Basic troubleshooting continued

Well, I’m back again. In this article we’ll go over several basic troubleshooting techniques that should help you prevent a technical support call. I’d appreciate any feedback on these articles, to get a better feel for the type of information that best suits you, and provide varied content. Otherwise I’ll keep telling you about the day to day issues I deal with. Thanks!

Computer tells you the date & time are not correct; monitor is black & white (instead of its normal pretty colors); local printer won’t respond (computer tells you to check cables etc.); computer won’t turn on when you press the power key on the keyboard.

All of the above symptoms can frequently be caused by a dead battery especially if you have a Macintosh LC (or comparable Performa model) that is over a year old. Yes, your computer does have a battery. The battery keeps track of several things like: network settings, date & time, monitor settings, time zone, memory settings and startup disk. If your computer tells you the date/time are wrong one or two times, then I wouldn’t blame the battery immediately, but, if it keeps doing it, or you have several of the symptoms described above, then it probably is a dying battery.
How much are these? Well, depends on your system since Apple uses 2 types of batteries these days. It should be between $5 and $15, then the service shop’s time on top of that (it only takes about 5 minutes to change one, but some places have to charge you a full hour of time).

If you’re looking to change the battery yourself be aware that I have yet to find a non-computer electronics store that carried the batteries. Of course some places won’t sell you the battery, since they will make more money putting it in for you. I can’t tell you how to get to the darn thing in this article since you could damage the computer if you are not careful. (private email to me could provide you with the answer)

I’d like to point out a possible major $ saver for you. Many computer service stores that are not familiar with the Macintosh may blame your main logic board (very expensive), if your computer will not start up, and will replace that part. It is very possible that the battery is the only thing wrong, since it will cause the same symptoms. Have the service shop check the battery before they replace the board. Most reputable shops will do this, but in the past 6 months I’ve run across 3 computers that had the logic board replaced, only to have the computer fail again a month or so after. That is when I got the chance to look at the computer & verified that the battery was bad which was causing the problem.

Real world experience

The Computer:
Power Macintosh 6100/60 av, 24 Meg of RAM, 7.5.3r2

User was complaining of random freezes and crashes. I’d went through every step I could think of to solve the problem including:
Reformat the hard drive
Reinstall the software
Disable extensions
Turn virtual memory off
Add more RAM
But still the computer would freeze or bomb without any message, or at least the user said there never were any messages. So after repeated trips to look at the computer I begged the user to write down any error messages, no matter how screwy or garbled, so we could narrow the problem down.

The user called and said “it’s crashing again, oh yeah, it said something about a visual client, but I’m sure that meant nothing”. Well, extensive experience with After Dark 3.0 said that visual client belonged to it. I checked the system out again, this time paying very careful attention to the After Dark settings. Turned out the user had the “sleep now” corner in the upper right of their screen. So what? Every time the computer would freeze or crash they were (as it turned out) switching between programs or checking Print Monitor. They would throw the mouse to the upper right corner to pull the application menu down, but would over shoot the menu and have the mouse hit After Dark’s hot spot telling the computer to activate the screen saver. This normally wouldn’t be a problem, but having the computer running a processing intensive program like Adobe PageMaker 6.x, printing, telling the computer to sleep now, then moving the mouse to switch to another program, turned out to be too much for the system to handle – and boom, a freeze/crash. Disabling the sleep now corners has cured the computer. Of course if I just set the “sleep now” hot spot to be in a lower corner, all would probably be OK as well.

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