OS X: How to View Log Files

   Posted November 2, 2008 by David Kirk in Apple Mac

If your OS X system is acting flakey, checking out the log files is a great place to start your exploration of what is going wrong. Here is where to find your log files in OS X.

Like most operating systems, OS X has a ton of stuff running that is hidden to the user. Examining the constantly updated log files is a great way to tune and debug your system.

The quickest way to get started is by opening the Console application found in OS X 10.5 and later. This can be found through Spotlight or through the Applications -> Utilities folder.

Tens of hundreds of log files will be visible. Here are a few good ones to start exploring…

system.log describes issues regarding your whole system. DNS, networking, and Adium messages frequently appear here for me.

mail.log is occasionally useful when trying to get the Mail application straightened out.

CrashReporter logs are very important in debugging any crash within a specific application.

os x view error logs console

This is just a few of the log files that are being updated currently on your system right now. Console is a great tool to view them. Enjoy exploring the inner workings of your system.


About David Kirk

David Kirk is one of the original founders of tech-recipes and is currently serving as editor-in-chief. Not only has he been crafting tutorials for over ten years, but in his other life he also enjoys taking care of critically ill patients as an ICU physician.
View more articles by David Kirk

The Conversation

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  • Anonymous

    Hi everyone,

    I’m a danish student with no technical knowledge. For 8 months ago my mac computer was stolen and a few days ago I recived a message from the police that they have found the mac. The police doesn’t want to go further in that case (typical danish thing). My question is now: Is it possible to view any kind of log files from the computer to track it to where the thief lives (in case that the computer was connected to internet) etc?
    Please let me know if it is possible

    • steve

      it’s possible that there may be an IP address in there somewhere, this may show an area, and narrow things down a bit for you. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s anything else which may help – someone else may be able to offer more info on log files.

  • http://www.aexm.fr/ informatique grenoble

    is there a way to know what OS have been used from files

    like .log or others files ?

    am looking for a way to identify OS revision from files without terminal or logs when there are not available (backup, system default, crash …)



  • Tom Patrick

    HI, Should we not clear these log files on timely basis so as to free some hard drive space?

  • Matt Wills

    I repeatedly get an error message saying the disk I inserted cannot be read. Problem is that I did not insert anything, and clicking “Eject” does nothing. I am hesitant to click “Initialize.”

    Is there a specific log that would tell me what disk it is referring to?

    • Daniel

      > Isn’t tens of hundreds just thousands?