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Here is the list of the main maintenance I'd run on the mac first. This is going to be a long post so I suggest printing it out for your reference. Plus you'll want to keep this for future use I am assuming. Also, all of the following will require a USB keyboard if it is a desktop, not a wireless keyboard.
If it's a laptop, just make sure you use the builtin keyboard. Wireless keyboards have to have the system running in order to be recognized so the maintenance below will not work when using them.
First let's reset the PRAM on the computer.
1) Shut down the computer.
2) While the computer is shut down, locate these keys: command (has an apple on it), option (sometimes called alt), P, and R.
3) Turn the computer on, then press and hold Command-Option-P-R before the gray screen appears.
4) Hold these keys down until you hear the startup sound a total of 3 times.
5) Release the keys.
Next, let's try a Safe Boot. This will perform several clean up procedures that may be affecting the machine's performance and startup as well as clear out any cache here as well.
1) Shut down your computer completely.
2) Start up the computer and immediately after the startup chime, press and hold the Shift key
3) Once the gray Apple and progress indicator appear, release the Shift key
4) Note: Startup will likely take substantially longer than normal (20 - 30 minutes is not unheard of)
5) You should have to login to your account, even if it normally does so automatically.
6) Shut down the computer.
Now let's check / repair the disk permissions. Although this doesn't fix all problems it is a great way to start when working on a machine, besides it often cleans up any other smaller problems you may or may not be experiencing.
1) Restart the machine.
2) Before you have opened any programs, go to Applications / Utilities / Disk Utility.
3) Click the "First Aid" tab at the top and run the "Repair Permissions" after selecting your Hard Drive from the list on the left.
4) Shut down the computer.
5) Restart and run the mac for a while to see if you are continueing to have problems with the icons. If you do, then I'd try the "Archive and Install" which I'll discuss at the bottom of this monster post.
After all of the maintenance, I'd like you to consider keeping a backup of your system on an external USB drive. I would suggest you get a USB External HD or two, and use a program like Carbon Copy Cloner (http://www.bombich.com/
) to create a restorable backup of your Hard Drive to an empty External Hard Drive. This free program will make a mirrored copy of your hard drive in it's current state that you can go back to if things go south for any reason. I do this personally before I perform any kind of install, update or major change to my system. In fact, I do it monthly on all of my machines just in case. I find it more reliable than Time Machine (but that's a personal experience sorta thing). It has saved me many, many hours of work and countless headaches having backups at hand. I highly recommend you start doing this regardless of whether the dock issue returns. You'll thank me later.
If the dock issue DOES return, I'd go the route of an "Archive and Install". The "Archive and Install" option on reinstalling the Mac OS X will preserve your user data and files, but you may need to reinstall some third party software add-ons and fonts. Because of this I highly suggest you get a good backup of your hard drive prior to doing this if you can, (ie Carbon Copy Cloner).
There is a comprehensive website detailing the Archive and Install process online. I recommend you check it out before proceeding. Remember information is power.http://www.thexlab.com/faqs/archiveinstall.html
Just so all of your bases are covered, I'm going to give you the full instructions on the "Archive and Install" process below. Hold for future records.
1) Insert the Mac OS X install disk.
2) Shut down the computer.
3) Start the machine while holding the C key immediately after pressing the power button (Don't let go of the "C" until it starts from the disk or locks up). If you have to choose, select the Installation disk as the startup.
4) When it starts, a screen should appear asking you to "Choose your language." NOTE:
If you get the login screen instead of the "Choose your language" screen, then the mac DID NOT
boot up off of the Install Disk. In this case, try shutting down the computer. Then restarting while holding down the "option" key until the Startup manager appears (http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1310
). When it does, click on the Install Disk as the startup volume.
5) Select your language. The Welcome to the Mac OS X Installer window appears.
6) Click Continue. The Important Information window appears.
7) After reading or printing the information, click Continue. The Software License Agreement window appears.
8) After reading or printing the information, click Continue.
9) An agreement sheet appears.C lick Agree. The Select a Destination window appears.
10) Click the volume that you wish to install to (this will be your hard drive).
11) Click Options. (This is the most important part of the "Archive and Install" process).
The installation options sheet appears.
12) Select Archive and Install.
13) Select the volume (your hard drive) which already has Mac OS X installed.
14) You should also select Preserve Users and Network Settings
, to preserve network and Home directory settings. This will keep all of your original files and your home directory. VERY IMPORTANT.
15) Click Ok.
16) Click Continue to begin the installation.
17) When complete, you'll need to restart the mac, then run Software Update (under the apple menu) to bring your mac and software up to date.
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