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 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.
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 Preferences > Users & Groups.
- Click the lock icon and enter your administrator password.
- Click the + sign at the bottom-left corner of the user list.
- Go to System Settings > Users & Groups.
- Click the Add Account button.
- Enter your password if prompted.
Then, after those first three steps in any version of macOS:
- Choose whether to create a Standard or Administrator account (see below). Give it a name, password, and hint, and click Create.
- Choose > Log Out [name].
- At the login screen, select the new account, enter the password, and click the arrow to log in.
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.
After the account is created, you can log into it to see 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 (Monterey or earlier) or System Settings > Network view (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.
How to delete a macOS user account
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 Monterey in step 3 above, click the – sign at the bottom-left corner, choose “Delete the home folder,” click Delete User, and confirm.
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.
Ask Mac 911
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