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Archive for the ‘macOS Tips’ Category

by Tom Nelson

One of the first steps in installing macOS Mojave is acquiring the Mojave installer from the App Store. While this is generally an easy process, it can have a few twists and turns that can leave you frustrated.

In this guide, we take a look at:

  • How to download the macOS Mojave installer
  • Problems you may encounter, including how to convert from beta testing to using the release version
  • Other issues you may experience

Before you start downloading, you should check to see if your Mac is able to run Mojave. You will find all the information you need in the Rocket Yard Guide: How to Get Ready for macOS Mojave.

How to Download Mojave

The Mac App Store is the primary host for macOS Mojave, and it’s likely that the new OS will be prominently displayed under the Featured tab. But finding the macOS Mojave tile at the top of the Mac App Store window isn’t guaranteed, especially immediately after Mojave is launched or down the road, when the release of macOS Mojave is yesterday’s news.

You’re much more likely to find macOS Mojave listed in the Quick Links area of the Featured section, either with its own link to the download page, or by using the Apps Made by Apple link. And of course, you can always use the App Store’s Search field if Mojave isn’t showing up in the expected places.

To find macOS Mojave, launch the Mac App Store by selecting the App Store icon in the Dock, or by selecting it from the /Applications folder.

The App Store window will open. Click or tap the Featured button in the toolbar if it isn’t already highlighted.

There’s a good chance that macOS Mojave will be the featured item, displaying prominently at the top of the window. You may also see a button labeled Download directly on the tile; if so, clicking or tapping the button will start the download process.

If you don’t see the download link on the tile featuring macOS Mojave, click or tap the tile to bring up the description page. You’ll find the Download button near the top left. Click or tap the button to start the download process.

When the downloading process is complete, a file called Install macOS Mojave will be present in your /Applications folder. The Mojave installer will also automatically start up once the download is completed. At this point, we suggest you quit the installer in order to perform some housekeeping chores before you start the installation of macOS Mojave.

macOS Mojave may be the featured item, showing up as soon as you launch the App Store. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

How to Download From the New Mac App Store

If you’ve been testing the Mojave beta on your Mac, you’ve probably already discovered the Mac App Store has undergone a substantial update. If you haven’t peeked at the Mac App Store lately, go ahead and launch it, just to get your feet wet.

Because you’re already running macOS Mojave (in the beta form), you won’t see the new OS as a download option in the new Mac App Store. Instead, you’ll be able to update your beta copy to the Gold Master (GM) version using System Preferences. We’ll touch on how to download the GM version in a bit, but first a bit more about the new App Store.

The App Store interface may have changed in macOS Mojave, but the sidebar and its categories are very easy to work with. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The new App Store uses a two-pane interface, with a sidebar on the left and a larger pane on the right. The sidebar contains seven primary categories into which all apps in the store are sorted. When a new macOS version becomes available, you’ll see it promoted in the Discover category. This also happens to be the default category that’s displayed when you launch the App Store.

When you see an app such as a new version of macOS displayed, you can click or tap on its tile to bring up the description page. The Download button has been replaced with one that either shows the price for the app or, if it’s a free app such as the macOS, displays the word Get. Clicking or tapping the price button will change the button text to Buy App; clicking or tapping the Get button will change the button text to Install.

You’ll need to click or tap the Buy App or Install button to start the download process.

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by Tom Nelson

The summer is drawing to a close, which means macOS Mojave is about to be released. It may also mean a few other things, but we’re going to concentrate on the release of Mojave and what you’ll need to do to your Mac to get it ready for the new operating system from Apple.

Mojave has a number of new features that you may be excited to try out, but it also has quite a few upgrades under the hood, which mean it’s especially important to ensure your Mac and its software are ready for macOS Mojave.

Upgrading to macOS Mojave

For this article, we’re going to concentrate on steps you should take to ensure your Mac is capable of running macOS Mojave, as well as make sure there are no hidden issues that could adversely impact installing or using the new operating system. We won’t be looking at the various ways you can install Mojave; we’ll cover that in the weeks ahead. So, let’s start by checking if your Mac is compatible.

Check Hardware Compatibility with macOS Mojave

The first step is to check to see if your Mac meets the minimum guidelines for running macOS Mojave. You can find details in OWC’s Complete List of Mojave Compatible Macs.

The main takeaway from the compatibility list is that Apple has dropped support for most Macs older than 2012. The main exception is 2010 and 2012 Mac Pro models that have Metal-capable graphics cards. The original graphics cards offered with the early Mac Pros weren’t Metal compatible, but it’s possible to upgrade the graphics card with a new Metal-compatible model.

Apple recommends the following Metal-compatible cards:

  • MSI Gaming Radeon RX 560
  • Sapphire Radeon PULSE RX 580

But there are a number of other graphics cards available that will work with your Mac Pro and support Metal:

  • AMD: Radeon HD 7000 and HD 8000, as well as the 200, 400 and 500 series of cards.
  • NVIDIA: Most GeForce 600, 700 and 800 series.

XFX AMD Radeon RX 580 GTS is one of the Metal-capable graphics cards you can use with a 2010-2012 Mac Pro.

One issue you may encounter with a new Metal-capable graphics card is that it likely won’t contain a Mac-compatible boot ROM on the card. Without the boot ROM that supports the Mac, the graphics card won’t be initialized until after the Mac loads the graphics drivers. This can prevent boot up information from being displayed, including running firmware updates (should any become available) or using boot options that require any type of interaction.

To overcome the boot ROM issue, you can either attempt to locate a graphics card with an Apple boot ROM or keep the original graphics card installed and connected to a second monitor.

One last note on Metal graphics cards: AMD models come with Apple graphics drivers built in, while NVIDIA models do not. This means you’ll need to download and install the Mac graphics drivers from the NVIDIA website before the card will work correctly.

You may also need to update NVIDIA drivers before you upgrade to any new version of the macOS, such as Mojave.

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by Tom Nelson

With every new release of the Mac operating system, there always seems to be a few installation errors that are encountered by enough people to make us wonder how the OS managed to get through the beta process. The answer can usually be attributed to the difference in the relatively small number of beta users versus the large number of users downloading and installing a new official release of the macOS. When all those new users start to install the OS, the sheer number of Mac hardware, peripherals, and software makes it very likely that some bug that managed to sneak through the beta process will rear its ugly head in the release version.

No matter which version of the macOS you’re installing, including 10.14 Mojave, there’s a slight chance you may run into one of the problems in this guide.

In this guide, we’re going to look at some of the installation problems that tend to occur with new releases of the Mac operating system. With any luck, you may be able to either correct the issue, allowing you to finish the installation, or prevent the issue from occurring in the first place.

Installation Issues Commonly Seen with macOS
Before we get too far along, I want to point out the obvious: don’t install a new version of the Mac operating system without having a current backup. Some of the installation issues we’re going to mention can cause loss of data. Having a Time Machine backup or a clone of your current system can be a lifesaver. If you don’t have a backup system in place, I highly recommend investing in one before you install a new version of macOS.

You can find a large number of external enclosures, drives, and SSDs, as well as a portable and easily-carried-with-you Envoy Pro EX high performance USB 3 or Thunderbolt bus-powered SSD storage.

With the backup recommendation out of the way, let’s get started with the error messages.

Could Not Write Installation Information to Disk
This message usually shows up as a sheet that drops down from the macOS or OS X installer shortly after you start the install process. It may seem odd but the usual cause is a corrupt installer, and simply deleting the installer app and downloading a new copy will likely fix the issue. The error message seems to occur most often when the Mac installer is downloaded from a third-party site. This is a good reason to download the official copy from the Mac App Store, or join the free public beta program if you want to try out a new version of the Mac OS early.

You can use Disk Utility to repair common boot drive errors that may be keeping you from successfully finishing an installation. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Other possible causes include a damaged boot drive. Try using Disk Utility’s First Aid capabilities to test and repair your disk, as outlined in: First Aid: Verify and Repair HFS+, APFS Drives with Disk Utility.

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by Tom Nelson

Originally introduced with OS X El Capitan, System Integrity Protection, usually referred to as SIP, is a security feature built into the Mac operating system that’s designed to protect most system locations, system processes, and Kernel extensions from being written to, modified, or replaced.

SIP and related security protections in the Mac operating system have undergone changes with each release of the OS, but the basics of how the SIP system works have remained the same, including how SIP can be enabled, disabled, and have its current status checked on.

Rootless, More or Less
OS X El Capitan was the first version of the Mac operating system to incorporate SIP, as well as the idea that the Mac operating system was now rootless; that is, there was no longer a root account, the all-powerful primary account that had access to almost the entire system. But it turns out the concept of the Mac being rootless was more of a security marketing gimmick than actual fact. There was still a root account; the difference is that when enabled, SIP poses additional restrictions on the root account, walling off certain portions of the system from access by an account with root level privileges.

The additional isolation of system components from accounts with root privileges helps to prevent malware from being able to gain access to the system, where it could embed itself and take advantage of all of the system services running on a Mac.

System Integrity Protection (SIP)
While “rootless” was mostly marketing, SIP actually hardened the Mac by preventing modifications to the following locations:

  • /System
  • /usr
  • /bin
  • /sbin
  • All apps preinstalled by Apple

The exceptions to the rule are apps or processes that have been signed by Apple and have special entitlement to write to system files. This includes Apple installers and Apple software update services.

SIP is effective at stopping system locations from being written to by third-party apps and services. Only Apple-signed system processes can write to system locations.

System processes can’t be attached to. This prevents code injection or runtime attachment to system processes, techniques often used by malware to force privileged processes to run the malware code.

Kernel extensions must be signed with an Apple Developer ID that specifically allows for signed Kext (kernel extensions) certificates. This can prevent kernel extensions from being replaced or modified by malware, as well as prevent new unsigned kernel extensions from being installed.

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by Tom Nelson

Disk Utility, the macOS Swiss Army knife for working with disks and storage volumes, may have a few blades missing, especially when it comes to working with unformatted drives and unused space on a disk or storage volume.

In versions of Disk Utility that came with OS X Yosemite and earlier, you could enable hidden debug modes in the Disk Utility app that allowed you to see and interact with all the space on a disk, including hidden elements, such as the Recovery volume or the secret EFI partitions.

In this Rocket Yard article, we’re going to look at how to enable Disk Utility to view and work with the types of disk spaces you’re likely to encounter, including:

We’ll also demonstrate how to use Terminal to access the remaining hidden disk structures that Disk Utility can’t view directly, including:

  • Recovery volumes
  • EFI volumes
  • Preboot and Boot volumes

Selecting the Initialize button will open Disk Utility, but the disk may not show up if the apps view settings are in the default settings. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Using Disk Utility to Access All Devices
Disk Utility is configured by default to only show formatted volumes. This makes using Disk Utility with existing volumes an easy task since there are only a few, and sometimes only one, volumes displayed, cutting down on what could be an overwhelming list of disks, containers, volumes, RAID slices, etc.

The disadvantage, however, is that it can make it difficult to work with new unformatted disks you may be using for the first time. This includes working with unformatted drives as well as unformatted USB flash drives.

Tip: When we speak of unformatted drives, we’re including any disk that uses a format that your Mac can’t natively work with.

Disk Utility lets you pick which display mode to work in: Volumes only, All Devices, or only a selected drive. You can switch between them at any time, and Disk Utility will update the display immediately; no need to close and reopen the Disk Utility app or restart your Mac.

Show All Devices
This setting will display all storage devices connected directly to your Mac. In addition to each device being displayed, a hierarchical listing will show how each device is organized, i.e., how many containers, partitions, or volumes each device contains. Absent from the hierarchical view will be any of the items Apple has decided to hide from the end user, such as EFI volumes and Recovery volumes.

When Disk Utility’s view option is set to Show All Devices even unformatted devices will be present in the sidebar, such as the highlighted USB flash drive that needs to be formatted. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

From the Disk Utility toolbar, click the View button, and then select the Show All Devices item from the dropdown menu. You can also select Show All Devices from Disk Utility’s View menu.

The Sidebar will change to display all locally connected devices, presented in a hierarchical view starting with the physical device, than any containers and volumes the device may have been partitioned into.

Hide the Sidebar
For the ultimate in simplicity, you can choose to hide the sidebar and remove any listings of devices or volumes from view.

From the Disk Utility toolbar, click the View button and select the Hide Sidebar item in the dropdown menu. You can also select Hide Sidebar from Disk Utility’s View menu.

The sidebar will close, and the last selected item in the sidebar will become the only item listed in the Disk Utility window.

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by Tom Nelson

With the release of macOS Mojave Public Beta, we went hunting for features that might be hiding amongst all the changes to the OS. What we found were some nifty capabilities hiding, for the most part, in plain sight.

Even more features are expected to show up over time as more users work with the macOS Mojave beta, but for now, here are our top 6 hidden features of macOS Mojave.

Oh, and one quick note. Since Mojave is still in beta at the time of the original publication of this article, some of the features may have slightly changed or even be missing once the full release of Mojave sees the light of day later this fall. When the fall release occurs, we’ll check to see if any of the features need to be updated.

Recent Apps in Dock
The Dock gets a new organizational tool; it can show three of the most recent apps you’ve used in a special area of the Dock. This new feature is located after the Apps section of the Dock, and before the Documents and Trash section of the Dock.

A new section of the Dock is reserved for displaying up to three recently used apps. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

If this seems similar to the Recent Applications Stack that you can create in the Dock, it is, but with a few differences. First, the recent apps aren’t displayed in a stack but as individual icons in the Dock. Second, only apps that don’t already have a home in the Dock are displayed. This prevents duplicate apps from showing up in your Dock.

The recent apps section of the Dock has very basic controls you can set:

Launch System Preferences by clicking its icon in the Dock, or by selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu.

Select the Dock preference pane.

Place a checkmark in the box labeled, “Show recent applications in Dock to enable the feature or remove the checkmark to turn off the feature and reclaim the Dock space.”

The Dock preference pane includes a checkbox to enable or disable the option to Show recent applications in DockScreen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Currently, the recent apps Dock section is limited to three apps; it would be nice to have the ability to set how many can be seen.

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by Tom Nelson

Sometime this summer, macOS Mojave will be made available to participants in the Apple Beta Software Program. Since the Beta Software Program is open to anyone who wishes to sign up, it’s easier to think of this as a public beta for anyone whose Mac meets the minimum requirements for using macOS Mojave.

The macOS public betas are very popular with a large number of Mac users anxious to put the latest Mac OS through its paces. To help you get the most out of the betas, the Rocket Yard is lending a helping hand with a collection of macOS Mojave guides.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To pique your interest, we started off with What’s New in macOS Mojave: A First Look at the Developer Beta.

The follow-up article described How to Get Your Mac Ready for the macOS Mojave Beta.

And that leaves this article, which covers how to perform the actual install of the macOS beta.

Developer or Public Beta of Mojave?
Apple developers already have access to the beta of Mojave, and since the public beta isn’t quite available yet, we’re going to base our install guide on the developer version, and then come back and update the guide for any changes that occur when the public beta is released. I don’t expect too much to change between the developer and public beta versions. The usual changes seen in past betas were primarily differences in file names, installer commands, or menu names; there’s rarely a dramatic difference in the actual install process. But be sure and check back; you never know what may happen between now and then.

How Many Ways Are There to Install the macOS Mojave Beta?
More than you might think, but we’re going to look at two primary methods: the upgrade install and the clean install. We’ll also take a look at installing the beta on Parallels, a popular virtual machine app.

  • Upgrade Install: The easiest of the install options. It will upgrade your current version of the macOS to the beta version of Mojave. It will also update all of your Apple apps to the beta Mojave versions, and may also update the document formats of some apps. Because the upgrade install of the beta is an all-or-nothing process, I recommend that you install the beta on a copy/clone of your current startup disk. This will leave your current system intact and usable for your normal daily tasks, and still allow you to test and try out the beta on a different drive, one that contains copies of all your apps and data.
  • Clean Install: This install process creates a pristine copy of the macOS Mojave beta on a target drive. It can completely erase the destination volume and then install a fresh copy of the Mojave beta. I don’t recommend using this install method on your Mac’s normal startup drive since you would lose all your current data. Using the clean install method on an empty external drive is a better option.

Back Up, Please
Before using any of the install methods outlined here, be sure to start the process by making sure you have a current backup of your startup drive, as well as any other drives that contain important information you can’t afford to be without.

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by Tom Nelson

Itching to get your hands on the macOS Mojave beta so you can experience all the new features? There are some very important steps to take before you expose your Mac to any beta software, and when the beta is of a new operating system release, you really should consider building a wall between the beta software and the Mac OS and apps you use daily for work and play.

Before we begin constructing the beta wall, let’s take a moment to look at the macOS Beta programs available to you.

Apple Developer Program
This is probably the best-known method of gaining access to the resources needed to develop for the Mac. If you have a hankering to build an app, develop an extension, or integrate tools with the Mac operating system, the Apple Developer Program is the place to start.

There are various developer memberships levels, from free, which gives you access to documentation, the Xcode developers’ suite, and the Swift programming language, to paid yearly memberships, which include the ability to distribute your applications through the appropriate App Store, as well as access the various operating system and app betas that Apple provides to its developers.

The macOS Mojave beta was made available to developers shortly after the WWDC 2018 keynote speech.

Apple Beta Software Program
Apple also provides betas of its operating systems to the general public through the free Apple Beta Software Program. This program is open to all Apple users willing to sign up for the program and participate by providing feedback on the betas they’re working with.

The public beta releases are expected mid-summer. Sign up now if you wish to participate in any of Apple’s beta programs.

Betas provided through the public Beta Software Program lag slightly behind those given to Apple developers. I’ve always thought of the difference between the two this way: Apple gives the latest beta version to the developers to help find major issues, like a bug that deletes all the files on your startup drive. After a week or so of being in the developers’ hands with no catastrophic bugs showing up, the beta (usually under a slightly different version number) is released through the public beta program.

Having more eyes on the beta operating system through the public release should cause additional bugs and issues to be discovered and reported to Apple. The macOS Mojave public beta is expected to be released mid-summer.

Building the Beta Wall
As noted above, the purpose of betas is to help discover bugs and issues in a beta app. This means that anyone participating in either beta program should expect to encounter problems that could range from a funny misspelling in a menu, to a minor annoyance in how an app works, to system freezes or data loss.

Which brings us to the first rule of working with Apple betas: Never install a beta on your primary computer.

This rule, however, tends to be impractical for most users of a public beta. Many of us don’t have multiple computers, and if we do, we probably don’t have one that we can dedicate for use only with beta software. A more practical approach is to isolate the beta, and keep it from interacting with the startup drive and the data you use daily.

The usual methods to isolate a beta are to install it on an external drive that you can selectively boot from when you wish to work with the beta, or install it on a virtual machine, such as Parallels, that runs the beta as a guest OS, with any interaction with your main Mac being performed through the virtual machine software.

Each method has its advantages. Installing on an external bootable drive allows you to work with the beta in its normal environment; no virtual software performing translations, or pretending to be hardware devices. You experience the beta operating directly on your Mac’s hardware.

The major disadvantage is the inconvenience of having to reboot your Mac whenever you wish to use the beta software.

When you choose to install the beta in a virtual environment, you can work with both the beta and your normal Mac OS at the same time. The disadvantage is the virtual environment is generally slower, especially graphics performance, which can be subpar during the beta phase and even prevent some new OS features from working as intended.

In this article, I’m going to assume you’re installing the beta on an external drive that you will selectively boot from when you want to use the macOS beta. Because the beta install process may also update your drive to APFS, I don’t recommend installing the beta on any current internal drives your Mac may have. I’m not saying to avoid APFS; I just don’t think it’s a good idea to let a beta installer convert a drive that likely contains precious data. It’s far better to dedicate an external drive for use with the macOS beta.

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by Tom Nelson

Disk Utility’s Restore function can be used to copy the content from one volume to another. In this respect, it’s similar to the process of cloning a volume, and indeed, the Restore function can be used to create bootable clones. But if this is your primary reason for using the Restore function, I recommend the use of dedicated cloning apps, such as Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper, that have a great deal more features that are highly serviceable in the cloning process.

The Restore feature can also be used to copy disk images to a target volume, restore an image of your startup volume, or simply copy the content of one volume to another.

We’ve already covered the basics of using the Restore feature for cloning in the Rocket Yard article: Tech Tip: How to Use the Restore Feature of Disk Utility to Clone a Drive.

In this guide, we’re going to look at how Disk Utility’s Restore feature has changed in macOS High Sierra; specifically, the new support for APFS containers and volumes, and how they bring new capabilities as well as limitations to how you restore data from one storage device to another.

When you select a destination volume from the Disk Utility sidebar, you can verify the file system in use on the selected volume by checking the information pane. In this example, the destination volume is formatted with APFS.Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

What Hasn’t Changed in the Disk Utility Restore Function
The basic concept remains the same; you use Disk Utility to select a destination volume from the sidebar, and then choose a source to copy from. Once the copy (Restore) starts, the destination device is unmounted and erased, and the content from the source is copied to the new location. Once the copy is complete, the destination is mounted, and you’re ready to make use of the information.

Restore can also make copies of disk images, as well as just about any device that can be mounted on the Mac’s Desktop. This means you can make copies of just about anything you wish, including creating archives of videos from your camera’s flash drives before you perform any type of edits, creating clones before upgrading an OS or important app, and just as important, being able to return to a known good state should something befall an upgrade.

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by Tom Nelson

Securely wiping a drive, removing all of its data, and ensuring that no meaningful information can be recovered, has long been a feature of Disk Utility and its erase function. Even though the default for Disk Utility is a simple erase, a secure wipe was just a few clicks away.

Two recent changes have made the traditional secure wipe, performed by overwriting a volume multiple times with various types of data patterns, largely a thing of the past. The first change, leading to less reliance on the various secure wipe options, has been the proliferation of SSDs, both as original equipment provided by Apple and by resellers, such as OWC, which bring higher performance storage systems to the Mac.

Using the Security Options to sanitize a volume may be a thing of the past. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The second change that directly affects the Mac community, at least in the way free space can be securely erased, is the release of the APFS file system, and how it makes use of shared space between multiple volumes.

In this guide, we’re going to look at erasing volumes, partitions, and containers. We’ll be looking at drives formatted with APFS as well as those formatted with the traditional HFS+ file system. If you’re working with macOS Sierra or earlier, you may find the Rocket Yard Guide: How to Use Mac’s Disk Utility to Securely Wipe a Drive a good source of information for erasing your drives.

We’ll be using the Disk Utility app included with macOS High Sierra and later.

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