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In previous editions of this book, the Preface went to great lengths to explain what exactly this book is about and who the book's target audience is. Given that the book is now entering its fourth edition, I suspect that most prospective buyers already know this stuff. So I decided to save a few pages of text and cut most of it out.

For those who are completely new to Sad Macs, I will simply say that it is designed to help you solve problems with your Macintosh. It is not a general introduction to the Mac, nor is it a comprehensive encyclopedia of tips. It's a fix-it-yourself book for the Mac. Its emphasis is not on hardware repairs, but on the much more common and primarily software troubleshooting that any end user can do without any special tools and without voiding their warranty. Further, its focus is more on OS-level problems that affect virtually all Mac users than those specific to a single application, such as Word or Photoshop.

Along the way, you'll learn that many Mac "problems" are not really problems at all. The apparent problem is one of understanding. When you learn more about how your Mac works, the unexpected will transform into the expected, and the problem is "solved." It's like discovering that the reason you are getting no sound from your TV is because someone pressed the mute button. Nothing's really wrong. That's the way it is supposed to work!

While not exactly intended for a novice Mac user, neither is this book intended for the Mac expert. Instead, it is for that broad middle audience that knows the basics of how the Mac works, but wants to learn much more.

Though this book does not specifically mention every possible problem you might have (no book could do that!), it does teach you the general skills needed to diagnose and solve even those problems that are not mentioned.

How This Book Is Organized

This book has three main parts:

  • Part I: Background and Basics deals with general background information and some problem-solving basics. This is designed to bring all users up to speed so that any relevant gaps in your knowledge get filled before you proceed.

  • Part II: Symptoms, Causes, and Cures covers the whole range of Macintosh problems, what their symptoms are, what causes them, and what you can do to solve them.

  • Part III: Disaster Relief focuses on specific problem-solving tools, called Fix-Its, rather than on symptoms. Each Fix-It contains all the necessary information about how and when to use it and why it works.

These three sections are followed by an appendix, called "Stocking Your Troubleshooter's Toolkit," that provides the information needed to obtain any of the troubleshooting software mentioned in this book.

On a Related Note

Throughout this book, you will find three types of text set off from the main text. Each of these has a different purpose:

TAKE NOTE — An Example

These notes contain important information directly relevant to the topic under discussion. For example, they may include definitions or explanations of terms used in the main text.

BY THE WAY — An Example

These notes contain more tangential information than you will find in the Take Note boxes. For example, they may list changes expected in a forthcoming version of the software under discussion.


These notes contain supplementary information that is at a more technical level than the rest of the book. Less technically inclined readers may choose to skip them.

See: What I Mean

This book contains numerous cross-references. Some of these references direct you to a continuation of the steps needed to solve a problem, such as, "If the system error continues to recur, see 'Solve It! Recurring System Errors,' later in this chapter." Others inform you where you can find more information about a subject, such as:

  • SEE Chapter 8 for more details on invisible files.

Still others point to the location of the initial description of a term or item.

On the one hand, the sheer number of these references may seem disconcerting at first, especially if you are in a hurry to solve a problem. However, not all of these references demand immediate attention. Many of them are only suggestions. Thus, if you can solve your current problem without needing to know more about invisible files, for example, you need not bother with that particular cross-reference.

See Also: The Fix-Its

If you have just started browsing through this book and have come across a reference such as

  • SEE Fix-It #8 for more on rebuilding the desktop.

you may be a bit mystified. What's a Fix-It? Where is it? The Fix-Its, as just mentioned, make up the Part III (Disaster Relief) section of this book. This book is deliberately designed so that the Chapters make frequent reference to them. Each Fix-It covers a different troubleshooting topic, such as rebuilding the desktop or solving extension conflicts. They are the central location for all information on their given topic.

If a particular chapter section includes a long list of Fix-It references, you probably won't wind up needing all of them. As soon as one of them fixes your problem, you can stop. If the length of a particular list seems daunting, remember that the longest lists cover the most general cases, when the information at hand provides little or no guidance on which direction to go. Usually, if you can describe your problem more specifically, you can find more specific advice, with a narrower range of Fix-It choices, elsewhere in the book.

On the Web: MacFixIt

This book makes frequent reference to my MacFixIthttp://www.macfixit.com Web site. MacFixIt began in 1996 as the Sad Macs Update Site. Its purpose was to provide readers of Sad Macs with access to the otherwise-hard-to-find shareware and freeware utilities mentioned in the book, as well as to offer updated troubleshooting information about topics too new to have been covered in the latest edition of Sad Macs.

As time went on, the site began to attract an audience that extended well beyond Sad Macs readers. In response, the site gradually evolved into a more general Mac troubleshooting site, featuring nearly daily updates of the latest tips and news. To reflect this change, the site was renamed MacFixIt.

Despite these changes, the site retains its original benefits for Sad Macs readers: it still has a Download Library where you can get troubleshooting utilities, and it still is a source of information newer than what is in Sad Macs. In fact, by combining the encyclopedic material in Sad Macs with the latest tips from MacFixIt, you have the best of both worlds.

A Final Note: Feedback

I encourage you to send me your comments about this book. Did you find the book helpful? Was the information easily accessible? Were you disappointed that certain topics were omitted? Were some topics covered in too little or too much detail? Or were you impressed with the breadth and depth of the coverage? Were you pleased to find just what you were seeking in just the right amount of detail? Any suggestions, criticisms, or compliments are welcome.

The best way to reach me is by email:sadmacs@macfixit.com.

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