As I was explaining to Gayle how to fix some glitches with her computer, I realized I haven’t written about this technique. Time to correct that.
With the release of macOS Mojave (or maybe a bit earlier) Apple added a better way to fix software weirdness with your computer. It’s called Recovery Mode.
When things start to go wrong with your software, here are the first things you should do to get things working right:
1. Save your work, if possible, quit, then restart the misbehaving application.
NOTE: If you can’t quit the app, press and hold Option + Cmd + ESC. In the dialog that appears, select the app you can’t quit and choose Force Quit.
2. If that doesn’t fix the problem, restart your computer.
3. If that doesn’t fix the problem, some applications allow trashing their preference files. While this varies by application, here are two apps where this can help:
4. If that doesn’t fix the problem, boot into Recovery Mode
Recovery mode is a special version of the Mac operating system that, when you boot into it, allows you to: repair your boot disk, replace the operating system, and other emergency maintenance.
The problem is that it is hidden by default and, with the release of M1 Macs, Apple changed how we access it.
ACCESS RECOVERY MODE ON INTEL MACS
To access Recovery Mode on an Intel Mac:
BIG NOTE: Cmd + R requires using a wired, not wireless, keyboard.
ACCESS RECOVERY MODE ON APPLE SILICON MACS
To access Recovery Mode on an Apple silicon Mac:
Once you are in Recovery Mode, both Intel and Apple Macs have several on-screen options:
Several additional options are hidden in the Utilities menu at the top, depending upon your computer and the version of macOS you are running:
For both computer systems, Disk Utility is the option I use the most.
USING DISK UTILITY
(This screen shot is from macOS Monterey running on an M1 MacBook Pro.)
(This is from macOS Big Sur.)
Once you start Disk Utility, go up to the Utilities menu and choose “Show all disks.” This displays a hidden container that holds the Macintosh HD.
Next, select EACH LEVEL of the volumes listed on the left and run First Aid on each one:
NOTE: Apple changed the way the operating system is stored when it moved to APFS. The Macintosh HD partition is read only, to prevent damaging the parts of the OS that don’t change. The bottom partition is where all your data is stored. (There may be others storage drives on your computer, but these are the only two we are concerned about here.)
Things should now be working better.
My recommendation is to run Disk Utility whenever you have problems, or every moth or so as preventative maintenance. Running Disk Utility won’t hurt your data.
Something I didn’t know until I was researching this tutorial: Apple created a “Fallback Recovery OS,” for those very unlikely situations where the Recovery disk is corrupt.
To access this, double-press and hold the power button to boot into the fallback.
I’m pleased to report that I’ve never needed the fallback. (Knock on wood.)
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