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Archive for the ‘Desktop Computers’ Category

by Tom Nelson

Do you keep your Macs for longer periods of time than do most of your friends? I’ve been accused of hoarding my old Macs; for example, keeping an original 2006 Mac Pro running long after it should have been retired. The same is true of a 2011 MacBook Pro; I only need to replace the battery, which is no longer holding a charge, and it will be as good as new.

The point is, Macs routinely have longer lifetimes than most personal computers, and it only takes a few tips, a bit of maintenance, and an upgrade now and then to keep a Mac running well, and extend its usable lifetime well beyond the norm.

Keep Your Mac Clean and Help It Keep Its Cool
Keeping your Mac clean can help it run at lower internal temperatures, which can prolong its life by not putting undue strain on internal components. At one time, it was an easy task to open a Mac up and clean out the dust bunnies that had collected over time. Now, except for the Mac Pro and Mac mini, the inside of a Mac is somewhat difficult to get to. But you should still inspect your Mac to ensure none of the intake and exhaust vents are clogged by dust and debris. If you need a bit of help in cleaning the interior, check out the Rocket Yard Tech Tip: Have You Cleaned Your Mac Lately?

Once you have your Mac’s cooling system shipshape, don’t forget that when you’re actively using your Mac, its location can have an impact on its ability to keep cool. When using a MacBook, don’t place it on pillows or soft material that can block airflow. Likewise, with desktop Macs, make sure the position they’re in doesn’t block airflow.

As long as we’re on a cleaning spree, don’t overlook the keyboard, mouse, trackpad, and display. MacSales.com has a nice collection of cleaning products that will help keep these peripherals looking good and working well.

Perform Routine Maintenance
Routine maintenance can do a lot to extend the life of your Mac. It not only can keep everything operating in top shape, it can also help find possible trouble spots before they start severely impacting you or your Mac.

Disk maintenance is often overlooked even though it can find, and in many cases, repair issues before they become problems. Disk Utility has long included a Disk First Aid feature that can be used to verify and repair problems. Running the First Aid tool regularly can help keep your drives performing at their peak, as well as let you know when problems are beginning to appear.

Another maintenance task that can be run to keep your Mac in good shape is Safe Mode, a special boot environment that will run a few tests as well as delete font, system, and kernel caches that can cause some very strange behavior when any of them become corrupt. You can find out more in the Rocket Yard guide: Safe Mode & Single-User Mode: What They Are, How to Use Them.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Upgrade Hardware
Over time, your Mac’s hardware may seem to be slowing down; more likely, you’re just using a lot more of your Mac’s resources than when you first got it. One way to help alleviate the slowdown is to increase the resources available to your Mac: more RAM, larger disk storage, or perhaps faster storage. All or some of these can speed up your Mac, giving it a longer usable life.

RAM upgrades: I try to buy Macs that have user upgradeable RAM, but this isn’t always possible, especially when Apple has soldered the RAM directly to the Mac’s motherboard. However, you may be surprised to learn that even some Macs that don’t provide easy user access to their internals still have RAM that can be upgraded.

When I need to upgrade my Mac’s RAM, MacSales.com’s memory guide is where I look to see what upgrades are available, and in many cases, view the upgrade video that may be available for a specific Mac model.

Storage upgrades: One of the best upgrades that I’ve performed for many of my older Macs is to replace the rotational disk drive with an SSD. This type of upgrade can really put the spring back into your Mac, and remind you of how impressed you were with your Mac’s performance that first day you brought it home.

Even if you have a more recent Mac with an SSD already installed, increasing the SSD size can be helpful, and the old SSD can be put into an external enclosure for additional storage.

You can use the MacSales.com SSD Flash Storage Upgrade guide for information about the SSD you need for your specific Mac.

Another storage upgrade option is to use a fast port, such as Thunderbolt 2 or Thunderbolt 3, to connect a high performance external storage solution to your Mac. This lets you enjoy the benefits of faster storage without having to take your Mac apart to replace disks. It also provides the possibility of building high performance RAID storage systems to meet your particular needs.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Choosing the best Mac for back to school seems like it should be a simple matter. But before you shout out ‘MacBook!” or whichever Mac laptop is your favorite, you may want to take a look at this guide, which delves a bit deeper into which Mac is a good fit for schoolwork and beyond.

Is that MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro the best fit, or would a desktop, such as the Mac mini, iMac, or Mac Pro, be a better choice. Believe it or not, all Macs can work well in a learning environment, but of course each has its strengths and weaknesses. Some, like the 27-inch iMac, have a bonus benefit: it will also help strengthen your muscles, as you lug it to and from your classes.

Picking the Best Mac For Education & Beyond
One benefit of the Mac that’s sometimes overlooked is longevity. It’s likely the Mac you buy today will still be a productive computer five or more years down the road. Our 2010 Mac Pro is still chugging away, running the latest OS and apps without issues.

As a result, it’s highly likely that the Mac you buy for school will still be running long after you’ve put down your books and watched your school disappear in the rear-view mirror. Your Mac may even see you through your entire education and into your chosen profession. The point is, you may want to spend a little more up front to equip it for the long term. Even if you replace your Mac early in its useful life, you’ll likely be able to get a better return on a well-equipped Mac than a base-level model.

Want to Spend Less?
The prices we mention below are Apple retail prices. There are many sources for discounted Macs, especially if you’re willing to consider used or refurbished models. MacSales.com has an inventory of new, used, and refurbished Macs that are fully tested and inspected by its expert technicians; the Macs come with a 14-day money-back guarantee and a 90-day limited warranty.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Having problems figuring out how much free space is available on your Mac? You’re not the only one. With the arrival of macOS Sierra, Apple changed how the OS calculates free space on a Mac. The change has more than a few folks scratching their heads, wondering what’s going on, and why they don’t seem to have as much free space on their drives as their Macs are telling them they have.

Is It Free Space or Purgeable Space?
One of the easiest, and certainly the most colorful, ways to see the amount of space taken up by purgeable files is to launch About This Mac from the Apple file menu, and then select the Storage tab. You may need to wait a short time while your Mac performs a few calculations, but eventually you’ll see a colorful bar graph depicting how the space on your various drives is being used.

storagepurgeable

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The bar graph displays the space used by files, divided into categories. With macOS, new categories have been added, including iTunes, GarageBand, and System, in addition to the existing Apps, Photos, and Other. But it’s the last two categories at the far right side of the bar graph that interest us: Purgeable and Free space.

Free space is what it’s always been; storage space on your drive that isn’t currently marked as in use, and is available to your Mac’s file system to use as it pleases.

Free space is what used to show up in a Finder window’s status bar as Available. You can see this for yourself by opening a Finder window and selecting any folder, Desktop, or item. In the status bar (if needed, use the Finder’s View menu to select Show Status Bar), you’ll see the number of items in the current window, followed by the amount of free space available.

With macOS, the amount of available space shown in a Finder window is no longer just the free space, but is instead free space + purgeable space, though the Finder still just refers to it as Available.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

The Mac refurb store is beginning to look like Old Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard; mostly bare. Mac minis remain out of stock, and all sizes and models of the MacBook Pro have left the store.

If Mac models don’t start appearing in the refurb store again, it may be a bad holiday season for anyone looking for a Mac at a reduced price.

appletv4

Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

Our deals this week include a current generation Apple TV; just the thing for streaming TV, movies, and music in your home. The fourth-generation Apple TV brings support for third-party apps, letting you use it for all kinds of entertainment-related fun, including games.

Our second deal is for an ASUS RT-AC68U Wireless AC1900 Dual-Band Router. Apple reassigned the engineering team that was responsible for the AirPort line of wireless routers. With no new models of AirPort routers likely to be seen, you’ll need to turn to third-party networking hardware to meet your needs. The RT-AC68U works fine with Apple products, and includes high-speed connectivity, security, and dual-band options.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

The Mac refurb store is experiencing quite a bit of low stock, with limited numbers of MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models in stock. Mac minis are missing, though I would expect stock to be replenished before the winter holidays.

Even with the low stock, there are still some good deals to be found

MacbookRosegold

Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

We haven’t had many 12-inch MacBooks pop up in our deals list, but this week, a 2016 model with 1.3 GHz M7 processor, 8 GB RAM, and 512 GB flash storage made its way into our list. Small, lightweight, and with enough storage so you don’t need to worry about bringing along an external drive.

Our second deal is one we’ve seen here before: a 2014 27-inch Retina iMac with a 4.0 GHz Quad-Core i7 processor. This is the top of the line, at least when it comes to processor performance, in the iMac lineup. The only models that can top this one come with large PCIe flash storage, and they tend to cost quite a bit more. The combination of the fast processor and a Fusion drive should meet most advanced users’ needs, without requiring them to take out a bank loan.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Upgrading the hard drive in an iMac is a DIY project that has always been a difficult, though not impossible, task. With the advent of the late 2009 edition iMacs as well as all subsequent iMac models, there’s a new twist that limits how you can upgrade the iMac’s hard drive.

iMacs have always had a temperature sensor for their internal hard drive. The Mac operating system monitors hard drive temperature and adjusts the internal fans to ensure optimal airflow to keep the hard drive, as well as the rest of the iMac’s inner workings, cool.

Up until the late 2009 model iMacs, the temperature probe for the hard drive was mounted to the hard drive’s cover. When you upgraded the hard drive, all you needed to do was to re-attach the temperature sensor to the new hard drive’s case and you were ready to go.

That changed with the 2009 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs. The temperature sensor that was attached to the external case is gone. In its place is a cable that connects directly to a set of pins on the hard drive, and reads the temperature from the temperature probe that is built into almost all hard drives. Sounds like a better system, and it is, at least as far as gathering accurate temperatures from the iMac’s hard drive.

The problem is that there is no standard for which pins to use on a hard drive for the temperature sensor. In fact, the cable Apple uses must be custom made for each brand of hard drive Apple puts in the late 2009 iMacs.

For the end user, this means that if you decide to upgrade the iMac’s hard drive yourself (something we don’t actually recommend for the average user), you can only use a hard drive from the same manufacturer. If your iMac came with a Seagate drive, you can use only a Seagate drive for a replacement.
Likewise, if it came with a Western Digital drive, you can only replace it with another Western Digital drive.

If you use a drive from a different manufacturer, there is a very good chance that the temperature sensor will not operate. In order to compensate, your iMac will set its internal fans to the maximum RPM, creating a nerve-wracking noise that will not be pleasant to be near.

Our thanks to OWC (Other World Computing) for sharing this discovery.

owcdiyim27ssd11_hero

Internal SSD DIY Kit for All Apple 27-inch iMac 2011 Models. Image courtesy of Other World Computing.

Update:

Thanks to our friends at OWC, there is now a DIY kit for upgrading a hard drive in an iMac that includes a universal temperature sensor. This temperature sensor will work with any brand of hard drive or SSD, allowing you to choose the best drive that meets your needs without having to worry about runaway fans in your iMac.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Mac minis are out of stock this week, but I’m hoping that more are on the way to the Mac refurb store in time for holiday buying. That’s an important consideration this time of year; you can’t predict what will be in stock and what won’t, so if you’re buying gifts from the refurb store, be prepared to hit the Buy button as soon as you find a deal you like; it may not be there tomorrow.

imac5K2015

Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

Our deals this week are for iMacs with Retina displays. First up is the 21.5-inch Retina iMac with a 3.1 GHz Quad-Core i5, 16 GB RAM and 256 GP PCIe flash storage. This is a nice configuration with plenty of RAM and fast internal storage, just the thing for a budding photographer or videographer.

Next up is the larger 27-inch Retina iMac. This one is a bit older being a 2014 model, but its equipped with a 4.0 GHz Quad-Core i7 processor, a 1 TB Fusion drive and a price below $2,000.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, and Mac minis are filling up the Mac refurb store just in time for holiday gift giving. I wouldn’t wait if you’re looking for one of these models, as they may not stay in stock for long.

2014MacMini

Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

A 2015 13.3-inch MacBook Air is our first deal this week. This specific model comes equipped with a Dual-Core i7 processor, a bit of a rarity in the MacBook Air lineup.

If you’re looking for a desktop Mac, then our second deal may be just what you need: a nicely configured Mac mini also with a Dual-Core i7 and 512 GB of PCIe flash storage.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

The 2009 Mac Pro (model identifier MacPro4,1) was introduced in March of 2009, and was discontinued with the arrival of the 2010 Mac Pro in August of that same year. The 2009, 2010, and 2012 versions of the Mac Pro are still sought after as they represent the last truly user-expandable Macs.

They offered easy access to the interior, where users could add RAM, access four built-in drive bays, and easily add or change PCIe expansion cards, including graphics cards.

 macprodrivetray1

Photo © Coyote Moon, Inc.

They also offered access to the optical drive bay, which many used as a fifth storage bay. The processors were mounted on easily removable trays, and could be upgraded by the end user.

However, the 2009 version of the Mac Pro has a few things going against it. While the processors could be upgraded, they require the use of special Xeon processors that have no metal lids. This was done so the mammoth heat sinks could be attached directly to the CPU die. Finding compatible processors can now be a bit of a scavenger hunt.

On the plus side, there is a firmware hack available online that can allow the older 2009 Mac Pros to make use of 2010 or 2012 Mac Pro processors.

With the above as a bit of a background, let’s take a look at the original buying guide for the 2009 Mac Pro.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

The refurb store has replenished stock of 2016 MacBooks. The 2016 MacBooks haven’t been in stock for a while, so if this is a model you’re interested in, you may want to check out the store and see if any of the models is the one you’re looking for.

Of course, some Mac models seem to be slipping away, and that’s the story of the MacBook Air, with only some 11-inch base models in stock. I don’t actually recommend any Mac with only 4 GB of RAM, which is how the 11-inch MacBook Airs currently in stock are configured. If you really want a MacBook Air, I recommend waiting for a model equipped with 8 GB of RAM.

2014MacMini

Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

A 2014 Mac mini with 8 GB of RAM, a 1 TB Fusion drive, and a speedy 3.0 GHz Dual-Core i7 processor make up our first deal this week. That’s a pretty nice configuration that can be used for a wide variety of tasks.

Our second deal also takes us back to a 2014 model; this time, a 27-inch Retina iMac with 8 GB of RAM, a 4.0 Quad-Core i7 processor, and a 1 TB Fusion drive. This Retina Mac also makes use of an AMD Radeon R9 M290X, and can be quite the workhorse for a budding graphics professional.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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