Tech Tips for Apple Mac

This page provides basic tips on using your Apple Mac computer effectively, or links to reputable pages to provide the necessary advice.

What is the Apple Mac?

The Apple Mac is the name for computers (desktops and laptops) made and sold by Apple. They include the iMac desktop computers and MacBook laptops.

Apple Mac computers run an operating system called MacOS.

Software for Mac computers is found in a range of places, including the App Store.

The Apple support pages can be very helpful for general, common tasks or issues.

What computer and operating system do I have?

Your Mac provides several tools to help you identify it. The simplest is About This Mac, available by choosing About This Mac from the Apple  menu in the upper-left corner of your screen.

Find out which macOS your Mac is using

Find the model and serial number of your Mac

Update your OS

Wherever possible, we recommend keeping your MacOS up-to-date. Very old versions of operating systems can cause devices not to work or connect properly.

However, if your computer is itself quite old, it may not be able to upgrade to the most recent MacOS, and that may itself be causing slowness or problems.

The easiest way to upgrade is to go to the App Store and select “Updates”. This will generally display all the software, including MacOS, that is available for you to download.

Note that operating systems can be very large, and upgrades can take quite a long time. Ensure you have space on your computer to do the update and then, the time and data available to do the upgrade. Your computer will restart at least once during the upgrade.

Always back up all your important files before doing a major upgrade. Apple Time Machine is an excellent tool for this. You can set this up on any external hard drive.

Back up your Mac with Time Machine

Close software

Sometimes, software – such as internet browsers – can get “stuck”. They can use up all your available memory while they try to process whatever has caused the problem. The only way to stop them causing the issue is to force-close them.

How to force an app to quit on your Mac

Shut down and restart (including “safe mode”)

As with all technical equipment, “turn it off and on again” is the first step when you have an issue. You can do an ordinary shutdown and restart for that.

Sometimes, however, you’ll need to restart your computer in “safe mode”. Safe mode starts MacOS in a basic state, using a limited set of files and drivers. If a problem doesn’t happen in safe mode, this means that default settings and basic device drivers aren’t causing the issue. Observing your Mac in safe mode enables you to narrow down the source of a problem, and can help you troubleshoot problems on your Mac.

Ways to shut down and restart your Mac

Start up your Mac in safe mode

How to use safe mode on your Mac

Uninstall and reinstall software

If you suspect a particular piece of software is causing problems with your computer or internet connection, you can uninstall and reinstall it.

We strongly recommend going to the software website first, or looking in the software folder on your computer, for any instructions or suggestions on saving data and correctly uninstalling the specific package. Simply deleting the executable file, or its folder, will not correctly uninstall software, and may in fact cause more problems than you’re trying to fix.

Ensure you have a way of re-installing the software after it’s removed. For example, from CD, USB stick, or internet download.

If the software needs a licence key to operate, check that you have the key stored in a safe location before you delete it, or you may lose your access to it.

As always, ensure all your important files are backed up before installing software.

Install and uninstall apps from the Internet or disc on Mac

Check or add network settings

If your internet network settings don’t seem to be working correctly, you can always create a new set to help you connect to the internet. If the new set works, you can delete the older or non-working sets.

Change network settings on Mac

Manage background processes – Activity Monitor

Closing, exiting or cancelling any unused background process gives more space back to the computer itself.

However, use this very carefully.

If you do not know what a process does, search its name. Do not disable processes if you are unsure, as some processes are necessary for your computer to function normally. You can stop applications like Skype, your printer applications, camera updaters etc from being automatically loaded at start-up. Applications like your antivirus software need to be loaded at start-up.

View information about Mac processes in Activity Monitor

Clean up

There are various ways to find and manage old or unneeded files on your desktop. This can help speed up your computer, help remove files causing problems, and ensure you have enough space for any software updates.

You can also look for third-party software that can help clean and maintain your hard drive.

Wipe and restore

As a final option, if the issue does seem to be your computer, you can wipe it back to its factory defaults, and then add in your necessary software and data bit-by-bit.

This is quite a major undertaking. We recommend discussing it with your trusted technical advisor before starting off the process.

At the very least, you’ll need to back up all your existing data and software, so you don’t lose everything.

Back up your Mac with Time Machine