One of the biggest selling points of the Mac (and most other Apple products) is that 'it just works' and users generally won't find themselves spending hours updating drivers and troubleshooting issues. However, what should you do when something on your Mac does go wrong? Fortunately for users, OS X has a number of tools built-in to help diagnose and fix many problems. Here, we’ve listed the five main problems that Mac users may experience, and how to easily fix them.
Read more: 5 steps (and 8 checks) to fix a frozen Mac
Five most common Mac problems: What should I do if my Mac is running slowly?
So, what can you do if your Mac is running very slowly? Your first port of call should be to access the Activity Monitor, which can be accessed by heading to Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor in the Finder window. Once opened, you should see five different tabs; CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk and Network.
By clicking the Memory tab, you're taken to a window displaying a list of all processes running on your Mac, as well as a graph of memory usage. If it's green, all is good with your system.
However, if it's amber or red, OS X is having trouble managing memory and could be the reason that your Mac is running slowly. This could be due to a memory-hogging application, and by organising the list by memory usage (arrow pointing down), you can quickly identify the culprit. You should ignore processes that have "root" listed as the user, and focus on applications running from your user account.
Identify the memory-hogging app, click on it and then click the X icon in the toolbar to close it. In our experience, we've found that Google Docs can take up a huge amount of memory compared to other processes running on our Mac - we've noticed Docs demand 3GB+ of memory a handful of times, while the second largest process is under 1GB. Closing the Google Docs window and re-opening it usually fixes the issue and reduces the amount of memory used.
Once you've closed the app/stopped the memory-hogging process, many users advise you to restart your Mac. However, we feel that the effects should be almost instant as you've stopped the process from using too much processing power, and restarting a Mac may restart the processes (depending on what it is) and take you back to square one. By all means, restart your Mac if you desire, but we don’t think it’s necessary for the majority of users.
See also: How to reinstall OS X if your Mac fails
Five most common Mac problems: How do I fix a lost Wi-Fi connection and get online?
Some Mac users have reported intermittent Wi-Fi issues, where the connection will disconnect at random. If you keep loosing your Wi-Fi connection on your Mac, there’s a step that you can take to ensure it doesn’t happen in future. Macs can be configured to connect to a 5GHz Wi-Fi network, which has a shorter range than a 2.4GHz network, but has less interference due to no domestic appliances using that frequency. The 5GHz frequency also supports faster data transfer, so your Wi-Fi connection may even improve in the long run.
The first thing you’ll need to do is separate your 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks by accessing your routers settings. These can vary between manufacturers, so you’ll have to consult your routers manual if you’re unsure of how to do it. It’s also worth noting that if you’re a Virgin Media customer using Virgin’s Super Hub for your home Wi-Fi connection, this is done automatically and you can skip to the next step.
Once you’ve separated the networks, the next step is to tell your Mac to join the 5GHz network in preference to the 2.4GHz network. To do this, go to System Preferences > Network > Wi-Fi > Advanced. From the Advanced Wi-Fi Settings menu, simply identify your 5GHz network and drag it to the top of the list.
You’ve now told your Mac to join the 5GHz network whenever possible, leaving more room on the 2.4GHz frequency for devices that need it, whilst at the same time providing you with a more reliable and speedy Wi-Fi connection.
You might be interested in: How to run Windows 10 on a Mac
Five most common Mac problems: What should I do if my MacBook won’t charge?
So, you plug your MacBook in to be charged, and nothing happens. What can you do? Apple recommends that before you try anything else, owners of MacBooks with removable batteries should reset the battery by fully removing it and re-inserting it. Any issues with its installation will be fixed by this simple step, and may save you a trip to the Apple Store.
If that doesn’t work, the next step is to reset the System Management Controller, or SMC for short. To reset the SMC, first you’ll have to shut down your MacBook. Once it’s off, connect the MagSafe power adapter and hold down Control, Shift, Option and the Power button for around four seconds, before releasing all at the same time.
Then, press the Power button to start up the MacBook and see if the problem has been fixed. If not, then your battery may be at the end of its life and you should take your MacBook to Apple for servicing.
Five most common Mac problems: What should I do if my Mac freezes?
Another issue that many Mac users will come across sooner or later is a frozen/unresponsive app that won’t close. Quitting and restarting the app is usually the best way for OS X to handle a crash. It’s a fairly straight forward to Quit an app, and can be done in two ways.
The first requires you to Control-click the frozen app’s icon in the dock to bring up the Options menu, hold the Option key to change the “Quit” option in the menu to “Force Quit”, then click it to force close the app. It’s worth noting that force quitting an app will mean that you loose all unsaved data, be it an essay for school in Microsoft Word or a collage in Photoshop.
Alternatively, if for whatever reason you can’t access the Dock, you can press Command, Option and Escape to open the Force Quit Applications window. From here, simply select the app that’s unresponsive and then click Force Quit in the bottom right hand corner, confirming the action by clicking Force Quit on the pop-up window that appears.
If your Mac is completely frozen, you can manually restart it, though it’s worth mentioning that this is a last resort as it can cause files on your Mac to become damaged or corrupted. However, if the situation arises and nothing else works, simply press Command, Control and Eject at the same time to reboot your computer.
Five most common Mac problems: My Mac won’t shut down. What should I do?
So, you’ve tried to shut down your Mac but nothing is happening. The first thing you should do is give it time, as OS X has to sort through all its open files and close all programs before it can safely shut down. If, after around five minutes, you’re still staring at the same screen, something hasn’t gone to plan and its time to take action. Take a look at the Dock, and make sure there are no bouncing app alerts or open apps that could interrupt the shut down process. It may be a word processing app that’s stopping the shut down before you save your documents, for example.
It’s also worth checking to see if there are any frozen applications open, as frozen apps can stop a Mac from shutting down, and manually closing them may speed up the shut down process. Identify any open or frozen apps in the Dock and either Quit or Force Quit them before trying to shut your computer down again.
As a last resort, you can force your Mac to shut down, but doing so may cause issues with file corruption, as mentioned earlier. To manually shut your Mac down, press and hold the power button on the back of the Mac until your screen goes black and the system shuts down. It’s worth noting that this should be done once in a blue moon, and if you find yourself doing this regularly, it may be worth reinstalling OS X or booking an appointment with Apple to fix the issue long-term.