Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

Readers ask about the feasibility of fixing a broken MacBook trackpad, and other Mac-related questions.

MacFixIt Answers is a feature in which I answer Mac-related questions e-mailed in by our readers.

This week, readers wrote in with questions about Spotlight not being able to find files that are known to exist in a user's account, options for adding 16GB of RAM to older MacBook Pro systems, and options for troubleshooting and fixing a broken trackpad in a MacBook. I welcome views from readers, so if you have any suggestions or alternative approaches to these problems, please post them in the comments!

Question: Spotlight not finding files
MacFixIt reader Mike asks:

I can't figure out how to make Spotlight find files that I know exist. I've read the help files, but I still can't figure it out. This is very frustrating.

Answer:
If Spotlight is not indexing your files then you may need to force it to re-index the drive. To do this, open the Spotlight system preferences and select the Privacy tab, then drag your hard drive to the list and then remove it, which should spur the system to clear and rebuild its Spotlight index. The rebuild might take a while; however, when finished it should allow you to find files.

You can also try some of the tips in this article to further refine searches in the Spotlight menu. Do keep in mind that Spotlight will only locate files accessible to your account, so it will not include system files and files in other users' accounts.


Question: Adding 16GB RAM to an older MacBook Pro
MacFixIt reader Chris asks:

I just found your article titled, "Add 16GB RAM to your MacBook Pro" dated October 25, 2011 and would like to be hopeful that I could employ the same strategy with my older MBP from '08 with a 2.4 GHz Intel Code 2 processor.

Apple claims the max memory for my device is 4GB. I use Fusion and often have several programs open in OSX. FYI, I just upgraded my OS to Mountain Lion.

Could I install 8GB or 16GB of memory so long as I use 8GB 1066MHz DDR3 (PC3-8500) - 2x4GB SO-DIMMs or 16GB 1066MHz DDR3 (PC3-8500) - 2x8GB SO-DIMMs?

Answer:
Support for 16GB RAM or higher depends on features of the system's motherboard, such as the number of memory registers available to it. In newer systems even though Apple officially supported 8GB RAM maximum, the systems in fact were capable of supporting 16GB, so users could simply make use of this by adding larger RAM modules. For earlier systems there are hardware limits that set the maximum to 8GB or less, so even if you successfully install 16GB and boot the system, it will only be able to see 8GB of what you've provided.

The 16GB capability is only available to the models listed in this article and later.

To look up your model number, open the System Information utility and select the Hardware category, where you will see your model number listed as MacBookPro8,1 or similar.


Question: Troubleshooting and fixing a broken trackpad
MacFixIt reader Julie asks:

I have a MacBook (aluminum but not Pro, from early 2009, I think), and the track pad has stopped clicking. Is there a way to fix this, or to get and install a replacement?

Answer:
First make sure the issue is hardware-based, by booting to the OS X installer drive (DVD or Recovery HD partition in Lion or Mountain Lion) and then seeing if mouse clicks register properly when using the trackpad. You can also attach any third-party mouse to your system and see whether or not the mouse works when the trackpad is not working. If the trackpad does work properly in an alternative boot environment then you might look at any third-party tools you may have installed (especially those that augment or otherwise manage mouse, keyboard, and trackpad inputs) and try uninstalling them.

You can also try general troubleshooting steps to better isolate when and how the problem occurs, and additionally try some general maintenance routines to clear out system caches and other temporary items from your system that may contribute to the problem.

If the problem is consistent even when booted in Safe Mode and to the OS X installer, then it suggests a hardware fault, in which case you will need to have the system serviced.

While you can attempt a fix yourself using guides such as those from iFixIt.com, replacing the trackpad is a fairly in-depth procedure and may result in breaking other components if you are not careful.

Here is a guide for the 13-inch 2009 MacBook Pro that shows how the trackpad is removed.



Questions? Comments? Have a fix? Post them below or e-mail us!
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