Mac preference errors: There’s a fix

macOS System Preferences is where you configure your Mac to run the way you want it to. Whether you’re creating new user accounts, making changes to network settings, or editing notifications or permissions for apps, it’s all done in System Preferences. It works just fine most of the time, but occasionally you may see error messages, and parts of System Preferences refuse to work. Here is how to fix Mac preferences errors.

What are preferences?

They are settings that either apply across the whole of your user account or in specific apps. Those that apply across your account are set in System Preferences, while those that apply only to a single app are set in the Preferences menu for that app.

Tip:

"Command⌘-Comma" combination opens Preferences for whatever app you’re using.

What kind of errors can occur in System Preferences?

The system repeatedly asks for your ID

In System Preferences, the most recent example of an error was when some users found that they were repeatedly asked for their Apple ID and password and then their iCloud password and got stuck in a loop where the passwords were correct, but the dialog box wouldn’t disappear.

Error with Security & Privacy pane

Another error was where some users could not load the Security & Privacy preferences pane.

The Security & Preferences privacy preferences pane performs many functions. One of them is to allow you to control the access applications on your Mac have to your camera and microphone, screen recording, and other features that could compromise your privacy.

Tip:

If you’re not sure which apps have access to your camera or mic, you can check it with CleanMyMac X. This popular Mac maintenance app has a control panel that manages access to your sensitive services. This tool is called Application Permissions. You can find it in the Privacy tab in CleanMyMac X (if you run macOS Catalina).

CleanMyMac X - Application permissions
  1. Download the free version of CleanMyMac X.
  2. Choose the Privacy module and press Scan.
  3. Click Applications Permissions and the dropdown arrow next to an app to see what it has permission to access.
  4. To remove access, check the box next to the feature and press Remove.



    How to fix Mac preferences errors

    If you see the message ‘Preferences error: There was an error in AppleID preferences’ here’s what to do.

    Check Apple’s system status here. That will tell you whether the Apple ID service is available and working properly. If it’s not, wait a while and try again.

    How to check Apple system status

    If Apple’s system status reports that Apple ID is working, try logging out of your account on your Mac and then log back in again.

    1. Click on the Apple menu and choose System Preferences.
    2. Select Apple ID.
    3. Choose Overview and then Sign Out.
    4. To Sign in again, repeat steps 1-3 and click Sign In.
    How to fix Apple ID error

    If that doesn’t get rid of the error message, the next step is to change your Apple ID password hoping that it resets the whole thing.

    1. Go to the Apple ID website.
    2. Log into your Apple ID – you may see a dropdown window prompting you to type in your Mac login password, or you may have to use two-step verification depending on how you have your account set up.
    3. In the Security section, choose Change Password.
    4. Follow the instructions and type in your current password and then your new password.
    5. Type in the new password again to confirm, and then press Change Password.

    Now use your new password to log into your AppleID in System Preferences on your Mac.

    How to fix ‘could not load iCloud preference pane’

    This is a less common Mac preferences error, but it has affected several older versions of macOS that still had an iCloud preferences pane. The solution is to remove one small plist file from your Library folder so that System Preferences has to create a new one.

    How to find that .plist file

    1. In the Finder, click on the Go menu and choose Go to Folder.
    2. Type ~/Library in the box.
    3. Select the Preferences folder and locate the file: com.apple.systempreferences.plist
    4. Drag the plist file to your desktop and close the folder.
    5. Try to access the iCloud preferences pane again.

    What causes most errors on Mac

    Your macOS creates tons of temporary data every second. These are logs and cache files that ensure all apps are communicating with each other. But they are also the source of errors. That’s why “Refresh the page,” and similar methods are so effective.

    How to delete hidden cache files

    As we said, sometimes system-wide errors may be caused by outdated cache files. They are hidden, but you can delete them with a special tool.

    It’s 3.88 GB of useless system junk that CleanMyMac X found on my Mac.

    You can check it for your computer when you download the trial version of CleanMyMac X. BTW; this app is notarized by Apple.

    Most of the time, System Preferences just works. However, occasionally it behaves strangely or even fails to load properly. The most common error is related to Apple ID, where the system repeatedly asks for your login password then your iCloud password and seems to get stuck in a loop. If you follow the steps in this article, though, you should fix it quickly. And remember, you can also use CleanMyMac X to do some of the jobs you would normally do in System Preferences.

    Laptop with CleanMyMac
    CleanMyMac X

    Your Mac. As good as new.