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Five Fixes for OS X 10.10 Yosemite

It’s common advice to wait for the X.Y.1 release of a new version of OS X before upgrading, since Apple often fixes bugs that crop up at launch quickly. OS X 10.10.1 Yosemite has been out for a bit now, though, and while it’s working fine for many people, there are still a variety of complaints making the rounds on the Internet (for what was fixed, see “Apple Releases OS X 10.10.1, iOS 8.1.1, and Apple TV 7.0.2,” 17 November 2014). Here then is a collection of five problems and solutions (or at least workarounds) that we’ve either experienced or had reported to us.

If you’re just getting started with Yosemite, be sure to check out Scholle McFarland’s “Yosemite: A Take Control Crash Course” for information about what’s new and how to take advantage of Yosemite’s new features. And remember, since it’s one of our new Crash Courses, you can read it online for free!

1. Miscellaneous Wi-Fi Issues — Since the launch of Yosemite, we’ve heard hundreds of complaints about various Wi-Fi connectivity issues: spotty connections, slow speeds, high latency, and more. We were puzzled by these problems, none of which we experienced personally, but developer Mario Ciabarra believes he has found an explanation for at least some of the problems.

What he discovered is that in Yosemite, Macs are using Bonjour over Apple Wireless Direct Link (AWDL) to discover devices to connect to for AirDrop, AirPlay, and other services. AWDL is a low-latency, high-throughput, peer-to-peer connection that runs over Wi-Fi but has its own dedicated network interface (much like general Wi-Fi or Ethernet). In the past, Bonjour was used only over standard Wi-Fi networks or Bluetooth. But when it works over AWDL, it appears to strain the hardware, hurting performance.

Fortunately, it’s easy to disable AWDL, but the fix also disables AirDrop and requires working at the command line. Copy the line below and, at the command line in Terminal, paste it, press Return, and enter your password. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t persist between reboots, so you’ll have to apply the fix every time you reboot your Mac.)

sudo ifconfig awdl0 down

If you see the error message “ifconfig: interface awdl0 does not exist,” you have older hardware that doesn’t support AWDL.

You can re-enable AWDL and AirDrop without rebooting by entering this line in the Terminal.

sudo ifconfig awdl0 up

2. Save Dialogs Expand Offscreen — Have you ever tried to save a document, only to find that you can’t see the Save button because it’s off the screen? A bug in Yosemite can apparently make Save dialogs grow in height by 22 pixels each time one is opened.

Jason Snell of Six Colors discovered some Terminal commands that reportedly fix the Save dialog, but one of his readers suggested an easier way: hold the Shift key down, hover over the left or right edge of the dialog until the cursor becomes opposing arrows, and then drag inward to shrink the Save dialog.

3. Menu Bar Items Redraw When Switching Displays — Those who use Yosemite on a Mac with multiple displays may be seeing an ugly visual glitch that causes menu bar items to redraw when switching between displays. We anticipate Apple fixing this in an update, but if it really bothers you, Jeff Carlson discovered a workaround: disable “Displays have separate Spaces” in System Preferences > Mission Control. You must log out and back in for this to take effect.

Making this change has numerous side effects, so you need to figure out which behavior you prefer. In fact, with “Displays have separate Spaces” turned off, OS X behaves much like it did before 10.9 Mavericks. The main differences include:

  • You get only a single menu bar on the main display, rather than the active app on each display having its own separate menu bar.

  • Both displays combine to create a single large desktop, and windows can span the gap between displays rather than showing on only one.

  • When you enter a Space on one display, the other display shows a blank screen instead of other apps.

If you don’t like these changes, you’ll have to put up with the visual glitch until Apple gets around to fixing it.

4. Overly Bright UI — One thing Managing Editor Josh Centers noticed after installing Yosemite is how incredibly bright the interface became.

The easy solution is to turn down the brightness in the Displays preference pane (or in your monitor’s settings if you use a third-party monitor). But you might want to look into the free f.lux app, which can automatically adjust brightness and color tone throughout the day. A recent update lets f.lux activate Yosemite’s Dark Mode at sunset.

f.lux is a great app, but if you work in a field where color accuracy is key, be sure to disable it before engaging in graphics work, since f.lux changes color temperature.

Yosemite Performance Problems — Although Yosemite runs on the same Macs as both 10.9 Mavericks and 10.8 Mountain Lion, some of its new features may not work well on Macs on the older end of the spectrum. If you feel that your Mac runs more slowly after upgrading to Yosemite, try these bits of advice:

  • Turn off Yosemite’s whizzy transparency effects by selecting the Reduce Transparency checkbox in System Preferences > Accessibility > Display. (Obligatory nod to those who used Eudora — remember the “Waste CPU cycles drawing trendy 3D junk” setting?)

  • With the new way Safari handles tab overflow in Yosemite, it can be hard to realize just how many tabs you have open. Josh found his Mac getting increasingly sluggish, only to discover that he had hundreds of forgotten Safari tabs open! Closing them restored his Mac’s performance.

  • If you find it takes longer than you’d like to open a new Finder window, it may be because of the Finder preferences setting that has new windows opening to show All My Files. Since that’s essentially a Spotlight search (and not one that makes a ton of sense to us), new Finder windows will appear faster if you select a directory like your home or Documents folder in the General pane of the Finder’s Preferences window.

  • If you use FileVault and are seeing slow boots, complete with a progress bar, you may be able to resolve it by turning FileVault off and back on, running Disk Utility’s Repair Disk function in between. You can find full steps in Topher Kessler’s article on MacIssues.

  • Look in Activity Monitor to see if a particular app is causing your slowdowns by monopolizing the CPU, and see if you can quit it using the X button in the toolbar. Adam Engst’s new iMac with 5K Retina display has been a nice performance boost beyond his old 2008 Mac Pro, so he was perturbed when it became extremely sluggish. Investigation in Activity Monitor revealed a cloudd process that was using 100% of the CPU, and further research linked it to iCloud. Adam turned off each of the services in the iCloud pane of System Preferences, force quitting cloudd after each one, until it stopped relaunching and sucking CPU. The problem seemed to be with Reminders, though turning it back on later didn’t cause cloudd to go nuts again.

  • If all else fails, you may need to back up the Mac, reformat the disk, perform a clean install of Yosemite, and restore your apps and data. This is non-trivial and time-consuming, so it should be a last resort, and you should be sure to have a bootable duplicate as well as a Time Machine backup for safety’s sake. For full instructions, we recommend Plan B in Joe Kissell’s “Take Control of Upgrading to Yosemite.”

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