Deleting Incomplete Time Machine Backups

Does Time Machine continually display a status message of Preparing Backup and, thus, it fails to ever complete its current backup of your Mac? If so, you might need to delete the InProgress backup file. These InProgress backup files are created as part of Time Machine performing a backup. However, if the backup fails or gets interrupted then these incomplete backups can get in the way of Time Machine being able to successfully complete a backup until this InProgress file is deleted. Read More

Disable Your Mac’s Automatic Installation Of Mac OS Updates

Please make sure that your Mac is not configured to automatically install operating system (OS) updates. Since Apple recently released a major update to the Mac operating system, now is a good time to make sure your Mac doesn’t automatically install this update. The reason why I advocate this position is that major updates often introduce significant changes to how things look and operate. Additionally, some of your applications or peripherals may not be fully compatible with the new operating system. Most people do not want to unexpectedly have to learn a new way of doing things or deal with the inconvenience of a critical application not working properly.  Read More

How To Reveal Missing Mail Folders

Are you missing your email folders in Apple Mail? Did these folders disappear after you upgraded your Mac’s operating system or after you migrated your data to a new Mac?  mail-folder-listIf so, there’s likely an easy fix. Apple added a Show/Hide button to Apple Mail. I believe they added it to Mail starting with OS X Lion (aka OS X 10.7). This button can be used to either show your mail folders or to hide them. This button can be quite vexing because this button is not visible all of the time. In fact, it’s invisible by default. It only becomes visible when you move your cursor on top of it. The red ovals in the image to the right show where this Show/Hide button is located.

In the image you can see that the mail folders in my On My Mac section are currently displayed. Thus, if you move your cursor to the circled area you’d see a Hide button. If you click this button your folders would disappear.

Similarly, the mail folders in the iCloud section are currently not displayed. If you moved your cursor to the circled area you’d see a Show

The image to the right shows you what the Show button looks like. If you ever discover that all of your mail folders have vanished, please locate the Show/Hide button and click on it to see if your folders magically re-appear. If this is not the solution to your problem, then please quit and re-open Mail since this can also sometimes help folders re-appear.




Everybody Should Have Off-Site Backups

Everybody should have an off-site backup of their data. Off-site backups are good protection against fire, floods, burglaries, earthquakes and similar events. These are rare events, but over the past 20 years, I’ve seen all of these events occur and affect client data.

As you design your backup system keep in mind the primary 3-2-1 rule. You should have 3 copies of your data. The original plus 2 backup copies and 1 of the backup copies should be off-site.

The two most common types of off-site backups are a Time Machine backup stored on an external drive and a cloud-based backup. There are pros and cons to each of these. Personally, I use both of these as off-site backup systems.

I have two external backup hard drives. Every Sunday I take one of my hard drives to my off-site storage location which is a few blocks from my home office. I drop off the drive and pickup the drive that has been sitting safely off-site for the past week. I bring that drive back to my home-office where it’ll become my active drive. I’ll use it to store backups made by Apple’s Time Machine. Then, at the end of the week, I’ll drive this hard drive off-site and begin the process again.

I also subscribe to a cloud-based backup service, CrashPlanPro. You can also use CrashPlan for personal backup. Collectively, I’ll refer to these two related services as CrashPlan. CrashPlan is a cross-platform cloud-based backup services. It supports Mac OS, Windows and Linux. CrashPlan, and all cloud-based backup services are only able to effectively backup user data, such as email messages, PDF files, JPEG files, Word files, music, etc. In other words cloud-based backup systems can’t effectively backup your computer’s operating system or applications. This is in contrast to Time Machine which can backup the Mac operating system and applications.

Another important difference between Time Machine and cloud-based backup systems, like CrashPlan, is the amount of Time needed to complete initial backups and/or restore data. For example, if one has 100 GB of stuff on his or her Mac’s internal hard drive, Time Machine could copy all 100 GB onto an external hard drive in a few hours. Cloud-based backup systems would need at least several days and possibly a week or even several weeks. The amount of time would depend largely upon the upload speed or one’s Internet connection.

Similarly, it can take much longer to restore a lot of data from a cloud-based backup system, like CrashPlan, compared to the time it takes tor restore data from Time Machine. This is why I recommend that everybody use Time Machine as their primary (on-site) backup system. If you have the discipline to manually swap hard drives and thus create an off-site Time Machine backup, that is ideal. If you do not have the discipline to create an off-site Time Machine backup, or even if you do, I think a cloud-based backup system, like CrashPlan is a good secondary backup that’ll create an off-site backup.



Common Ways To Eject A Disk From A Mac

Here’s a list of common ways to eject a disk from a Mac. This disk could be a CD, a DVD, a USB flash drive or an external hard drive.

  • Some Apple keyboards have an eject key. It is commonly located in the upper right corner of the keyboard. Press the eject key to eject the disk. If your keyboard doesn’t have an eject key but it does have an F12 key, hold that key for a few seconds, instead.
  • Locate the desktop icon for your disk. Then click on and drag that icon towards the Trash icon on the Dock. You’ll notice that the Trash icon changes to an Eject symbol, drop the disk’s icon onto this Eject symbol. Alternatively, don’t drag the icon at all. Instead, hold down the Control key and click on the desktop icon, select Eject from the menu that appears.
  • Click on the Finder icon on the Dock to open a Finder window. On the left-side of the Finder window click the eject icon that appears to the right of disk’s name.
  • Some applications, such as iTunes and Disk Utility, have an eject command in a menu or toolbar. Launch the application and use the eject command to eject the disk.
  • If none of these methods work, restart your Mac. If you want to disconnect a USB flash or an external drive, simply do so during the first few seconds after the restart. If you’re trying to eject a CD or DVD then hold down the Mouse button. Continue to hold it until the disk is ejected.

Keep A Spare USB Mouse and USB Keyboard Handy

I recommend that everybody keep a USB mouse and USB keyboard handy. Whether you use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse or ones connected by USB cables, I think you should keep a spare keyboard and mouse and this spare set should have USB cables. I recommend this for a couple of reasons.

The primary reason is that you never know when an accident will happen. A glass of water could easily be spilled and this could cause either a keyboard or mouse to malfunction.

If you typically use a bluetooth keyboard or mouse you could find yourself in a pinch if the batteries die and you don’t have any replacement batteries on hand.

Since it’s impossible to use a computer without a keyboard and mouse, you should have a spare of each device handy. Perhaps you could hold onto an older USB keyboard and USB mouse that came with a previous Mac. Or, you could even use a USB keyboard and USB mouse that came with a PC. If you want to buy some spares Macally offers some basic USB mice starting at about $15. Macally offers USB keyboards starting at $30. They even currently offer both a USB keyboard and mouse for about $30. Logitech also offers some inexpensive peripherals. Logitech offers both a USB keyboard and USB mouse for about $20Logitech’s M100 mouse has cost about $10 for many years. Their K120 keyboard costs about $20.

Two Hidden iPhone Features

Do you have an iPhone? Here are two undocumented features that I use everyday on my iPhone.

  1. Silence incoming calls – You can instantly silence an incoming phone call by pressing either of the volume buttons. By pressing one of the volume buttons one time you’ll immediately silence your phone if it’s ringing or buzzing.
  2. Jump to the top of a page or list – Have you ever scrolled to the bottom of a long web page or to the Z’s in your list of contacts? Rather than scrolling back to the top, simply tap your the top of your iPhone’s screen. The top area is called the Status Bar. It typically displays the time, your battery level, cell phone signal strength and other information. Tap anywhere on this Status Bar area and you’ll jump to the top of your web page or list.

I have found these features indispensable once I learned they existed. Apple did a good job of hiding them. I discovered the first feature, by accident, many years ago. I stumbled across the second gem while reading a web page of iPhone tips just a few months ago.

Use Email Archiver Pro To Export Emails As PDF Files

Would you like to be able to export some or all of your email messages as PDF files that you can store in a regular folder on your Mac? If so, check out Email Archiver Pro (time-limited demo version available). Previously, I wrote about how to archive email if you use Microsoft Outlook (or Entourage) and using EagleFiler to archive messages from Apple Mail. Email Archiver Pro takes a different approach to archiving emails. First, Email Archiver Pro works independently of your email application, such as Apple Mail or Microsoft Outlook. Second, it exports email message as .pdf files as opposed to .mbox or .eml files which are created by EageFiler and other mail archiving applications.  Read More