11 Quick Fixes for Common Mac Problems and Quirks

Akshata Shanbhag 30-06-2016

The Mac experience is smooth, but the platform isn’t 100% free of problems. You’re bound to come across some — audio glitches Sound Not Working on Your Mac? Easy Fixes for Audio Problems Is sound not working on your Mac? Here's how to reset your Mac's sound to fix glitches and a total lack of audio. Read More booting issues Mac Won't Turn On? How to Fix It and Make It Boot If your Mac or Macbook won't turn on, don't despair. Our guide to troubleshooting all Mac boot problems will get it fixed quickly. Read More file transfer woes AirDrop Not Working? Fix It Fast With These Tips Is AirDrop not working on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac? Here are several troubleshooting tips to fix AirDrop on your devices. Read More , iCloud sync problems iCloud Drive Not Syncing? How to Solve iCloud Sync Issues If you have issues with iCloud Drive, don't despair. Here's how to resolve iCloud syncing issues and get it working again. Read More , overheating MacBook Air Overheating? 6 Tips and Tricks to Cool It Down Is your MacBook Air overheating? Here's how to find out what's making your MacBook so hot and how to cool it down again. Read More  — sooner or later.


Today we’ll focus on some common annoying issues and quirks that many users, especially Mac newbies, report. The good news is that you can fix them fast from a single location: System Preferences. Open it up and let’s get started.

Note: You can find the right preference panes faster 3 Tips for Finding OS X System Preferences Even Quicker With so many settings in the System Preferences dialog, finding the right one can take more time than necessary. Here's how to speed it up. Read More if you use the search box at the top right in System Preferences. We’ll tell you which keywords to search for (wherever relevant).


Split View Doesn’t Work

Search for: set up spaces

The Split View feature on your Mac El Capitan's Split View Seems Useless Until You Actually Use It Split View seems like a gimmick, until you use it for a while. Then you'll wonder how you used your Mac without it. Read More sounds useful, doesn’t it? It allows you to view two open applications side by side. If only you could get it to work.


You’re doing everything right — clicking and holding the green full-screen button in an application window to move the window to a side of the screen. It refuses to budge though. It will once you do this: in the Mission Control preference pane, check the box next to Displays have separate Spaces, log out from your user account, and log back in.

Of course, there are applications that Split View doesn’t seem to support at all, most notably Microsoft Word.

The Scroll Direction Feels “Unnatural”

By default, when you drag two fingers down the trackpad of your Mac, the onscreen content also moves down i.e. it tracks your finger movement. Apple terms this scrolling direction “natural”. But if you’re used to the way Windows does it 4 Things About Windows That You'll Miss on a Mac Thinking about switching over to a Mac? It's easy to find faults with Windows. But are you aware of the things you'll miss? Read More  then you might want to change scrolling behavior.


If you want to use the other way of scrolling down to move content up, under Trackpad > Scroll & Zoom, uncheck the box next to Scroll direction: natural.

Apps Downloaded from the Internet Won’t Run

Search for: security settings

Your Mac blocks apps that don’t come from the App Store or from an identified developer. When you try to install such an app, you’ll see a message like this one:



To open the app in question, head to Security & Privacy > General where you can click Open Anyway next to the app name that was blocked. To get rid of this message for good, look for the Allow apps downloaded from: field and select Anywhere. If the option appears grayed out, you’ll need to click on the lock icon at the bottom of this pane and unlock the option with your admin password.


You should know that allowing apps downloaded from “anywhere” puts your Mac at risk i.e. if you install an app from a shady source. Yes, Macs are not immune to malware. Also, legit sources sometimes join the dark side Why You Shouldn't Download Mac Apps From MacUpdate Any More MacUpdate has joined the dark side, bundling adware into free downloads like Firefox. If you want to avoid this completely, stop downloading apps from MacUpdate. Read More , so you’ll want to vet your software sources often.


Spotlight Searches Show Irrelevant Results

Search for: spotlight search categories

When you use Spotlight, do you ever find yourself needing to open search results in the Fonts category? Most likely not. In that case, why not ask Spotlight to stop showing the results from Fonts and any other unwanted or unused categories? You can do that from Spotlight > Search Results, by unchecking the boxes for categories you’d like to hide from Spotlight searches.


Spotlight Searches Show Results From Private Folders

Search for: block search of private files

If you want to keep certain folders for your eyes only, you’d best tell Spotlight not to search those folders. To do that, go to Spotlight > Privacy and select the “+” (plus) button there to add individual folders or disks that you’d like Spotlight to exclude from search results.

A Bunch of Unwanted Apps Open at Login

Search for: login items

The higher the number of apps set to launch when you log in to your account, the slower the startup process. You can trim startup items and prevent unwanted apps from launching at login via Users & Groups.

Select your account from the sidebar and switch to the Login Items tab. From the list of apps visible, select the checkboxes for all apps that you’d like to remove as startup items and click on the “-” (minus) icon below the list.


Spotlight Knows Too Much About You

Search for: spotlight search categories

You have heard that Spotlight sends your search queries to Apple (or maybe you have assumed as much based on Spotlight’s suggestions). That is true. Some of Spotlight’s smarts come at the cost of your privacy.

When you search for common words and phrases, select a Spotlight suggestion, or use the Look Up feature, your search queries go to Apple and some of them are then forwarded to Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Your precise location, or rather the location of your Mac, is another piece of information that goes straight to Apple.

If you’d be content with a dumber version of Spotlight in exchange for better privacy, you can stop Spotlight from sending certain things to the mother ship. Begin by unselecting the following checkboxes from Spotlight > Search Results:

  • Bing Web Searches
  • Allow Spotlight Suggestions in Spotlight and Look up

You might also want to disable Location Services from Security & Privacy > Privacy > Location Services.

Defunct Preference Panes Continue to Show Up

A preference pane added by a third-party app to System Preferences usually goes away when you uninstall the app. If for some reason, the non-functional pane gets left behind even after uninstalling the app, right-click on the pane to find the Remove option for it. Of course, you won’t find this option for stock panes.


Remember, use the Remove option for a preference pane as a last resort — after you have uninstalled its app in one of the usual ways i.e. by deleting it from Launchpad, dragging it to Trash, or by removing it with an app cleaner software.

The Caps Lock Key Is Always in the Way

Search for: reset modifier keys

When your fingers are flying across the keyboard, isn’t it frustrating to find yourself unintentionally hitting the Caps Lock key too often?

While you can’t remove the key from your keyboard, you can put it out of action for good. To do that, go to Keyboard > Keyboard > Modifier Keys… and in the subsequent dialog box, select No Action from the dropdown menu next to Caps Lock Key. You’ll still be able to shout at people by holding down the Shift key when you need to type capital letters.


If you’d prefer to have a dedicated key for the Caps Lock function, why not remap the less-used Ctrl key to Caps Lock? To do that, in the Modifier Keys dialog you opened above, select Caps Lock from the dropdown menu next to Control Key:. Hit Ok to save your preference.

The “Shake Mouse Pointer” Feature Drives You Crazy

Search for: shake mouse pointer to locate

Starting with El Capitan, Apple has made it easier 7 Useful Things You Probably Aren't Using on Your Mac Better plan your day, quickly find what you're looking for and multitask like a boss — here's a look at seven excellent OS X features that you're probably not using. Read More to locate the mouse pointer on your Mac simply by moving your finger back and forth on the trackpad or by shaking the mouse. Doing this makes the pointer bigger and as a result, easier to spot. If you find this feature more annoying than helpful, you can turn it off from Accessibility > Display — just uncheck the box next to Shake mouse pointer to locate.

In the same section, you can choose to set the cursor to appear larger by default by dragging the slider for Cursor size: toward the right.

Having to Press Fn to Use Function Keys Sucks

Search for: keyboard sensitivity

If you don’t like the fact that the Function keys on your Mac have been hijacked by volume controls, brightness controls, media keys, and more, go to Keyboard > Keyboard and check the box next to Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys. Now you can go back to using F1, F2, F3 directly instead of having to press the Fn key in addition to those.

You can even remap the function keys How to Remap Your Mac's Function Keys and Do Anything You Want Here's how to remap your Mac keyboard to boost the function keys, which can do so much more with some customization. Read More to do things like bring up your calendar application, launch Notification Center, or open the emoji keyboard.

Quick Fixes for A Better Mac

Problems that you have to deal with on a daily basis are usually more vexing than the ones that crop up, say, a couple of times a year. Hopefully these tweaks can fix a few of your most common Mac annoyances!

Do you have any pesky Mac quirks or problems? Maybe we can help you fix them!

Related topics: MacBook, OS X El Capitan, Spotlight, Troubleshooting.

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  1. tazexa
    July 8, 2016 at 12:07 am

    tk. you

  2. TImur
    July 7, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Thanks for the Caps Lock button!

  3. JB
    July 1, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    This is a bad, and potentially unsafe, solution for "Apps Downloaded from the Internet Won’t Run". At the very least, you should turn the security back on after running the app (it won't ask you again after the app has run once).

    But what you should really do is leave the warnings on. When you need to run an "unsafe" app, and you're sure that it's fine, open it by right clicking and selecting "Open" instead of double clicking. If you do that, the warning will pop up again but this time you'll be able to choose to run it anyway. And as mentioned above, once you've run it once it won't ask you again, so you only have to do this once per app.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      July 1, 2016 at 6:14 pm

      Hi JB, isn't that the same as Open Anyway? I have mentioned that.

  4. Marcintosh
    July 1, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    "Apps Downloaded from the Internet Won’t Run" - Control-click (or right-click) on the icon to get the contextual menu and select Open. Then click Open. No need to disable sandboxing.

  5. Anonymous
    July 1, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    What stated about Microsoft Word is incorrect. I use Word in Split View all the time, both with Preview and with another Word document. All you need to do is click the green button on one window for it to go full screen, do the same with the other file, press F3 and drag them next to each other, so they're in the same desktop.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      July 7, 2016 at 3:06 am

      It does indeed! It might be a version thing, because I came across quite a few complaints that it doesn't work either in older versions of Office or in specific Office apps.

      • Anonymous
        July 7, 2016 at 4:26 am

        I have Office 2016 and it works perfectly fine.

  6. Anonymous
    July 1, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    I am unable to login into macbook.I have no other user,and i want to backup the data before installing the OS.Please let me know how can i do it?

    • Marcintosh
      July 1, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      Ask the owner for their password.

    • babyfatjones
      July 1, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      Restart into the Recovery Partition (hold Cmd + R when booting up), go to the top menu that says "Utilities," then select Terminal.

      Type the phrase resetpassword as all one word, then in the window that pops up, choose your user in the dropdown menu, and click on the button that says "Reset Password."

      Reboot and you should be good to go. When logging in, choose "Create New Keychain."

      Granted all this will only work if your computer is not encrypted using FileVault. If it is encrypted, you are out of luck on getting your info back.