Mac Guide: Top Mistakes to Avoid When Using Your Mac

Welcome to another session of Mac 101. Please settle in, and for those of you enjoying a piece of gum, make sure there’s enough to go around! Today, we’re shifting gears from our usual tips and tricks to focus on a handful of pitfalls that every Mac user should steer clear of to avoid unnecessary headaches.

A bit of background: In 2006, Damien Barrett shared his insights on common mistakes new Mac users make, which sparked a lively discussion. Dan Warne did an excellent job summarizing these points. More recently, Dan Knight at analyzed these discussions further, identifying which mistakes were easily avoidable. While many of these errors are simple user interface misunderstandings, they’re generally not disastrous.

Personally, it doesn’t bother me if users have numerous untitled folders on their desktops, mix up the Safari search box with the URL field, always start URLs with ‘www,’ or mistakenly call Apple Inc.

“Mac.” However, I am concerned when these blunders lead to significant operational issues. Here are some common missteps that can cause real problems:

  1. “Cleaning house.” It might be tempting to reorganize your Home folder by moving the “Documents” folder to the desktop or shuffling the “Library” folder into a “Misc” folder for a cleaner look. However, this can lead to lost preferences and email issues. The default folders in a new user folder are structured that way for a reason. If you’re unsure about the purpose of a folder, it’s safer to create an alias rather than moving it.

    A particularly grave error is renaming your entire home folder, which can disrupt many system processes that rely on specific paths.

  2. Device disconnects. Ignoring the “Device Removal” warning when unplugging iPods or external hard drives is a risky move. Always eject these devices properly using Command-E or by dragging them to the trash. Failure to do so can corrupt data and render drives unmountable.

  3. Hard shutdowns. Some users adopt the bad habit of forcefully shutting down their Macs by holding down the power button, a method they might have seen used in emergencies. However, this should be a last resort. Normal shutdowns from the Apple menu allow the system to perform necessary cleanups, which are skipped during a hard shutdown.

  4. Moving Microsoft Office. Relocating applications like Microsoft Office can disrupt their functionality.


    Anthony is a dedicated writer for TUAW, bringing readers the latest news and insights about Apple products. With a keen eye for detail, Anthony covers everything from the newest iPhone releases to the latest updates on the MacBook Pro and Apple Watch. His articles are known for their clarity and depth, making complex tech topics accessible to everyone. When he’s not writing, Anthony enjoys exploring new features on his iPad and staying ahead of the curve in the ever-evolving world of Apple technology.