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Help! My Mac Crashed! (And how to get running again).

Updated on September 20, 2014

What to do when your Mac starts spitting chips...

Macs are hardy little machines and tend to crash far less often than your standard PC.

However occasionally they, like all computers do crash so this lens was constructed to offer a few hints and tips to newbies who may be faced with such a problem. 

Types of crashes.

Program and startup problems and what to do about them.

Program crashes occur when a program freezes or becomes unresponsive (you may get a spinning beach ball icon indicating a problem).

This usually does not crash your entire system but can be a real pain.

Best option is to bring up the "Force quit" command.

This is easily done by pressing the apple key (has an apple symbol on it) plus the "option" key right next to it and the esc (escape) key all together.

A Force quit application window will appear and from there you can scroll down and select your misbehaving program and force it to close.

Startup crashes, although much rarer are usually characterized by a blank blue screen, a sad Mac icon, or a question mark.

Hardware faults are thankfully rare, so before you get ready to bury your Mac try the following.

Shut down your Mac

Insert a bootable CD-ROM (The OSX installation CD your computer came with).

Restart your computer and while it is doing so, hold down the C key until your Mac either boots up or doesn't.

If your computer does not start up after a minute or so your mac needs to go for repair.

If it does start up, you have a hard drive issue (which you can usually easily fix unless your drive is dead).

Here's the next steps to try.

from the CD menu that shows on the screen choose installer and open the Disk Utility.

The Disk Utility window will appear.

Next click on the First Aid tab (to the left of this you'll see icons representing all your drives) select your boot drive (the one you normally start up from) and click the repair button.

Let the application run.

Once finished First aid will let you know it has repaired the problem.

Restart your computer without holding down the C key.

You should be good to go.

If this hasn't solved the problem try the following.

Run a commercial repair tool such as "Tech Tool Pro" or "Disk Warrior" (Avoid "Nortons Utilities") and use a version that is current with your operating system version.

Another alternative (though a bit drastic) is to do a complete reinstall of your operating system from the CD ROM.

If you are a Newbie I recommend the Mac OSX for Dummies book which contains a wealth of info and easy to follow instructions on how to keep your Mac running at it's best.

Use a backup drive.

Important data should be stored on a backup hard drive. An external USB or firewire hard drive will save you loss of your important documents, songs, projects, photos etc.

I you have leopard or later running on your Mac then do set up Time Machine and have it run regularly. Buy the largest hard drive you can afford as this will give you enough storage for everything.

How to save yourself heartache when your Mac crashes.

The biggest hassle with crashes is losing your work.

Back up often and you will cut the hassle by half.

Save your text documents etc to an external drive.

Backup gear for your Mac

Make sure you back up your data regularly by transferring it to an external drive.

WD Elements 2 TB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive
WD Elements 2 TB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive

I use one of these for backing up my data. You will have to reformat for Mac but that is very easy to do using Disk Utility on your machine. Your first backup may take quite a while but after that you'll be set.


Mac Crash Videos.

Computer Crashes on YouTube vids

Funny Video - The Blue Screen Of Death.

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    • Peter Oscars profile image

      Peter Oscars 3 years ago

      Your post reminded my horror story when my Mac Mini drive went corrupt due to Invalid B tree node structure error. I didn't even had proper backup of my Mac. I googled for potential software to repair my HD. In turn I got Stellar Volume Optimizer that claims to repair cryptic disk errors. I ran this tool and repaired my HD in some time. Hadn't there Stellar around I am sure my work stored in the drive would have been toasted.