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Troubleshooting your Apple products: The last word

Christopher Breen | Feb. 18, 2015
Chris Breen takes the long view on troubleshooting Apple's gear and operating systems.

Writer Chris Breen is looking at a big change and has something to say. He writes:

After decades of offering advice to Apple users in the pages of MacUser and then Macworld, I'm making a career change and heading off to a fruit-flavored tech company sandwiched between Santa Clara and Sunnyvale. As this will be my last word from Mac 911, is there anything I can say to put this whole "Ack, my tech isn't working!" thing into perspective?

I've found these three broad principles to be the most helpful.

  • Don't panic.
  • Puzzle it out.
  • Have faith.

Don't panic
One of the dumbest brilliances I ever heard was this gem from a woman who'd had one highball too many:

"Your odds of winning the lottery are actually 50/50. You either win, or you don't."

Those who've endured the first 15 pages of Statistics for the Inebriated might suggest that there's a bit more to it than that, but you can't escape the core loveliness of the premise: It's this or it's that and nothing in between.

It's a sentiment that I like so much, in fact, that I carry it with me whenever I'm faced with a hunk of misbehaving technology. I prefer to think of it this way:

It's either broken or it isn't. And it probably isn't, so why not see if you can fix it?

When you accept that there's either nothing or something you can do about the problem, it makes tackling it less stressful. If it's busted you're going to take it to the shop or replace it anyway. And unless you perform an entirely boneheaded operation in an attempt to correct it (and I'd suggest that introducing a Dremel into your solution counts in that regard), you can tackle the problem without making it worse.

Of course no one should work without a safety net. You'll be far calmer if you know that you have a complete (and verified) backup of your most precious data. If a gadget has met its maker, you can always get another one (though the cost may be dear). But if something has vaporized the pictures of your daughter's third birthday and you have no backup, you're going to have to work up a pretty good excuse when, years later, she turns on the Margaret Keane eyes and asks "Daddy, why are there no pictures of me when I was a child? Didn't you love me?"

Puzzle it out
Each of us can be allotted several minutes of spicy language when a favorite gadget becomes unresponsive. But once you've thoroughly vented, it's time to hitch up the overalls and have a good think about what might have gone wrong.


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