Trouble- Shooting Your Mac Editing System


Larry Jordan# TV-Bay Magazine
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by Larry Jordan
Issue 94 - October 2014

So, there you are. Ready to start editing, except your editing system doesn't start. Or crashes in the middle of an edit. Or, most insulting of all, just sits there waving the "Spinning Beach Ball of Death" in your face.

Sigh...

While there are an unlimited number of gremlins and bad actors that could cause the problem, most times, you can get your system up and running in just a few steps. So, before you start leaping out of high buildings, here are some basic things to try. (And one thing NOT to do.)

THE OBVIOUS
If you can, quit the application and restart it. Many times, a simple restart works wonders.
If the Beach Ball is spinning and the application won't quit, press Option+Cmd+Esc. This displays the "Force Quit" dialog. The application that is having problems will have "(Not Responding)" after its name.
Select the misbehaving application, and then click Force Quit. This is the equivalent of pulling the plug on a piece of electronic equipment. Everything shuts down, but that's never the best way to turn off a piece of gear.
NOTE: When the spinning beach ball appears, wait two minutes before doing a Force Quit. There is a hidden timer in the OS which, in some situations - like a missing server - will return control to the operating system after two minutes. If your data is lost, it will still be lost if you wait for two minutes. But, if there's a chance you can get it back, the wait will be worthwhile.
Most applications need to save your work, close open files and gracefully exit. Force quit shuts the application off, but can leave work and temp files in an unstable state. Immediately restart the application and quit it normally. This often closes files that were left open. At which point, restart the application, again, and open your work and see if things have improved. Whenever you force quit, any changes made since the last time you saved your project will be lost.
If restarting the application didn't work, shut down the computer for 30 seconds. Then, restart. The delay allows hardware inside to discharge and reset back to normal.
In many cases, these simple steps are enough to get you back on track. If not, keep reading.

DO A SAFE BOOT
Safe Boot is one of my favorite trouble-shooting remedies. In addition to fixing problems, this should also be part of your regular weekly computer maintenance. However, this requires administrator access to your system.
What this does during start-up is turn off much of the operating system, along with all 3rd-party software and plug-ins. By restarting your system running a minimal version of the OS, if there's a problem with non-Apple software, this will help isolate it.
At the same time during start-up, the operating system is resyncing the list of files stored in computer RAM with the list of files actually stored on your hard drive. Hard drive directories are loaded into RAM to improve performance, but when they get out of sync with the actual files on the hard disk, bad things can happen. A safe boot will fix this automatically.
Repairing permissions makes sure that all the different files in an application can talk to each other. Sometimes, for bizarre reasons, these permissions get changed - and it isn't your fault - causing different parts of the application to break down. Again, a safe boot will fix this.

HERE ARE THE STEPS TO A SAFE BOOT:

1. Restart your computer while pressing the Shift key. Continue holding the Shift key until you see a small gray thermometer at the bottom of the screen. Then, let go of the Shift key. Login will take about 2-4 times longer than normal. Don't panic.

2. After logging in as an administrator (you may see the words "Safe Boot" displayed in red on the screen when you do), open Disk Utility, which is stored in the Utilities folder.

3. On the left side, select the indented name of your boot disk. On most systems it is called "Macintosh HD," then click Repair Permissions on the lower right side of the screen. This process can take anywhere from five to twenty minutes. Again, don't panic.

4. When Repair Permissions is done, quit Disk Utility, then restart your computer without holding any keys down.

Finally, restart the application and see if your problems have gone away. If so, great. If not, go on to the next step.

RESET APPLICATION PREFERENCES
This resets application preferences to their factory-default settings. When application preference files get corrupt - and, again, this isn't your fault - the application can become flakey and unstable. However, I only recommend resetting prefs for media editing applications. I don't have enough experience with other apps to recommend this as a general procedure for other applications. (This procedure is also called "Trashing Preferences.")

RESET ADOBE APPLICATIONS
To trash preference files for any Adobe application, quit the app, then relaunch it from the Dock while pressing both Shift and Option keys until the application finishes booting. This resets all preferences to their default settings and erases the list of recently accessed files.

NOTE: Resetting preferences does NOT affect any of your data, media, or sequences. This simply resets the program to its original, default settings.

RESET FINAL CUT PRO
Resetting Final Cut Pro is a bit trickier, depending upon the version you are running. However, for Final Cut Pro X version 10.1.2 or later, quit Final Cut, then, press and hold Option+Cmd when restarting the application from the Dock.

This resets application preferences to their original defaults. Again, trashing preferences does not affect any of your data, media or libraries.

NOTE: If you have an earlier version of Final Cut Pro, this webpage has more details on how to trash preferences: http://www.larryjordan.biz/improving-fcp-x-performance/
Restart the application and see if your problems have gone away. If so, great. If not, go on to the next step.

CREATE A NEW USER ACCOUNT
Just as preference files configure your editing application, they also affect the operating system. Sometimes, trashing preferences for an application isn't enough, you may need to reset the entire OS.
The easiest way to test whether this is necessary or not is to create a new user account. Since preference files are stored in the Home directory of each user, creating a new user account creates all new preference files for every application. This is essentially the same as resetting all your programs, without a lot of work.

Here's how:

1. Open System Preferences from the Apple menu. (Your screen may look different from mine, that's OK.)
2. In the System section, open the Users & Groups icon to open that window.
3. Click the lock in the lower left corner and enter a administrator's user name and password. This allows you to modify the settings in this window.
4. Click the Plus button to create a new user.
5. Create a test account with a user name and password. (Feel free to use the settings you see here, though you can use any User name you like.) Then click Create User.
6. Back in the Users & Groups window, be SURE to check: "Allow user to administer this computer."
7. Close System Preferences to save your changes.
8. Restart your computer and log into the new user account you just created.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Any files stored in your old Home directory are NOT available to you when you log in as this new user. This is one of the key reasons I strongly recommend never storing projects or media in the Home directory.

Open your application and project and see if things are working better. If so, great. If not, go on to the next section.

REINSTALL THE APPLICATION
If all these procedures don't fix the problem, then its time to reinstall the application. How that is done varies by software and version. However, reinstalling the application does not reset preference files, which is why we did that first in an earlier step.
Open your application and project and see if things are working better. If so, great. If not, go on to the next section.

CONTACT APPLE
After you've done these basic steps, if you are still having problems, it is time to contact Apple Support for more sophisticated help. To save you time at the start of your support call, be sure to tell them what you've done.

ONE THING NOT TO DO
If you are a long-time Mac user, you may have reset the PRAM (Parameter RAM) on earlier systems to fix problems. This is no longer a good idea. This setting resets hardware at the deepest level, far removed from the applications which are actually causing the problems. In fact, resetting Parameter RAM can cause more problems than it solves. Only do this when instructed by Apple Support.

Having system problems is a HUGE frustration. These steps will help get you up and running in no time.


Tags: iss094 | Troubleshooting | Mac | Editing system | Larry Jordan#
Contributing Author Larry Jordan#

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