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Documentation / Mathematica / Getting Started / System-Specific Information / Troubleshooting /

Troubleshooting on Mac OS X

Check the Technical Support web pages for further assistance at

If you do not find the information you need, please contact Technical Support. Include your license number in all correspondence. The license number is located on your license certificate. It also is available after installation by clicking Mathematica RightTriangleAbout Mathematica.

You must be a registered customer in order to receive installation support. You must have a current Premier Service subscription in order to receive technical support.

Installation difficulties

If you are unable to copy the Mathematica application to your hard drive, you may not have write privileges to the destination folder. Copy the application to another location, such as your home folder, or log on as administrator.

If problems persist or for late-breaking news, check the FAQ for your platform at


When you first installed Mathematica 5.0 for Mac OS X, you probably noticed that there was a single icon rather than a folder full of other folders, as was the case with Mathematica for Mac OS 9 and earlier. This is because the icon is both an application and a folder.

In the Finder, you can double-click the icon to launch Mathematica, just like a normal application. If you ControlKey-click the icon, a pop-up menu appears that allows you to show the contents of the bundle, revealing the folder structure underneath. Apple usually calls these packages. To avoid confusion with Mathematica application packages, they are called bundles in this guide.

Optimizing available memory

Close notebooks when you are finished with them.

Clear the Clipboard by copying something small to replace large data. Or, use Edit RightTrianglePaste As RightTrianglePaste and Discard instead of Paste.

If you only need to edit a notebook, run the front end without starting the kernel.

Set your monitor to fewer colors.

Save notebooks after large results and plots.

To reduce memory use in the kernel:

Use a setting such as $HistoryLength=10 to limit the number of stored input and output lines.

Use Remove[vars] to remove any unnecessary variables.

Use the command Share periodically to share the storage of common subexpressions.

Window title bars

When you make changes to a file, the red Close button changes to indicate that the file has been changed since the file was last saved.


Pathnames now use a POSIX-style forward slash instead of the older Macintosh colon. The root of the system is designated by / on Mac OS X (Mac OS 9 shows the disk name), and the current directory on Mac OS X is . (a period), where Mac OS 9 uses : (a colon).

Front End Preferences

Front end preferences, such as the names of recent palettes and style sheets or the locations of recently opened and saved files, are stored in a front end initialization file called init.m. These preferences are stored in three folders-FrontEnd, Kernel, and Licensing-in the ~user/Library/Mathematica folder.

If you want to restore the default settings for your preferences, drag the init.m file out of ~user/Library/Mathematica/FrontEnd and restart the front end. The init.m file will be rebuilt automatically.

The most convenient way to reset the front end preferences to their default values is to hold down ShiftKeyKeyBarOptionKey during startup. This will cause the initialization file to be rebuilt automatically.


Information about your Mathematica system layout, such as the locations of text resource files and Help Browser files, are stored in caches. These caches are located in the directory specified by $UserBaseDirectory. To find the exact location of $UserBaseDirectory on your machine, evaluate the command $UserBaseDirectory in a notebook.

A corrupted cache may cause the front end to produce an error or quit immediately on startup. The most convenient way to restore the caches to their default values is to hold down ShiftKeyKeyBarOptionKey during startup. This will cause the Mathematica caches and the initialization file to be rebuilt automatically.

If you want to rebuild your caches but retain your preferences, hold down ShiftKey during startup. This will delete and rebuild the cache without rebuilding your front end intialization file.


Bitmap caches are created for graphics to allow for quick retrieval of images. If you change the settings in /Applications/System Preferences/Display, graphics may appear strange. To rerender all graphics after changing any setting to your monitor, select the graphics and use Cell RightTriangleRerender Graphics.

Standard application packages

If you are unable to load any standard application packages, make sure that the packages have been installed. Make sure a backquote (`) is used in the leading command as in


The backquote character is usually located with the ~ character on the upper left-hand side of the keyboard.

Connecting to remote kernels

In order to connect to a remote kernel, you must be able to connect via rsh without a password into the machine running the kernel.

File extensions

Mac OS X can work with several different file systems, including HFS/ HFS+ (the native Macintosh file system), Unix File System (UFS), and Network File System (NFS).

If you save a file on a non-HFS/HFS+ volume, you must name the file with a .nb extension to have Mathematica launch when you double-click the file's icon. On an HFS or HFS+ volume, the extension is optional.

Front end command-line options

-cleanStart. Tells the front end to ignore caches stored in the user's preferences directory, $UserBaseDirectory/FrontEnd/5.0 Caches, and rebuilds the front end global preferences storage file, $UserBaseDirectory/FrontEnd/init.m.

-mathLink. Causes the front end to run in MathLink mode. In MathLink mode, the front end runs as a child process that is capable of accepting MathLink packets. This option may be useful when the front end is used as a typesetting or graphics rendering service.

-singleLaunch. Allows only one copy of the front end per display.

Kernel command-line options

-initfile. Lists the name of a file that contains commands that should be run on startup.

-initpath. Is followed by a path to search for an initialization file called init.m.

-mathlink. Specifies that the kernel should be run in MathLink mode. In MathLink mode, the front end runs as a child process that is capable of accepting MathLink packets. This option may be useful when the front end is used as a typesetting or graphics rendering service.

-noinit. Specifies that no initialization file should be read at startup.

-password. Takes one argument, which should be a valid password. The argument should have the form "machine MathID licensenumber password".

-pwfile. Specifies the name of a file that has a valid password.

-pwpath. Specifies a path to search for a file called mathpass, which stores a valid password.

-run. Is followed by a command to run immediately on startup.


Several Mathematica fonts are installed in the Mathematica bundle. After you run the front end for the first time, the fonts will be available to any program on your system. You do not need to know which font a particular character is from in order to use it; this is handled automatically by Mathematica.