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by Tom Nelson

Disk Utility, the all-purpose tool for working with storage devices connected to the Mac, has long had the ability to create partitions and manage the resulting volumes. It has been the go-to tool for formatting a Mac’s drives, erasing data, securely wiping information, and creating multiple partitions.

With the advent of OS X Leopard, Disk Utility picked up a much-prized feature: the ability to non-destructively resize existing volumes and partitions. Before OS X Leopard, you needed to fully back up all the data on a drive if you intended to alter the drive’s partition map in any way. That’s because changing the partitions, by adding, removing, or resizing, resulted in the loss of all data on the volume.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Thankfully, you can now resize a partition without losing data, provided you follow a few basic rules.

Resizing was pretty straightforward with OS X Leopard through OS X Yosemite, but starting with OS X El Capitan, Disk Utility underwent a user interface makeover that altered how partitions were resized.

We’re going to look at how to resize a partition without losing data with the new (OS X El Capitan and later) version of Disk Utility.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

The Mac OS is chock full of hidden areas where data, information, or features have been secreted away from Mac users. One of these clandestine locations is the users library folder, commonly written out as ~/Library/.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

What’s In Your Library?
Although hidden, the users library folder contains quite a lot of useful information. This is one of the places where apps tend to keep any necessary support files. It’s also a preferred location for preference files used by apps to customize their user interface to meet your needs.

The ~/Library folder may also contain logs, preference panes, printers, screen savers, and fonts. Essentially, the users library folder can contain any application- or service-related information that is specific to a user. As an example, consider the Safari browser. It stores individual preference files in each user’s library folder. This allows each user to customize Safari independently of the others, without requiring multiple copies of the Safari app to be installed.

Why Hide the ~/Library Folder?
The users library folder hasn’t always been hidden. It used to be just another folder in a user’s home directory, readily available from the Finder. That changed when Apple released OS X Lion, and the ~/Library folder was banished from the Finder.

We don’t know Apple’s reason for removing the ~/Library folder from sight, but we can guess: Apple support was tired of calls from users complaining about various apps no longer working, or acting strangely. In many cases, tech support was probably able to trace the problem to app support files in the users library folder being deleted or manipulated without authorization, so to speak.

Hiding the ~/Library folder was an easy, and effective, solution.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Passwords. They’re one of the banes of modern life. I know I should be using unique and strong passwords for every account or service I use. But when you consider that the minimum requirements for a strong password can include:

  • 12 or more characters
  • Lowercase, uppercase, numbers, and symbols
  • No character repetition, use of a keyboard pattern (such as qwertyasdfg), dictionary words, character sequences, pet names, relatives, usernames, or romantic interests

It’s enough to make my head explode, just thinking about trying to remember all the passwords I would need. That’s why I gave up a while ago, and moved on to using a password manager to keep track of my login details for me.

Password Managers
Nowadays, a password manager is a must-have app. Your Mac even comes with Keychain Access, an app for making use of the Mac’s Keychain manager for storing passwords, certificates, and even encrypted notes. Keychain simplifies password management for Mac-based services and apps, such as Mail. But while it does a great job of handling system-related passwords, it’s not the friendliest password manager for general use.

That’s where third-party password managers come into play. In this guide, we’re going to look at some of the popular password managers available for the Mac, and other computing devices you may use.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

1Password
Currently at version 6, 1Password may be the most well-known password manager for the Mac. And why not; it’s been around for ages, has an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand user interface, and eliminates the burden of keeping track of a gazillion passwords, allowing you to use large, very strong passwords without the need to memorize any password except the one that lets you access the 1Password app.

1Password keeps your data safe, stored in encrypted vaults using AES-256 encryption and PBKDF2 key derivation. Everything in your 1Password vault is encrypted; passwords, notes, website names, and URLS. If it’s placed in the vault, only you can see the information.

1Password stores and can auto-fill web forms with login, credit card, and other information you choose to store within the app. Generating a new highly secure password couldn’t be easier with the included password generator. You can choose from a number of “recipes” for generating a password, which allows you to adjust the complexity to meet a site’s password requirements.

1Password isn’t just for web-based logins. A large number of apps also support 1Password, allowing you to automatically log in to Twitter, Dropbox, Slack, Buffer, eBay, and more.

1Password also includes a security audit that goes well beyond the basics offered by other password managers. Besides checking for weak or duplicate passwords, and making sure passwords get changed in a timely fashion, 1Password also keeps track of websites that have had security breaches and checks to see if you have an account for that website in 1Password. If so, the security audit will catch the problem and let you know to change the password associated with the site.

1Password is available not only for the Mac, but just about every platform you may use. And it can keep all your devices synced to ensure that a new login you create on your Mac is available from any of the devices on which you’re running 1Password.

1Password supports unlimited installation on devices you use, so there’s no reason to be carrying around pieces of paper with your login information anymore.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

The Mac comes equipped with a number of apps, including Safari, Mail, Photos, Calendar, Contacts, and many more, that are used every day by most Mac users.

There’s also a class of apps known as utilities that are often overlooked by both new and well-seasoned Mac users. That’s why this week, we’re going to look at utility apps everyone should be aware of.

Mac Utility Apps
For the most part, the utilities we mention come with a Mac, meaning you don’t need to find and download them; they’re already present, although a few are well hidden. But we’re not going to limit our look at utilities to just those available from Apple. Many third-party developers have created very useful utilities that either supplement an existing Apple utility or provide new capabilities or services.

The utilities mentioned in this guide have all been tested with macOS Sierra, and we expect they’ll work with newer versions of the Mac OS as well. These utilities have all worked with previous versions of the Mac OS, but we didn’t research when they first became available.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Activity Monitor
One of the utilities I use most often, Activity Monitor, is available at /Applications/Utilities/. I have Activity Monitor configured to start automatically at startup, and show disk activity in the app’s Dock icon. You can also set the Dock icon to display CPU usage and network traffic. Surprisingly, Activity Monitor’s Dock icon can’t display memory usage, something it was able to do in previous versions. Thankfully, there are quite a few third-party apps that can monitor memory usage, which we’ll get into shortly.

Activity Monitor displays real-time, or close to real-time, status about how your Mac’s resources are being used; specifically, CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk, and Network resources. Activity Monitor provides access to each category through a tab interface on its toolbar.

Ever wonder which app is hogging your CPU resources, making your Mac feel sluggish? Activity Monitor can tell you with the click of the CPU tab, letting you know the percentage of CPU power being used, how much CPU time a particular app is using, and a number of other useful bits of information.

Activity Monitor can also let you know how your memory is being used, and can be used to help you decide whether additional memory would be helpful. The Energy tab can let you know which apps and processes are sucking the most life from a laptop’s battery, while the Disk tab shows you which apps are using your disk resources the most. And finally, the Network tab lets you know which apps are network hogs; it also provides an overall look at network performance.

Activity Monitor can also kill apps and processes that are running, as well as display information about a running app, including which files are currently in use. In addition, Activity Monitor includes a number of diagnostics that can help pinpoint problems with your Mac, specifically, System Diagnostics and Spotlight Diagnostics.

Most of these diagnostic reports are geared toward helping developers and Apple support personnel troubleshoot problems, either with your Mac or a specific app. If you would like to try out the diagnostics, open Activity Monitor, then click on the gear menu and select Run System Diagnostics. Once the diagnostics are completed, a Finder window will open and show you a zipped file that, when expanded, contains a number of text files showing the results of all the diagnostics that were run.

If you need to kill a runaway process, simply select the process from the list, and then click the kill button (it looks like an X in a stop sign).

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

There may come a time when you want to completely remove all traces of information on your Mac’s drives. It may be because you’re selling or donating your Mac, and you want all your personal information wiped clean from the drive. Or perhaps you want to wipe an older drive that you’re replacing because it’s too small, or because it has started to show a few errors when you test the drive.

No matter the reason, wiping a drive is an easy – though sometimes very long – process that just about any Mac user can take care of on their own.

So, if it’s so easy, why the need for this guide? Well, while the process is simple, there are some important considerations to understand that will affect how you erase your Mac’s drive.

secureeraseyosemite1280

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Using Disk Utility to Wipe a Hard Drive
First, we’re going to look at wiping the contents of a hard drive. It doesn’t matter if it’s an internal, external, or your Mac’s startup drive; using these techniques you can obliterate the contents of the selected drive, making it all but impossible to recover the data.

These methods will work for any hard drive you may be using with your Mac. They should not, however, be used with any SSD (Solid State Drive), including a Fusion drive, which contains an SSD element. Don’t worry, though; SSDs can also be wiped, they just require a different technique. We’ll cover SSDs a bit later in this guide.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

I’ve waited impatiently for Siri to come to the Mac, which always seemed to me to be an ideal environment for the soft-spoken virtual assistant to take up residence on. Not only does Siri work well on the Mac, the Mac version of Siri brings new capabilities and features. After all, Siri on iOS devices is limited a bit, because of the available processing power, storage, and memory on an iPhone or iPad.

sirimaccommands

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

In addition, the Mac has quite a few more peripherals available that could benefit from using Siri as an interface element.

“Siri, print and collate six copies of the file 2017 quarterly report”

Siri may not be quite up to that command yet, but it may not be too far off. With the power available in your Mac, it would be easy enough for Siri to recognize “print” as a command to open the default app for the file named “2017 quarterly report” and then print out the number of copies requested. Collating could be a service offered by the printer.

Although Siri doesn’t recognize “print” yet, there’s already a way available to use a voice command to print from an application. You can find details in the Control Your Mac With Voice Commands guide.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

You’ve been diligent about maintaining up-to-date backups of your Mac’s data by using Time Machine, but there’s a nagging worry in the back of your mind. How do you know the backups are any good?

That’s a good question, and one we should all ask about our backups. There are a number of ways to make sure your Time Machine backups are in good shape, and we’re going to cover most of them in this guide.

Before we move on to checking the state your backups are in, there’s an important demarcation in Time Machine technology to be aware of; a line in the sand, if you will. Time Machine backups created in OS X Yosemite and earlier have a more limited means of testing backups than those created in OS X El Capitan and later. We’ll include notes about which version of the Mac OS the verification method works in. With that out of the way, let’s get started.

restoreto1280

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Verify Your Time Machine Disk
Before we attempt to verify files on a Time Machine backup, it’s a good idea to make sure the Time Machine disk doesn’t have any issues. Start by turning Time Machine off, and then use Disk Utility’s First Aid to verify that your Time Machine disk is in good shape. If any errors are noted, use Disk Utility’s Repair Disk option, as outlined at the link above.

The Eyeball Method of Checking Time Machine
This somewhat simplistic way of checking on the status of your backups is performed by using Time Machine to restore a file or two, and then checking (eyeballing) the files to see whether they seem to be intact. Before you complain that this way doesn’t seem very reliable, you’re absolutely right, but it does provide a quick and easy way to verify that the basics of Time Machine and your backups are indeed working.

The eyeball method will work for any version of Time Machine or the Mac OS. The only prerequisite is that you have a Time Machine backup in place on your Mac:

Enter Time Machine by either selecting Enter Time Machine from the Time Machine menu item, or launching the Time Machine app located in the /Applications folder.

Use the arrow in the Time Machine window to go back to an earlier time.

In the Time Machine Finder window, right-click a file and select Restore “file name” to… from the popup menu.

Time Machine will close.

After a moment you’ll be presented with a standard Finder Choose window to select a location to save the Time Machine file to. Browse to a location where you wish to save the file, and click New Folder. We highly recommend creating a new folder to restore to because a bug exists in some versions of Time Machine that causes all files that occupy the same folder as the selected file to also be restored. Restoring to a new folder will isolate the file if the bug occurs.

The file will be restored to the new folder location.

Open the restored file and examine it to make sure it’s in proper shape. This can be as simple as looking at the contents of a document, viewing a restored image, or checking file size and creation date.

If the file or files look good, and there were no disk errors noted when you ran Disk First Aid, then you can be pretty sure that your Time Machine backups are in good shape.

NoteIf you did have errors when you used Disk First Aid, it may be time to look into replacement drives. Unlike other storage media we use, we recommend not tolerating drive errors on backups.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Spotlight, the Mac’s primary search tool, was introduced with OS X Tiger. As most original versions do, Spotlight lacked a few features and had some minor issues, but for the most part it just seemed to work.

One issue that did come up a few times involved indexing, which is the process that Spotlight uses to build information about the contents of a specific volume mounted on your Mac. The indexing process that creates the metadata file that Spotlight uses can be long, and has been known to place a heavy load on a Mac’s resources, primarily CPU load.

indexinglion900

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The result of the heavy CPU load was a feeling of sluggishness as you performed other activities on your Mac, such as visiting websites or receiving email, but mostly while working in resource-intensive apps, such as those designed for multimedia.

With each release of the Mac OS, Spotlight’s features got better and better, but the indexing issues seemed to remain. For the most part, if you were aware of the Spotlight indexing process, it was simple enough to just wait the task out. After all, the indexing normally only causes an issue when a volume is initially indexed. Subsequent updates to metadata files for the volume are quick, and for the most part are hardly noticeable.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Disk Utility, a free application included with the Mac OS, is a multipurpose, easy-to-use tool for working with hard drives, SSDs, and disk images. Among other things, Disk Utility can erase, format, repair, and partition hard drives and SSDs, as well as create RAID arrays. In this guide, we’ll use Disk Utility to erase a volume and format a hard drive.

diskutility

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Disk Utility works with disks and volumes. The term ‘disk’ refers to the drive itself; a ‘volume‘ is a formatted section of a disk. Each disk has a minimum of one volume. You can use Disk Utility to create a single volume or multiple volumes on a disk.

It’s important to understand the relationship between a disk and its volumes. You can erase a volume without affecting the rest of the disk, but if you erase the disk, then you erase every volume that it contains.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Question: How do I eject a CD or DVD from my Mac? I inserted a CD into my Mac, and now I can’t figure out how to eject it. Where is the eject button?

Answer: It’s been a while since Apple has offered Macs with built-in optical drives that could make use of a CD or DVD. The last models were the 2012 Mac Pro, which could actually accommodate multiple optical drives, and the mid-year 2012 non-Retina 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Apple first removed the optical drive in the 2008 MacBook Air, but as of the end of 2013, when the Mac Pro was replaced with the newer model, all optical drives are gone from the Mac lineup, at least as built-in options. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a demand for optical drives or the CDs or DVDs that are used in them. That’s why external optical drives have been a popular peripheral for many Mac users.

Which brings us to our question: How do you eject a CD or DVD from a Mac or an externally connected optical drive?

The Mac doesn’t have an external eject button on its CD/DVD drive. Instead, Apple made use of the ability of optical drives to respond to an open or close command sent over the drives electrical interface. By using the open and close commands the Mac offers several options for ejecting a CD or DVD.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.