Solve Mac problems with a detailed system information report

EtreCheck iconApple Macs are very reliable, but like all computers they do occasionally experience problems. Finding the cause of a problem is not always easy. Computers are often unfathomable, but there are tools that can help, like the free EtreCheck. Add it to yout Mac, just in case.

If you think that you'll never have a problem because you are using Apple kit, you should check out the Apple Support Communities. There are lots of posts there from people experiencing all kinds of difficulties. The cause of some errors are obvious, but this isn't always the case and a detailed system information report can help to diagnose the problem.

Knowing where to start when trying to solve a problem is difficult unless you know what you are doing and some things, such as a slow shut down process or a long startup, can be difficult to diagnose. The causes are not obvious.

There is a System Information app in the Applications/Utilities folder in all versions of OS X, but if you have ever tried to use it, you may have been overwhelmed at the amount of information it provides, It is too detailed, especially when examining the software section, and instead of helping you to solve problems, it may just confuse you.

A utility app called EtreCheck might be just what you need to track down problems. It displays system information, but in a simplified and easier to read format. Download EtreCheck, unzip the app and run it. It displays a window like this:

EtreCheck for OS X

At the top is hardware information, but further down is the software setup. Scroll down the list and it shows kernel extensions, launch daemons, user launch agents, internet plugins and more. The OS X System Information app does this, but EtreCheck filters out all the unnecessary items and shows only what is important, making it simpler to understand.

When you don't have to read pages and pages of obscure information you can discover where a problem my lie more easily. For example, you might see references to software you had uninstalled, or software you added, but unknown to you, is running extensions, plugins or other items in the background. These may be the cause of the problem you are having. Here is an example:

EtreCheck system information app for OS X

The highlighted areas show possible places where problems might occur. At the top is a reference to Avira Antivirus, software I looked at recently but have uninstalled. Even though the app came with an uninstaller (in the Applications/Utilities folder), it has clearly left something behind. In this case it isn't loaded and therefore shouldn't be a problem, but it is obviously something to watch out for.

Launch daemons are services that run in the background, often without showing anything on the screen to give away their presence, and there are two listed here. At the bottom are internet plug-ins. SharePoint and Silverlight are Microsoft plug-ins. You might not realise that they are running or even installed on your Mac. Plug-ins are a potential source of problems and it is not obvious what is on your Mac.

EtreCheck will not solve any problems, but it will at least show you where to look and it is worth keeping a copy of this free app on your Mac. If you ever have to use the Apple Supprt Communities forums you can copy the report it produces to the clipboard and then paste it in a forum message. Its contents will help others in the forum to diagnose the problem or at least eliminate some possibilities.

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