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Archive for the ‘macOS Tips’ Category

by Tom Nelson

Are you the designated IT person for your family, or maybe for your small business? If you are, then perhaps you’re getting a bit tired of everyone asking you to provide your administrator name and password every time a printer jams, an app needs updating, or Time Machine throws an error code.

The Mac has a pretty straightforward model for assigning privileges to a user’s account, and in many cases, only the administrator has the right to stop, start, or pause services, such as pausing the print server when a printer jams. Only a user with administrator privileges can get the print server running again.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

If you’re tired of running over to a user’s Mac just to enter a password so the print server can restart after a paper jam, then you may be thinking it’s time to give everyone admin privileges. And believe it or not, that may be a valid solution to the problem, depending on the competence and trustworthiness of your users.

It is, in fact, the method we use; all users at our home and office are set up as administrators, relieving us of the more mundane tasks of Mac administration. But if you’re inclined to use the standard, managed, and administrator user models to ensure a bit tighter security, then this tip can help you keep your personal workload low, while allowing other users to perform routine tasks, such as resetting printers, without needing the local overlord to make an appearance.

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

Apple’s iCloud service links Macs and iOS devices for sharing, storing, and syncing the data created by some of Apple’s apps, such as Mail, Calendar, and Contacts. You can even use iCloud with Windows, although with a much more limited set of data. One thing that’s missing from iCloud is raw data storage; that is, the ability to save any file to iCloud, regardless of the app that was used to create it.

Update: With the advent of OS X Yosemite, Apple updated the iCloud service with a vastly improved iCloud drive. that now performs pretty much how you would expect from a cloud based storage service. If your using OS X Yosmite or later, you can jump to the end of this article to read about iCloud drive features specific to later versions of the Mac OS.

If on the other hand your using a pre OS X Yosemite version of the OS, then read on to discover some pretty niffty tricks that will make iCloud Drive more useful.​

iCloud is designed to be an application-centric service; it’s accessible through an application’s Save or Open dialog boxes. Each iCloud-enabled app can see the data files that it has created and that are stored in the cloud, but it can’t access data files created by other apps. This very limiting behavior may be a result of Apple’s desire to simplify the process of working with cloud-based documents.

Or perhaps Apple wanted iCloud to be iOS-centric in design, and prevent access to the underlying file system.

But the Mac isn’t an iOS device. Unlike iOS devices, which prevent users from accessing the underlying file system, OS Xlets us access all of the files on our system, using the Finder or Terminal.

So, why should we be limited to an app-centric iCloud service?

The answer, at least with OS X Mountain Lion through OS X Mavericks, is that we aren’t. Since the introduction of Mountain Lion, iCloud has stored all of the previously hidden data in a user’s Library folder. Once you navigate to this folder in the Finder, you can use any stored iCloud data with any app that supports the file type of the selected data, not just the app that created the data. For example, you can use Word, which currently isn’t iCloud-savvy, to read a TextEdit document that you have stored in iCloud. You can even move and organize documents, something you have no control over from the standard iCloud system.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

You’ve no doubt heard the term cache and temp files, at least as it relates to your Mac. There are numerous times when removing a cache or temp file may be part of a troubleshooting tip to return an app or the system to a more robust condition. It’s also common to hear about removing these files to free up space on a Mac’s startup drive.

But before we head down the road to clearing out cache and temp files, let’s take a moment to find out what functions they serve, and whether it’s really a good idea to remove them willy-nilly.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

What Are Cache Files and Temp Files?
Cache and temp files serve a similar function; they provide a place to temporarily store data in files on your Mac.

Cache files are much more dynamic. They’re being accessed and updated frequently, and they can remain after the app or system function that created them has closed or exited. They can also remain through shutdown or restart cycles.

Temp files tend to be more static, created by an app or system process to temporarily store data that is later used by the process that created the file. Unlike cache files, temp files are usually removed by the process that created them, usually when the process exits, or during a shutdown or restart cycle.

Examples of cache files include browser caches that save the information from a webpage. When you return to the same page, the browser can load the page data from the cache file, provided the page data hasn’t changed. This saves you the time it would take to access the web server and download the entire page again.

Another type of cache you use everyday on your Mac is the DNS cache. Like the browser cache, the DNS cache can let your Mac grab the IP address of a website it has visited recently without having to perform a DNS lookup, which can take a great deal of time.

Other caches are used by the system to store frequently used icons, images, and just about any type of information that is used over and over, where storing the data is faster than recreating the information every time.

Temp files, on the other hand, are transitory; they tend to be removed once the app or process that created them is terminated. An example of a temp file is an application that has many levels of undo. In the loosest of terms, the undo temp file holds the state of the app at each point a command was issued, letting you go back in time (undo) to previous states. When you quit the app, the undo temp file is deleted since it’s no longer needed.

Temp files can also hold static items, such as an image, or data that will be used frequently by an app but doesn’t need to be saved beyond the current app cycle.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

The anticipation of purchasing a new Mac is sometimes tempered by the realization that at some point, you’re going to have to move the data from your old Mac or PC to its new home on your new Mac.

Luckily for us Mac users, the Mac includes the Migration Assistant, an easy-to-use app that, with a bit of help from you, can move all the important data from your old Mac or Windows PC to that sparkling new Mac you just bought. It can perform this task using one of a number of ways to make the connection between old and new:

That should be enough choices to enable you to make a connection to transfer the information. To help you choose between the options, here’s a bit more detail.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Network Connection: Your new Mac, as well as the Mac or PC that contains the data you wish to transfer, must be on the same local network. The Migration Assistant only scans the local network, and won’t look beyond it for hosts to use as the source of the transfer.

The network connection method is probably the easiest to use, especially when you consider that your new Mac can automatically discover the network and make the appropriate connections needed. The only tip here is if your network requires a password, as most Wi-Fi networks do, be sure to have it handy when you first turn your new Mac on.

Thunderbolt and FireWire: The Mac has long supported a special means of connecting two Macs together, known as Target Disk Mode. When a Mac is booted up in Target Disk Mode (hold down the T key when you start your Mac), the OS isn’t loaded; instead, the Mac makes its startup drive available to the connected computer just as if it were an external drive.

Originally, Target Disk Mode made use of the FireWire ports that were common on older Macs. While FireWire is still supported, Thunderbolt, which offers a much faster connection, is a better choice for newer Macs.

In order for Target Disk Mode to operate, both computers need a set of FireWire ports or a set of Thunderbolt ports. It’s possible to use an adapter to connect a Mac with Thunderbolt ports to a Mac with FireWire ports, although for the cost of the adapter and the drop in connection speed, you’re probably better off just using the network method.

Time Machine: You can use your Time Machine backup as the source for copying data with the Migration Assistant. All that’s needed is the ability to connect the Time Machine drive to the new Mac. If your Time Machine drive is located in an external drive, this should be a simple process. You can also use a Time Capsule connected via the network.

External Drive: We already mentioned that the Migration Assistant can use a Time Machine backup drive when it’s connected to the new Mac, but it can also use any startup drive that’s connected to the new Mac.

This is especially handy for anyone who bought a new Mac because their old one had failed in some way; perhaps unable to boot. As long as the startup drive is in good shape, you could move the drive to an external enclosure and migrate the data from there.

If you need an empty external enclosure, you’ll find a wide selection of OWC External Enclosures available.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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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

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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

The Mac is one of the most reliable computing platforms available, and can make a great platform for not only running the Mac OS, such as the current macOS Sierra, but also Windows and Linux. In fact, the MacBook Pro is a very popular platform for running Linux.

Under the hood, the Mac’s hardware is remarkably similar to most of the parts used in modern PCs. You’ll find the same processor families, graphics engines, networking chips, and a great deal more.

MacBookPro2013crop

Image courtesy of Apple

Running Windows on a Mac

When Apple changed from PowerPC architecture to Intel, many wondered if the Intel Macs could run Windows. Turns out the only real stumbling block was getting Windows to run on an EFI-based motherboard instead of the then much more common BIOS-based designs.

Apple even lent a hand to the effort by releasing Boot Camp, a utility that included Windows drivers for all of the hardware in the Mac, the ability to assist a user in setting up the Mac for dual booting between the Mac OS and Windows, and an assistant for partitioning and formatting a drive for use by the Windows OS.

Running Linux on a Mac

If you can run Windows on a Mac, certainly you should be able to run just about any OS that is designed for the Intel architecture, right? Generally, this is true, though, like a lot of things, the devil is in the details. Many Linux distributions are able to run very nicely on a Mac, though there can be challenges to installing and configuring the OS.

Installation and Drivers

The issues I’ve come across for getting a Linux distribution working a Mac have usually revolved around two problem areas: getting an installer to work correctly with the Mac, and finding and installing all the needed drivers to make sure the important bits of your Mac will work. This can include getting the drivers needed for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, as well as drivers needed for the graphics system your Mac uses.

It’s a shame Apple doesn’t provide generic drivers that could be used with Linux, along with a basic installer and assistant, as it has done with Windows. But until that happens (and I wouldn’t hold my breath), you’re going to have to tackle the installation and configuration issues somewhat by yourself.

I say “somewhat” because I’m going to provide a basic guide to getting a favorite Linux distribution working on an iMac, as well as introduce you to resources that can help you track down drivers you need, or help solve installation issues you may come across.

Ubuntu

There are many Linux distributions you can choose from for this project; some of the best known include (in no particular order) Debian, MATE, elementary OS, Arch Linux, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu, and Mint. I decided to use Ubuntu for this project, mainly because of the very active forums and support available from the Ubuntu community, as well as the coverage of Ubuntu provided in our own Linux How-To’s.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Disk Utility, in all of its incarnations, has always had a restore function, a way to copy a disk volume or image file to another volume, creating an exact copy. We often think of this as cloning a drive, so you have an exact copy for backup or archiving purposes.

The advantages of cloning are many, but the one that is repeatedly mentioned in troubleshooting guides, as well as guides to installing new versions of the Mac OS, is the clone’s ability to be used as a Mac’s startup drive. Provided the source for the clone was a bootable startup drive, then the destination will generally also be useable as a bootable startup drive, which is pretty darned convenient.

diskutilityowc1280

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Disk Utility Restore

The restore function isn’t limited to creating clones of the startup drive. It can create a copy of any image or volume that can be mounted on your Mac. That makes the restore function extremely versatile, even if it’s largely overlooked in Disk Utility.

Two Versions of Disk Utility

Disk Utility was at version 16.0 at the time of this writing, so there have certainly been more than two versions. But when it comes to the restore feature, Disk Utility hasn’t undergone many changes; the biggest was the redesign of the Disk Utility interface that came about with the release of OS X El Capitan.

Because of that major change, we’re going to provide two sets of instructions for using Disk Utility’s Restore feature; one for OS X Yosemite and earlier, and one for OS X El Capitan and later.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Ever since OS X Lion, the installation of the Mac OS has included the creation of a Recovery HD volume, hidden away on the Mac’s startup drive. In an emergency, you can boot to the Recovery HD and use Disk Utility to correct hard drive issues, go online and browse for information about the problems you’re having, or reinstall the Mac operating system.

You can discover more about how to use the Recovery HD volume in the guide: Use the Recovery HD Volume to Reinstall or Troubleshoot OS X.

recoverydiskassistant

Image courtesy of Apple

Recovery HD and External Drives

Apple also created a utility called OS X Recovery Disk Assistant that can create a copy of the Recovery HD on any bootable external drive you have connected to your Mac. This is good news for the many Mac users who would like to have the Recovery HD volume on a drive other than the startup volume. However, the utility can only create the Recovery HD volume on an external drive. This leaves out all of the Mac Pro, iMac, and even Mac mini users who may have multiple internal hard drives.

With the help of a few hidden Mac OS features, a little bit of time, and this step-by-step guide, you can create a Recovery HD volume anywhere you like including an internal drive.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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