When Things Go Wrong – Troubleshoot Your Mac

Posted on by Larry

Sigh… Life was going swimmingly until, suddenly, your Mac crashes / acts up / freezes / sticks out its tongue and makes rude noises.

Now what?

Well, first, you should make rude noises back. It won’t fix anything, but it may make you feel better.

After that, here are some ideas to help get your system working again.

(Image courtesy of Andrea Piacquaidio, Pexels.com.)

If you’ve had a hard disk or SSD crash, STOP!

Before you try repairing the damage yourself, contact a data recovery specialist. They all have free consultation. Describe your problems and get their advice. Some problems can be fixed by users, others require more specialized tools. One point every data recovery specialist I’ve spoken with stressed is that far too often, users try to fix a crash themselves only to make the drive totally irreparable.

This is important; contact a specialist first. Here are some companies to consider. (Note: I haven’t used any of these.)


Shut-down your system and let it sit for a minute. This allows internal capacitors to fully discharge and other components to calm down.

Then restart.

It amazes me how often this simple remedy fixes things.


My specialty is media editing, so this section may not apply if you are using different software. With the move to Big Sur and Apple silicon, programs and plug-ins that used to work perfectly suddenly stopped running, or run unreliably.

The biggest problems with editing media today are:

If a project used to work, but now doesn’t AND you updated recently, the problem is probably incompatible plug-ins or software with the latest upgrade.

If a project used to work, but now doesn’t AND you have NOT upgraded recently, the problem is probably with your media or, more likely, render files.

Here are some quick tests:


If you don’t have a hard disk crash and powering down your system didn’t help, here’s the number one go-to technique that I recommend. It’s called accessing the Recovery disk:

Most of the time, that should fix whatever ailed your computer. I recommend running Disk Utility once a month to fix any potential problems before they become seriou

NOTE: If you are running an older version of the macOS and the Recovery Disk doesn’t exist, read this: “Troubleshoot your Mac System in Seven Steps.”


I’ve written a number of trouble-shooting articles over the years, specifically tailored to different software. If the techniques listed above didn’t fix things,  these links have more detailed help.


There are lots of things that could go wrong with your computer – while all of them require taking time to fix, not all of them are serious. These tips can help get  you back up and running.

Please share other techniques you’ve discovered in the comments.

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4 Responses to When Things Go Wrong – Troubleshoot Your Mac

  1. Patrick Flaherty says:

    I recently have been getting a message on my 2019MacPro that it is out of application memory

    • Larry says:


      Given how recent macOS’ handle paging RAM to disk, there’s a problem there. Time to call Apple Support. In normal operation, this message should not exist.


  2. Dan Weissman says:

    >> Duplicate the errant library / project. Using the duplicate, delete all render files

    Duplicate in the Finder, or in FCP?

    • Larry says:


      Good question. Duplicate the library in the Finder so that you are working with a copy, just in case. I’ll correct the article.



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