Computers crash and the Macintosh is no exception. But before calling in the National Guard, you can follow these relatively simple steps, and save time and money, and maybe learn something at the same time.
"Microsoft Word keeps crashing" does not accurately identify a Macintosh problem. Identifying a problem usually requires a few additional pieces of information, such as:
The more information you provide about the actions preceding a crash the greater the chances someone can help you.
For example, "Sometimes QuarkXPress crashes with a 'coprocessor not installed' error" is not nearly as helpful as "QuarkXPress 3.0 crashes when I link two text boxes on a master page when copies of those text boxes already contain text." The first diagnosis leaves you wondering whether the bug remains after a given step. The latter lets you go right to the problem.
Following are a few starting places to look for the reasons for a file or application to crash.
Most applications include a list of known incompatibilities and bugs in their Read Me file. Frequently, this file contains late breaking and otherwise undocumented information. Read the Read Me file to see if any of the problems are mentioned.
Virus infections are rarer than most people think, but they do occur and they can cause any number of strange problems, from slowing down the Mac to increasing file sizes, to mimicking application errors. Run your anti-viral application over the hard disk and any external hard disks.
A file on a disk may become corrupted for any reason. This can cause unexplained, or unusual behaviour. Restoring from original master disks will generally fix this.
Check to see if the application has a preferences file in the Preferences folder of the System folder. If so remove it; this step is often overlooked when reinstalling. Since the preferences file is often the most easily corrupted file in an application, reinstalling it may be enough to fix the problem.
Some Install applications allow you to deinstall the software (the Microsoft Office suite is among them) using a deinstall button. Others permit deinstallation but you need to use the Option key to access this function. Deinstallation removes all application files, including preferences, extensions, and any control panels an application requires.
If the problem continues to occur after you've taken these steps, you may have found either a conflict between your application and some other software or a genuine bug in the program. So it's time to:
Find the minimal configuration at which the problem occurs and record your findings. Here's how:
Sometimes applications conflict with one another. If the problem does not occur without other applications running simultaneously, begin launching other applications until you find the one that causes the crash.
System 7.5's Extensions Manager lets you decide at startup which extensions to load so you don't have to spend a lot of time moving files into and out of the System Folder. You can access the Extensions Manager at startup by holding down the space bar and selecting the extensions, control panels and system folder items to load.
If the problem recurs when you try to open a file, remove any Extensions or Control Panels that interfere with the Standard File Open procedure, such as Super Boomerang or QuicKeys.
If the problem remains after the obvious candidates have been eliminated, either remove the remaining extensions one at a time; or, in groups. Once the problem disappears add half of the most recently removed set back. Continue until you've narrowed the conflict down to one extension. When you think you've found the offending Extension or Control Panel restart with the troublesome one enabled to make sure that it is the only one causing the problem.
Although performing this procedure manually can be fairly quick if you have a pretty good idea of which extensions to check, it can take quite some time when you really don't have any strong suspects for a conflict. In that case, a utility such as Conflict Catcher can help isolate the offending Extensions or Control Panels.
If the problem disappears when fonts are removed one of them may be corrupted. Note you cannot remove Monaco or Chicago from the Fonts folder since these are required by the system to display text.
Unplug all cables: power, keyboard (ADB), modem, printer, network, SCSI and any other cables plugged into the back of the Mac. Then plug everything back in and try again.
Loose or faulty cables can create malfunctions in any hardware or software. If you find a faulty cable it will need to be replaced.
Disconnect external SCSI devices and then reconnect them one at a time until the problem reappears. Don't forget to shutdown the Mac before disconnecting any SCSI devices, or you'll have a worse problem than you started with.
Once you've isolated a SCSI device problem check its termination and try moving it to a different location in the SCSI chain.If the problem persists, check the SCSI cable, by attaching it to another device and see if the problem persists.
By now you should have an idea of when, where, and why the conflict occurs and whether the problem is hardware or software related.
Regular tune-ups avoid many problems. The following ten step program should be performed about every three months or when you're experiencing problems.
Many of the operations that follow will run faster and more smoothly if there is more free disk space to work with so spend a little time cleaning up your hard disk.
One place to start is in the Preferences folder (System Folder). Most applications store their preferences here; and here they remain until removed or deinstalled. Check through your data folders for compressed files that have already been exploded, shareware you tried out and didn't like, announcements for events that have come and gone and many other files you no longer need. Throw them away and empty the trash.
Some Macintosh System Folders attract Extensions or Control Panels like a new suit attracts rain. Seriously consider whether you actually need every extension in your collection. If you don't use the functionality of an extension at least every fifth time you boot up, you're probably better off not storing it in your System Folder where it only takes up memory, destabilises your system, and slows down every startup.
For instance if you only read PC disks once a month, there's no need to keep Macintosh PC Exchange loaded all the time. Cutting back on your extensions can really help avoid crashes.
The Desktop file/database holds all the information necessary to associate each file with the application that created it. It lets the system know which application should be launched when you open a given file and what icons it should display.
Depending on its size each application has one or more representatives in the desktop file. As applications and files move on and off your hard disk, the Desktop file can be become bloated or even corrupt.
To rebuild the desktop restart your Mac and, as your extensions finish loading, depress the Command and Option keys. Before the desktop appears, you'll be presented with a dialog box asking if you want to rebuild the desktop and warning you that "This could take a few minutes." Click OK. It will take more than a few minutes. The more files you have the longer it will take.
If you're experiencing definite problems and not just doing preventive maintenance, you may want to use Micromat's freeware utility TechTool. TechTool completely deletes the Desktop file forcing the Mac to recreate the file on startup, and eliminating possibly corrupt data structures.
System files can become corrupt and fragmented, especially if you've stored lots of fonts and desk accessories inside them. Merely updating the System software will often not fix system file corruption; a clean install will.
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