I've gotten myself into a hell of a mess

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by kenglade, Jan 18, 2009.

  1. kenglade macrumors 6502

    Dec 20, 2008
    I was trying to put custom icons on some of the folder in my dock and something has gone dreadfully wrong. I am unable to open System Preferences or Applications, or Firefox. I get an error message saying they can't be opened because they are in the trash. But I've searched the trash and they are not there.

    How do I restore? Do I need to re-install? if I do that, will I lose other items I've installed on Mac, like my pix?

    Can I get them from the Time Machine since I've hooked up an external drive to use for pix and backup.

    I thought Mac was supposed to be easy. I figured i'd at least get a warning before I made some stupind move. Even Win says "are you sure you want to do this?"

    Many thanks in advance.
  2. rdowns macrumors Penryn


    Jul 11, 2003
  3. kolax macrumors G3


    Mar 20, 2007
    You must have done something else other than just changing a few icons.

    You can do an archive and install, which will preserve all your data while installing OS X again. But if you have Time Machine, just do another backup (if it lets you) then reinstall.

    Before you do that, give us as many details on what you did, as it might be easily reversable.
  4. Horst Guest

    Jan 10, 2006
    Yes, and maybe a screenshot of the dock.

    Did you move any system files, or the application folder, or the system preferences (in Applications) to a different location, renamed any of those ?

    Did you move around icons in the dock, and are you using custom stacks folders ?
  5. AppleMatt macrumors 68000


    Mar 17, 2003
    Create a new user, log in. Does the Dock work for that user or is it also broken?

    If it works on the new user, log back into your user account and delete the following:
    [Your Name]/Library/Preferences/com.apple.dock.db
    [Your Name]/Library/Preferences/com.apple.dock.plist

    Then log out and back in again. Mended?

  6. kenglade thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 20, 2008
    Ah, me, it just seems to be getting worse.

    Apparently I've lost all my applications. I went to Time Machine, clicked on yesterday's backups and opened "Applications." Then I went to several individually, copied them and pasted the icons on the desktop, where they seemed to work okay. Then I tried moving them to the dock and sending the pasted icons to the trash. But when I went back to the dock the programs wouldn't open. The message said they couldn't open because they were in the trash.

    When I tried to move the pasted icons to the toolbar (figuring I'd use it instead of the dock), they wouldn't stick -- just bounced right back to the desktop.

    I have Pogue's "Missing Manual" for Leopard but I haven't been anything in it useful for this situation.


    Sorta. It showed up in the dock as a blank folder so I tried to insert a "home" icon from iconfactory.

    I tried to replace the icon on the existing folder, again with one from iconfactory.
  7. Thomasthetug macrumors newbie

    Jan 18, 2009
    Winterpeg, Manitoba
    Why didn't you use candy bar, its a great program and cheap aswell if you want to purchase, because i thought i was doing something right, BUT i got rid of my finder icon and had to reinstall.
  8. kenglade thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 20, 2008
    Unable to create a new account: Message says System Prefrences can't be opened because it is in the trash.

    I think a reinstall is in my immediate future. Like in the next 10 minutes.
  9. OllyW Moderator


    Staff Member

    Oct 11, 2005
    The Black Country, England
    That's because those "icons" are actually the applications. You should keep them in your applications folder.

    If you want them to be permanently shown on the dock, open the application then right click the icon shown on the dock and select "Keep in Dock".
  10. BlueRevolution macrumors 603


    Jul 26, 2004
    Montreal, QC
    You can use Pacifist to restore only the deleted applications from your install disks. It's a hell of a lot easier than a full reinstall.

    However... if you don't know everything that you've deleted, a reinstall is the way to go. Select archive and install and preserve users and network settings to keep everything the way it is. After that install is done, don't touch anything unless you're very, very sure you know what you're doing. It could have been a lot worse.
  11. kenglade thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 20, 2008
    I've gotten myself into a hell of a mess

    I'll try Pacifist first figuring I can always do a full install.

    Saying not to touch anything is like telling someone not to try a new restaurant. How am I going to learn anything if I don't try.

    Two questions:

    1. If I have to archive and reinstall can I pull some thinggs out of what I have now, like NeoOffice and my Pix editing program or will I need to reinstall those as well?

    2. The "downloads" folder in Leopradshows only files downloaded via Safari. is it possible to make it show files downloaded with Firefox? Or can I keep thsoe ina separate folder that is accessible. As far as i know theyjust disappear after being opened.
  12. BlueRevolution macrumors 603


    Jul 26, 2004
    Montreal, QC
    That's why I say unless you know what you're doing. Find out what you're doing before you do it. In the meantime, stick to McDonald's.

    They should come along for the ride. That's the beauty of archive and install: no need to reinstall your apps. Be sure to pick the bit to preserve users and network settings, though, or there's a lot more work for you.

    In the Firefox preferences, there is an option to select a download folder. By default, it is downloading to your desktop. And no, they don't delete themselves if you choose to download rather than to open.
  13. Horst Guest

    Jan 10, 2006
    Again, did you move or rename the Applications folder ?

    Also, is there an app. called system preferences in your Applications folder ?

    Don't worry about changing icons, they do no harm.
    But if you have changed some other settings in the Get-Info window by mistake, that might.
  14. kenglade thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 20, 2008
    I changed the =icon= on the applications folder but made no other changes in the Get Info window.

    Re System Preferences, yes, but I have to copy it to the desktop. Unable to move the copy to the dock and have it work.
  15. Horst Guest

    Jan 10, 2006
    Well, can you open System Preferences from the Application folder, or Firefox ?

    Also, are you aware the Dock has two parts, one for apps, one for stack folders and trash ?
  16. kenglade thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 20, 2008
    Hoorayy, I've succeeded in getting both Appliacations and System Preferences (and Firefox) back on the dock. Yep, I know about the two parts.

    Tell me, please, why I can't move an icon from the desktop to the dock. It keeps bouncing out. Ditto the toolbar.

    I can go through the applications serially, make copies to the desktop, but then am unable to move from the desktop to the dock.
  17. BlueRevolution macrumors 603


    Jul 26, 2004
    Montreal, QC
    You don't move anything to the Dock. The Dock is just a collection of shortcuts to various applications.

    You have to drag programs to the left side of the dotted line and documents/folders to the right side.
  18. Horst Guest

    Jan 10, 2006
    So there was no problem to begin with ? Sigh ... ;)
  19. Jason S. macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2007
    Just in case some of the things people have been saying confused you, I'm going to try and make it clear for you...

    The icons in the Applications folder are the actual programs. It is not like All Programs in Windows, which is only shortcuts to the actual programs in Program Files. Deleting or moving an icon in the Applications folder deletes or moves the actual application. This is how you uninstall programs in OS X.

    When you want to put an application in the dock, you just drag the icon from the Applications folder to where you want it in the dock. You don't need to do anything else. The icons on the dock are like Shortcuts in Windows. (Shortcuts in OS X are called aliases, by the way.)

    If you decide to move the application file, the dock and any other aliases of the application are smart enough to know where you moved it, but it is highly recommended that you just keep everything in the Applications folder. If you want an icon for an application on your desktop (under the Macintosh HD icon, for example) right click on the application icon in the Applications folder and select Make Alias. Then you can drag the icon made into the Desktop and rename it whatever you want.

    Also, just so you know. If you end up deleting an application completely -- emptying the trash and everything -- and try to open it in the dock, the icon will then be covered with a question mark. That obviously means it can't be found. So if you ever run into that problem, you know what caused it.
  20. kenglade thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 20, 2008
    I've gotten myself into a hell of a mess

    Jason, et al

    I very much appreciate all your suggestions. However, my hole has just gotten deeper and I fear I'm going to have to take it into the shop. The situation now is that I can open the Applications folder but only some of the applications inside it. When I click on "calculator," for example, or, more importantly, "System Preferences," I get the message: "... cannot be opened because it is in the trash." The problem is, neither is in the trash. I have no idea where they are.

    I tried, several times, a 'clean and install" using the Leopard installation disk (I originally upgraded from the original version of Tiger) but each time the installation supposedly is complete it comes back to the same screen (and the same problems) to the condition it was in before the "install."

    I knew I was going to have to go through a learning curve but I didn't appreciate how different Mac is from Windows. I have not yet grasped the concept of Mac logic, e.g. how putting an icon on the front of a folder wipes the contents of the folder. To me, learning Mac it's like learning a complicated mathematical system. Unhappily, the dangers are not explained in any of the literature I have. Nowhere in Pogue's book, for example, does it say to take caution in putting (or changing) an icon on a folder. It just gives simple directions on how to do it without mentioning the potential consequences.

    In any case,It will go in the shop along with my backup disc and the installation discs to see what can be salvaged.

    Again, many thanks to all.
  21. r.j.s Moderator emeritus


    Mar 7, 2007
    Are you changing the icon via the Get Info windows, or by selected the app and hitting paste?

    The second method above does not change the icon, it replaces the folder.

    Also, whatever you do, do not move any apps out of the Applications folder. If you want them in the dock - open the app, find its icon on the dock, right-click and choose Keep in Dock ...
  22. rdowns macrumors Penryn


    Jul 11, 2003
    I think you're correct r.j.s, he is not pasting the new icon on the get info window, he is replacing the app folder itself.

    If that's what he's done, a reinstall is probably the best option.

    OP- to replace an applications icon, you find the icon you want to replace and right click it and select get info. In the window that pops up, you paste the new icon over the old one.
  23. kenglade thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 20, 2008
    I've gotten myself into a hell of a mess

    I'm getting so confused I don't remember the exact sequence. It started out with wanting to replace the icon on my documents folder. I went to Iconfactory.com, downloaded some icons, opened the Get Info window and copied the icon I wanted from the upper left corner. Then I pasted it on the front of the documents folder after opening the folder's Get Info. Since there was nothing in the doc folder yet it was no problem.

    At that point I decided to replace the icon on the Applications folder. I used the same method and switched icons. But when I went to open an application I got a message saying it could not be opened because it was in the trash.

    I opened the trash and couldn't find it or any other applications. I figured no problem, I'll just replace from my Time Machine disc.

    I went into Time Machine and copied the applications from there to the applications folder with the new icon. They seemed to copy okay but when I tried to open a few I got the same message: "cannot be opened because the application is in the trash." Another search of the trash showed no applications.

    I reckoned still no problem. I went to the applications folder in Time Machine and double clicked on several. The response was they could not be opened because of error Code 10627 (whatever that is).

    So I decided to reinstall via "clean and install" using the Leopard CD. It gos through the process but nothing is being installed. At the end, after a restart, the configuration is the same as it was before I ran install.

    I have some 20 years experience on the PC and about 1 month on the Mac, but on Windows I have never experienced a reinstall attempt that didn't work. I don't know what to make of this situation. I'll freely admit I do not yet have a handle on the Mac OS but this is terribly strange. I don't think it is supposed to be behaving this way and I don't have a clue as to why.

    Despite that, I really appreciate your input; I don't feel like I'm completely alone in the wilderness.
  24. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    To the OP

    My advice is to have someone who knows Macs (either a friend or the Apple Store) to actually look at your system. Without being able to actually see what you are describing is becoming a problem, IMO. People here are very good at helping and generous with advice, but I think you and they are using the same words to describe things that have a different meaning to you, and vice versa. As you have noticed Macs and PCs do things differently, and use slightly different words. Changing icons should not have caused problems, so I think something besides changing icons took place.

    One of the differences I noticed about Macs is that "getting under the hood" is actually more dangerous with a Mac, simply because you aren't really supposed to - until you really know what you are doing. And, unlike Windows, there is very little reason to. So keep the hood safely closed for a bit, once you get your system restored. Someone who can see what you've done, and knows what to do should have you and running in short order - but I suggest a hands on guru at this point. Get them to show how to change an icon.
  25. Horst Guest

    Jan 10, 2006
    A few things; there is no Clean and Install option I'm aware of, see here for your options.

    Time Machine backups : AFAIK, you can't just use any files or apps from a TM folder to restore missing ones; someone correct me if I'm wrong, it's a black box for me.

    In your situation, you might want to consider an 'Archive and Install' , checking the box for "Preserve Users and Network Settings" .
    Please read the linked article, it creates a fresh system install, keeps your most important user files, and you'll just have to re-install 3rd party apps.

    And that means re-install from scratch , not using pre-existing program folders.

    One step at a time, please try and let us know what happens.

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