Disaster strikes

Between September 2005 and July 2011 I was a regular contributor to MacFormat in the UK.

Whereas I’m posting the published articles for my MacWarehouse writing with the MacFormat ones I’ve decided to post the text as submitted, including any comments that I included for design. I am, however, allowing myself a few small edits for clarity.

The particular one is my second column, written in October 2005. This is presented purely as a historical record as much, if not all, of the information contained in it may well have changed in the meantime.

Essentially this acts as a companion piece to Backup, Backup, then Backup Again

Disaster Strikes

So something has gone wrong with your system, your boss is breathing down your neck and your customer needs their job yesterday. What do you do to get yourself out of the hole? Firstly don’t worry about fixing the problem, that is a task for a day when you have more time, your immediate need is to get the job complete and out of the door.

Stop and think about the problem. What is happening and when does it happen? Is it reproducible? Does it affect just one document, a number of documents, anything in an application, just one user on the Mac or the entire system?

If it is just the one document can it be recreated easily? Make sure that you keep multiple revisions of a job that you are working on so that you can go back to an earlier version rather than having to start from scratch. Do a “Save As…” before making any major changes. This doesn’t just help if you have a problem with your system but it is good practice if you or the client change your minds about something.

If it is multiple documents is there something common between them? Do they all use the same image or the same font? If so are there any documents which use the same thing that are unaffected? If there are then it probably isn’t the thing that you thought it was. If there aren’t then ask yourself if you can change the common factor. Do you have another copy of the graphic, can you get away with using a different font? If there is a problem with a font try deleting the font caches.

If it is any document in a specific application then try removing the applications plist file. The plist is a bit like an OS 9 preference file and will usually be found at


or /Users//Library/Preferences/com...plist

where is the short version of your user name, is the publisher of the software and is the name of the software concerned. So the plist file for iTunes will be com.apple.iTunes.plist . Sometimes there will be plist files in both directories and there may be several plists relating to one application, e.g. iTunes also has com.apple.iTunes.eq.plist and com.apple.iTunesHelper.plist as well.

Don’t delete the plist file just yet. Try quitting the application, move any relevant plist files to the Desktop and then open the application again. By doing this you can always restore your customised plist file if that doesn’t fix the problem.

If it looks like the problem affects everything create another user with admin rights using the Accounts or Users preference pane. Log in as that user and see if the problem persists. If it doesn’t then continue to log in as that user until you have time to work out what is wrong with your account.

If logging in as another user doesn’t fix the problem and you don’t have another computer to use then as a last resort try restoring your system from last night’s backup.

You do have a back-up don’t you?

One thought on “Disaster strikes

Comment on this post

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.