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Archive for the ‘Mac Hardware’ Category

by Tom Nelson

You just turned on your Mac and all you see is a dark display. That’s OK; you know it can sometimes take a little while for your Mac to boot up. But after a minute or two, you start to think something is dreadfully wrong with your Mac. Let’s take a look at the possible causes of a moribund Mac, and what we can do to fix them.

Check the Basics
We’ll start our troubleshooting by checking a few basics. I suppose this step is a bit out of order from a logically flowing troubleshooting process, but hey, it’s the simple stuff that most often causes these types of problems, so let’s start there.

If you’re using an external display, check to make sure it’s turned on: While you’re at it, make sure the video cable is seated properly at both the display and the Mac ends of the cable. Check the power cable as well. If either cable is loose or unplugged, the dog did it; at least that’s what the cat always says. Regardless of who was responsible, if it’s loose, you need to reconnect the cable firmly at both ends.

Check that the display’s brightness is turned up to a reasonable level: This applies to both external displays, which will usually have one or more buttons on the monitor to adjust the display (check the monitor’s manual for instructions), and those built in to your Mac. On an Apple-supplied keyboard, including those built in to a MacBook, the F1 (decrease) and F2 (increase) keys are used to adjust the brightness. On non-Apple keyboards, the F14 (decrease) and F15 (increase) keys will adjust the brightness.

Is the power turned on?: You already verified that the display is turned on, but you should also make sure that both your Mac and its display actually have power. Check to see if the power cables are plugged in, and make sure that any power strip or UPS that the display or your Mac is plugged into is also turned on. If you’re not sure if the power is on, try plugging a known good device, such as a lamp, into the same plug that your Mac or display uses.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Once you’re sure your Mac and its display are connected properly to a power source, the appropriate cables are connected, and the display’s brightness is at a reasonable level, it’s time to move on to more detailed troubleshooting.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

When it comes to choosing an external enclosure to house an SSD or hard drive, there are so many options that it can be difficult not only to make a decision, but also to figure out just how many possibilities are available.

One approach that can help in organizing the choices is to think about which enclosure type is best suited to your expansion needs. We’re going to organize our look at external enclosures by the type of connection and the enclosure’s capabilities, and then provide a brief look at what some of the likely types of uses such storage expansion would be used for.

OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini. Image courtesy of OWC.

We’re going to concentrate on bare or “diskless” enclosures that you can place one or more SSDs in, but the general information can also be used to help select an enclosure for any type of supported storage device, including hard drives, SATA-based SSDs, PCIe-based SSD blades, or even optical drives, to access your collection of DVDs. You can also apply this information to purchasing external storage systems that come with drives already installed.

Enclosures can hold a single drive, multiple drives, multiple drives with built-in RAID, and multiple drives of different sizes. Enclosures can have additional functions beyond just housing a storage drive; some perform as port multipliers or docks, allowing one interface to be used to provide connectivity through multiple port types.

You may need a storage enclosure for optimizing speed, or an inexpensive way to create that backup system you’ve been promising yourself. Either way, you should find some helpful information in our guide to picking an external enclosure.

Best Use for Thunderbolt Enclosures
The Thunderbolt interface is certainly versatile. Depending on the Thunderbolt version available on your Mac, it can provide data throughput of up to 40 Gbps (Thunderbolt 3), 20 Gbps (Thunderbolt 2), or 10 Gbps (Thunderbolt 1 or just plain Thunderbolt).

But it isn’t just the raw speed available in Thunderbolt that makes it a great choice for storage and other uses; it also has the ability to support multiple interface specifications. Thunderbolt 3 supports 40 Gbps data transfer speeds, USB 3.1 Gen2 running at 10 Gbps, and DisplayPort 1.2, with support for two 4K streams, and the ability to provide up to 15 watts of power for bus-powered devices, or 100 watts for charging, all wrapped up in a single USB-C connector.

When selecting a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure for storage, you have a few basic types to choose from: a Thunderbolt Dock, such as the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock (see image below), which allows you to connect a single cable to your Mac to break out multiple USB 3.1 ports, a mini DisplayPort supporting dual 4K displays, or a 5K display and an HD display, S/PDIF digital audio, a card reader, even a legacy FireWire 800 port.

Image courtesy of OWC

Docks are available in various port configurations, but since we’re concentrating on storage, they allow you to use additional USB 3 Gen1 or Gen2 ports to attach additional storage enclosures to. Pretty helpful when you find your Mac’s ports are all in use.

But we’re just getting started with Thunderbolt’s versatility. Enclosures are available that provide a PCIe-based expansion chassis, such as the Mercury Helios 3 (see image below). The PCIe interface can be used to install various types of PCIe expansion cards, but for storage, a PCIe card that accepts one or more SSD blades will provide for a screamingly fast storage system. Or, if you already have a few SATA SSDs, you can install them in a high-performance SATA to PCIe card and gain a bit more performance from them than you can get out of a USB 3 interface.

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

It may seem like summer is just getting underway, and that there are still many cool nights and hot, lazy days ahead to enjoy with friends. But deep down, you know a new school year is lurking just around the corner.

It doesn’t matter if this will be your first year of high school or the last year of your masters program; getting prepared for back to school is a task you’ll need to tackle; part of that is getting your Mac ready.

Upgrade, Replace, or Use Your Mac As-Is?
We’re going concentrate on using a Mac for your schoolwork, but this guide should be useable by anyone, regardless of computer operating system. You may discover that the institution that you’ll be attending favors one operating system over another for class work, but you’ll be ready for almost anything.

If there’s one thing a Mac is, it’s versatile. No matter which operating system or applications are recommended, your Mac can probably run the necessary software. You can use Boot Camp to dual boot between Mac and Windows, or between Mac and Linux; you can even triple boot; just select the operating system you need when you start up your Mac.

So, when one instructor tells you that you’ll be using a solid modeling program that only runs under Windows, and another tells you some flavor of Linux will be used for investigating network architecture, and a third wants you to use video editing apps that run on the Mac, you can handle it. You don’t need three different computer systems, unless you don’t have a spare Mac to take to school.

In addition to Boot Camp, virtualization apps, such as Parallels, allow you to run multiple operating systems with your Mac. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

In that case, you have a few choices. Apple has a wide selection of Macs you can pick from, but you can also find a large selection of used Macs, accessories, and more right here at MacSales.com.

You’ll find just about any recent vintage Mac model available, giving you a wide selection to choose from. And while MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and MacBook Airs are all popular choices for back to school, don’t overlook Mac minis, iMacs, and Mac Pros, which may meet some specific high-performance needs a little better than the Mac notebook lineup.

If you have a Mac already, you may want to consider a few upgrades.

Two of the most common upgrades undertaken by students are to add more RAM, to allow their Macs to work with memory-intensive apps, or simply to have more apps open at any one time, and to add storage space; that is, bigger, faster, or additional drives to make storing, organizing, and backing up files an easier task.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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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

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

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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