Why is my Mac acting like these programs are running for the first time?
May 26, 2010 5:01 AM   Subscribe

Why is my Mac acting like these programs are running for the first time?

This has been hard for me to search because I can't concisely describe the problem...

One of the first things I noticed was Google Chrome closing and then Firefox (and a few other programs) not starting up at all. Then I tried Safari and it gave the whole "Welcome!" intro even though it's definitely not the first time. After restarting a few times, I went to start Excel and it asked for all the info like on installing MS Office for the first time (i.e. Enter your first name here, your last name here... You need to set up MS Office to use Excel... etc...)

It's the only Mac I've ever had, MacBook Pro OS X 10.6.3

Any idea what's going on? or any other info needed?
posted by and1 to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Does it do the same thing every time you start these programs, or was it just one time for each? Either way, the issue resides within /users/yourname/Library/Preferences. When you start an application for the first time, it creates a preference list (.plist) file related to the app in this folder.

If this folder were, for example, accidentally moved to another location, or the relevant files deleted, when the application starts for the next time it will find no .plist file in the location it expects, and therefore believe it is starting up for the first time, and create a new file in that location with the default settings.

On the other hand, if the applications are doing this every time they start up it means that they are for one reason or another unable to read the settings files correctly.

If the former is the case, you can either go hunting for wherever your original .plist files are (and if you use Mail I would highly recommend this because otherwise you'll have to set up any mail accounts in the app all over again); if the latter, it will require more extensive troubleshooting.
posted by fearnothing at 5:17 AM on May 26, 2010

My immediate suspicion is that you have new versions of said programmes. If, through Software Update or other means, you update ITunes, Safari, etc. you will be asked to go through the rigmarole again. The same will apply to MS Office programmes if you have the Microsoft automatic update feature and you update an Office programme. My experience is that FF does not normally do this but will take you to a page telling you how wonderful FF is, with links to what has been updated, though it may do more with a major update. So have you, knowingly or unknowingly, updated these apps?
posted by TheRaven at 5:21 AM on May 26, 2010

whoops, missed half a sentence; you can either go hunting for where your orignal .plist files are, or you can just let the apps re-create their default preferences and carry on without doing anything.

If the latter is the case, I could probably help you (given that I used to do Apple tech support) but if you have telephone support coverage, that would be a much more convenient method and the people there would be more in practice and trained on any changes that have been made since I left.
posted by fearnothing at 5:22 AM on May 26, 2010

Is it possible that you're opening these from a mounted image, and not from the application file?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:19 AM on May 26, 2010

You didn't rename your home directory did you? It is way too easy to do on accident, and will have a similar result to what you are experiencing.
posted by palacewalls at 9:55 AM on May 26, 2010

Disclaimer: Never used a Mac. But I do have experience with Unix and Linux.*

I've seen this behaviour in Linux, it was after I'd logged in as root and used Firefox absent-mindedly to read an html file while I was there. (I haven't logged in as root for a few years now, I use sudo instead.)

Basically just using root had changed the permissions for Firefox, so they were messed-up. The installation was sort of halfway through being normal-user and root-user. Sometimes it would appear newly-installed. Other times it simply wouldn't work. I had to delete all traces of it as root, then reinstall and make sure never to do that again!

Could something like this have happened? Have you inadvertently changed a setting (of Firefox's) as root? Could somebody else?

*I know this was Linux not Mac but the underpinnings are as I'm sure you know, very similar, both being *nix-y. They both follow Unix permissions model.
posted by blue funk at 11:54 AM on May 26, 2010

... of Firefox's... (and a few other programs) Basically could it be a permissions thing. Could you or someone else have logged in or given permission, as another user.
posted by blue funk at 5:24 PM on May 26, 2010

oh, here's another basic troubleshooting step: create a new user account in OSX (system preferences-->accounts-->click the little lock to unlock, enter your password-->click the plus in the lower left-hand corner-->change "new account" type from "standard" to "administrator" (don't worry about a password), call it something like "iPhone Testing".

Log out of your account and log into the iPhone Testing account and test it there. If it works, you know it's something up with your user account.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:53 AM on August 6, 2010

oh crap, i meant to post that in your iPhone question.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:02 AM on August 6, 2010

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