A quick guide to common error messages in OSX
Apple computers have a well-deserved reputation for reliability and stability, but even the best machines will run into problems occasionally, as you'll know if you're reading this! We hope this information on the most frequent situations you might find yourself in is of some use, and that the 'quick fixes' outlined below are all you need.
'The application [program name here] quit unexpectedly'
This should happen very rarely and, when it does, restarting the app in question is normally all you need to do. However if you find that a particular app is quitting on even a semi-regular basis then try the following steps (making sure that you quit the app first):
- hold down the 'Option' key, then click 'Go' in the Finder and navigate to 'Library > Preferences';
- look for the preferences for the problematic app;
- move the preferences to the Trash to delete them;
- restart the app.
If this doesn't work, then try uninstalling and reinstalling the app altogether (here's a quick guide on that).
Grey screen of death - 'You need to restart your computer'
Definitely no doubt that something is wrong here: against a grey background you'll see a large on/off symbol plus the message above. The technical term for this error is Kernel Panic, and it signifies a breakdown in communication between your operating system (i.e. OSX) and the hardware. Strictly speaking the kernel is part of your OS (indeed, it's the most fundamental part), but it's easier to think of it as a translator between what you can interact with and the 'nuts and bolts' of your Mac.
The best way to deal with a Kernel Panic is to do as you're instructed: turn off your Mac, wait for 30 seconds, then turn it on again with the Shift key held down. This will start it in what's called Safe Mode; what for everything to load and then do a restart into Normal mode (whihc is the default). If you're in luck then that should be the end of it. If you get even semi-regular Kernel Panics then you have an issue, and the majority of these errors are due to a hardware problem (your RAM, graphics card and router can all be the cuplrit here).
'Your startup disk is almost full'
This message means that you've been enjoying your Mac to the full - literally. All you need to do to fix this one is too free up some space on your hard drive - and we've already covered how to do this in an earlier post.
A grey folder with a question mark
This means that the Mac OS X operating system cannot find the hard drive it last used to start up (or 'boot'). Macs are able to boot from any drive connected, so if you had an external drive connected which has since been removed, then you may be able to resolve this issue by telling your Mac that you want to boot from the internal drive.
To do this, turn off your Mac and then turn it on again with the Alt key held down, which should allow you to select the internal drive and boot normally. If this doesn't fix the problem then the next thing to try is reinstalling OS X - luckily this is not difficult and Apple's official guidance is here.
'You can't open the application because it is not supported on this type of Mac'
This is rather an incorrectly worded message from a user's point of view. It doesn't mean that you have the wrong sort of Mac, just that the particular version of the app you're trying to run isn't compatible with the version of OS X on your Mac. This issue is usually easily resolved; all you need to do is update the app.
If it's an OSX app (or one bought from the App Store) then just click the Apple icon at the top of your screen and choose 'Software Update'. Otherwise, go to the app provider's website and check that you have the latest version.
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