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14 solutions to common OS X El Capitan problems on Mac

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El Capitan, the latest update to OS X, seeks to make the operating system better with various performance enhancements and interesting new features. Downloading it is kind of a no-brainer because of its price tag (free!), but El Capitan (named, btw, for the famous mountain in Yosemite park) does come with some baggage of its own. As Mac users have worked with the new OS, they’ve noticed several problems that seem linked to El Capitan. Here are the most common issues people have struggled with, and the best solutions for getting those kinks worked out.

Problem: I tried to install El Capitan, but it gives me error messages


  • If you really want to like El Capitan but can’t actually complete the download due to error messages, your current version of Yosemite is probably causing trouble. Remember that for a new download, especially a large one, Mac OS X needs to shut down various programs and processes. If Yosemite is already working on other updates or various ongoing processes, it may produce error messages instead of completing El Capitan.
  • One of the easiest solutions for this problem is to fully reboot your computer and clear any current issues that Yosemite is experiencing. Visit the Apple Menu (the button in the top left of your screen with the apple logo), and select the option Restart. Sometimes if Yosemite has really hit a wall this will freeze your computer instead of restarting it. If this happens, press Control key-Command key (⌘) -Power button at the same time. This will force the restart – just be sure that your programs are closed and your data saved before you attempt this.
  • If restarting doesn’t work, try opening in safe mode to stop any annoying apps. Safe mode allows you to open a limited version of the Mac OS X that can be very useful when locating problematic apps or other issues with your computer. To begin, go to the Apple Menu and select Shut Down. You can also hold down the power button to force a shut down if necessary. Wait until your Mac is completely turned off, then wait about 10 seconds and press the power button to start your computer up again. Pay careful attention: When you hear the Mac start-up sound as the computer gets ready to launch, hold down the Shift key. A gray Apple logo screen will appear – when it does, release the Shift key. This will start your computer in safe mode.
  • If Yosemite runs correctly in safe mode, then you probably have a problem with an app or startup item. Disable all your start-up items by going to System Preferences, Users & Groups, and selecting your User ID. Under Login, you can choose what apps automatically start with Yosemite. Disable all of them and try installing El Capitan again.
  • It’s important to save all your important data through a site or an external hard drive before you start to install El Capitan. Things can go wrong, and if they do you may lose valuable data. Always be safe instead of sorry.

Problem: My computer is running slowly when I launch an app


  • If you have been working with El Capitan and have noticed that everything from your browser to your keystrokes has been running extra-slow, you are not alone. Many have experienced this update issue, and it does not appear related to your RAM or other typical sources of poor performance. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to pin down exactly what is causing the issue.
  • First, try restarting your Mac to see if this helps. Visit the Apple Menu (the button in the top left of your screen with the apple logo), and select the option Restart. Sometimes if Yosemite has really hit a wall this will freeze your computer instead of restarting it. If this happens, press Control key-Command key (⌘) -Power button at the same time. This will force the restart – just be sure that your programs are closed and your data saved before you attempt this.
  • If this doesn’t work, head over to your System Preferences add-ons: These are the apps at the bottom of the System Preferences window. If you have any of these, try deleting or disabling them to see if this helps – some may not be working properly with El Capitan. Select the icon and look through the options to find a way to Disable or Deauthorize (this can vary a little base on the app). If disabling a particular app helps solve the problem, then that app may not be compatible with El Capitan. Look for an update for that app, or disable it until an update comes out.
  • You should also consider visiting your browsers and heading to Settings to delete your cache and cookies. Visit Flash Player in System Preferences and delete its saved browser data too, to see if this helps.

Problem: My Wi-Fi is slow


  • After upgrading, you may have found that your Wi-Fi is very laggy or cannot stream properly. El Capitan may be struggling with your Wi-Fi settings. Apple has released updates to try and improve this problem, so first check for any updates to OS X and see if you can download a solution. Go to the Apple menu, and select Software Update… to see if there are any currently un-installed updates for your system (Yosemite will also remind you about this via alerts).
  • If this doesn’t work, turn your attention to your router. Check to see if your router needs any firmware updates and download them if available. Visit your router manufacturer website to look for firmware and follow the instructions on their site – you will probably need your router ID number and your username/password for this.
  • Reboot your router to see if this solves the problem. Unplug your router completely or use your router reset button for this. Leave the router off for about 30 seconds before restarting it.
  • If it does not work, try deleting your old router settings and setting up a new network via El Capitan. Visit your System Preferences, go to Network, select Advanced, and under the Wi-Fi tab delete your preferred networks, turn your Wi-Fi off, then turn it back on again. Set up a new connection to see if this helps.
  • Keep in mind that your Wi-Fi may be experiencing interference. If you have a dual-band router, set it to the 5GHz band on your computer to see if this helps.

Problem: Ever since El Capitan, an app has stopped working entirely


  • If you have a favorite app that is no longer functioning on the newest version of Yosemite – or is so slow that you can’t even use it anymore – you can usually restore functionality with a few simple steps. Check in the App Store to see if that app has any recent updates to improve its relations with El Capitan. This will be shown via App Store updates, and you can choose to update all apps at once if necessary. When finished, go to the Apple Menu and select Restart to reboot your computer and see if the app works again.
  • You can also check to see if your app is using any plugins or extensions (looking at you, Safari and Mail). For most apps, like Safari, you can go to the Menu button, select Preferences, and click Extensions if the app uses extensions. This will bring up a list of Extensions that can be checked on or off. Try disabling all of them and see if that improves matters, then narrow it down to the exact plugins that are causing the problem. Try this with any Apple app is giving you trouble.
  • Try deleting the app completely, then re-downloading it again from the App Store. Sometimes this can help solve bugs and other issues.

Problem: Microsoft Office is crashing


  • While El Capitan included a lot of performance enhancements for OS X, it had the opposite effect on Microsoft Office, especially when it comes to email. So if Outlook keeps on quitting unexpectedly or if you find that Word is crashing ever since the update, you’ve probably run into one of the Office bugs.
  • Apple has released an update, OS X 10.11.1, designed to take care of many of these Office problems. Head over to the Apple Menu, and click on Software Update… to see if any updates need to be downloaded.
  • You can also restart completely to enact any waiting updates. Visit the Apple Menu (the button in the top left of your screen with the apple logo), and select the option Restart. Sometimes if Yosemite has really hit a wall this will freeze your computer instead of restarting it. If this happens, press Control key-Command key (⌘) -Power button at the same time. This will force the restart – just be sure that your programs are closed and your data saved before you attempt this. This should download any waiting updates on your computer.
  • Try downloading updates directly from Microsoft if any are available. Visit the Help Menu for any Office for Mac program, and click on Check for Updates – the program should do the rest. You can also visit the Microsoft website directly do see if any updates are available.

Problem: My Bluetooth has stopped working


  • There’s a traditional trick to Bluetooth computer problems that is still effective today. Start by shutting down your Mac completely. Visit the Apple Menu and select Shut Down to get started. Disconnect all your accessories that need dongles or cables.
  • Now restart your Mac and slowly attach accessories – Bluetooth and otherwise – checking to make sure the connections work each time. If your Bluetooth works as expected for a device, then one of your accessories may be causing problems. Find the problematic device and replace it if possible.
  • If this doesn’t work, try alternative Bluetooth devices to see if they function – it could be an issue with older accessories or similar problems. If absolutely no Bluetooth accessory works, double check that your Bluetooth is turned on via the Bluetooth icon on the upper right part of your screen, next to Wi-Fi and Time Machine.

Problem: Yosemite’s email isn’t working anymore


  • If your email client has stopped functioning and brings up error messages instead of sending messages, there may be something wrong with your email settings in the post-El Capitan world.
  • Visit Mail, go to the Preferences tab, and select Accounts. Under the account that seems to be giving you problems, select Account Information, and review the servers used for outgoing messages. Use the proper SMTP Server information according to your latest Internet provider information. Apple has a page that goes into more detail on this for your reading pleasure.
  • Much like Safari, Mail may be using extensions that El Capitan doesn’t care for. Go to the Mail Menu, go to Preferences, and select Extensions. Uncheck all your extensions and relaunch to see if that fixes the problem. If it does, weed through your extensions to find out which ones are causing trouble.

Problem: My MacBook battery is dying easily ever since I installed El Capitan


  • Oddly, some people have found that El Capitan has ruined their battery life. This is odd because performance enhancements often have the opposite effect.
  • Check your Wi-Fi settings and your apps to make sure that no apps are stuck in a permanent download state. If they are, delete and reload them via the Update section of the App Store.
  • Your computer may have problems with sleeping or properly conserving battery life post-El Capitan. Visit System Preferences, go to Energy Saver, and make sure that your sleep mode settings are just how you prefer them. Pay special attention to the apps that require your Mac to be awake. Switch off “required” apps that may be keeping your Mac running at odd times. You should also try quitting out of iTunes, your printer, and any running third party apps.
  • If your settings and startup seem especially wonky, you can try resetting your PRAM. Go to the Apple Menu and use Shut Down to turn off your computer. Turn your Mac back on, and as it starts up hold down the Option-Command-P-R keys before the logo screen can appear. Hold these keys until your computer automatically reboots. This will restore startup functions to factory settings and may help your problem.

Problem: My printer isn’t working since El Capitan


  • As if you needed something else to go wrong with your printer, right? Specifically, PDF documents may not print properly via El Capitan. If so, it’s time to dig into your printer preferences. Visit Printers & Scanners in System Preferences, find your printer icon, and right click on the icon to find the Reset Printing System
  • It’s a good idea to also reset your Mac completely after resetting your printer so everyone gets a fresh start. Visit the Apple Menu (the button in the top left of your screen with the apple logo), and select the option Restart. Sometimes if Yosemite has really hit a wall this will freeze your computer instead of restarting it. If this happens, press Control key-Command key (⌘) -Power button at the same time. This will force the restart – just be sure that your programs are closed and your data saved before you attempt this.

Problem: Airdrop has stopped working


  • If you are a fan of Airdrop, you may have noticed that connections are dropping – and not in a good way – with the latest Yosemite update. Start by visiting System Preferences, going to Security & Privacy, and selecting Firewall. Make sure the firewall is turned off completely, and see if this improves Airdrop. If it does, see if there is a particular blocked app or service that is causing the problem with Airdrop. You can add or remove these apps in Firewall Options.
  • Resetting your wireless router may also help with this problem. Many routers come with a small reset button that you have to hold down for several seconds. However, you can always reset by unplugging your router, waiting 30 seconds, and plugging it back in.

Problem: iTunes has become unusable


  • Has iTunes stopped responding for you? Is it taking a ridiculously long time to locate and play music? Are you left unable to click on anything? There are some hints that this may be connected to an iCloud issue, so you should try disabling iCloud and see if this improves. Head over to System Preferences and select iCloud. Try un-checking iTunes-related features and apps in iCloud. If this doesn’t work, try using “Sign Out” to disable iCloud entirely and see if this helps.
  • If this doesn’t solve the problem, be patient and check for the latest iTunes updates from Apple for a performance fix. You will receive notifications about iTunes updates, or you can check manually by going to the iTunes Menu and selecting Check for Updates. This isn’t the first time iTunes has reacted against a product update, and it probably won’t be the last, either.

Problem: I tried split view, but it won’t work


  • Split view is a new feature for Macs that allows quick separation into different monitor screen segments…but it doesn’t always work. If you can’t get split view to function, head over to System Preferences, and select Mission Control. There’s an option here to allow your display to have “separate Spaces.” Make sure that this option is selected.

Problem: I can’t find my old iBooks


  • Have your iBooks disappeared? This is not unheard of among those downloading El Capitan. Fortunately, you should be able to bring your books back. First try logging out of iBooks – you can right-click on the icon in the Dock to see if it is open or not – and relaunch the app to see if this brings back your books.
  • If you see an icon for resetting your libraries, select this and see if it clears up your access issues. This icon may pop up when you first start iBooks.
  • Try syncing books across all devices. In iBooks, go to View and Show iCloud Books to make sure that none are hiding. In the iBooks main menu, select Preferences and go to the General There make sure that the “Sync bookmarks, highlights and collections” option is selected.
  • The problem could be related to your cookies, in which case there is another trick you can try. Go to your Finder, and in the Finder menu bar, select Go. Hold down the Option key, which should cause your Library to appear under the Go list. Click the Library, and search for three items:
    • 1) “Cookies/”
    • 2) “Preferences/”
    • 3) “Containers/”
  • If you have any of these files, move them to the Trash. Then go to the Apple Menu and select Restart to fully restart your computer.

Problem: I tried using Spotlight, and it’s not working right


  • Spotlight sometimes has trouble indexing after El Capitan, which means it will only search a limited number of databases and will often bring up zilch for very common queries. The good news is this typically only happens once, while Apple restores the indexing process.
  • If it keeps on underperforming, visit System Preferences, go to Spotlight, and look for indexing options under Search Results. Here you can see control what Spotlight searching – and what it isn’t. Make sure that the proper indexes are selected for your searching needs.

Editors' Recommendations

Tyler Lacoma
Former Digital Trends Contributor
If it can be streamed, voice-activated, made better with an app, or beaten by mashing buttons, Tyler's into it. When he's not…
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