The Secret to Troubleshooting with Console

OS X Console IconOS X is a fairly robust operating system. People that switch from Windows enjoy the fact that they no longer see the Blue Screen of Death. It’s far from perfect however and when things go wrong you want to be able to track down your problems. Today we’re going to look at one of the tools that is included with OS X that will let you do this. The Console.

When a program runs on OS X it will keep a log of it’s activity. This often happens when it encounters an error. These logs are written to a special set of text files on your Mac in the /var/log folder. Rather than force you to look at some of the UNIX underpinnings you can use the Console.

Launch the Console by opening the [intlink id=”649″ type=”post”]Utilities folder[/intlink] on your Mac. On start up, OS X will inspect your log files and present them in Console window.

What you are going to see will likely not make any sense to you. However, here is the secret to the Console. It doesn’t necessarily have to! Here is how I troubleshoot problems using the Console.

All of the entries in the Console are time stamped meaning that everytime the program writes a log entry the date and time of the entry are recorded. I look through the log files occasionally looking for messages that are repeated often and at a high frequency. Sometimes the log will tell you which program in particular is generating the log. Sometime it won’t.

In either case, if you see some entries which you think are questionable copy the entry and paste it into Google. If it is an error of any significance it’s likely that someone else has encountered the problem and found the solution.

I ran into this problem not too long ago with the program Carbon Copy Cloner. It’s a backup program I demoed and removed from my system. However there was no uninstall program so the Mac was trying to load the program every few minutes in order to backup my Mac. I would never of known this unless I looked at the Console.

Check out the Console even if you are not a very technical user. It’s a great way to get a handle on what’s going on under the hood. It’s also a great way to spot problems.

About Joe Cotellese

Joe is the founder of Learning OS X. He's often spending way too much time playing with new Mac software in order to improve his ability at "Getting Things Done."

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