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"Holy Cripes! My Mac's Busted!!!"
- Quick Fixes for a Funky Mac

By Christopher Breen

Note:This article is an excerpt from "MAC 911" © 2002 Christopher Breen Reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc. Publishing as Peachpit Press. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. To buy this book, visit www.peachpit.com

Although I'd like to believe you purchased this book because of my winning smile and sophisticated air, I realize that many of you clutch this tome in a state of sheer panic. Your Mac is on the fritz; you've neglected to back up the important documents on your hard drive; and you pray that within these pages, you'll find the solution to your Mac's woes. Relax. I've placed these emergency pages at the beginning of the book solely for your salvation. This is the paramedic portion of Mac 911—the section designed to get your Mac back on its little plastic feet without a lot of blather about the whys and wherefores of Mac troubleshooting and repair. Take a couple of deep breaths, and let's get started.


Your Mac Won't Start Up

Sometimes when your Mac won't start up, it offers you a helpful hint as to why: a strange beep, maybe. But even if you Mac doesn't do anything when you try to start it up, that is still a good clue.

Uh-oh: You switch on your Mac, and nothing happens—no lights, no sound, no nothing.
Although it's tempting to throw up your arms in despair and simply proclaim your Mac to be "broken," a completely kaput Mac is a rare Mac indeed. Look first to the obvious.

Treatment 1: Check power connections.
Every Mac user on earth has run into this issue, so put aside your chagrin and count your blessings if your problem is as simple as a power cord that's come loose. If the connection between your power source and Mac seems solid, double-check the power strips the Mac is plugged into; they should all be switched on. Also, if the power outlet connected to your Mac is controlled by a wall switch, make sure that the switch is in the on position. If all else fails, swap in a new power cord.

Treatment 2: Switch different.
Push the Power button on the Mac itself rather than the one on the keyboard (if, indeed, your keyboard has a Power button). If the Mac starts up with this Power key, you have a bad connection between your keyboard and the Mac. Make sure that the keyboard is plugged into the Mac properly. If it's a USB Mac, be sure that the keyboard is plugged directly into the Mac rather than into a USB hub. If your Mac has an ADB keyboard, replace the ADB cable.

Treatment 3: Check the battery.
If you have a PowerBook or iBook, and you're attempting to run on battery power, use the power adapter instead. Your battery may be dead.

The external batteries on PowerBooks and iBooks are not the only batteries you need to be concerned about. Macs also carry internal batteries. If your Mac's internal battery poops out, you may be unable to boot your Mac. To replace your battery, open the Mac (with the power off!), remove the thing that looks like a battery (it is one), and take it to a local computer or electronics shop for replacement.

Treatment 4: Check the monitor.
New Mac models, such as the ill-fated Power Mac G4 Cube, are amazingly quiet. Unbeknownst to you, the Mac may be switched on, but the monitor switched off. Push the monitor's Power button to find out.

Treatment 5: Call Apple.
If these do-it-yourself solutions don't work, your Mac may be beyond the help you and I can provide (of course, you might want to read the rest of the book before you give up). Dry those tears, pick up the phone, and give Apple's support line a call at (800) 275-2273 during normal business hours on the Pacific Coast.

Treatment 6: Take it to the shop.
The technician you speak with at Apple may recommend that you take your Mac to a local Apple Authorized Service Provider for repair. This advice is rarely given lightly. If you've tried everything else, save yourself some frustration, bite the bullet, and take it in.

Uh-oh: You switch on your Mac and see the icon of a frowning Mac or hear odd beeps, chords, or sound effects.
The Mac runs a series of hardware tests when you start up the machine. If these tests fail, you may see the infamous "Sad Mac" icon, hear error tones, or both. These tones may be a chord, the sound of a car crashing, the smash of broken glass, or a series of unfamiliar beeps.

Treatment 1: Check your RAM.
Have you just changed the RAM in your Mac or moved the Mac from one place to another? More often than not, error tones are the result of a RAM module that's not seated properly or that's incompatible with your Mac. If you've installed new RAM and hear unusual tones, remove the new RAM and try starting your Mac again. If the Mac starts properly without the RAM, switch off the Mac and reseat the RAM module. If, on restarting, you continue to hear error tones, switch off the Mac, open its case, and look for a small round black or red button near the internal battery. This button is called the Cuda button (see Chapter 2 for more information). Press this button, reassemble your Mac, and restart with the new RAM module in place. If the Mac remains obstinate, and you still hear these ominous tones, report your difficulties to the vendor who sold you the RAM. If you have an iMac, of course, cracking the case may seem to be completely beyond your ken. Don't worry—I show you how to break it open in Chapter 7.

Treatment 2: Check other installed cards.
It's possible that another kind of add-in circuit board is causing the problem. Try reseating any AGP, PCI, PDS, or NuBus cards in your Mac.

Treatment 3: Try a different startup disk.
Although this situation is rare, error tones can occur if your startup drive is under the weather. Try booting your Mac with the System software disk that it shipped with. Macs produced in the past several years shipped with a System software CD (sometimes called the Software Install CD). To start up from this CD, insert it and hold down the C key until the Mac's welcome screen appears. If the C-key trick doesn't work, try pressing Command-Shift-Option-Delete. This key combination tells the Mac to try to boot from a device other than the startup disk.

Treatment 4: Think back.
Have you changed anything since you last used your Mac—added a new PCI card or peripheral, for example? If so, you've found the likely culprit. Undo your recent actions, and try booting your Mac again. If the Mac starts up properly, you'll need to troubleshoot this new acquisition. (Tips on troubleshooting appear in subsequent chapters.)

Treatment 5: Call Apple.
As I mentioned earlier, a call to Apple may be the right solution when you're otherwise stumped.

Treatment 6: Take it to the shop.
Rarely, those hardware tests can indicate a more serious problem: a dead motherboard, bad SCSI controller, or malfunctioning ROM chip, for example. If you can't find a way around these errors, take your Mac to your local Mac repair emporium to have it eyeballed by a qualified technician.

 


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