Book Review: Macintosh Troubleshooting Pocket Guide

Macintosh Troubleshooting Pocket Guide, by David Lerner and Aaron Freimark. 72pp. O’Reilly, 2003. $12.95

The Macintosh Troubleshooting Pocket Guide began life as a FAQ document distributed by Tekserve, the renowned Mac-only repair shop in New York City. This pocket-sized guide is intended to save readers an unnecessary tech-support call or trip to the repair shop, as well as to help identify those instances where a professional repair is called for.

Don’t be deceived by the book’s small size—it packs an impressive amount of information and common sense into its 72 pages, beginning with advice for avoiding going to your your technician or consultant in a panic. That advice? Save multiple copies of critical files on multiple drives, disks or tapes, storing at least one in another location, use antiviral software and keep it updated, run Disk First Aid monthly after backing up, and, most importantly, own the software you use, read the manuals and keep the original CDs in a safe place.

The text’s question and answer format reads like a conversation with a patient and occasionally ironic tech support guru. A sample Q&A:

“My hard drive has trouble getting going, but it always starts up after a few tries. Should I bother backing it up?”

“No, your data is of no importance and you can probably recreate it within a few months. After all, you have lots of paper printouts to copy from and you’re a fast typist. Seriously, if your computer or hard drive is doing anything unusual—squeaking, chirping, having trouble getting going, read/write errors, missing or damaged files—take it as a reminder to do a complete backup to another drive, removable media or over the Web. Please!”

The book helps with common dilemmas like figuring out what model Mac you’re using (often essential when talking to telephone tech support staff), connecting old devices to new Macs, and figuring out what displays your Mac can support. Troubleshooting tips for both OS 9 and OS X are covered. You’ll learn about dealing with various bombs and crashes, how to troubleshoot a keyboard and mouse that stop working (plug the mouse directly into the computer and restart - if the mouse works, the problem is in the keyboard), and which operating systems are best for particular older Macs.

The book concludes with a list of websites for organizations that accept donations of old computers, and with a brief plug for TekServe that left me wishing they’d open a branch office in Oneonta. This great little guide may just save your bacon one day. Highly recommended.

– Elsa Travisano

Copyright ©2003 by Elsa Travisano. This article appeared in the May 2003 issue of Newsbreak, the newsletter of MUG ONE - Macintosh User Group of Oneonta, NY