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Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

by Tom Nelson

Target Disk Mode has been a feature of the Mac OS since the PowerBook 100 (pictured below) was released way back in 1991. This handy feature allows you to connect two Macs via FireWire ports, Thunderbolt ports, or USB-C ports, and then share the contents of the Target Disk Mode Mac’s internal drive.

Target Disk Mode can be used for quite a variety of purposes:

  • Copying files from one Mac to another without having to set up file sharing or create a local network.
  • Troubleshooting the drive of a Mac that can’t boot to the desktop.
  • Using an optical drive on the Target Disk Mode Mac as if it were attached to your Mac.
  • Using the Mac OS operating system on the Target Disk Mode Mac to boot a second Mac.

As you can see, Target Disk Mode can be pretty darned versatile, and may be able to solve a problem you’re having that relates to accessing or sharing data from one Mac to another.

What You Need
The list is short, but essential.

  • Two Macs. That may seem obvious, but it makes sense to point out that Target Disk Mode only works between two Macs; you can’t chain multiple Macs together. All of the connection types (FireWire, Thunderbolt, and USB-C) support hot connecting, meaning you can connect a cable between the two Macs while they are powered on. We recommend shutting down both Macs before proceeding, however.
  • An appropriate cable to make the connection. Ideally, you should connect similar ports; that is FireWire to FireWire, Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt, or USB-C to USB-C. There are, however, exceptions. Using adapters to connect Thunderbolt to FireWire will usually work, as will Thunderbolt to USB-C. But not all adapters are known to work correctly in Target Disk Mode, so if you can, connect directly to the same port type. If you need a specific cable or adapter, MacSales.com has a wide selection of FireWireThunderbolt and USB-C cables and adapters available.
  • AC power. While it’s possible to run a notebook Mac off of its battery while in Target Disk Mode, you forgo any monitoring of the battery power levels. This could lead to the Mac in Target Disk Mode shutting down unexpectedly. It’s best to always power portable Macs from an AC source when using Target Disk Mode.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Boot Camp and Boot Camp Assistant allow you to install Windows on your Mac. It’s a nice capability that lets you select – at boot time – which operating system you wish to use: Mac OS or Windows.

One of the downsides to Boot Camp and the Windows installer is that it restricts you to installing Windows on your Mac’s internal drive. While Boot Camp Assistant can partition your startup drive for you to make room for Windows, there are bound to be many of you who just don’t have room to spare on your startup drive to install Windows.

Installing Windows on an external drive would be a great solution to the problem of available space, but as we said, Boot Camp and Windows impose a restriction on installing to an external drive – or do they?

There are actually a few ways you can successfully install Windows on an external drive. They range from creating clones of an existing PC installation, or using Microsoft IT tools for installing Windows. But the method we’re going to outline here is a bit different. It allows you to install Windows on an external drive without first having Windows installed on a PC or in a virtual environment.

This is an advanced process with quite a few pitfalls that can trip you up. Be sure to read through the process before undertaking it. Also, make sure you have a current backup before beginning.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

What can I do with my old Mac? That’s a question we hear quite often, and it indicates a desire to do something more with a Mac than simply send it off to the landfill when it comes time to consider replacing it.

I’m old enough to vividly remember the first Earth Day in 1970. Organizer Denis Hayes said 20 million Americans participated in a demonstration of support for environmental protection. Back then, we spent the day picking up trash and attending seminars about alternative energy sources that we should be developing. Today, MacSales.com is using a wide variety of green energy sources, such as wind, solar, and geothermal. We’ve come a long way since those heady early days.

Image courtesy of MacSales.com

While I don’t remember any specific concern back then about electronic waste and the damage it could do by leaching toxins into the environment, it has become a major concern in subsequent years. And why not, considering all the electronics we see in use every day.

There’s always something we can do to help, no matter how small. In this article, we’re going to look at how you can extend the life of your Mac to help keep it out of the landfill. And when the time comes that it no longer serves a useful purpose, we’ll tell you what you can do to recycle its components.

Upgrade Your Mac
One way to keep your Mac out of the landfill is to consider upgrading it with improved components instead of retiring it and replacing it with something newer. This approach has quite a number of advantages for you, including an overall lower cost than replacing your Mac, and an impressive environmental effect, one that not only eliminates the impact of tossing your Mac out, but also reduces the impact of building new replacement Macs to fill the void.

I have to admit I’ve been using the upgrade process for years. I tend to hang on to my Macs for a long time, mostly by upgrading components and peripherals as needed, as well as finding a new use for the older Macs. You can find out more about the latter in a bit, but right now, let’s look at upgrading your Mac.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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by Tom Nelson

Once in a while, for no apparent reason, you may encounter the SPOD (Spinning Pinwheel of Death). It’s that multicolored pinwheel mouse pointer that signifies a temporary delay while your Mac tries to figure something out. In this case, your Mac is trying to think but nothing happens, so the pinwheel keeps spinning, and spinning, and spinning.

Luckily, the SPOD is rarely a sign that your Mac is freezing up.

It’s more likely that a single application is stalled or frozen. If that’s the case, bringing another application to the front or clicking on the desktop will likely bring the Mac back under your control. You can then force quit the offending application.

There’s a good chance, though, that the next time you try launching the application that caused the SPOD, you’ll end up seeing the spinning pinwheel again.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Have you been updating your Mac, adding memory or storage, or perhaps simply customizing how it looks? Are you the go-to guy for repairing a favorite toy? Do you wish you had a place to brew up a newfangled creation without imposing your mess on the rest of the household?

If so, then you have a DIYer heart, and could probably benefit from a dedicated area for your projects. It doesn’t matter if you’re just upgrading RAM now and then, or cobbling together an advanced supercomputer to rule the world, from refurbished Mac minis you’ve acquired (insert evil supervillain laugh).

In this Rocket Yard guide we’re going to look at setting up your own DIY workspace to accommodate projects of all sizes. We’ll cover work surfaces, lighting, storage, and anti-static needs, as well as tools and equipment that can help you with your projects.

solderingworkbench1280

Image courtesy of Windell Oskay/Creative Commons

Counter and Table Space
For occasional small projects, you don’t need a great deal of room. One of my main workspaces is an older computer table that measures 20″ x 36″. It’s roomy enough for changing out RAM or adding storage on any of our home computers. It might be a bit cramped for more involved projects, but it gets the basic jobs done.

For more involved projects, I appropriate our kitchen table, which is 30″x48″. The extra room provides plenty of space for spreading things out, taking complex assemblies apart, and storing small parts and fiddly bits that always try to hide when you put things back together.

For a more permanent space for DIY use, I like a bench that measures 30″ x 60″ or 30″ x 72″. Notice I’m not going any wider than 30 inches. This lets me easily reach across the table without having to get up. You can adjust the width to meet your arm reach.

If you have reasonable woodworking skills, you can make a custom bench from dimensional lumber (1 x 4s or 2 x 4s), and plywood for a top. Otherwise, look to flea markets and garage sales for appropriate size tables, benches, or counters.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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