Monday, September 26, 2011

How I fixed my Apple Mail program

I got up early on Sunday morning to write the next entry for my travel blog, First, though, I decided send out a few more emails about my newly-published story, Sam, the Strawb Part. (See my earlier post, "A Smashwords virgin no more," about my experience in e-book publishing.

Suddenly, my Mail program quit and gave me an error message. I tried to relaunch, but within two minutes, the program quit again. The error message gave a long list of details, but of course none of them made any sense to me.

Disk Repair told me that there were some permission files and indices that needed fixing. I ran the program and restarted. While the computer went through that routine, I went to do some chores. Washed floors, windows, bathrooms. After the repairs, Mail still crashed.

I looked online for answers; there is (not surprisingly) nothing in Apple’s Support site. Google showed lots of forums and bitching about the problem of Mail suddenly quitting unexpectedly, but the discussions were not helpful.

So, I called Apple’s Help line. After about 5 minutes of voicemail and waiting, I got in touch with a representative, who asked for my name and my computer’s serial number. Sonia listened to my description of the problem and put me on hold; five minutes later, a man came on the line. He had my account information, but after he listened to my description of the problem, told me that my 90-day free telephone support period was over and, while he knew what was wrong with the system, it would cost me $49.95 to find out what it was.

I said “thank you, good-bye” and hung up. Fifty bucks? I resolved to try to solve it myself.

I went back to Apple’s site. Searching through the Support and Products pages brought up only one hint, which turned out not to be so good. I deleted Mail from the Applications folder, then reinstalled it from the Install DVD that came with the iMac. When I tried to launch Mail after that, I got an error message that said the current version of Mail is no longer compatible with the OS. In the intervening 11 months since buying the computer, the online upgrades had rendered obsolete the version of Mail that came with the computer. Running System Update didn’t help.

I went back to chores. Filled a bucket with water and some vinegar to wash the windows. Got an idea, and reinstalled Snow Leopard from the DVD. While the computer did that, I painted two window frames. When the installation was finished and the computer restarted, I launched Mail again. It opened this time, but crashed in about a minute.

I got fed up. I called Apple’s support line again and said, politely but firmly, that the machine is still under the one-year warranty, the problem is in the OS (Mail is considered part of the OS), and I wanted to be put in touch with someone who could tell me how to fix the problem. After a few clicks and voicemail shuffles, I was connected with Dan, who politely and patiently helped me fix the problem. He spent close to an hour with me and was very courteous throughout.

It was frustrating, because after a while Mail would crash within a few seconds of launch, and there was not even enough time to check the advanced Preferences. Eventually, after eliminating some other possibilities, Dan suggested moving some .plist files from the Library-Mail folder.

That stabilized Mail. I had to re-enter my account settings, but once I did, Dan tested it with an email, which worked fine. I even got all my old emails and folders back!

Lessons learned:

- back up using Time Machine regularly

- be firm but polite about demanding the support you’re entitled to under warranties

- extend the AppleCare protection before the year is out

- take advantage of rebuilding and verifying cycles to do household chores.

1 comment:

  1. Theoretically, my Time Machine does back everything up, but every so often I receive a message that it was unable to back something up. I have no idea what that means, so I tend to ignore those messages. As for Applecare, I would be totally lost without them and I do renew every year. For someone as technologically-challenged as I am, I need all the help I can get. Enjoy your blog and I'll be back!