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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.

And the key here is to avoid looking into the abyss where anything could have gone wrong and you're therefore helpless to troubleshoot and fix your problem. The truth is, it's not anything. It's something (or maybe a couple of somethings). And the only job you have is figuring out what that something is.

You can arrive at this answer by having a sense of how this bit of tech works, from the moment you started it to the point where The Bad Thing happened.

For instance, if your Mac or iPhone won't start up, it's likely you have a power issue. The Mac's not plugged into a working outlet or an iPhone's battery is wholly drained, for example. Investigating for minute signs of life (a quietly whirring fan, for instance) can provide more clues.

Or you've made some change--installed an operating system update or jacked in some new peripheral--and everything goes kablooey afterwards. Or this one app quits or locks up every single time you launch it. Or, good lord, your browser is so slooooooow.

Each behavior is a bit of evidence. And more often than not, you can come up with a short list of prime suspects based on the nature of the crime. If you can piece together that evidence and the likely cause, a web search can often give a clue as to where the problem lies (and what you can do about it). Sometimes a solution is as simple as undoing the last thing you've done, reinstalling an app, or plugging that thingamajig into a different port.

Have faith
Apple is not doing its current bang-up business simply because of its sleek designs and minty-fresh breath. People like Apple products because they famously "just work."

Of course they don't always (and thank heavens for that, as this column's life would have been severely truncated if everything worked perfectly). However, the gist of this idea is that the operation of Apple's hardware and software is predictable. Far more often than not, you perform tasks in a way that makes sense. You want to turn a page on an iPad? Swipe to the left, just as you would with a book. You'd like to zoom in on an image on your Mac? Place two fingers on the trackpad and spread them apart. You can't close this window? Maybe there's an active one somewhere else that has to be dealt with first.

Apple's interface designers know their business (and honestly, I'd say this whether or not I was joining the company). When faced with a problem, meditate for a moment and try to think of the most obvious way to get out of it. Force-quitting apps is a common last-ish resort (though denying your device power of any kind is the ultimate last-ditch effort). But there are usually several steps in between--updating your operating system, downloading a more current version of an app, restarting your device, and so on.


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