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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

Date: 11th November 2010

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Check the hard disk drive for errors

Is your Mac gradually slowing down? Does it seem to take longer to start up and shut down? Do applications hang when you try to start them or quit them? If the answer to any of these questions is Yes, you should check the hard disk drive for errors because little faults can grow into bigger ones and cause lots of problems.

Problems with the Mac? Surely not! Yes, the Mac can mess up the filing system, lose files, cross link them and corrupt them just like every other operating system and it is not immunue from problems. Both Linux and Windows automatically check the disk for errors on a regular basis without being instructed because the information stored on it is valuable. The Mac doesn't automatically schedule disk checks and you have to do it manually. Here's how to check the disk and repair errors.

Go to the Applications/Utilities folder and run Disk Utility. Select the hard disk drive in the left panel and then you'll see Verify Disk Permissions and Verify Disk buttons on the right. Click one and wait until it has finished. If any problems are displayed in the report, click the button underneath - Repair Disk Permissions or Repair Disk.

Disk Utility

You may find that one or both repair buttons are disabled. That happens because Disk Utility is unable to fix certain faults on the boot drive because the operating system files are in use and can't be modified. In order to fix faults you have to boot from another drive. If you have cloned your disk with Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper, you can boot from the backup disk and run Disk Utility from there. If you don't have an external disk drive to boot from, you can put the OS X DVD in the drive and boot from that. Before OS X installs, the boot process pauses and you'll see a menu or button to access Disk Utility. It's in a slightly different place on Tiger, Leopard and Snow Leopard discs, but it's there on each DVD. With Snow Leopard the installer pauses at the desktop and Disk Utility is on the Utilities menu. Just check the disk and then repair it. You can quit and boot up normally afterwards.

So how do you boot from another disk or the DVD? Plug in the external disk drive or insert the DVD and just as the Mac begins to start, hold down the Option key. Icons for each bootable device are displayed and you can use the arrow keys to select the one you want and Enter to boot from it.

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