Troubleshooting 101: Is Software or Hardware the Problem?

Troubleshooting 101: Is Software or Hardware the Problem?

Your Mac acting up? Not sure if the issue is hardware or software related? Follow these troubleshooting tips to quickly and easily determine where the issue lies before you head to the Genius Bar.

1. Create a New User Account
The first way to rule out if the issue is hardware or software related is to create a new user account on your machine and see if the issue still occurs. If the problem that you were having magically disappears, this is a good indication that the issue is SW related specific to your usual user account and is not a global software issue with the machine or a hardware problem.
2. Boot From an Image
Still not sure if the issue is with the hardware or software? Boot from an image and see if the issue continues to occur.
3. Apple Hardware Test
Hold the D key down whilst starting your computer with the system disc inside to run the Apple Hardware Test (AHT). Some models come with AHT built-in and don't require the disc, however if you ever erase your drive and re-install, then AHT will be removed and you'll need to use your system discs.The AHT performs a simple diagnostic on most of the components inside. Most hardware issues can be spotted through this diagnostic tool. If you see any hardware issues or are concerned there may be a hardware problem even though one was not determined using AHT, book a Genius Bar appointment and get your computer booked in for 24 hour load testing and a more in-depth hardware diagnostic than AHT provides.

4. Check Crash Logs
No one likes a crash, but often it can be tricky to determine just what caused the issue. Look at your crash logs, these can be found at /Applications/Utilities/Console.app these will let you know exactly what caused the crash. These logs can also be saved and are easily searchable, should you try and locate them during a Genius Bar appointment.

5. Looks Like It's Your OS? How to Fix It
Perform an Archive & Install. This archives your files so that they're safe (but again, always best to have a backup first just in case) and re-installs your system software. Insert the discs that came with your system and hold the C key down when you start your computer (before the chime and release when you see the Apple logo). For Mac OS X 10.5 and earlier, follow the instructions and customize your install so that it performs an Archive & Install. For Mac OS X 10.6 there is no such option as it does an Archive & Install by default.


For more helpful repair tips, check out these posts:

(Image: Flickr user Yutaka Tsutano under license from Creative Commons, Flickr user Kasper Duhn under license from Creative Commons, and Flickr user Jesús Gorriti under license from Creative Commons .)

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