Archive for the ‘Troubleshooting Knowledge Base’ Category

Web Browser Scam Alert!

Monday, September 19th, 2016

Sample web browser exploit alert window

Many of our clients report seeing web browser alert scam windows like this one.

Recently, many of our clients have reported seeing popup alerts while in their web browser. Hackers have found ways to force your browser to display these windows, and the alerts might appear to come from Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, or other recognizable computer corporations. In reality, the window is a scam, and this article will tell you how to avoid being scammed.

What all these scams have in common is that they say viruses or spyware has been found on your computer, and they tell you to call a toll free number for help removing it.

Even if your computer actually has viruses or spyware, it has nothing to do with this window…nobody has scanned your computer for viruses. It’s just a fake window trying to scare you into calling the toll free number and pay an exorbitant fee to “fix” this non-existent problem. Don’t call.

If you call, the “support agent” first gets you to give them remote access to your computer…which usually involves implanting a tiny piece of remote access software that allows them to connect. Then they’ll quote somewhere between $99 and $299 for the virus removal service. Of course there’s really no service to perform…there’s nothing wrong with your computer.

However, once you’ve given them remote access, they can control your computer and access all your files…their secondary goal after scamming you for cash. Some clients have even reported that the “support agent” doesn’t take credit cards, so they require your bank account and routing number to charge you…which also gives them everything they need to clean out your bank account.

This is an easy problem for you to fix without any help.

What you should do

1. Click Force Quit… in the Apple menu.


2. Select your web browser in the window, then click the Force Quit button at the lower right corner of the window.

3. Hold down the Shift key while reopening your browser. Your browser will go to its normal home page. Problem solved, and it didn’t cost a dime!

Posted in Front Page, Mac Blog, Tech Notes, Troubleshooting by Symptom, Troubleshooting Knowledge Base, Web Hosting Knowledgebase | No Comments »

Safe Booting your Mac

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

This article is adapted from an Apple knowledge base article at

Starting up in Safe Mode does several things:

  • It forces a check of the startup volume, just like the First Aid feature of Disk Utility. You may see a progress bar on the screen during this check, and the computer takes longer than usual to complete its startup.
  • It loads only required kernel extensions.
  • It disables all fonts installed by the user.
  • It moves font caches to the Trash that are stored in /Library/Caches/  – where (uid) is a user ID number such as 501 (Mac OS X v10.4 or later).
  • It disables all startup items and login items in Mac OS X v10.4 or later.
  • In Mac OS X v10.3.9 or earlier, Safe Mode opens only Apple-installed startup items (such items may be installed either in /Library/StartupItems or in /System/Library/StartupItems). These items are different from user-selected account login items.
  • Rebuilds the Launch database stored on the hard disk.

Taken together, these changes can help resolve or isolate certain issues that exist on the startup volume.

Starting up in Safe Mode

To start up into Safe Mode (to Safe Boot), follow these steps.

  1. Be sure your Mac is shut down.
  2. Press the power button.
  3. Immediately after you hear the startup tone, hold the Shift key.
    The Shift key should be held as soon as possible after the startup tone, but not before the tone.
  4. Release the Shift key when you see the progress bar below the gray apple. (See the picture below.) OS X versions 10.5.8 and earlier don’t display the progress bar, so the safest thing to do is continue holding the Shift key until you get to the login screen.


To leave Safe Mode, restart your computer without holding any keys during startup.

Posted in Tech Notes, Troubleshooting Knowledge Base | 2 Comments »

Maintain Your Mac with Mac OS X Cocktail

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Cocktail is a Swiss army knife of Mac Maintenance. The a great idea to run it whenever your Mac is behaving strangely (too slow, fonts not working properly, displaying incorrect icons…any odd behavior). After you’ve run it, your Mac should be more stable and feel a bit faster.

This article tells you where to download Cocktail, and how to configure it so that it runs a whole battery of maintenance procedures in a single operation that usually takes about 5 minutes or less, at the end of which your Mac reboots. Once it gets back to your desktop, you’re ready to use it again.

Download Cocktail at There is a separate version of Cocktail for each major version of OS X (10.10 Yosemite, 10.9 Mavericks, 10.8 Mountain Lion, 10.7 Lion, and 10.6 Snow Leopard). Be sure to download the correct version for your computer.




Once you’ve downloaded Cocktail, here’s how to configure and run it. The pictures here are for the Mountain Lion version, but all versions are similar.

1. Launch Cocktail. (Mac OS X will ask for your password.) Enter it and click the OK button. You’ll arrive at Cocktail’s main window. Click the Pilot button at the top of the window. (That’s Pilot as in auto-pilot…the feature that lets Cocktail run a whole series of routines in a single step.)

 2. Configure the Pilot. This takes place in several windows. Starting in the main Pilot window, make sure all the boxes circled in red in the illustration below are clicked. Set the popup menu for Play completion sound to any sound you prefer. Set the popup menu for Automatically to Restart.


 3. Once all the circled boxes are clicked, click the upper Options… button (marked Options 1 in the illustration). A new window appears that has three tabs at the top, System, User, and Internet. In the System pane, make sure that all the boxes are clickedDepending on which version of Cocktail you’re using, your window may have additional boxes, or fewer boxes compared with the illustration. Just make sure all the boxes in this pane are clicked.


 4. Click on the User tab. In the User pane, there are two columns of boxes…the left column cleans caches only for your user account, the right column cleans them for all user accounts on this Mac. Click all the boxes in the right columnDepending on which version of Cocktail you’re using, your window may have additional boxes, or fewer boxes compared with the illustration. Just make sure all the boxes in the right column are clicked.


5. Click the Internet tab. Like the Internet pane, click all the boxes in the right column except for the Cookies and Form values boxes. Then click all the boxes at the bottom of the window (each of which corresponds to a particular web browser). Depending on which version of Cocktail you’re using, your window may have additional boxes, or fewer boxes compared with the illustration. Just make sure all the boxes in the right column except for Cookies and Form values are clicked. Finally, click the OK button.


6. Your back to the Cocktail’s Pilot window. Click the lower Options… button(marked Options 2 in the illustration).


7. This takes you to the Logs window. At lower right corner of this window are two columns of boxes similar to those in the User and Internet panes. Click all the boxes in the right column (circled in red in the illustration). Depending on which version of Cocktail you’re using, your window may have additional boxes, or fewer boxes compared with the illustration. Just make sure all the boxes in the right column are clicked. Then click the OK button.


8. You’re back to the Pilot window, and Cocktail is now configured. It will remember your configuration, so you won’t have to do that again. To run all the maintenance procedures, just click the Run button. Cocktail will go through all the maintenance procedures you configured, then restart your Mac when it’s done. After that you can use your Mac normally.

Next time, launch Cocktail, click the Pilot button, then click the Run button, wait for the restart, and use your Mac.

Posted in Tech Notes, Troubleshooting Knowledge Base | 2 Comments »

Clean Your Font Caches with FontExplorer X

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

FontExplorer X, and the later versions called FontExplorer X Pro ( include the tools you need to clean your font caches. Here’s how.

Cleaning the System Font Caches

1. With FontExplorer’s window on your screen, click Clean system font caches… in the Tools menu.

Click Clean System font caches... in the Tools menu

2. In recent versions of FontExplorer X Pro, a window appears asking for your password. Older versions simply skip to the window in step 3. If the password window appears, simply enter your password and click the OK button.

Enter your Password, then click the OK button.

3. The next window lists the actual files that make up the Mac OS X font caches. Click the Clean button.

Click the Clean button

At this point all versions of FontExplorer X and FontExplorer X Pro display the window asking for your password. Enter the password and click the OK button. The caches files are deleted and you’ll see the window displayed in the next step.

Enter your Password, then click the OK button.

Cleaning Mac OS X font caches requires a restart, so once the files are deleted this window appears. Click the Restart button to restart your Mac, then go on to the next step.

Click the Restart button

Then Clean the Adobe, Microsoft, and Quark Font Caches

Adobe, Microsoft, and Quark maintain their own font caches separately from the System font caches. FontExplorer

6. When the Mac reboots, launch Linotype FontExplorer again. This time, click Clean application font caches… in the Tools menu.

Click Clean application font caches... in the Tools menu

7. The next window lists Adobe’s, Quark’s and Microsoft’s font caches, and they’re clicked by default. Click the Clean… button.

Click the Clean... button

NOTE: If you don’t happen to have any Adobe, Quark, or Microsoft products installed on your Mac, those selections will appear grayed out in the window.

8. You’ll see the window asking for your password. Enter the password and click the OK button.

Enter your Password, then click the OK button.

The application font caches are deleted and you’ll see this confirmation window.


10. Last step. Just click the OK button in the box that says the font caches have been successfully removed. Now launch your programs and see if the fonts look as they should.

Posted in Tech Notes, Troubleshooting Knowledge Base | No Comments »

Clean Your Font Caches with Font Finagler

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

If you use FontBook (the font manager that comes with Mac OS X), Extensis Suitcase, or other font manager software that doesn’t have built-in font cache cleaning, you can still clean your font caches with Font Finagler. Font Finagler is shareware, available at:

Here are the steps for cleaning font caches with Font Finagler.

1. Launch Font Finagler.

NOTE: If you’re running Mac OS X 10.5 or later, an alert box appears over the application’s window reminding you that if you’ve deactivated fonts with FontBook (the built-in font manager in Mac OS X), cleaning the caches with FontFinagler reactivates those fonts. You can just click the OK button to make the alert box go away.

Font Finagler alert

2. In the window, make sure that All font cache files is selected (that way you’ll clean all the font caches on your computer in one step). Then click the Inspect Font Cache Files button.

Click All font cache files, then Inspect Font Caches

3. In a moment the window lists all the font cache files. Click the Clean Font Cache Files button.

4. You’ll see the window asking for your password. Enter the password and click the OK button.

5. You’ll see a warning that the machine must be restarted after cleaning the font cache files. Click the OK button. Your Mac will restart. Once it gets back to the desktop, launch your programs and make sure the fonts look correct.

Posted in Tech Notes, Troubleshooting Knowledge Base | No Comments »

Photoshop Program Error when Selecting Type Tool

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Could not complete your request because of a program error.

People have reported getting an error message when clicking on the Type tool in PhotoShop. The error message says, “Could not complete your request because of a program error.”

The Adobe installer for Photoshop or any Creative Suite installs a large number of Adobe Open Type fonts in /Library/Fonts. Because all those fonts are in one of the Mac OS X Fonts folders, they’re active all the time. People who use font management software like FontExplorer or Suitcase usually prefer to clear those fonts from the Mac OS X Fonts folder and import them into their font management program instead. That way they can activate those fonts when needed, and avoid having them clog the Fonts menu at other times.

Photoshop has certain required fonts without which the Type tool won’t work. Adobe knowledge base article 84363 deals with troubleshooting font issues in PhotoShop CS5, and it lists Photoshop’s required fonts. They are:

Required Fonts in Photoshop CS5

As long as those fonts are made active in your font management software or are in one of the Mac OS X Fonts folders, the Type tool should work.

Posted in Tech Notes, Troubleshooting Knowledge Base | 5 Comments »

Find and Delete Viruses with ClamXav

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Macs have been relatively free of viruses, worms, trojans, and spyware, but they have been affected by phishing scripts. As Macs have become ever more popular, we’ve seen a slow rise in the amount of malware. Apple has been good at releasing updates that defeat other kinds of malware, so the phishing script is the primary kind of malware we see.

If you notice that your Mac is slower than usual, or you begin receiving lots of email bounce messages saying that messages know you never sent couldn’t be delivered, you should suspect that you might have a phishing script on your computer.

What is a phishing script?

Phishing scripts run in the background, without your knowledge, sending out thousands of legitimate-looking email message that appear to come from banks, auction sites like eBay or Amazon, payment processing companies like PayPal, social web sites, shipping companies, and web or email hosting companies.

The goal of a phishing message is identify theft. The messages tries to fool the recipient into clicking a link in the message, which takes them to a web site where they can “take care of” whatever the message was about. Of course the site requires that they enter personal information (for security purposes, of course…) like account numbers, credit card numbers, pin numbers, names, dates, and social security numbers. It all looks very legitimate, except that the site is a fake…the goal is to get you to enter the information so that they can use it to steal your identity, sell your credit card info, drain your bank account, or make purchases using your info.

We haven’t seen a phishing script that does any damage to a Mac or its files, but an infected Mac may be slower than normal because it’s splitting its attention between the work that you’re doing and sending out the phishing messages.

It used to be that the messages would be sent to everyone in your Address Book or Contacts. More recently, however, the phishing script uses outgoing addresses it gets from a huge list of potential email addresses for victims maintained by whoever created the script. Since the script creator doesn’t really know whether those email addresses actually exist, you’ll end up receiving a bounce message for each message that was sent to a non-existent email address.

Antivirus software will identify and delete phishing scripts. Our favorite is ClamXav, a free virus scanner for Mac OS X. It uses the very popular ClamAV open source antivirus engine as a back end and has the ability to detect both Windows and Mac threats.

Here are instructions for downloading, installing, and running ClamXav.

Download ClamXav

Download ClamXav at

Install and Set Up ClamXav

When the download is done, the following window should appear on your screen.

Drag the ClamXav icon to your Applications folder.

Drag the ClamXav icon from the window to the Applications folder on your hard disk. Then double-click the ClamXav icon in the Applications folder.

The first time you run ClamXav, an alert box tells you that you must first install the Clam Anti-Virus scanning engine. Click the Install button.

Click the Install button to install the ClamXav scanning engine.

The Installer will launch, and you’ll see the following window. Click the Continue button.

Click the Continue button in the Scanning Engine installer window.

Next is the “license” window. Click the Continue button.

Click the Continue button in the license screen.

Next is another window asking you to specifically agree to the license. Click the Agree button.

Click Agree in the License Agreement window.

Next is a window for choosing the standard installation or changing the installation location. Simply click the Install button.

Click the Install button in the Installer window.

Finally you’ll see the window for entering your user name and password. The user name should already be entered for you…just enter your password and click the OK button.
Enter your password and click the OK button.
The installation will take place, after which ClamXav will open and display the following window. You’ll now install the latest virus definitions. Click the Update Now button in the Alert window.
Click the Update Now button in the ClamXav main window.

ClamXav downloads the latest virus definitions from the ClamXav web site. When it’s done, the window looks like this:
ClamXav main window.

Before we actually scan for malware, let’s add a Delete button to the toolbar that will make it easy to delete any malware files we find. To do that, click Customize Toolbar… in the View menu.
Customize Toolbar in the View menu
In the new window that appears right on top of the ClamXav window, drag the Delete File button (look like the OS X Trash icon) to the toolbar of the ClamXav window, then click the Done button. Now the Delete File button is in the toolbar, and you’re back to the original ClamXav window.
Add Delete Button to Toolbar
Now, click on your startup disk icon on the desktop and drag it into the blue Source List at the left side of the ClamXav window. This adds the startup disk to the selections that can be quickly scanned with ClamXav. Installation and setup is done.
Drag your startup disk icon to the blue column at the left of the ClamXav window.

Run a Virus Check

Launch ClamXav (by double-clicking its icon in the Applications folder). The main window appears. Click the Update Definitions button at the top of the window to be sure you have the very latest virus definitions.

Click to highlight your hard disk in the blue column at the left of the window, then click the Start Scan button.

To run a scan of your entire hard disk (recommended, especially if you’ve been having peformance issues), click to highlight your startup disk in the blue Source List at the left side of the ClamXav window, then click the Start Scan button.

You can also click on any of the other folders in the source list to run a virus check that’s limited to that folder. You can also drag additional folders or disks into the Source List to check them.

The virus scan will take a while…the bigger the folder or disk being scanned, and the more files within it, the longer it takes.

Any viruses, worms, trojans, and other malware files that are found will be listed in the upper pane of the ClamXav window. To get rid of them, click on one of them to highlight it, then click Select All in the Edit menu…which highlights the entire list. Finally, click the Delete File button at the top of the ClamXav window. That moves all the malware file to the Trash. Now quit from ClamXav. To permanently eliminate the malware files, click Empty Trash… in the File menu.

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Repair Disk Permissions with Disk Utility

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Apple’s Disk Utility is installed automatically with every Mac OS X installation. You’ll find it in this folder:

(your hard disk) > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility

While Disk Utility is most commonly used to initialize, format, and partition disks, it also verifies and repairs the integrity of disks and disk permissions.

When your Mac behaves strangely, Disk Utility can often help resolve the problem.

Disk permissions are used to control who can access each file and folder on your Mac. Some files and folders should only be accessible by Mac OS X itself, some to individual programs, some to the current user (you), and, if there are multiple user accounts on your Mac, some to each of the other user accounts. Other files should be accessible to everyone. Incorrect disk permissions, particularly on the startup disk, can cause strange behavior. Disk Utility can often resolve the problem.

1. Double-click the disk utility icon to open Disk Utility.

2. Click on the name of your startup disk in the column at the left side of the window. Then click the Repair Disk Permissions button. When the repair is complete quit Disk Utility…you’re done.

Click Repair Disk Permissions button

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Repair Your Hard Disk in Single User Mode

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Mac OS X has a built-in disk diagnostic and repair program called fsck or file system consistency check. Unlike Disk Utility, which can only verify the current startup disk, fsck will verify and repair the current startup disk. Here’s how to verify and repair your startup disk with fsck.

1. Start or restart your Mac. As soon as you hear the startup tone, press and hold Command-S on the keyboard. Keep holding down those keys until you see a black screen with white lettering. This is called “booting into Single User Mode.” As soon as you see the black screen with white lettering, you can release the keys.

Single User Mode WindowThe single user mode screen

As the Mac boots in this mode, the screen reports each step of the process. Wait until the scrolling white text stops. The last line should end in root#.

2. Right after the root# prompt, enter the following:

/sbin/fsck -fy

Press the Return key.

You’ll see the prompts in the picture above as each part of the hard drive’s directory is checked. (Checking extents overflow file, Checking catalog file, Checking multi-linked files, etc.) It will take a few minutes. At the end, if your drive was OK, the screen will say “The volume (name of your hard drive) appears to be OK”. If any repair was made, you’ll see the prompt, “FILE SYSTEM WAS MODIFIED”. Then, you’ll see the root# prompt again.

Right after the root# prompt, enter the following:


Press the Return key. Your Mac should restart normally.

Posted in Tech Notes, Troubleshooting Knowledge Base | 181 Comments »