host to see if they have an alternate port that you can send email on. You can specify alternate port numbers in your email app’s account settings. If all else fails, you should be able to send email through your webmail system until you can physically get yourself to a different location that has no restrictions.

Our Web-hosting company, hostbaby.com, allows us to send email messages over alternate port 2525, which typically bypasses any firewall restrictions that have been put in place.

14. When I reply to or forward an email, the original message isn’t entirely quoted in my reply–sometimes just the header and a few characters are quoted.

If you used your mouse to highlight some text in the original email, and then you clicked on forward or reply, only the words that you selected will be quoted in your new email. To override this behavior in Mail (it can’t be overridden in Entourage), go into Mail’s Preferences, click on the Composing button, and you can set it to include all of the original message. If the problem still happens after this, your Mail preferences might be corrupt. Quit Mail, and trash the file located at yourhomefolder/Library/Preferences/com.apple.mail.plist. Also try upgrading to Snow Leopard, which makes Mail more reliable in general.

The Composing preference in Mail ensures that your replies and forwards will always quote the original email message in their entirety.

15. I want to send an email later, not now.

Each email client handles this slightly differently.
In Entourage, choose Message > Send Message Later or click on the Send Later button. (In Entourage 2008, you’ll need to add the Send Later button to your toolbar by choosing View > Customize Toolbar from any outgoing message.) Your messages will queue up in your outbox, and then you can send them all at once by creating an Entourage schedule (Tools > Schedules) or by clicking the Send & Receive button.
In Thunderbird, choose File > Send Later. Your messages will queue up in the Unsent folder until you choose File > Send Unsent Messages.

The Send Later Extension lets you schedule your outgoing messages in Thunderbird.
The Send Later Extension for Thunderbird (free, www.unsignedbyte.com/?page_id=4) lets you schedule an exact date and time in the future to send your message.
Surprisingly, Mail provides no ability to send messages later. You could take all your accounts offline (Mailbox > Take All Accounts Offline) before clicking on the Send button, in which case your messages disappear until you quit and relaunch Mail to find a temporary outbox with your messages sitting in them. Or, to schedule emails for a later delivery time that you specify, install the Schedule Delivery script which is a part of Mail Scripts (donations requested, homepage.mac.com/aamann/).
Finally, LetterMeLater (free, www.lettermelater.com) offers another way to schedule emails to be sent at a later time.

16. I have multiple folders entitled Drafts, Sent, Junk, or Trash for my IMAP email account.

Setting up an IMAP account can be a little tricky. After typing your valid account settings into your email program, there are two additional steps:
First, you’ll need to set the proper IMAP path prefix (sometimes called the “root folder” or IMAP server directory) in your account settings. For example, Gmail’s IMAP Path Prefix is [Gmail].

Defining your IMAP server’s root folder is an often-forgotten step when setting up an IMAP email account.
In Entourage, you set this on the Options tab of your IMAP’s account settings. In Thunderbird, click the Advanced button on the Server Settings tab. In Mail, this is on the Advanced tab of your IMAP’s account settings.
Then you’ll need to designate which folders on the server should be used for storing your drafts, sent messages, trash, and junk. In Entourage, you set this on the Advanced tab of your IMAP’s account settings. In Thunderbird, this is done in the Copies & Folders section of your account settings. In Mail, go out to your main viewer window and select a folder on the server (in the left-hand margin, underneath the IMAP account name), then choose Mailbox > Use This Mailbox For.

17. Whenever I address an outgoing email, I get unwanted email addresses for people who aren’t in my address book.

Most email clients keep track of addresses that you’ve emailed to in the past and will suggest those addresses to you in the future when you start to type the same characters. You can turn off this feature in Entourage and Thunderbird by going into their preferences. In Entourage, this is found on the Compose tab. In Thunderbird, this is on the Composition > Addressing tab. You can’t turn off this feature in Mail, but you can clear the list from time-to-time by selecting Window > Previous Recipients, selecting the names and clicking Remove from List.

In Mail, you have complete control over your Previous Recipients list.

18. When I email long Web links to others, they sometimes get broken up onto multiple lines and don’t work correctly.

Try putting angle brackets (<>) around long URLs to help them travel safely across the Internet without “breaking.” Or you turn to TinyURL (free, www.tinyurl.com), which will turn those long URLs into, well, tiny URLs!

19. I wish Safari’s built-in search field worked with more websites than just Google.

You may want to switch to Firefox, which has the built-in ability to customize its search field with any number of search engines that you specify. Otherwise, check out the Safari plug-ins Saft ($12,haoli.dnsalias.com) or Glims (free, machangout.com), both of which let you customize Safari’s Google search field. And one of our favorite utilities, iSeek ($15, www.ambrosiasw.com) lets you add a global customizable search field to your Mac’s menubar that works with any Web browser.

iSeek places a fully customizable search field in our menubar at all times.

20. I want to filter inappropriate websites so my kids can’t access them.

Although Mac OS X has built-in parental controls that you can turn on for individual accounts, you can gain more control by purchasing software like ContentBarrier ($50, www.intego.com) or Net Nanny ($39.99 a year, www.netnanny.com). Even better, we’ve discovered that one of the quickest, easiest, and most effective ways of filtering all the computers in your entire household is to switch your DNS servers to the free OpenDNS servers (free, www.opendns.com).

ContentBarrier is one of many options you have for blocking websites on your Mac.

21. My Internet connection is slow.

That’s a tricky one. A sluggish Net connection could be caused by any number of things, so here are a few troubleshooting tips to start with:
Try resetting Safari (Safari > Reset Safari). Then, try a different Web browser to see if the problem happens there as well. You may also want to uninstall any Internet plug-ins that you have installed recently.
Next, check your upload and download speeds at www.speakeasy.net/speedtest and see if you’re getting the speeds you’re paying for. If not, try power cycling both your modem and router, such as your Airport Extreme. Turn off or unplug the device, let it sit powered off for several minutes, then plug it in or switch it on again.

Our latest speed test from Speakeasy.net shows us that we’re not currently getting the full upload speeds for which we’ve been paying the big bucks!
If these methods don’t address the slowdown, try plugging your modem directly into your Mac using an Ethernet cable to see if the problem goes away. If so, your router may be the problem. If you’re using an Airport Extreme or Airport Express, launch Airport Utility to see if there is a firmware upgrade available. If so, install the firmware upgrade and see if that helps.
If not, your Mac could be the problem–you may need to perform an Archive and Install of your operating system, which is one of your options on the Mac OS X Leopard Installation DVD.
And it’s always possible that your modem or Internet line is the problem too, in which case you should call your ISP’s technical support number.

Photo Problems

These solutions to common photo issues will make you want to say “cheese.”

22. I need to quickly resize an image and make some color corrections to it, but I can’t afford Photoshop and don’t really want to learn how to use it.

Preview has the built-in ability to resize images and adjust colors. Open up your image in Preview and select Tools > Adjust Size or Adjust Color.

This image-size adjustment dialog box is from Preview, not Photoshop!

23. I want to email photos from iPhoto through my webmail account by clicking on iPhoto’s Email button.

Even if you’ve installed Webmailer, as mentioned in problem #12, the email button in iPhoto will only work with four email clients: AOL, Eudora, Entourage, and Mail.
However, if you use Gmail, you’re in luck because Mailplane ($25, www.mailplaneapp.com) installs an iPhoto plug-in that lets you click on iPhoto’s Email button and send your messages through your Gmail account.

In any dialog box, you can activate QuickLook when browsing your iPhoto Library by selecting a photo and pressing the spacebar.
Otherwise, go into your webmail program, and attach photos using the standard method. Leopard’s dialog boxes give you the ability to browse through your iPhoto library, and they even let you use QuickLook by clicking on a photo and pressing the spacebar.

24. I want to use iPhoto ’09 to export photos to Facebook, but there are too many problems with it.

Forget about using iPhoto ’09’s poorly implemented Facebook “integration.” Instead, use the outstanding Facebook Exporter for iPhoto (free, developers.facebook.com/iphoto).

Use Facebook Exporter for iPhoto to tag, add captions to, and upload your Facebook photos right from within iPhoto.

25. I created a PDF file with lots of embedded photos in it, but now the file is way too large to email.

Open up the large PDF file in Preview and select File > Save As. Where it says Quartz Filter, choose Reduce File Size, then click Save. Voilà! You’ve now saved a much smaller version of your PDF file, which will be easier to email.

Choose this Quartz Filter in Preview to reduce the size (and quality) of large PDF files so you can email them without choking your email server.
For even more control over the resulting quality of PDF size reduction–and to batch-process multiple PDF files at once–try PDFshrink ($35, www.apago.com).
If you still can’t get the file small enough for your needs, try a file-sending service such as YouSendIt (www.yousendit.com).

26. Somebody emailed me a PDF file with lots of embedded photos in it, and I need to extract the photos from the file.

File Juicer ($18, www.echoone.com) will extract images, sounds, and more from any filetype.

File Juicer can extract all these types of files out of other files.

Office/iWork Problems

Work smarter not harder with these troubleshooting tips for common productivity apps.

27. I created an awesome slide show in Keynote, but I have to present it on a PC. I tried exporting it to Microsoft PowerPoint format, but I lost my transitions, effects, transparencies, gradients, and more–basically, all the cool stuff.

Export your Keynote file to a QuickTime movie instead. As long as the PC has QuickTime installed on it (which it should, if it has iTunes installed), you’ll be able to play back your presentation with all of its awesomeness intact. If the PC doesn’t have QuickTime, download it for free fromwww.apple.com/quicktime.

With the “Fixed Timing” option, we can set our QuickTime movie to automatically advance to the next slide on a regular interval.
When you export your movie, you have several options for how it should advance from one slide to the next. For example, if you set it to manually advance, you simply have to press the spacebar on the PC to move to the next slide.

28. I’ve included presenter notes (View > Show Presenter Notes) in a Keynote slide show, but when I play or rehearse the slide show, the notes don’t show up onscreen.

In Keynote’s preferences, click on the Presenter Display button, and check the boxes for Notes and “Use alternate display to view presenter information.” Now your notes will show up when you play or rehearse your slide show.

This checkbox lets you toggle between mirrored displays and dual displays.
However, if you start seeing your notes on both your computer screen and the projector’s screen, your computer is set to mirrored (instead of dual) displays. You can toggle these display modes while the projector is connected to your Mac by launching System Preferences, choosing Display > Arrangement, and deselecting the Mirror Displays checkbox.

29. I use Office 2008 to create Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files, but my Mac-using colleagues can’t open the files because they’re using Office 2004.

TextEdit can open and edit Word 2008 files. And if your colleagues have iWork ’09 installed, they can work with all of your Office 2008 files in Pages, Numbers, or Keynote.
Otherwise, you’ll need to save the file in an earlier file format. Choose File > Save As and select the format that corresponds to Office 97–2004. You can also set this older format as the default in your preferences for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Choose the .doc format to avoid compatibility issues with people using earlier versions of Microsoft Word.
Alternatively, your colleagues can install Microsoft’s Open XML File Format Converter (free,www.microsoft.com/mac/downloads), which will convert your Office 2008 files into a format that Office 2004 can read.

Syncing Problems

Data syncing can be particularly stressful since we need access to info anywhere these days. We’ve got solutions.

30. I want to sync some–but not all–of my iCal calendars across my Macs.

Don’t use MobileMe to sync, which always synchronizes all of your calendars. Instead, use BusySync ($25, www.busymac.com) or BusyCal ($40, www.busymac.com), which both give you an incredible amount of syncing options.

BusyMac’s products are true champions when it comes to publishing and subscribing selected calendars without any dedicated servers.

31. I want to synchronize my iCal calendars and Address Book on my Mac to Outlook on a PC.

Sign up for MobileMe ($99 a year, www.apple.com), which will keep all of your Macs and PCs (and iPhones!) in sync with each other.

Spanning Sync effortlessly syncs your calendars and contacts to Google.
Or, you can use Google Calendar and Google Contacts as a conduit. On the Mac side, you’ll need Spanning Sync ($25/year or $65/one-time purchase, spanningsync.com). On the PC side, you’ll need Google Apps Sync ($50/year, tools.google.com/dlpage/gappssync).

32. I keep getting duplicate entries on my iCal calendar.

Sounds like you’re trying to sync your Entourage calendar with iCal. There’s a known bug with Entourage that causes repeating events to multiply out of control in iCal. We don’t know of any long-term solution at this time except to ditch Entourage’s calendar and stick to iCal for your calendaring needs. To do this, uncheck the box for syncing events in Entourage’s Preferences (on the Sync Services pane). To erase iCal dupes, try iCal Cleaner (free, www.busymac.com).

33. I’m getting two of each calendar entry on my iPhone.

You may be trying to sync your calendars through both iTunes and MobileMe. You’ll need to choose one method or the other, not both. If you’re syncing wirelessly through MobileMe, then go into your iPhone settings within iTunes and uncheck all of your calendars there.
The exception to this rule is iCal’s Birthdays calendar (enabled in iCal’s preferences, this calendar pulls birthdays from your Address Book), which can only be synced through iTunes, so it must remain checked in iTunes.

34. My Holidays and other Internet-subscribed iCal calendars are not syncing between my Mac and my iPhone.

Any Internet-subscribed calendars must be resubscribed to directly from your iPhone. You can manually set up the server on your iPhone by going to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Add Account > Other > Calendars.

You must resubscribe to your iCal holiday calendars on your iPhone all over again.
Or, you can automatically subscribe to a calendar by using Safari on your iPhone to choose from Apple’s extensive selection of calendars at www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/calendars.

35. iTunes no longer launches automatically when I attach my iPod or iPhone to my computer.

If your iPhone or iPod is very low on power or if the battery is fully depleted, it can take up to 10 minutes to appear under Devices in iTunes.
Otherwise, you may have unchecked the box in iTunes for your device that says “Automatically sync when this iPhone/iPod is connected” or “Open iTunes when this iPod is attached.”
You may have also removed the iTunesHelper application from your Login Items in your Account System Preferences, which is required to automatically launch iTunes. You can get this back by reinstalling iTunes (www.apple.com/itunes) or by manually dragging iTunesHelper into the Login Items. iTunesHelper can be found by right-clicking on iTunes in the Finder and choosing Show Package Contents, then going to Contents > Resources.

36. I want to synchronize files between two computers.

There are many different programs available to help you with this task, but our favorite is ChronoSync ($40,www.econtechnologies.com). ChronoSync can automatically mount remote servers, wake your local Mac from sleep, schedule your synchronizations, archive backup copies of your files before syncing, and even give you a list of proposed changes before it makes any of them.

Synchronizing files between two different computers is as simple as drag-and-drop with ChronoSync.
While you can use ChronoSync to synchronize to any type of volume or folder, if you specifically want to sync to another computer, you may want to additionally purchase ChronoAgent for an extra $10. ChronoAgent lets you communicate directly with a remote Mac faster than using AFP or SMB, and you gain full root access, so you can copy anything without any restrictions.

37. I turned on MobileMe syncing on my iPhone, but nothing is syncing to my Mac or Me.com.

It’s possible that the MobileMe servers aren’t communicating properly with your iPhone. An Apple support rep recently admitted to us that this is an extremely common problem that MobileMe users may experience every few months until Apple increases the reliability of its MobileMe syncing servers. So you may want to keep these instructions handy for future reference.
First, find out if MobileMe sees your iPhone at all. Activate Find My iPhone on your iPhone (Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > your me.com account > Find My iPhone). Then, from a computer (not your iPhone), go to your MobileMe account page at https://secure.me.com/yourusername. Click on Find My iPhone to see if the MobileMe website sees your phone. If not, try turning off your iPhone and turning it back on again. If the MobileMe site still doesn’t see your phone, try deleting your MobileMe account on your iPhone and re-creating it again.

We feel like Big Brother is watching us with Find My iPhone’s crosshairs centered directly on our house!
Once Me.com sees your iPhone, try adding an event or a contact to your phone and see if the change shows up on your MobileMe calendar (www.me.com/calendar) or address book (www.me.com/contacts) within a few minutes.
If not, you will probably have to reset all of your sync data on Me.com with information from your Mac’s iCal and Address Book. Make a mental note of any recent unsynced changes you’ve made on your iPhone, because you’re going to lose them in this process. Also, sign out of Me.com. Go into the MobileMe System Preference on your Mac, select the Sync tab, click on Advanced, and then click Reset Sync Data. Click on the right arrow so that you are replacing all sync info on MobileMe with “info from this computer.”
Log back into Me.com and verify that it now has your current information for contacts and calendars. If not, you will have to reset the SyncServices database on your Mac. Apple has instructions on this process atsupport.apple.com/kb/TS1627.
But before following those instructions, be sure to do two things on your Mac: First, repair your permissions using Disk Utility (Applications/Utilities), and, second, repair your keychain using Keychain Access (in Disk Utility, pull down from the Keychain Access menu and select Keychain First Aid). After that, try syncing again from the MobileMe System Preference pane.

This is how it should look when you’re about to overwrite information on the MobileMe website with information from your Mac.
Once Me.com has your current information, you are ready to go back to your iPhone. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data. Turn Push off, then completely turn off your phone for 30 seconds. Turn your phone back on and re-enable push. Then, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > your Me.com account and turn off and on each one of the sliders for the information that you’re trying to sync (Contacts, Calendars, Bookmarks, etc).
Wait several minutes, and hopefully all your current information will reappear in your calendar and contacts on your iPhone.
If not, you will probably need to have a live chat with a MobileMe support agent. Go towww.apple.com/support/mobileme. Choose any of the troubleshooting options underneath Syncing with MobileMe in the left-hand margin, and a Chat Now button will appear.

Video Problems

These tips address problems you might encounter trying to play video files on your Mac.

38. I’m trying to use my Apple Remote on my Mac to watch movies through Front Row, but the other computers in the room–along with my Apple TV–are inadvertently responding to my remote’s button presses.

You need to pair each one of your Apple Remotes to a particular device. Apple has instructions on how to do this at support.apple.com/kb/HT1619.

39. Sometimes I can’t play Web videos.

Out of the box, your Mac can only play Flash and QuickTime videos. To play other video formats, you’ll need to install one or more of the following free apps:
>> Flip4Mac Windows Media Components for QuickTime (www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/player/wmcomponents.mspx)
>> Perian (www.perian.org)
>> Microsoft Silverlight (www.microsoft.com/silverlight/)
>> RealPlayer (www.real.com)
>> VLC (www.videolan.org)

40. I want to convert video files to other formats, particularly those that will work on my iPod or iPhone.

To convert your video files into many different formats–including iPhone and iPod compatible formats–try Video Monkey (free, videomonkey.org), VideoDrive (7.99 euros, www.aroona.net), or CosmoPod (8.90 euros, www.cocoamug.com). To convert DVDs, try HandBrake (free, www.handbrake.fr).

41. I want to download a Flash video from the Web.

There’s a little-known trick in Safari that lets you download Flash videos that are embedded in webpages. Bring up the Activity Viewer (Window > Activity) and look for a file that appears that it may be your video file, perhaps based on its large size or the fact that it is so large that it is still loading. When it‘s finished loading, hold down the Option key and double-click on the video file. Safari will download the file into your Downloads folder for you, and you can monitor the progress through the Downloads window.

Little-known Safari secret: You can download Flash vids, like Funny or Die’s famous “The Landlord” starring Will Ferrell, to your Desktop to watch at your leisure.
If you’d like an easier way to download Flash videos, try TubeTV (donations requested,www.chimoosoft.com), Videobox ($15, www.tastyapps.com), or TubeSock ($15, www.stinkbot.com).

42. I want to download a QuickTime video from the Web to my Mac, so I can watch it later.

If you’ve purchased QuickTime Pro ($30, www.apple.com/quicktime), you can download many QuickTime videos right from the Web by clicking on the triangle in the lower right-hand corner of the video and choosing Save As QuickTime Movie.
However, some QuickTime videos, including those on Apple’s website, don’t let you download them directly. To download these devious videos–with or without QuickTime Pro–view the source of the webpage in Safari (View > View Source) or Firefox (View > Page Source). Do a search for .mov (the file extension for QuickTime videos) to find the full URL of the video file. When you find it, copy the entire URL of the video file. Then, launch QuickTime Player on your Mac and select File > Open URL and paste in the URL. Now you can save the video file onto your computer.

43. I bought an external USB webcam, but my Mac laptop isn’t recognizing it.

If your Mac is running Mac OS 10.4.11 or later, it can recognize almost any USB webcam on the market, usually without installing any drivers.
If you’re running the latest version of OS X but still having problems, the iUSBCam (www.ecamm.com/mac/iusbcam) and macam (webcam-osx.sourceforge.net) websites provide helpful tips and driver downloads.
Note that Mac programs like iChat and Skype will first try to use your built-in internal camera before using any external webcams. To change this, you’ll need to go into the preferences of those programs to change your video input source.
If you’re unsuccessfully trying to use your external webcam in Photo Booth, you have to switch back to the internal camera in iChat’s preferences before launching Photo Booth.

Music Problems

How to keep rocking in the free world.

44. I want to make iPhone ringtones from a song that I didn’t purchase (or isn’t available for purchase) from the iTunes Store.

If you have a track in iTunes that you own on CD and that you’ve ripped to iTunes, you can make a ringtone from it for free in GarageBand ’09. Click here for instructions and scroll down to “Roll Your Own iPhone Ringtones,” which also provides instructions for doing the same thing in QuickTime Pro).

45. My iTunes library is full of duplicates.

For smaller libraries, use iTunes’ Show Duplicates feature (File > Show Duplicates) and manually remove the extra files. iTunes only matches on Artist and Title information though, so be careful not to delete legit alternate versions of tracks–live versions, for example. For better duplicate control, try Dupin or some of the iTunes scripts available at www.dougscripts.com.

46. One of the rubber tips from a pair of third-party earbuds got stuck in my ear–help!

Believe it or not, this has happened to us too–more than once. We recommend keeping a pair of tweezers handy, just in case a tip come off in your ear canal, which can sometimes happen if you pull the ’bud out too quickly. It’s happened to two Mac|Life editors, both of whom agree that having something small and unreachable lodged in your ear can be pretty traumatic.

47. My iTunes library is spread across multiple Macs. How can I keep two iTunes libraries synchronized?

If all you want to do is listen to iTunes music housed on another local Mac (i.e. connected to the local network), just turn on iTunes’ sharing feature (Preferences > Sharing and check “Look for shared libraries”). To share your own tracks, also check “Share my library on my local network.” You can also store libraries on a network drive that supports iTunes sharing, to share tunes without needing another Mac up and running all the time. To keep two libraries in step for syncing iPods, use a utility like TuneRanger ($29.99,my.smithmicro.com) or SuperSync ($29, www.supersync.com).

You don’t have to share all your iTunes content–and you can password-protect it if you want, too.

Backup Problems

Don’t tell us you don’t back up–especially since Time Machine makes it so easy! Here’s what to do when you run into problems.

48. I want to restore a file from a Time Machine backup of a different Mac or an older backup of my main Mac that Time Machine no longer recognizes (due to a new backup drive, a new logic board, or a new internal hard drive).

You can restore any Time Machine backup onto any Mac, if you know a few tricks involved with restoring.
The first one is related to an odd decision by Apple: You can only browse other Time Machine volumes by adding the Time Machine icon to your dock, then right-clicking on the icon and selecting Browse Other Time Machine Disks.

There’s our hidden option to browse other Time Machine disks!
But even if you do that, it won’t see your Time Capsule or other external Time Machine drives, even if they’re mounted on your Desktop. In Finder, you actually have to manually choose the .sparsebundle file that represents the computer that was backed up, double-click on this file, let it mount on your Desktop, and then Time Machine will let you choose the resulting mounted disk image to restore from.

49. Time Machine is giving me an error message that’s too vague for me to interpret.

The programs TM Error Logger (donations requested, www.carnationsoftware.com) and Time Machine Buddy (free, www.bluedog.com.au) can help you interpret what has gone wrong with your Time Machine backup.

50. I’d like Time Machine to back up to multiple external hard drives, so I can keep one backup drive offsite and one backup drive onsite.

Time Machine can correctly keep track of backups on multiple external hard drives. Just give your hard drives different names, and whenever you connect the other drive, you’ll need to manually make a trip to Time Machine’s System Preference and change the disk there.

This entry was posted in Apple, How To, MAC, Tips & Trick, Troubleshooting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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