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Apple Performa Basic Troubleshooting

Application Errors
Converting Files
Modem Issues
Performa CD
Printing Issues
Startup Issues

Performa CD

The Performa CD is Apple's source of restoration and diagnostic software. You can reformat the drive, reinstall the system software and even swap out modules of the system software. The screen for the Performa CD contains the following options,

  • Disk First Aid.
    • Checks the integrity of the hard drive's data structure and fixes file and formatting errors.
  • Drive Setup.
    • Checks the surface of the drive and is used for formatting and partitioning drives.
  • Restore System Software.
    • Replaces all system files in the system folder. This just replaces the system and should leave other files untouched. If unsure, perform a clean system install.
  • Restore all Software.
    • A blanket restore of most of the pre-installed software on the Mac. Usually includes Claris Works, the system files and productivity and utility software. Does NOT include Internet and Connectivity software. This comes off the 'Internet Connection Kit' CD which comes with the unit.
  • Hard Disk.
    • This contains a complete mirror of the software on the hard disk when it was shipped from the factory. If you determine that a file of System folder component is faulty, you can sometimes replace it directly by dragging and dropping its twin from the CD.

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Startup Problems

What Should Happen

  • The Mac beeps.
  • The screen goes a grey colour.
  • The Smiling Mac is displayed in the middle of the screen.
  • A rectangular box appears in the middle of the screen with either "Welcome to Macintosh" or "Mac OS" displayed within.
  • A series of small icons will appear in sequence across the bottom of the screen. These are 'System Extensions' and 'Control Panels'. There are system plug-ins which the Mac loads on startup.
  • The desktop appears, then after a few seconds, the machine is ready for use.

Before Panicking - Zap the PRAM

This little procedure resets the Parameter RAM which is an internal database that the Mac keeps on what hardware is attached to the machine. This is cleaned out and reset when the PRAM is 'zapped' and can sort out weird hardware problems on many occasions.

Hold down the 'Option'(Alt), 'Apple' (Command), 'P' and 'R' keys down simultaneously while the machine is starting up. The Mac will make a chime with nothing on the screen. Let it do this 3 times, then let the keys go for its final restart.

NOTE - On Macs using Motorola's 68040 or 68LC040 processor, you have to go back to the memory Control Panel after zapping the PRAM. Make sure that '32 Bit Addressing' is turned ON, otherwise the system will take up twice its normal size and the machine will slow right down.

Before Panicking - Rebuild the Desktop

Hold down the 'Option' and 'Command' keys while the machine is starting up. Click on OK when asked if you want to rebuild the desktop. This can sort out many weird application errors. NOTE - This procedure erases comments from the Get Info comment box of all applications on the indicated drive.

Before Panicking - Boot From the Performa CD/Utilities Disk

If the machine still won't boot, try booting from either the Performa CD or the Utilities disk. If these boot you should be able to run the diagnostics software or do a system reinstall to try and sort the problem out. To boot from the Performa CD, put the CD in the drive, then restart the machine, keeping the 'C' key held down.

Before Panicking - Disconnect any External SCSI Drives

If there are any problems such as badly terminated equipment or clashing address numbers, this can knock out the rest of the drive chain. This even works in later Performas, which use IDE drives.

Problems - Chimes of Death

Instead of the normal Mac chime, the machine emits a little riff. This usually indicates that it has failed its start test. That means either the motherboard or the Chip/SIMMS, and is normally terminal.

Problems - Sad Mac

When you switch on, it goes through a basic system check. It checks the memory, any peripherals, and the hard disk before launching the operating system. If at any time it gets an answer it's not happy with, it flashes up "The Unhappy Mac" symbol. Below the symbol is a double row of 8 digits. If the first line of code ends in an 'F', then it is probably not a severe hardware problem, but a corrupted system file. Codes without 'F' are likely to be severe internal errors (ie memory or motherboard).

The Fix -

  • Make sure the there are no disks in the Floppy Disk Drive.
  • Boot from the Recovery Disk, if it works, then replace the operating system.
  • If you get no joy from the Recovery Disk, then you are looking at replacing parts.

Problems - Flashing Question Mark Floppy Disk Icon

This happens when the Mac can't find an operating system. It's basically saying "Can I have an operating system please? "

The Fix -

  • Make sure there are no floppy disks in the floppy disk drive.
  • Zap the PRAM.
  • Boot off the recovery disk. Check that the hard disk appears on the desktop underneath the icon for the Performa CD. Go to Disk First Aid on the Performa CD. A box will appear with an icon for the hard drive. Select the Hard Drive and choose "Verify". When it has finished checking the disk, make any suggested repairs.
  • If Disk First Aid can't repair the disk, then try Drive Setup. First select the Hard Drive. Go to the Functions menu at the top of the screen and choose 'Test Disk'. If that checks out, then you'll need to reinstall the system software. If it fails you're probably looking at a new Hard Disk Drive.

Problems - Grey Screen With Nothing on it

This could be a fault with the monitor or the graphics chip on the motherboard.

The Fix -

  • Check all obvious things, ie cables, brightness and contrast, etc...
  • Zap the PRAM.
  • On some models of Performa this can be caused by a flat BIOS battery. As opposed to showing the wrong date as you would expect on, say, a PC, the display breaks up or is completely blank.
  • If that fails, probably a fault with the Motherboard or Monitor.

Problems - Crashing or Freezing After the 'Welcome' Sign

This is most likely a conflict between system extensions or control panels. These are drivers and system devices that the Mac loads on startup. They reside in folders called 'Extensions' and 'Control Panels' which sit in the System Folder on the hard disk. They can sometimes use the same resources as each other and the end effect is that the machine locks up.

The Fix - Start the Mac with the shift key held down. This will kill off all the system extensions and control panels on startup. If it starts OK, you have a system extension conflict. The Quick Fix is to go into the Apple Menu in the top left hand corner and go down to Control Panels. Select the 'Extensions Manager'. A pop up box will appear with little tick marks next to a list of components. There will be a drop-down menu called 'Sets', which should be set to 'Custom'. Change that to 'System XXX all' or 'System XXX Minimum'. Then restart the machine. This should cure the problem, as it starts the Mac with only Apple's own approved extensions, which should be conflict free. If it doesn't you are looking at a full reinstall.

The complete (and long winded) fix is to work through extension manager turning different 3rd Party extensions on and off until the problem is solved. It is normally best to start with the most recently installed stuff first and work back. There is an application called 'Conflict Catcher' that makes this a lot easier, but of course it is not supplied with the Apple machines.

With earlier versions of Apple machines, you don't get Extensions Manager. In this case it means manually diving into the System Folder and cleaning out what doesn't belong there. Create a folder for each type on the desktop and move them there one at a time until you find the culprit. Common culprits are RAM Doubler, Disk Doubler, Virus Checkers, etc..

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These are fairly standard procedures for sorting out most Apple printing problems.

  • Check all the cables are plugged in properly.
  • Check the printer does a self test, and that is Mac compatible.
  • Go to the Chooser under the Apple Menu on the left hand side of the screen.
  • In the Chooser, at the bottom of the menu box, will be two radio buttons for 'Apple Talk'. Make sure that Apple Talk is Disabled. Apple Talk is a networking protocol and you need a special cable to use it.
  • Secondly, check that the right printer icon is selected on the left hand side of the Chooser box. Then go over to the right hand side of the box and check which port it is connected to. There are two choices, 'Printer' and 'Modem'. Make sure that port on the back of the machine that the printer is plugged into matches the port in the Chooser.

    **- I personally recommend that you also turn off the 'Background Printing' as that can cause problems with certain programmes, notably Quark XPress. Also it will cause problems if you are low on disk space/memory.

  • In the app that is being used, go to the File menu and go down to 'Page Setup'. Check that the page orientation is on portrait, etc. and that the correct printer is selected.
  • If it comes up with 'Port is being used by another application' then reinstall the printer drivers, and if that doesn't work, the system software.

If you've got either an Epson or HP printer, then it might be worth deleting any old printer drivers before reinstalling the drivers back on again. If you are using System 7.5 or later, firstly go to the Apple menu at the top of the screen. Go down to the Control Panels, and activate General. In there, tick the box for 'Show desktop when in background'.

Now go to the Find menu and click on Find File. Look for either HP or Epson (depending on your printer). Then just drag and drop any detected items into the wastebasket, and then empty it out. After that reinstall the printer drivers. NB, If you have either an HP or Epson scanner, you may have to reinstall them as well.

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Modem Control Panel

This doesn't seem to be installed on all Macs, so if you haven't got it, then don't panic. Go down to the Apple Menu, and then into Control Panels. In Control Panels you should find an option for 'Express Modem'. There are 3 separate screens (accessed via a drop down menu in the middle of the screen).

  • General Settings - Allows you to set the number of rings before answer, the ring sound, and volume level.
  • Advanced Settings - Allows you specify what to do with incoming calls, change more sound effects, and enable/disable 'Wait for Dial Tone'.
  • Modem Status - Basically tells you what the modem is doing.

All three screens have an option to switch the modem on or off

Testing the Modem with AT Commands

Open Claris Works in the application folder on the Hard Disk. You will be presented with an 'Open New Document' screen. Choose the phone icon for Communications. A black screen will pop up with a little blue and white symbol in the top left corner.

Go to the Settings menu at the top of the screen and choose Connection. A screen will pop up titled Connection Settings. Under Method choose Serial Tool. Use the default settings and click on Ok.

Go to the Sessions menu at the top of the screen. Choose Open Connection. Go back to the black screen and you can now type in commands to test the modem.

To dial the speaking clock enter - Echo atdt123
To reset the modem enter - Echo atdt +++atho0

Config PPP

Under the Control Panels you will find a little device called Config PPP. This allows you to change any IP settings and the command string for the modem. By clicking on 'Open' you can directly fire the modem to contact the Internet Provider. When the modem is connected, the frowning faces above the PPP DOWN icon change to smiles. By clicking on the Config button you gain access to the connection properties of the modem including the phone number and the Modem initialisation string.

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Application Errors

These are some quick and dirty methods to get a poorly Mac App back on its feet. They are standard procedures which should work with a wide variety of different apps from printer drivers to Photoshop.

Ports of Call

Mac applications are not as ingrained to the operating system as Windows applications. There are only a handful of other files that have to be removed to get rid of an application from the system. Here are where apps on the Mac live and hide themselves,

The Application Folder

This is where most pre-installed Mac Apps live. It is directly off the main Hard Drive folder. Most Apps will keep their main bits of business in there. Claris Works is a big exception to this rule with a folder marked 'Claris' deposited in the System Folder. Microsoft programs do as well, installing OLE extensions and a folder called 'Microsoft' into the System Folder. Games and some other programs will install odd Control Panel or System Extensions, but usually these won't interfere with the operation of anything else. Applications added onto the machine will be installed off the root directory by default.

Preferences File

These are mostly located in a folder called 'Preferences' inside the System Folder which is directly off the root directory. They will normally be titled by the application name then 'prefs' or 'preferences'. In some cases, you will find a folder within the Preferences Folder or a separate folder directly inside the System Folder containing these files. They are like '.inf' files on the PC and contain listings of the user's settings for that particular application. Deleting this file can sometimes resurrect a damaged application, as most programs will automatically rewrite a default version whenever it can't find this file on launch.

NOTE - The Finder has its own preferences file, which can sometimes corrupt. If you have any strange system problems, you might want to try deleting it and then restarting.

Extensions and Control Panels

These are located in the Extensions and Control Panel folders inside the System Folder. Usually these do not interfere with the operation of other programs if left alone. They can cause big problems if you reinstall the same program later over the top of these files. Printer drivers are the biggest culprit for this.

The Info Box

This is a handy little utility which tells you how much memory the program is using. It is possible to bump this up if the program needs more memory (ie If you're working on a 40 page document full of colour diagrams).

What to do if it Breaks..

  • Firstly try rebuilding the desktop and Zapping the PRAM.
  • Close the program (if it is still running) then delete the Preference File for the application (It is normally advisable to create a backup copy first).
  • Try bumping up the memory requirements.
    • Go to the Apple Menu, then 'About this Macintosh' ('About This Computer' on later Machines).
    • There should be a section for 'Largest Unused Block' minus 1MB from that number and that tells you how much memory you've got to play with.
    • If there isn't much, go to the Memory Control Panel, and turn on Virtual Memory, though keep the setting to a maximum of once again the machine's RAM.
    • Next Find the application icon in its folder on the Hard Drive.
    • Click the icon ONCE and then press Apple Key and the 'i' key at the same time. Should put you into an Info screen.
    • Adjust the memory requirements by clicking in the Minimum Size Window.
    • Close the box and load the program again.
  • Reinstall the program. Delete the program files (Due to the simple nature of the installation, there are rarely uninstallers for Mac Applications) and reinstall from the program disks.
  • You can try Deleting the Finder Preference file. This will change settings for the entire system, so use only as a last resort.

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Converting Files

Setting up PC Exchange

Macs can read and write to PC formatted disks on the fly. Just insert a disk in the drive and the disk icon pops up on the desktop. Files then can be dragged and dropped to the desktop and opened or viewed by programs on the Mac. Windows long file names are not supported, all file names are changed to uppercase with names abbreviated as they would be under Windows 3.1 or DOS. The conversion process works for all PC formatted disks, disks can come from any platform including Amiga's CrossDos.

PC Exchange does all this, and it can convert files to specific type when they are first read by the Mac system. Files ending with '.DOC' can appear with Microsoft Word icons and can then even be double clicked or drag and dropped. If there is no associated program in the Finder's records, the file will appear with a plain generic icon and the file will have to be opened by the target program. The way to ensure that this all goes smoothly is from PC Exchange.

First go to the Apple Menu, Control Panels, PC Exchange. It will then list any current file associations. If the one you want isn't there, then click on the Add button. On the Add screen firstly type in the DOS suffix of the file (ie TXT, DOC, PSP) and then from the large list, select the program you want to open it with. Finally choose the type of file it is, ie Text, Graphic, Library. and then click on OK.

You must of course have a program which will read these files. If you try to open a file with a program that isn't compatible, you will either get an error message or rubbish on the screen.

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