10 basic troubleshooting tips to fix common macOS issues

If your Mac starts up slowly or displays error codes, you know something is not working properly. Apps may take a while to launch or features may not behave as expected. Maybe your computer won’t finish booting up properly or the battery refuses to charge. The root cause of most of these problems, and other problems you’ll encounter on Mac, is software.


Luckily, when there’s a software problem on your Mac, you can usually fix it yourself for free. So here is a master list of all the most helpful troubleshooting steps you can take to fix common macOS issues on your own.

1. Force Quit Misbehaving Apps

An application froze or stopped responding? Want to get rid of that annoying beach ball slider? If so, force quitting misbehaving apps should be high on your troubleshooting list. To force quit an unresponsive Mac app, tap Cmd + Option + Esc on the keyboard or click on the Apple menu and choose Force Quit. In the window that opens, select the application you want to quit and click on Force Quit. Reopen the app to see if the problem persists.

2. Restart your Mac

One way to fix macOS errors like accessories and apps not responding is to give your computer a fresh start. To do this, click on the Apple menu and choose To restart Where Close. If your Mac is unresponsive and doesn’t register any clicks, press and hold the power button for a few seconds to force your Mac to restart or shut down, which clears memory and reloads macOS. Make a habit of restarting your Mac about once a week to keep it running smoothly.

3. Restart Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Can’t connect to the internet or use AirDrop? Restarting Wi-Fi or Bluetooth may help. Access the Control Center by clicking on the to change icon at the top right of the menu bar. Now disable the Wireless Where Bluetooth icon and wait a few seconds before activating it again.

On older versions of macOS, click one of the icons in the menu bar and select Disable Wi-Fi Where Disable Bluetooth. For more help, check out other tips for further troubleshooting Mac network issues, including forgetting a network, resetting the Bluetooth module, and using Activity Monitor.

4. Install the latest macOS updates

Running the latest versions of macOS and apps is key to getting up-to-date protection and bug fixes. To upgrade the version of macOS on your Mac, select System Preferences in the Apple menu, click the Software update icon and follow the instructions.

To update apps on your Mac installed through the App Store, open the App Store and click Updates in the sidebar. For apps obtained outside the App Store, choose the Check for updates option in the application’s main menu or in the preferences window.

5. Create a new user account

Some issues are related to a specific user account in macOS. To isolate a problematic account, create a new macOS user account by choosing System Preferences in the Apple menu. Select Users and groupsthen click on the padlock at the bottom left to unlock this section.

Now hit the more (+) under the list of users, click on the menu next to New account and select Administrator as an account type. Enter a unique username and password for the account before clicking Create a user to save changes. You can now quickly switch to the newly created account to see if the current one is giving you a headache.

6. Reset SMC, NVRAM and PRAM

The System Management Controller (SMC) manages battery, charging, fans, MagSafe indicator light, keyboard and display backlighting, and sleep, sleep, and hibernation states. Therefore, resetting the SMC can help fix battery not charging, Mac that won’t turn on, or various similar issues. On Apple Silicon Macs, restarting your Mac automatically resets the SMC. On Intel-based Macs, you’ll need to follow our guide on resetting the SMC.

The macOS kernel panics? Display resolution won’t change? Is your Mac showing the wrong time? Does it start with a question mark? It looks like a configuration problem. All Intel Macs contain certain settings such as date and time, audio volume, trackpad preferences, etc. in special memory sections called PRAM and NVRAM. To troubleshoot system settings on older Macs, learn how to reset PRAM or NVRAM.

7. Boot into safe mode

To check if any of the apps that load on startup are giving you a headache, use Safe Mode in macOS. Safe Mode is basically a simplified version of the macOS operating system. No apps listed in System Preferences > Users > Groups > Login Items load in safe mode. And when your Mac boots up in Safe Mode, it will automatically perform a quick startup disk check to repair any corrupted file systems.

To enter Safe Mode in macOS on an Apple Silicone Mac, press and hold the power button while rebooting or powering on until the Boot Options appear. Now choose your startup disk, press and hold the Gap key, and click Continue in safe mode. On Intel-based Macs, press and hold Gap when starting the computer until an Apple logo appears on the screen.

8. Free up storage space on the startup disk

Your Mac stops responding? Is the startup long? If so, the machine may be running out of storage space. Start by deleting unwanted apps from your Applications folder. Also delete unnecessary files in the Downloads folder. Next, empty the Trash by Ctrl-clicking the Trash can in the Dock and selecting Empty trash can. For a breakdown of space used versus space available, choose About This Mac from Apple menu and select the Storage tongue.

The “Other” section can become especially important as clutter builds up on your system over time (read our explainer to find out what constitutes other storage in macOS). To automatically remove old shows and movies, as well as old attachments, click the Manage button in the About This Mac window, then choose Optimize storage. Other options in the Optimize Storage window let you automatically empty the Trash, offload old documents to iCloud, and more.

9. Repair all other disks with Disk Utility

Your Mac does not start completely? There seems to be a problem with the boot disk. To fix it, however, you’ll need to run Disk Utility from Apple’s built-in macOS Recovery partition. To do this on an Apple Silicon Mac, hold down the power button until the boot options appear. Click now Choice and choose Continue. Intel-based Mac owners should access macOS Recovery by long-pressing Command + R when starting up the Mac.

With macOS Recovery loaded, select disk utility in the list of recovery tools and click Continue. You should now be in Disk Utility. Then click on the app See menu and select Show all devices to reveal each available storage device. As a final step, select your drive from the sidebar and click the FIRST AID button. After Disk Utility finishes repairing the volume, choose To restart in the Apple menu to exit recovery tools and start your Mac normally. If that doesn’t solve your problems, try fixing Mac disk errors using a Unix tool called fsck.

10. Erase and Restore Your Mac

If all else fails, your last choice is to start over. Erase Everything not only gives you a fresh start with factory macOS settings, but also rids you of any malware infections. Of course, you should back up important files first using Time Machine or third-party alternatives to back up your Mac.

To begin the factory reset process, open System Preferences from the Dock or the Apple menu. Now look in the menu bar and click on the System Preferences menu, then choose Erase all content and settings.

Follow the instructions to clean the startup disk. Erasing the startup disk will erase all data and settings from your Mac and reinstall macOS so you can start fresh. Also, erasing all content and settings is a crucial step before giving or selling your Mac to someone else. If your Mac doesn’t have this feature, check out other methods to factory reset any Mac.

Create Your Own Mac Maintenance Regimen

Because no computer is perfect, it’s best to be prepared for all eventualities. Creating a Mac maintenance regimen that’s right for you is one way to ensure your Mac runs smoothly for years to come.

And for those times when that starts to kick in, we’ve provided you with the knowledge to troubleshoot the most common macOS issues you’ll encounter.

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