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Archive for the ‘Software Tips’ Category

by Tom Nelson

Your Mac is full of secrets; special files and folders hidden away so you don’t accidentally make changes to critical system components. But Apple isn’t the only one that hides items on your Mac; some developers use similar tricks to keep important secret app files, such as licensing credentials, from being used willy-nilly.

You can get in on the secrets of hiding files and folders so that others can’t easily find them, or make use of their content, with just a few simple Terminal tricks.

Using Terminal to Hide a File or Folder
Terminal has always been a favorite app of mine, so much so that I keep it in the Dock for easy access. Terminal can be used to invoke a couple of commands that can be used to hide or unhide a file or folder.

You may have already made use of the Terminal chflags command to unhide the user’s library folder, which Apple hides by default. If you’re wondering about the user’s library, often written out as ~/Library, you can learn a bit more about it in the article: Access Your Hidden Library Folder With These Five Easy Tricks.

Use the Secrets folder to hide any files or folders you wish. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Let’s take a look at hiding a folder using Terminal by first creating a folder that we can hide.

Open a Finder window, and navigate to your home folder. You can do this by selecting your home folder from the Finder sidebar.

Within the home folder window, either right-click in an empty area and select New Folder from the popup menu, or select New Folder from the Finder’s File menu.

A new folder will be created, and the name (untitled folder) highlighted. Enter a new name for the folder, such as Secrets.

With the Secrets folder created, it’s time to make it disappear.

Launch Terminal, located in /Applications/Utilities, and arrange the Finder and Terminal windows so that you can see both of them.

In the Terminal window, enter the following at the prompt:

chflags hidden ~/Secrets

Hit the Enter or Return key.

The Secrets folder should disappear from the Finder window.

The Secrets folder wasn’t deleted; it simply had a flag changed that told the Finder not to display it in a Finder window. The folder is still right where you created it.

We can bring it back by typing a magic word or two in Terminal:

chflags nohidden ~/Secrets

Press Enter or Return.

The Secrets folder is back.

The first chflags command hides the folder named Secrets, while the second chflags command reveals the hidden Secrets folder. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

That’s not the only Terminal method for making a file or folder disappear. You can also make a file or folder disappear by prepending a period to its name. If we change the Secrets folder name to .Secrets the folder will become invisible to the Finder.

Alternatively, you can use the Terminal mv command, which is designed to move a file or folder to a new location, but can also be used to change a file or folder name.

In the Terminal window, enter the following:

mv ~/Secrets ~/.Secrets

Press Enter or Return.

Just as before, the Secrets folder becomes invisible in the Finder.

You can make it visible again by using the mv command to remove the period from its name.

In the Terminal window, enter:

mv ~/.Secrets ~/Secrets

Hit Enter or Return.

The Secrets folder is now visible within the Finder.

The first mv command is used to hide the Secrets folder by adding a period at the front of its name. The second mv command removes the period and makes the Secret folder visible. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

With both the chflags and the mv Terminal commands, you’re able to make a folder and all of its contents become invisible in the Finder. You can also use the same commands on a single file, if you wish. But since the Terminal commands we mentioned require knowing the pathname to the item, it’s a good idea to just use a single folder to hide one or more items within. That helps simplify the process of remembering the required pathname when it’s time to make the items visible.

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by Tom Nelson

The Mac App Store was supposed to be the place to find and purchase apps for a Mac without having to worry whether the seller, developer, or some other third-party had somehow tampered with the app for nefarious purposes. You also weren’t supposed to need to worry about the download sites being full of ads that could contain malware, ransomware, or other worrisome possibilities.

For the most part, the Mac App Store, along with the other Apple app stores, has lived up to this expectation of being a place where malware and deceptive practices don’t exist. For the most part…

Unfortunately, it’s still advisable to make use of the various stores with caution; not so much about the worry of malware being embedded within an app, though it may happen once in a while, but of scammers trying to acquire personal information by using the Apple stores as bait.

Email Scams Using the App Store as Bait
I just got an email phishing scam this week that pretended to be from Apple, warning me about a purchase I made on the Mac App Store that wasn’t made by a device that Apple recognized. I should, according to this email, use the included link and log in to a special section of the Mac App Store, where I would be asked to verify or cancel the purchase.

The Mac App Store has a reputation as a safe place to purchase Mac apps from, but that doesn’t stop scammers from using the Mac App Store as bait in phishing schemes. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

What a load of hooey. This email had scam written all over it. Besides its use of long run-on sentences and other grammar faux pas, there were a number of other indicators that can be spotted in most of these email phishing expeditions. Apple even has a guide to help you identify legitimate emails from the App Store.

Another phishing scam making the rounds involves receiving a confirmation note about a subscription you purchased in one of the Apple stores. The text of these subscription scams all start by confirming a free trial subscription to a service, and notifying you that once the free trial is over, the monthly cost is an absurdly high amount. One current example is a subscription to YouTube Red, at a monthly cost of $144.99. The purpose of this type of scam is to get you to click on the Cancel Subscription link included in the email. Doing so will take you to a site where you’ll be asked to provide your Apple ID or credit card info, or both. Of course, there never was a subscription to the service, but playing on the fear of being billed will lead some people to click that cancel link.

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by Tom Nelson

AirDrop is a peer-to-peer file sharing system for local Mac and iOS users. It’s easy to set up with just a click or two; no special information or settings are needed. Just drag-and-drop a file to share with others.

In this Rocket Yard Guide, we’re going to take a look at AirDrop’s history, the basics of its use, and a tip or two for improving its use, including adding AirDrop to the Mac’s Dock for easy access.

AirDrop History
Originally developed for the Mac and released with OS X Lion, AirDrop made use of a new Wi-Fi standard called PAN (Personal Area Network) that allowed for the creation of an ad-hoc wireless network. To make setting up the network automatic, Apple made use of its Bonjour service, which allowed Macs to broadcast that they were part of the Wi-Fi network and could receive files from others.

When iOS 7 was introduced, it included its own version of AirDrop, but replaced the use of Bonjour with Bluetooth LE, and kept peer-to-peer Wi-Fi for sending and receiving, though it dropped the use of the PAN protocol.

When OS X Yosemite was released, it included support for both sets of AirDrop protocols, allowing supported Macs to use AirDrop with other supported Macs, as well as iOS devices.

Not all Macs or iOS devices are compatible with AirDrop. You can check this AirDrop support document to see if your Mac or device supports AirDrop.

Using AirDrop
AirDrop requires the use of either Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, depending on the version of AirDrop being used.

You can open an AirDrop Finder window by selecting AirDrop from the Finder sidebar, or from the Finder’s Go menu.

The AirDrop window displays nearby devices that have AirDrop enabled. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

AirDrop appears as a special Finder window folder that displays any nearby Mac or iOS devices that have AirDrop enabled.

You can drag any file or folder onto a device listed in the AirDrop window. You can also use the share button within an app to send a file via AirDrop. Depending on the version of AirDrop being used, you may be asked to confirm that you wish to send a file to the selected user.

The destination device will display an alert, asking the user if they wish to accept the files being sent.

On the Mac, files being sent will appear in the Downloads folder, once accepted. On iOS devices, the files will be associated with specific apps, such as images being placed in the Photos app.

Can’t find one of your older Macs? Later versions of AirDrop changed the method used to detect AirPort-enabled devices. You may need to use the Search for an Older Mac option. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

OS X Yosemite and later support both sets of protocols, but are set to Bluetooth LE/Wi-Fi as the default. To access older Macs, you must select the option to search for older Macs. This will reset the protocol to the older version, allowing you to connect with older Macs, but not with iOS or newer Macs using Bluetooth LE/Wi-Fi. In OS X Yosemite and later, you’ll find this option labeled “Don’t see who you’re looking for?” at the bottom of the AirDrop folder window. Clicking in this text will bring up the option to Search for an older Mac.

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by Tom Nelson

The Mac’s Disk Utility app supports a number of capabilities that make managing the Mac’s storage system easier. But one set of features seems to get overlooked a bit: the creation and management of encrypted disk images.

Disk images have many benefits; they can be used to distribute apps and data to users, for creating master image files for various media types, such as CDs and DVDs, and for creating archives and backups, as well as quite a few additional creative uses.

Encrypted disk images allow you to protect the content of the images from prying eyes. Encrypted disk images can’t be mounted, viewed, or accessed unless you know the password associated with the image file.

In this Rocket Yard Guide, we’re going to look at how to create encrypted disk images. We’ll start with an overview of the basics of disk images and encryption, and then show you how to actually create various types of disk images.

Encryption Type
Disk images support two types of encryption: 128-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) and 256-bit AES. The two levels of encryption refer to the size of the keys used in the encryption/decryption process. The 256-bit encryption is considered more secure than the 128-bit encryption, but the 256-bit encryption also takes longer to encrypt and decrypt. The 128-bit encryption will likely meet the needs of most people, while the 256-bit encryption is a better choice for data that needs a higher level of protection.

Mounting an Encrypted Disk Image
Before you can make use of a disk image, it needs to be mounted, so your Mac can work with the data within it. Mounting an encrypted disk image isn’t much different than mounting a normal disk image; simply double-click the disk image file, or right-click (control-click) the disk image file, and select Open from the popup menu.

Before the image is mounted, your Mac will display a window that asks you to provide the password to grant access to the information stored within. Enter the password, and click the OK button.

You can also automate the task of providing the password by selecting the option to “Remember password in my keychain.” When this option is selected, either during the encrypted image file creation (OS X Yosemite and earlier), or when you’re asked for the password when mounting the image (all versions of the Mac OS), the password will be stored within your keychain and used automatically the next time you mount the image file.

Unmounting an Encrypted Disk Image
Unmounting an encrypted disk image returns the image file to an encrypted state, preventing access to the data stored within. You can unmount the image by dragging the mounted image (not the image file) to the trash, or right-clicking on the mounted image and selecting Eject from the popup menu.

Image Formats
Disk Utility supports creating a number of disk image formats that can be used for various projects. Not all of the following formats are available in every version of Disk Utility, or with every method of creating a disk image.

Disk Utility supports a number of image formats. The formats that are available can change with the version of the OS, and the method used to create a disk image. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Read only: Allows the content of the mounted image to be viewed, and any files it contains to be opened and read. Additions to the image or changes to any of the files are not allowed. The read only option is only available when creating an image from a folder or drive, or when converting from one image format to another.

Compressed: Similar to the read only option, but any free space within the image is first removed to reduce the size of the image file. The compressed option is only available when creating an image from a folder or drive, or when converting from one image format to another.

Sparse image: This type of image format allows the image size to grow and shrink, to accommodate the amount of data stored in the image. The maximum size the image can grow to is set during the image creation process. Sparse image files have the file extension: .sparseimage

Sparse Bundle disk image: This type of disk image is made up of multiple small files, usually 1 MB, 2 MB, 4 MB, or 8 MB in size. When data stored on this type of image is changed, only the file(s) that contains the changed data needs to be changed, created, or deleted. Just like the sparse image format, a sparse bundle disk image has a flexible size that grows or shrinks to accommodate the data within. The sparse bundle disk image is used extensively with Time Machine. Sparse bundle image files have the file extension: .sparsebundle

Read/Write disk image: This image format allows you to add files to the image after it is created. The size of the image file is predefined, and can’t be expanded or reduced once created. Read/Write image files have the file extension: .dmg

DVD/CD master: This image type is used for mastering CDs or DVDs. If you’re using OS X El Capitan or later, when this format is selected, the image size field will change to a dropdown menu with 177 MB (CD 8 cm) selected. You can use the dropdown size menu to select any of the standard DVD/CD sizes. If you’re using OS X Yosemite or earlier, you must manually change the size field to one of the standard DVD/CD sizes. DVD/CD images have the file extension: .cdr

Hybrid image (HFS+/ISO/UDF): This image format is used for creating a single image whose files can be used on multiple platforms.

Note: The two sparse image formats have a maximum size that you set during creation. This is the size the image file will appear to have when mounted on your desktop. The actual image file (the .sparsebundle or .sparseimage file) will only use the amount of space needed to hold the data within.

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by Tom Nelson

Space, the final frontier. It may seem like an astronomically difficult problem, trying to keep enough free space on your Mac’s startup drive, especially if you have a Mac with a small SSD.

Space is precious, and one of the largest users of your drive’s space is likely to be your various media libraries. You likely have one or more photo libraries, as well as all the music, videos, podcasts, audiobooks, and mobile apps that are managed by your iTunes app. In many cases, your iTunes library is one of the main users of drive space.

One of the best ways to increase the amount of free space on your startup drive, and better manage your media libraries, is to move them from their usual home to an external drive. This allows you to use a large but relatively inexpensive drive to house all the data.

Consider this: A new USB 3.0 external drive with a 2 TB hard drive installed can be had for less than $150, possibly even less if you already have an enclosure to use, or a hard drive kicking around.

That’s why one of my recommendations for controlling drive space issues is to consider moving your media libraries to an external hard drive.

Move iTunes Library to External Storage
In this tip, we’re going to show you how to successfully move your iTunes library from its default location on your startup drive to an external drive connected to your Mac. This method will result in a seamless move, with your iTunes app able to pick up right where it left off, with no hiccups.

The first step in the process is to determine how much external storage you need by finding out how big your current iTunes library is. This will help determine a bare minimum size for an external dedicated to iTunes, though I suggest you use this number only as a reference. I recommend choosing a larger size that will accommodate any expected growth in the library, as well as any additional media libraries you may choose to install on the external now or in the future.

The Get Info window includes information about the size of the selected folder. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Find Out How Large the Current iTunes Library is
The default location for the iTunes library is in your home folder, within the Music folder (~/User_Name/Music). To find out how big the library is, perform the following:

Open a Finder window and navigate to: ~/User_Name/Music.

Right-click or command-click the iTunes folder, and select Get Info from the popup menu.

In the Get Info window that opens, make a note of the folder size found near the top left of the window, just under the General: section.

The size listed indicates the current size of the iTunes library.

You can close the Get Info window.

The size listed is just about the bare minimum. I say “just about” because you’ll need slightly more capacity on the external to ensure the library will fit. As an example, my iTunes library is about 49 GB, not very big as iTunes libraries go. It’s unlikely that my 49 GB library would fit on a 50 GB external (if you could still find such a small drive), due to the amount of space the external will reserve for itself during the formatting and partitioning process. It would be better to go up a size, from 50 GB to 60 GB, as the minimum space needed.

To this minimum, add space for expansion. Perhaps you’re an avid collector of new music and podcasts, or you like to install lots of mobile apps. All of these things will take up additional storage. I suggest going with the largest external drive your budget will tolerate. This will ensure you don’t need to expand the drive size in the near future, and you can always use any unused space for other data, perhaps your photo libraries, or to stream movies from.

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by Tom Nelson

In an earlier article, we looked at 10 Mac Features You Probably Don’t Use But Should. While researching that article we came across a bit more than 10 notable Mac features, so a follow-up article was born.

This time, we have seven more Mac features that are worth checking out. On the premise that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, we’d like to know in return what favorite feature you think doesn’t get enough respect from the typical Mac user. You can add it to the Leave a Comment section, below.

Mine is Stacks, I use them all the time to quickly access the content of folders and smart folders without having to dig through the Finder to locate them, and to have them available no matter how many apps and windows are cluttering up my desktop.

Stacks
Stacks are one of my favorite features of the Mac’s Dock. At its basic level, a stack is just a folder containing items that you’ve dragged to the right-hand side of the Dock. But a stack has a few more capabilities than just a plain folder; you can view the content of a stack by clicking on its Dock icon. You can specify how the content is to be displayed, and you can specify the sorting order of the content when viewed from the Dock, independent of how you have the sorting order set when manually opening the same folder in the Finder.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To give you an idea of the power of Stacks, we’re going to create a Stack to house all the items we’ve marked using Finder Tags, as mentioned in last week’s article: 10 Mac Features You Probably Don’t Use But Should.

Open a Finder window, and scroll down in the sidebar ’til you see the Tags section.

Drag one of the tag colors from the Finder sidebar to the right-hand side of the Dock.

A new stack will be created in your Dock, which you can use to quickly view all of the items on your Mac that you’ve tagged with that specific Finder Tag color.

Stacks have a number of options you can set that control how they look and behave. To find out more about Stacks and the options available, stop by Spacers, Stacks & Swapping: Mastering the Iconic macOS Dock, Part 2.

There are other Stacks you can create in your Mac’s Dock; another favorite is the Recent Items stack. You can find instructions for creating this stack in the article: Terminal Tricks: Mastering the Iconic macOS Dock, Part 3.

Add Glyphs Directly From the Keyboard
If you use your Mac for just about any type of correspondence, sooner or later you’re likely to need to produce diacritical marks that are placed above a letter to indicate a special pronunciation. In the past, these special marks were hidden away in the in the Mac’s Character Viewer, Emoji & Symbol Viewer, or Keyboard Viewer app (the names of these special character viewer apps change depending on the version of the OS you’re using).

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The viewers can be added to the Apple menu bar:

Launch System Preferences, and select the Keyboard preference pane.

Select the Keyboard tab, and then place a checkmark in the Show Keyboard and Emoji Viewers in Menu Bar box.

You can now access the character viewers directly from the right-hand side of the Apple menu bar.

Of course, there’s an easier way if all you need to do is add the accent glyph for a single character. Ever since OS X Lion, it’s been possible to add an accent glyph by holding down the letter’s key for a second or two, at which point a popover menu will appear directly above the character, listing all of the correct diacritical marks associated with that letter. Simply click on the mark you wish to use, or type the number that appears below the mark.

If none of the glyphs are the correct one, you can hit the Escape key to dismiss the popover menu.

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by Tom Nelson

With each release of the Mac OS, new features are added, older features may be updated, and in some cases, removed or replaced. Over the course of a few OS updates, it’s easy for some very useful system features to be forgotten. That’s why we’re going to take a look at 10 features that don’t get as much use as we think they should.

1) Tabbing Between Fields and Control Elements
The tab key can get quite a workout on the Mac. Besides its obvious use in text editors and word processors to move the cursor a predefined distance, it’s used on the Mac to move between fields in various apps. This makes the tab key extremely helpful when filling in an online form, letting you move quickly to the next field to enter information, or to the next list item to make a selection.

Further Reading: OWC Announces Cutting-edge Thunderbolt 3 Products at CES 2018

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

You may have noticed when filling in forms that the tab key will jump past dropdown menus and other types of controls used in forms and dialog boxes. You can make the tab key stop at just about any type of user interface element with this small change:

Launch System Preferences and select the Keyboard preference pane.

Select the Shortcuts button at the top of the Keyboard window.

Near the bottom you’ll find options for Full Keyboard Access. The default is to have the tab key only move between text boxes and lists. You can change the setting to have the tab key move between all controls.

You can also change the tab key behavior on the fly, without returning to the System Preferences, by using the keyboard shortcut Control + F7 to toggle between the two options.

2) New Folder With Selection
This useful Finder feature has been around since OS X Lion, but is still often overlooked when it comes to file management and organization. As long as you select two or more files, you can have the Finder automatically create a new folder and move the selected items into the folder for you.

Open a Finder window and navigate to the files you would like to have placed in a new folder. Select the files; remember you must select at least two files (or folders) for this trick to work.

Right-click or control-click on one of the selected items, and then choose New Folder with Selection (X Items) from the popup menu. The X in the menu name will be replaced with the number of items you actually selected.

You can also select multiple items in the Finder and from the File menu select New Folder with Selection (X Items).

3) Use a Document’s Icon to Move a File or Duplicate a File (Proxy Icon)
The proxy icon is the thumbnail of a document icon that appears in the title bar of the document window of most Mac apps, usually at the top center of the window. It’s called a proxy icon because it’s a stand-in for the actual icon of the document you’re working on.

The proxy icon is more than just a bit of eye candy. It can be used just like the document’s real icon, which means you can:

Drag the proxy icon anywhere on your Mac to create an alias to the original file at the new location.

Option + drag to create a copy of the document at the location you drag the proxy icon to.

Press command or control for a pop-down menu that shows the path to the document.

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by Tom Nelson

Installing a new version of the macOS can cause a bit of trepidation. Will all my older apps work? Are there any serious bugs in the new OS? Will my peripherals continue to work, including that wide-format LaserJet from the 90s that hasn’t had any driver updates since the millennium, but continues to be my go-to workhorse for tabloid printing?

You get the idea; upgrading to a new OS can have unexpected consequences that may end up with you wishing you never updated to begin with. And when those consequences are severe enough, you may decide to try to downgrade to one of the earlier versions of the Mac OS.

With the right preliminary preparations in place before you perform an upgrade, downgrading can be fairly easy, though a bit time consuming. Without the proper preparations, downgrading can be difficult, to say the least.

Before you attempt any downgrade, you should ensure you have a backup of your Mac as it currently exists, so you can return to the current state should anything cause the downgrade to fail, or needed files not to work with the older version of the OS.

Downgrade to a Previous Version of macOS When You Prepared Properly
Preparing properly is a two-step process. In general, you need to have a backup of your Mac as it existed before you started the upgrade process; you may also need to have a bootable copy of the version of the macOS installer you wish to downgrade to.

You’ll need the bootable OS installer if you’re downgrading from a macOS version that has an incompatible file system installed. An example would be downgrading from macOS High Sierrathat was installed on an APFS formatted drive to a version of the OS that doesn’t support APFS.

If you’re downgrading and both the currently installed OS and the one you’re moving back to both use the same file system, then you may only need to make use of your backup files.

Downgrade Using Just Time Machine
In this example, you’re going to make use of your Time Machine backup to downgrade from macOS High Sierra to macOS Sierra. In this example, macOS High Sierra was installed on a hard drive that was not converted to APFS, allowing you to use this simple method to downgrade.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To use this method, you’ll need to restart your Mac from the Recovery HD and restore your Mac from a selected Time Machine backup. What you should end up with is a Mac that’s in the exact state it was in before the upgrade.

Warning: Files you created after the upgrade point will not be restored. You may want to make copies of any important files you may need on an external device, such as a flash drive or an external drive.

From the Apple menu, select Restart.

After your Mac’s display goes blank, hold down the command + R keys. Continue to hold the two keys down until you see the Apple logo appear.

The macOS Utilities window will open. Select Restore From Time Machine Backup, and then click the Continue button.

The Restore From Time Machine window will display a few tidbits about what is about to occur. Click the Continue button.

A list of drives containing Time Machine backups will be displayed. Select your Time Machine backup drive from the list, and then click Continue.

A list of backups will be displayed, organized by date and the version of the Mac OS contained within the backup. Select the last backup for the version of the macOS you wish to downgrade to, and then click Continue.

The Restore From Time Machine Backup will begin. This process can take some time; once it’s completed, your Mac will restart.

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by Tom Nelson

macOS High Sierra brings with it a new filing system known as APFS (Apple File System). APFS replaces HFS+ (Hierarchical File System Plus), and offers a new, modern file system that is optimized for use with SSDs (Solid State Drives), while still being usable on hard drives and, in the near future, even on tiered storage systems such as Apple’s Fusion drive.

Image courtesy of Apple

As part of the upgrade process, the macOS High Sierra installer will automatically convert an SSD to the new APFS. The conversion process leaves the drive’s data intact, or at least it’s supposed to; be sure you have a recent backup before upgrading, just in case. At the time of this writing, the automatic conversion process is limited to internal SSDs. External SSDs being used as startup drives seem to be left with their original file system, with no conversion to APFS occurring. However, this could change with the next update to macOS High Sierra, as it seems Apple is committed to growing APFS usage across all Apple devices.

Although the conversion to APFS will happen automatically if your Mac startup drive meets the criteria, specifically, an SSD occupying a connection internally to your Mac, you can choose not to use APFS and force the installation to bypass the conversion process, leaving your startup drive in the older HFS+ format.

How to Prevent Automatic Conversion to APFS
There are a couple of strategies you can use to prevent the upgrade to APFS and retain the older HFS+ formatting:

Use an external drive: You can choose an external drive as the target for the macOS High Sierra upgrade. This will allow you to retain the current formatting on the external. Once the upgrade is complete, you can clone the external drive back to your normal internal startup drive. Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper are two popular apps for creating clones. You could use Disk Utility’s Restore feature to create your clone as well.

Use startosinstall: macOS High Sierra includes a command line tool hidden away within the installer that can be used to control the conversion to APFS. By using this tool, you can tell the installer not to convert to APFS during the installation process.

While either method will work, using the startosinstall utility is the easiest and quickest process. It allows you to perform the macOS High Sierra upgrade without any conversion to APFS. It also allows you to skip the additional step and save the additional time needed to make a clone, as required in the external drive method.

Using Startosinstall to Prevent Conversion to APFS
Startosinstall is included as part of the macOS High Sierra installer. If you downloaded the installer from the Mac App Store, you’re all set. If you happen to have the installer open, waiting for you to start the macOS High Sierra install process, simply quit the installer (Command + Q). You need to invoke the installer from the Terminal command line for the option to not install APFS to be available.

Before you begin, make sure you have a recent backup of all the data on your current startup drive and the target drive for the installation (if they’re different). Better to be safe than sorry.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Startosinstall has a number of options for automating the installation process. This includes the APFS option, which can be used to prevent the conversion to APFS, or for that matter, to force the conversion, making it a bit easier to upgrade an external SSD to macOS High Sierra should you decide you want to use APFS.

When you’re ready, launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities/.

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by Tom Nelson

macOS High Sierra contains many new features and capabilities, but APFS (Apple File System) is certainly one of the biggest changes. Changing the primary file system used by the Mac, or for that matter, any computer system is a big deal. Apple has only changed the default Mac file system twice in its 33-year history.

Macintosh File System (MFS) was the original file system introduced along with the Macintosh in January 1984. It was designed to meet the demanding needs of a 400 MB floppy disk. The Hierarchical File System (HFS) followed in September 1985, and the last file system upgrade was Hierarchical File System Plus (HFS+), which was released with Mac OS 8.1 in January 1998.

APFS and Time Machine, Boot Camp, and File Vault
While there have been some minor upgrades to HFS+ over the years, the Mac’s file system has stayed pretty much the same since 1998. That makes the new APFS file system a big deal. And like any big deal, there’s a lot to understand about how APFS will work with existing Mac apps and services, including Time Machine, Boot Camp, and File Vault.

We’re going to primarily look at these three Apple-provided apps and services, but third-party apps may also be affected by the change to APFS. It’s a good idea to check any file system utility you may be using for APFS compatibility.

Time Machine
In its current incarnation, the Time Machine app is mostly compatible with APFS; that is, you can back up an APFS formatted drive using Time Machine, as well as restore files from a Time Machine backup to an APFS formatted drive. However, there are some very important caveats that Time Machine users should be aware of.

Time Machine drives must be formatted in HFS+. Time Machine uses the magic of hard links, a feature that HFS+ file systems have to catalog and keep track of which files in a backup make up the current version of an app, document, or directory. Hard links are just one of three types of file linking that HFS+ supports, the others being symbolic links and aliases.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

APFS, on the other hand, does not support hard links. When you convert an HFS+ formatted volume to APFS, any hard links found during the conversion process are automatically changed to symbolic links, thus breaking your Time Machine backup into a collection of almost useless files. Luckily, installing macOS High Sierra won’t automatically convert Time Machine drives to APFS, but it’s possible to change the drive’s format to APFS from within Disk Utility or via the Terminal app. Resist the temptation to go all APFS; Time Machine will not cooperate with you.

If you do accidentally convert a Time Machine drive to APFS, the Time Machine app will no longer recognize the drive as a backup drive. If you select the old Time Machine drive within the Time Machine app as a backup destination, you’ll be confronted with an option to erase all of the content on the selected drive and reformat it as HFS+. (Actually, Time Machine will just warn you that it must first erase the destination drive, but the reason is because the drive has an incompatible format.)

Until Apple releases a new version of Time Machine that makes use of the APFS feature set, such as snapshots to replace file linking, your Time Machine backup must remain formatted as HFS+.

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