Did you know that many problems can be isolated by checking with an entirely unconfigured macOS account?
Apple has increasingly made it hard to mess with macOS system files. That’s true whether you intentionally want to extend macOS’s functionality or if a malicious party is trying to install and activate a virus.
However, many system components and all Apple and third-party apps rely on preferences and other files to store your custom settings, caches for work in progress, and other data. If those files corrupt, macOS may be perfectly fine, but you can’t get anything done in an app or your account.
Once you’ve gone through troubleshooting your Mac within your account that doesn’t seem to improve matters, the next big leap before reinstalling macOS is to set up a fresh macOS user account. From this account, you can test hardware, like your Wi-Fi or ethernet adapter; add printers and scanners; or run third-party software that keeps crashing on launch.
Because a fresh account typically contains nothing that would already be corrupted, you can isolate whether a problem is in your everyday user account or a system-wide issue–maybe even hardware related.
Here’s how to set up a fresh, new user account in macOS Ventura:
• Go to System Settings > Users & Groups.
• Click the Add Account button.
• Enter your password if prompted.
Here’s how to set up a fresh, new user account in macOS Monterey and earlier versions of macOS:
• Go to System Preferences > Users & Groups.
• Click the lock icon and enter your administrator password.
• Click the + sign at the bottom-left corner of the user list.
Then, after those first three steps in any version of macOS:
• Choose whether to create a Standard or Administrator account. Give it a name, password, and hint, and click Create. When making the account, what kind should it be?
Create a Standard account if you want to test a problem from the perspective of a user without any extra privileges.
Create an Administrator if that’s your normal account type–that’s typical–and you’re trying to perform an apples-to-apples comparison.
• Choose > Log Out [name].
• At the login screen, select the new account, enter the password, and click the arrow to log in.
Now you can check if your problem persists. For instance, if you can’t get a Wi-Fi adapter to show up in your regular account, this new one should have a fresh set of adapters that represent all the hardware your Mac recognizes. It should pull those into the System Preferences > Network pane (macOS Monterey or earlier) or System Settings > Network view (macOS Ventura). If Wi-Fi doesn’t show up as an adapter in the list, it’s likely a hardware problem, though reinstalling macOS is the next step before a repair shop just in case.
When you’ve debugged your problem, you can get rid of the account. You must be logged in using an Administrator account to do this. (Warning! These steps are irreversible. Choose “Don’t change the home folder” to retain it.)
In Ventura, go to System Settings > Users & Groups, click the i info button next to the account, click Delete Account, enter your administrator password, and click Unlock. Now select “Delete the home folder,” click Delete Account, and confirm.
In Monterey, go to System Preferences > Users & Groups, click the Lock icon to authenticate, select the account you create to debug macOS, click the – sign at the bottom-left corner, choose “Delete the home folder,” click Delete User, and confirm.