My Mac is act­ing very strangely…

There are all sorts of rea­sons your Mac might be play­ing up

Mac Format - - TO THE RESCUE -

Has your Mac started to run slowly? It’s likely there’s a process hog­ging CPU cy­cles or RAM. It could be a browser pop-un­der win­dow that’s us­ing Flash, or an ap­pli­ca­tion that’s run into trou­ble. To find out what’s caus­ing the prob­lem, launch Ac­tiv­ity Mon­i­tor from the Util­i­ties Folder in Ap­pli­ca­tions. Click on the CPU tab and then click ‘CPU %’ to sort pro­cesses by the num­ber of pro­ces­sor cy­cles they’re con­sum­ing. You should be able to see if there’s an ap­pli­ca­tion or process hog­ging the CPU. Once you’ve iden­ti­fied the process, Google it along with the symp­toms and the model of your Mac. That should point you to rel­e­vant sup­port ar­ti­cles and dis­cus­sion threads on Ap­ple’s web­site.

Ev­ery­body be cool

One prob­lem, par­tic­u­larly with the MacBook Air, is over-heat­ing. On hot days, in a room with­out air con­di­tion­ing, the Air and some­times the MacBook Pro can be­come so hot it seems to take steps to cool it­self down. Un­doc­u­mented by Ap­ple, it ap­pears that while the fans are kept well be­low their max­i­mum speed by OS X, when it gets hot the OS im­ple­ments a process – ‘ker­nel_ task’ – that hogs pro­ces­sor cy­cles. It de­prives other apps of them, and forces the Mac to slow down to stay cool.

You can deal with this by down­load­ing and in­stalling sm­cFanCon­trol. This al­lows you to set your Mac’s fans at a higher speed, thus keep­ing the in­sides cooler and re­duc­ing the need for ker­nel_­task. It’s risky though, and isn’t a longterm so­lu­tion – Ap­ple lim­its the fan speed for a rea­son. It also sig­nif­i­cantly re­duces bat­tery life. Move the Mac to a cooler lo­ca­tion in­stead, or use an ex­ter­nal fan or an air-con unit to keep it cool.

If your cur­sor be­comes a spin­ning beach­ball, the rea­son could be too lit­tle RAM and an over­full hard drive (keep at least 10% free), or an ap­pli­ca­tion that’s run into trou­ble. Fire up Ac­tiv­ity Mon­i­tor to di­ag­nose the prob­lem, and, when the beach­ball ap­pears, check it to see what’s caus­ing the prob­lem. Quit the process. If that fixes the prob­lem, check to see if there’s an up­date avail­able for the trou­ble­some app.

A beach­balling cur­sor could be down to too lit­tle RAM and an over-full hard drive – keep 10% of it free

Check for soft­ware up­dates to di­ag­nose prob­lems when­ever they oc­cur. Also check the lo­gin items for your ac­count in the Users & Groups pane of Sys­tem Pref­er­ences. Re­move any you don’t need (but Google them be­fore­hand, if you’re un­sure what they do).

Se­ri­ous hard­ware prob­lems, such as a dis­play that’s dis­torted, can be di­ag­nosed by run­ning a se­ries of checks. The first thing to do is to re­set the NVRAM (known as PRAM in ear­lier Macs). This doesn’t solve as many prob­lems as it used to, and it’s un­likely to fix yours, but it’s quick and easy to do. Shut down your Mac, and then with ç+å+ P+R held down, power it on again. Your Mac will start up and then restart. When you hear the startup tone a sec­ond time, re­lease the keys.

Still no joy? Boot into Safe mode by start­ing up with ß held down un­til you’re past the Ap­ple logo. If the prob­lem per­sists in Safe mode, it’s a hard­ware is­sue. The next step is to run a hard­ware test; shut down the Mac and power on with D held down un­til the hard­ware test starts. Se­lect your lan­guage, and then choose Ba­sic Test. Wait un­til it’s run through its tests and read the re­sults. If that doesn’t di­ag­nose the prob­lem, run an Ex­tended Test.

If the re­sults con­firm a hard­ware prob­lem, you’ll have to take it to a Ge­nius Bar. Check first, in case you can re­pair it your­self.

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