Tech Tips – My Mac Magazine #46, Feb. ’99

Let’s talk about getting service. More importantly, how to fix things yourself or at least drastically reduce the time a service technician will need to fix your Mac. We’ll cover how to use the technical information available to you, and if that doesn’t help, what to do then.

When problems arise, the Internet is one of the better troubleshooting tools available. Most companies now have their ‘knowledge base’ (a collection of troubleshooting tips) on their website, plus updates to their software to fix what either wasn’t correct to begin with or that interfered with another company’s software. While most of these sites are very easy to use, some are less intuitive, and this article will discuss a typical search for information.

Because I’m very familiar with most of the ways support information can be extracted from a company’s website, consider this hypothetical situation based upon a recent support call.

An iMac won’t print to it’s brand-new Epson printer. Here’s what I need to know:

1. Model of the Mac.
2. Version of the Macintosh Operating System (Mac OS) installed.
3. Model of printer.
4. Version of driver.
5. Everything is physically ok.

Here are the steps that I took (in order).

1. To figure out the model on this Mac, well, in this case there isn’t one because it’s an iMac and we’ll assume that the different revisions of iMac don’t apply. Otherwise I would just look at the machine’s front and note the model number. For example, the front of my machine says “Power Macintosh 7500/100,” and that would be sufficient.

2. I can figure out which version of the Mac OS is installed by pulling down the Apple Menu located at the upper left-hand corner of the screen and selecting About This Computer or About this Macintosh. Either way, a window will appear and declare which version is installed. I note that it indicates “Mac OS 8.5.1”.

3. To determine what the model of printer is you can normally look at the front of the printer–just like on your Mac. This printer indicates it is an Epson Stylus Color 740.

4. Determining which version of driver is installed for the printer gets a little more involved. The driver is the software your computer uses to “drive” or cause your printer to function; a wrong or old version can cause all kinds of problems. Open your hard drive, find and open the System Folder, then find and open the Extensions folder. Now, look for an item that has either the name or partial name of your printer. Once you find it, click once on it and then select Get Info from the File menu at the very top of the screen. A new window will open with lots of information regarding that item, and about half-way down will be “Version:” I note that in this case it’s version “5.3F.”

5. The step of physically checking the connections should actually be your first step, but since this has been covered in other articles (see My Mac Magazine #23) I put this as the last step and as a verifier. Check the cable where it’s plugged into the computer to make sure you have it in the correct port, and verify that the connection to the printer is also secure. Many times you will have to move the computer out of its location to be able to clearly see the connections. It’s also a good idea to follow the cable and make sure it has no excessive bends, kinks, or tears. Having done all that, I checked the cables and found that the USB connection was incorrectly inserted into the Ethernet port. I moved it to the spare USB port, but the printing problem persisted. Having done what we can, we’ll look for an answer by searching online.

Now comes the fun part where we get to look for the problem, just like an Easter egg hunt! Since this is a printer problem, I will ‘blame’ Epson and start with their site. Here are the steps I will take:

  • Connect to the Internet.
  • Open a browser like Netscape or Microsoft Internet Explorer.
  • Type in “”
  • Select my country.
  • Now look for something about support. Finding it, I Click on Epson Support.
  • I could look through their technical information and see if they have anything related to my problem, but instead I’ll just look for updates to my printer driver and click on File Downloads.
  • Next I picked Color Inkjet (Mac/PC) and then the model of printer.
  • The final page indicates that version 5.5ae is available so I clicked the download link.Once I downloaded it to the desktop, I opened the file which decompressed into a folder. In the folder was an installer which I ran and it (hopefully) put the newer version on my Mac. After restarting I tried to print, but it still didn’t work (don’t forget that I was selecting the printer in the Chooser before each try).

    Epson’s support page had some info that suggested I get an update from Apple for the iMac just for printing problems like I was having (they even provided a link for me). Since I don’t always trust links like that because they may be out of date I went directly to Apple’s site at

  • Clicked on the button for Support.
  • On the next page was a button for iMac Support so I clicked on it. I could have gone on to Software Updates and searched for things related to the iMac or the Tech Info Library and done the same.
  • The next page had a lot of options, but there was one that indicated “update my…” so I chose “all iMac updates.” This gave me a page with all kinds of goodies about what updates did what and why I might need them, but there were no links to the updates themselves! Luckily, there was a link to the software updates and where the page indicated I could find them.
  • Now I have a search page, but instead of searching I clicked the link on the right pane that said “fast search iMac Updates”.
  • This provided links to all the updates and what each was needed for. After a little clicking I figured that since I had MacOS 8.5.1 and an iMac I needed the 1.1 update and the Firmware update.
  • After downloading (using the links provided) I ran the installers that ended up on my desktop. The computer restarted a few times during this, but that’s normal.Finally, when all was done, I tried to print and it worked!

    So, although it’s a lot of clicking and reading, it’s still cheaper to spend an hour or so of your time than to pay someone to do it for you. Besides, going through these steps isn’t all that difficult and can provide a great sense of accomplishment. Of course, if everything I tried still didn’t solve the problem I could have called Epson, Apple, or my local service provider and had them deal with the issue. But I think most people are like me and prefer doing what they can for themselves.

    Real World Experience

    The system: PowerBook 170.
    The problem: Erratic booting, crashing when entering sleep.
    The solution: Reset Power Manager.
    The explanation:
    An old fix for any PowerBook is to reset the Power Manager. Whenever your ‘book is acting up it never hurts to reset this, just like you might reset the PRAM on your desktop Mac. It varies somewhat by model, but on the old 1xx generation you unplug the AC, remove the battery and then hold the reset and interrupt buttons (back of the computer–have to use a paper clip) for 30 seconds.

    Jeramey Valley

    Websites mentioned:

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