MacTech Basics Exposed

Believe it or not, countless Macs fall ill to a number of maladies each day. Although these occurrences are fewer and less frequent than in the PC world, a conscientious Mac user needs to be armed in times of distress. With the help of this article and a few inexpensive tools, you can be ready for about anything that could ail your Mac.

First off, computer problems are usually classified as “hardware” or “software”. Most of the time, one can easily distinguish between the two and take the appropriate steps to solve the problem. For example, if an application is acting funny or keeps crashing, it’s a safe bet to say that it’s a software problem. Reinstalling the application would be an appropriate step to take towards resolving the problem.

However, if you switch your computer on and see nothing but a black screen, then you’re probably dealing with a hardware issue. Hardware problems can be more serious than software ones. This is simply due to the fact that hardware is something tangible that can incur irreversible physical damage. Usually replacement parts have to be ordered to fix hardware failure, unlike software, which costs nothing to reinstall.

There are several basic things a Mac user needs in order to get into the computer and upgrade/replace hardware:

Anti-static mat
An anti-static mat is one of the most important things you can get. First off, it protects from ESD (electrostatic discharge). ESD is the same phenomenon as getting “shocked” by touching a doorknob after walking across a room in your socks. Small amounts of ESD build up on your body as you move about all day. Even though you might not be able to get shocked, there can still be ESD present — undetectable to your body —that can easily damage the delicate circuitry of computer parts. A mat is grounded by plugging in a cord attached to the mat into a grounded electrical outlet. The idea is that any ESD will get transferred to the mat and into the ground, instead of frying your computer part. Secondly, most mats are padded and provide a soft surface to temporarily place components that you’re not directly working with.

Anti-static glove/wrist strap
When dealing with small or delicate parts, which can’t remain on the mat, you should invest in an anti-static glove or wrist strap. It’s important that you be grounded by one of them at all times when handling or installing parts.

Good lighting
Lighting is very important when working inside of a computer, or especially inside a laptop. Most standard room lighting isn’t powerful enough to penetrate the depths of a computer case. Even a swivel desk lamp is better than nothing. Small LED flashlights also do the job nicely.

Small mirror
A small mirror, similar to the handle-mounted dentist’s one, is handy for helping locate accidentally dropped screws or checking around components without removing then.

Tool set
A good tool set it a must. But wait, don’t rush out and buy a fancy home repair kit. Computers use different size bits and tools than a basic handyman kits includes. Special computer kits can be had for a relatively cheap price. It all depends how much money you have and how elaborate you want to get.

A tool set should contain at lest the following, which will get you into most computers and allow you to remove/install parts:

• A precision screwdriver set containing both flat head Phillips bits. Laptops use extremely small screws that are just too miniscule for a standard bit.
• A 3-prong retriever, used to grab screws or other objects that many have fallen into a place too small to get your hand into.
• A long nose pliers, preferably with built-in wire cutter. This comes in handy for bending metal or stripping/cutting wires.
• A 3/16” and 1/4” nut driver, which are helpful for getting into some kinds of cases.
• Reversible bit screwdriver in 3/16", 1/4", #1 & #2 Phillips.

Now that you know what you need and have an understanding of ESD, please be careful and considerate when working on a computer. Note any stickers or parts that have a warranty warning. You don’t want to void any warranties, unless you really know what you’re doing and can afford to damage the component. So, go off and have a good time exploring the inner workings of the Mac.

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