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Apple Macintosh Frequently Asked Questions

Sigh... another antique page.

Below are a few technical odds-and-ends that I've stumbled across while working with various Macs. You might also want to take a look at my brief list finder shortcuts. Personally, I can't remember any of 'em for more than ten minutes.

How do I rebuild the desktop?
To rebuild the desktop database, hold down the command and option keys during startup.

How do I prevent extensions from loading at startup?
Holding down the shift key during startup will prevent any extensions from loading. If you want to selectively prevent some of the extensions from loading, move them out of the Extensions folder.

How can I throw away a locked item?
Hold down the Option key while emptying the trash.

How do I zap the PRAM?
For System 6.X or earlier, hold down command, shift, and option keys while opening the Control Panel. You'll get a dialog box saying that you are about to zap the PRAM; click "Yes" to proceed. For System 7.x and later, hold down command, option, p, and r keys and reboot the system. Keep the keys down until you hear a third boot chime; then release then release them and press the command and option keys to immediately rebuild the desktop. There is also a nifty utility called TechTool that will do a more thorough job of cleaning out the PRAM.

My old Mac works OK, but each time I shut it down, the next time I turn it on, the monitor is black-and-white. If I go to the panel and reset the color depth, it works fine.
The battery on your system's logic board is probably dead. If this is the case, you'll also notice that the date is wrong after you've shut the computer off and rebooted. There's a nifty web page at with more than you could ever hope to know about Mac batteries and how to replace them.

What is the most recent version of the Mac OS which will run on 68040-based machines?
System 8.1 was the last version of 040-compatible system software. The last version of system software compatible with 68030 machines was System 7.6, and that would only run on Macs that were 32-bit clean. System 7.5.5, however, would work on most earlier Macs.

Can I make my PowerBook dual-boot either OS9 or OS X?
This is pretty easy to do if you have both an internal drive and an external firewire drive. You'll probably already have OS9 on the internal drive; if so, you can install OS X on the external drive. Ideally, you should start with a clean install onto the firewire drive. It's usually faster to install a fresh copy of an operating system, and you'll get a less-cluttered, more stable installation as well.

If I remember correctly, Apple recommends that you have OS 9.2 if you want to do this, and the startup folder control panel should be at least version 9.2.2. Also, some older computers may need a firmware upgrade to be able to boot from the firewire drive. You'll probably need to check with your friendly neighborhood Mac guru, or do a little research on the Web.

Once you've got both operating systems installed, you can hold down the control key during startup to get a menu fo allow you to select which OS you want to boot to.

There are a few caveats with this: first, although you'll have access to data files on either drive from either OS, you won't necessarily be able to run all of your classic programs from within OS X without reinstalling them there. But then again... why would you want to install Classic programs in OS X? The whole point of making the system dual-boot is that you don't have to run your software in pokey compatibility mode. By default, it will probably boot to OS X. Welcome to the twenty-first century, eh?