Troubleshooting macOS: Use a fresh new user account to isolate the problem
Apple has increasingly made it difficult to mess with macOS system files. That’s true whether you intentionally want to extend the functionality of macOS or if a malicious party tries 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 these files are corrupt, macOS may be perfectly fine, but you won’t be able to get anything done in an app or your account.
Once you’ve gone through troubleshooting your account that doesn’t seem to improve matters, the next big leap before reinstalling macOS is to set up a new macOS user account. From this account, you can test hardware, such as the Wi-Fi or Ethernet adapter; add printers and scanners; or run third-party software that keeps crashing on startup.
Because a fresh account usually doesn’t contain anything that would already be broken, you can isolate whether a problem is in your daily user account or a system-wide problem—perhaps even hardware-related.
How to create a new macOS user account
Here’s how to set up a fresh, new user account in Monterey and earlier versions of macOS:
- Go to System selection > Users and groups.
- Click the lock icon and enter your administrator password.
- Click on the + sign at the bottom left of the user list.
- Go to System settings > Users and groups.
- click on add Account button.
- Enter your password if prompted.
So, after the first three steps in any version of macOS:
- Choose whether you want to create a standard or administrator account (see below). Give it a name, password and hint, and click Create.
- Select > Log out [name].
- On the login screen, select the new account, enter the password and click the arrow to log in.
When you create the account, what type should it be?
- Create a standard account if you want to test an issue from a user’s perspective without additional privileges.
- Create an admin if that’s your regular account type – it’s typical – and you’re trying to do an apples-to-apples comparison.
After the account is created, you can log into it to see if the problem persists. For example, if you can’t get a Wi-Fi adapter to show up in your regular account, this new one should have a new set of adapters that represent all the hardware your Mac recognizes. It should pull these into System Preferences > Network Route (Monterey or earlier) or System Settings > Network View (Ventura). If Wi-Fi doesn’t appear as an adapter in the list, it’s likely a hardware problem, but reinstalling macOS is the next step before a repair shop to be safe.
How to delete a macOS user account
Once you troubleshoot the problem, you can get rid of the account. You must be logged in with an administrator account to do this. (Warning! These steps are irreversible. Select “Do not change home folder” to keep it.)
In Monterey in step 3 above, click the — sign at the bottom left, select “Delete Home Folder”, click Delete userand confirm.
In Ventura, go to System settings > Users and groupsclick on in the info button next to the account, click Delete accountenter the administrator password and click Unlock. Now select “Delete home folder”, click Delete accountand confirm.
Ask Mac 911
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