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Articles: The Mysterious Case of the InsomniMac

Looking for Clues

A couple of weeks ago, a customer called in with a technical problem: his iMac wouldn’t stay asleep.

Computers are temperamental. If I’ve learned anything in the past twenty years working with technology, it’s that. Software that works fine on 99% of machines, won’t work on another. Same OS. Same configs. Same everything, really.

This iMac wasn’t only temperamental, the poor thing was an insomniMac. It must’ve been exhausted! Never sleeping. Working continuously. I felt for the poor iMac and its frustrated user.


As in all cases, I start trying to figure out the problem using the P A I R method:

  1. Probe: ask the customer questions to determine possible causes and when the problem started

  2. Assess: use documentation, research, and knowledge to find an appropriate starting place.

  3. Isolate: by process of elimination, moving from simple to more complex, isolate the problem. Check the absurdly obvious first.

  4. Resolve: fix the issue over the phone if at all possible, otherwise, recommend service or return.

Finding a Fix

First, as in many cases with temperamental machines, I first had the customer remove all peripherals. Many times there is incompatible hardware attached to the computer, which causes a plethora of issues.

No go.

Next, we ensured that “wake for network” was unchecked in System Preferences > Energy Saver.

It was.

We even ensured that Google Chrome wasn’t doing some crazy things, which on some machines it does even though it works on 99% of them, as I said above. Go figure.

Finally, we reset the PRAM and SMC, two go-to fixes that work with an amazing amount of performance and power issues, respectively. (See my article on PRAM/SMC.)


Since it was still my first month here, I ran everything by my supervisor in service to ensure I didn’t miss anything before recommending a return. He came up with the solution….


Tricky Little Mouse

When we removed all peripherals, we didn’t remove the mouse! Something I wouldn’t think to remove as it’s usually not included when removing peripherals. For some reason, this temperamental machine was detecting mouse movement when there was no mouse movement! The user tried another mouse, and VOILA….

The insomniMac finally got some rest.


ChristineChristine is a Technical Support Specialist and Content Writer for PowerMax. Follow her articles as she takes you “Behind the Sasquatch: A Look Inside PowerMax,” an inside look at the day-to-day operations from the perspective of a Woman in Tech. She’ll also post great Tech Tips, helping you get the most of your Mac apps as well as write about some common technical issues and how to fix them. Finally, Christine will periodically post some Tutorials that teach readers how to do things like make podcasts and iPhone apps. Find what you’re looking for in the categories on the right. 

If you have a tech question or issue, please don’t hesitate to contact Christine for help.

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