What's bad about Mac OS

14 Common Mac Problems - And Their Solutions

Christian Rentrop

Every Mac user knows them, the obscure problems that occur across all macOS and hardware versions and that Apple does not seem to be able to get a grip on. We have gathered some typical Mac problems and found a solution.

EnlargeMac problems
© Fotolia.de, kite_rin

A few years ago you could complain that Apple neglected the Mac, today this is no longer 100 percent true. The Mac Pro is already available in Apple stores, although at the high prices expected. Plus a high-end monitor for professionals. Project marzipan is taking shape and the Mac App Store not only includes rather unknown developers, but finally also Microsoft and Adobe and again barebones. Just yesterday it was announced that Apple is probably offering the Universal Purchase - a one-time purchase for the same iOS and Mac app. We expect another boost in the popularity of the Mac App Store.

But despite the new computer, problems occurred - and still do - with every version of macOS, which Apple only fixes with an update or not at all. A subtle impetus for users to always buy the latest hardware and software? No: Rather a certain sloppiness that has apparently been spreading in Cupertino for some time. Not only is Apple screwing up the problems, third-party software can also cause difficulties. Fortunately, typical Mac problems aren't a big deal: in many cases, they're easy to fix!

Problem: The rotating “beach ball” can be seen all the time

Unfortunately to see too often: The "Beach Ball of Death", the macOS variant of the "Please wait" mouse pointer. While the ball spins ... nothing happens. And that is an indication of what it could be.

Solution: Process is overloaded

If you see the beach ball regularly, it indicates that the app or process you are currently using is hanging. In such a case, switch the app with (cmd) + (Tab) to do something different. The hanging program and the mouse pointer there should calm down at some point. Alternatively, you can also kill the bitchy program with the key combination (cmd) + (Option) + (Esc).

Background programs, old program versions or software conflicts are often the cause of the beach ball. Uninstall what you no longer need and update any programs you are using. The little iStat Menus program provides a bit more overview of the system processes than the system's own activity display.

EnlargeThe Force Quit function allows apps to be shot down

Problem: program remnants scattered in the system

Speaking of uninstalling: Actually, the rule under macOS is that a program is deleted by moving it to the trash. Unfortunately, this is only half the story: in many cases, program remnants remain deep in the system, which not only eat up storage space, but also slow down the system if in doubt.

Solution: Use AppCleaner

Since Apple does not offer an uninstaller for apps itself, you have to do it yourself: Install AppCleaner and delete programs by dragging them into the AppCleaner window. The app finds program residues in the depths of the system and deletes them - which, by the way, can also solve many other problems such as beach ball. If you have already deleted an app “normally”, that's no problem either: Reinstall it and then delete it via AppCleaner.

Tip: clean up your Mac with CleanMyMac X

EnlargeAppCleaner removes app leftovers in the system

Problem: WLAN connection keeps dropping

Although Macs, and especially Macbooks, actually have excellent WiFi connections, there are always difficulties on this front as well: disrupted WiFi connections or generally poor performance.

Solution: Reset WLAN module

If the WiFi is bad, you should first rule out external causes: Move your Mac closer to the WiFi router. Check whether there are any sources of interference between the Mac and the wireless router: Typical candidates are microwaves, water pipes in the wall and cordless DECT telephones. If none of this helps, you should reset the WiFi settings:

Open a Finder window.

Press (Shift) + (cmd) + (G)

Enter the path / Library / preferences / SystemConfiguration / and click on "Open".

Now locate the following files: apple.airport.preferences.plist, com.apple.wifi.message-tracer.plist, NetworkInterfaces.plist and preferences.plist.

Move it to the desktop. On the one hand, this deletes it from the SystemConfiguration folder, but on the other hand, you have it as a backup copy.

Now restart the Mac. macOS creates the files again. Test the WiFi connection. If everything goes well, you can delete the four files on the desktop.

EnlargeThese four files affect the WiFi connection

Problem: macOS starts very slowly

Sometimes macOS starts in slow motion. This can be a test of patience, especially on older Macs with mechanical hard drives. MacOS should start up on SSDs in a few seconds, on classic hard drives in well under two minutes.

Solution 1: Mac starts slowly before logging in

If the Mac starts slowly, there are several possible solutions. First of all, you should check whether the slowness takes place before or after the login. If it takes place before logging in, the cause lies in the system. Follow these steps:

Reset PRAM / NVRAM and SMC.

Open System Preferences -> Startup Disk and mark your system hard drive. Then click on “Restart”.

If the problem persists after that, you should boot in verbose mode by holding down (cmd) + (V) while the computer is starting up.

Instead of the apple, you will now see the Unix boot process of the Mac system. Look out for messages that the Mac “hangs” and google them. Often such problems are related to peripheral devices or drivers, so disconnect any external devices and try again.

Also, look in the / Library / StartupItems /, / Library / LaunchDaemons / and / Library / LaunchAgents / folders to see if you can find the process here. Delete it.

Enlarge... the verbose mode can provide information.

Solution 2: Mac starts slowly after logging in

If the computer only dawdles after logging in, the problem is not the system, but your user. In this case you should check under Settings -> Users and Groups -> Logon Objects what starts - and remove any autostart objects that are no longer used.

EnlargeIf the Mac is lame after logging in, the startup items are to blame.

Problem: Bluetooth connection does not work

Sometimes macOS persistently refuses to connect to a Bluetooth device. This could be due to the system or an operator error.

Solution: Pairing active? Delete preference file!

There are several approaches to solving Bluetooth problems on macOS. First of all, you should make sure that the Mac and the Bluetooth device are right next to each other: Bluetooth only has a range of ten meters, in practice it is often much less. If you are still having problems, try the following steps:

If the device - such as a Bluetooth speaker - does not appear in the Bluetooth menu, it is probably not in pairing mode. Put it in pairing mode (device manual!) And try again.

Caution: The following steps may only be carried out on Macbooks or Macs with USB mouse and keyboard, otherwise you will no longer be able to operate the computer afterwards!

If the device is displayed but cannot be connected, you should switch Bluetooth off and on again via the menu bar.

If the problem persists, you should delete the Bluetooth preference file com.apple.Bluetooth.plist from the / Library / Preferences / folder and restart the computer.

Alternatively, you can also reset the Bluetooth module: While holding down the (Shift) and (Option) keys, click on the Bluetooth symbol and select “Reset the Bluetooth module” in the “Debug” entry. Then restart the computer - the connection problems should now be a thing of the past.

EnlargeThere are several ways to get Bluetooth working again

Problem: Stuttering music transfer via Bluetooth

Another typical Bluetooth problem on the Mac is stuttering or patchy music transmission when streaming to Bluetooth speakers. The reason for this is a suboptimal setting of the Bluetooth module in the com.apple.BluetoothAudioAgent file.

Solution: set bluetooth

First, play through the steps of the previous tip "Bluetooth connection does not work" and reconnect the device. If the stuttering is still there afterward, here are some things to do:

Open a terminal window.

Enter the following lines here one after the other. If problems then arise with the Bluetooth mouse, you can reset the values ​​to the standard by resetting the Bluetooth module (see above):

EnlargeFine tuning can help with Bluetooth stuttering

Problem: Mac system is slow overall

If macOS seems somehow lame, it can have several causes: You simply have a Mac that is too weak for your application. Or the system has too little RAM. A mechanical hard drive can also be the cause. Unfortunately, the last two points can only be changed with older Macbooks. However, there is a trick on other systems as well.

Solution: Free up hard disk space

Especially on weak Macs with little RAM and SSD - such as older Macbook Airs - free hard disk space is essential for speed. If your Macbook is full to the brim, this can have a negative effect on its performance. The reason is the virtual memory: macOS stores a lot of data from the RAM here. If there is no space for this, the system has to laboriously rearrange data - and that costs computing time and felt speed. So make sure that at least 10-20 percent of your SSD is always free - this will make the Mac much faster. Tools like Omni Disk Sweeper or Grand Perspective help.

For systems with a mechanical hard drive, such as smaller iMac models, it can also help to simply not shut down the Mac, but just put it on standby. That way, data stays in RAM - and your Mac will be much faster the next time you use it.

EnlargeTools like Omni Disk Sweeper will help with cleaning up

Problem: Slow internet despite a fast line

If the Internet gets stuck despite a fast connection, the cause cannot be seen at first glance. If a bad WiFi connection can be ruled out as the cause, it is usually up to the provider.

Solution: Change DNS server

A slow or overloaded DNS (Domain Name Server) at the provider is often to blame: it translates URLs into the IP addresses actually used on the Internet. For websites that incorporate a lot of content from multiple sources, this can lead to significant delays if this server is lame. Instead, use Google DNS to fix the problem:

Open System Preferences -> Network.

Select your connection - for example "WLAN" - and click on "More options".

Select the "DNS" tab.

Click on the “+” symbol and enter the Google DNS data: 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.8.4. You can also enter Google's IPv6 DNS: 2001: 4860: 4860 :: 8888 and 2001: 4860: 4860 :: 8844. You should then surf significantly faster.

If you specify the DNS server in your router, you can route all devices at once via Google's fast DNS.

EnlargeGoogle's DNS servers provide the Internet turbo

Problem: Heavy fan activity

Macs are actually very quiet contemporaries, the fan is rarely heard and mostly only when the Mac is really working. If, on the other hand, the fan starts up in normal operation, for example with Office programs, something is wrong.

Solution: processes and dirt

macOS is designed to only run on Macs that it can run on. Very old Macs can therefore no longer benefit from the latest macOS versions. That is a good thing, because a fundamental performance problem can generally be ruled out.

Open the Activity Monitor from / Applications / Utilities / when the fan starts up.

Sort the processes according to CPU load.

Here you should find an indication of the process or app that is causing the system load.

Highlight the process and click "Kill".

If it is a question of the "cloudd" or "bird" processes, you should deactivate the iCloud once and then log it back in after a restart: Both processes are related to the iCloud and will be readjusted as a result. The spotlight process "mdworker" is also responsible for hot flashes.

If no process is overly active, the cause is probably dirt in the ventilation slots or in the housing. Have an Apple Service Provider clean your Mac.