Tips & Tricks

Backing up your Mac

Backing up your Mac

Backing up your Mac regularly is quite possibly the most important task you should get in the habit of doing as a Mac user. Your Mac’s hard drive will most likely fail at some point. It may take a couple of years, or quite a few years. And in some rare cases it can happen after just a few months. Sometimes, just a small drop of your laptop, or an electrical surge can damage the drive and eventually cause hard drive failure. Which is why it’s extremely important that you backup your computer on a regular basis. That way,  you can recover all of  your data from that backup if something goes wrong.
I do a fair amount tech support and data recovery work. And for me, one of the worst situation is diagnosing a failed hard drive, and finding out that the client does not have a recent back-up. That could mean thousands of photos and videos gone all of the sudden. Or important work and business documents that are no longer accessible. Sometimes the data can be recovered, but in some cases the drive is so damaged that the data cannot be recovered. Or it can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to get the data recovered. So, this is really important stuff !

So, in this article, I want to cover the 2 basic ways you can backup your Mac. Personally, I think the easiest and quickest option is to backup to an external drive plugged into your Mac. You can then use the built-in Apple application called Time Machine to completely backup your Mac on a daily basis, or just once in a while. You can use pretty much any external drive, as long as it’s big enough in size to hold your data. This kind of external drive from Western Digital, or something similar, should be good enough for most people: Western Digital 2TB drive
Time Machine is not your only option, but it’s definitely the easiest. Here’s a good article that shows you how to use Time Machine.

time machine image
If you’d like something a little more powerful, and with more flexibility, here are some other good options:

Carbon Copy Cloner 
Super Duper
Mac Backup Guru

Another way you can backup your data is by doing it through the cloud, and you have many services you can choose from.
Basically, there is two varieties of cloud solutions:
1) Companies that specialize exclusively in offering backup solutions such as Dropbox, Backblaze or Carbonite.
2) Cloud services offered by large companies as an added feature to their other services, such as Apple’s iCloud, Google Drive, and Microsoft’s OneDrive.

Each service has its own pros and cons, and you’ll want to do a little research before you pick any one service. You can of course combine some of these services together for different purposes. You could for example, use iCloud for photos, Dropbox for business documents, and OneDrive for various other files. It’s completely up to you to decide what works best for you, and it will probably also depend on what services your family and co-workers use.
But most importantly, pick a system that works for you , and make sure use it. If you’re looking for something fast and easy, your best option is to use an external hard drive with Time Machine. If you are constantly traveling and would rather not have to lug around an external drive with you, then a cloud solution will be best. And if sharing files or collaborating with others is essential to your workflow, a cloud solution will be most useful.

As far as I’m concerned, you cannot overdo it with backups. I highly recommend that you have a Time Machine backup along with at least some of your files backed up to the cloud. Take your time to set things up correctly, and you could end up saving yourself  a lot of frustration and money in the long run.

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in iCloud, Mac, Productivity, Recommendations, Tips & Tricks, 0 comments
Customizing your iCloud settings on iPhone

Customizing your iCloud settings on iPhone

If you’re using an iPhone or iPad, it is beneficial to have a basic grasp of which iCloud services are available to you on those devices, and how to turn each setting on and off. When you use iCloud on your iPhone, you are allowing Apple to back-up some of your information to the Apple servers somewhere in the US. Once the initial back-up is done, you can also ask iCloud to sync all your Apple devices so that you will the same information across all devices.
In this video, I cover all the different settings which are available to you on iPhone / iPad, and how to customize them for your needs:

Over the years, iCloud has grown to include a broad set of features which are all pretty useful, but you may not necessarily want or need to use all of them. So, we’ll look at what each service does, and you can decide whether you want to turn it on or not.

  1. iCloud Drive: This is Apple’s answer to other cloud services such as DropBox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. This service allows you to easily back-up files and documents from your computer and mobile devices to the the Apple servers. Those files an documents are then synced across all your devices on which iCloud drive is turned on. If you tend to save a lot of large files onto iCloud Drive, you may at some point need to buy extra storage space for iCloud.
  2. Photos: This allows you to sync either some of your photos and videos, or all of your photos and videos to iCloud. If you turn on the iCloud Photo library, all your pictures and videos will be stored on iCloud and then synced across all your devices on which iCloud photo library is turned on. Turning on the iCloud Photo library can help clear space on your devices, particularly on iPhone and iPad if you’re running out of room.
    But it is important to keep in mind that if you turn on the iCloud Photo library on all your devices, once you delete an image or video from one device, it deletes from your other devices as well. Your Photos library will be identical on all devices on which this feature is turned on.
  3. Mail: This feature is available if you have one of the Apple supplied email addresses that are available for free to anyone. These addresses end in @icloud.com,  @me.com, and @mac.com.
    If you use one of these email addresses, your emails will then be synced across all devices. You can also save previous emails in folders as a back-up should you ever need to retrieve anything.
    These use the IMAP protocol, just like a Gmail address or a Yahoo address, which means that when you delete an email from one device, it also deletes it from everywhere else.
  4. Contacts: When you use the Contacts application (formerly known as Address Book) on your Mac, you can either save contacts to your Mac or to iCloud. The advantage of saving your contacts to iCloud is that your contacts will always be in sync on all your devices, and also become available on www.icloud.com. For the vast majority of people, you will probably be using the cloud to back up and sync your contacts. But it can also be used in conjunction with contacts you may have stored with Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Exchange and many other providers.
  5. Calendar: The Calendar app lets you can create events, appointments, and to do’s in a simple scheduling app. You can create calendar events either just on your Mac, or create them using iCloud, which will then sync across all your devices. Again, I strongly recommend that you use iCloud for your calendar events so that everything syncs across all your devices.
  6. Notes: Same as the previous two, most people should store their Notes in the cloud, unless you are really worried that someone could gain access to your iCloud account. You can create super simple notes, or far more intricate notes with tables and attachments in the latest version. It’s a pretty powerful tool which many people are starting to use instead of something like EverNote because it integrates so well with all your Apple products.
  7. Siri: Turning on Siri in the iCloud panel allows Apple to learn your voice across multiple devices. The way that Siri is supposed to work is that it learns your voice over time and gradually gets better at recognizing your voice and the way you ask it questions. If you’ve been using on iPhone for some time, and you get a new device, having Siri turned on in iCloud means that it doesn’t have to start from scratch and learn your voice all over again on that new device. Slightly spooky maybe, but pretty useful …
  8. Keychain: Keychain is password manager built into Apple products, which allows you to save only certain passwords. When you create or enter a username and password on a website while using Safari, you can save that username and password to your Keychain so that Safari will enter it automatically for you the next time your visit that sit. Your Keychain can also remember wi-fi passwords and various other internet related usernames and passwords. You cannot use it to store just any passwords like you can in some other applications like 1Password or LastPass. But it’s still a very handy feature.
  9. Back to My Mac: Hardly anyone uses this feature, because it hasn’t always worked very well. But, in theory, if you have 2 or more Macs using the same Apple ID, you can access your Macs remotely. So, if for example you’re on the road with your MacBook Air, and you have an iMac at home… If both are turned on and using that same Apple ID, you can access and operate you iMac from your MacBook Air. You can grab files from your home computer while you’re away basically. Again, it’s not used much, but it can be very useful for some people.
  10. Find my Mac / iPhone / iPad: With this feature turned on, you’ll be able to track down your Apple devices and see them  on a map when you log into www.icloud.com, or by using the Find my phone feature on one of your mobile devices. Of course, your device needs to be turned on and within reach of a network for this feature to work. For most people, I’d recommend you have this feature turned on in case you ever lose your device.
Posted by Ian Van Slyke in iCloud, iOS, iPhone, Learning, Tips & Tricks, Training, 0 comments
Clean up your iPhone storage

Clean up your iPhone storage

Today, I want to go over something which is sometimes confusing for some of the clients I work with. And that’s the issue of storage on iPhone.
The issue of running out of storage on the phone is probably one the biggest complaints that I get from clients I work with. And there seems to be a lot of confusion with this problem about how to make sure your don’t run out of storage. So, when we’re talking about your iPhone and iPad, there is two types of storage you need to stay on top of. The actual storage available on the phone itself, and the iCloud storage that you can use to store some of your files online and sync your devices.
In this video, I explain how you can check on your iPhone storage and clean things up if needed. Or you can read the instructions listed below the video.

First, there is your iPhone’s storage, which is how much physical storage space you have on the iPhone itself. And that’s something that you choose when you purchase your phone, and that storage size cannot be changed later on. It’s a fixed amount which cannot be altered, or added to, from then on. So, if you purchased an iPhone with 16GB of storage, that’s all it’s ever going to be able to hold. Which is of course different than what you can do with most computers, where you can usually add a bigger hard drive and more RAM.

And then you have your iCloud storage, and that’s how much storage space you have available on Apple’s computers that is reserved specifically for you, using your Apple ID. And that iCloud storage is something that you can upgrade later on, and buy more space for a fee, if you need to. And the reason you may want to do that is to be able to remove certain items from your phone to clear some space, and store those items on the cloud instead. So, I’ll show you how to check how much space you are currently using on your iPhone and iPad.

First, we’ll look at your iPhone storage to see how much room you have left on the phone itself, since usually, that’s going to dictate whether or not you might need to purchase extra iCloud storage. And you can find that information under Settings, then under the General section. Then if you scroll down a little bit, you’ll see the iPhone storage section. When you click on that, the phone will scan itself, and essentially take an inventory of everything on it, which might take a few seconds, or a few minutes depending on how full your device is. Once it’s done, you’ll see a colored graph that tells you exactly what is taking up space on your phone. You’ll see different colored sections for Apps, Photos, Media, Mail, and so on.

At this point, you’ll be able to easily see what’s taking up space, and exactly how much room you still have left on your device.
Underneath that, you’ll see a section called Recommendations which is a new feature in iOS 11. And the way this feature works is that, if for example you downloaded a game a few months ago, and it’s taking up quite a bit of space but you haven’t played that game in quite a while. If you Enable “Offload unused apps”, it will remove that game from your device, as well as anything else you haven’t used in a while, but it will keep your settings. So, at some point in the future, you can just re-download the game if you want to play it again, and all your preferences and any progress you’ve made will still be there, so it’ll be exactly the same as the last time you played it.

Underneath that, you’ll see a list of everything that is taking up space on your device. The apps taking up the most space will be listed at the top of this list, and this is going to give you a very clear indication of what exactly is gobbling up your storage on your device. The main thing to be aware of is that the number you see to the right of the App’s name is the combined size of the app, as well as any content that’s within the app. So, for example with me, I use an app for listening to podcast called Overcast, and if I click on it, I can see that the app itself is really quite small at only 12 MB, but it’s the podcasts themselves which I’ve downloaded to the phone, those are what’s taking up a ton of space. I listen to a lot of podcasts, so there’s a full 20 GB of audio podcasts currently stored on my phone. If I were to delete the Overcast app from my phone, that would remove both the app and all the podcasts, and therefore clear up 20GB of space. Or, in this instance, I don’t really want to do that, so I could just go to the Overcast app and delete certain episodes to make room, now that I know that this is what is taking up a lot of the space on my phone.

Typically, the apps that tend to take up the most space are going to be anything containing videos and photos, and sometimes also music up to a certain extent. Some of the apps to keep an eye on are going to be the Photos app, or any other apps that you use to shoot pictures and videos with. And if you’re completely filling up your device with images and videos, you might want to consider using the iCloud Photo library, which we will look at later.

The Messages app is also one definitely worth checking on, because the files in there can really sneak up on you. A lot of people don’t really think to look there, but if you’re someone that sends and receives a lot of pictures and videos with friends and family through the Messages app, you can end up with tons of space being taken up by those files until you delete them. And one of the best new features in iOS 11 is the ability to check exactly what is taking up space in your Messages app. Mine is not a great example because I’ve already tidied up in here, but you can now click on the Messages app and you’ll get an exact breakdown of which files are taking up space. Then, you can click on Photos for example and see all the pictures that you currently have in the Messages app. You can then choose Edit at the top right of the screen and add little check-marks to each image you’d like to delete before hitting to trash can icon to actually get rid of them.

Now, keep in mind, if there’s an image that you see listed here that you want to save, you would need to go to the Messages app first, and click and hold on the image until you see the Save option, which will save that image to your Photos library. And it works the same way for the videos.

So, spend some time in here and look around, and see exactly what is taking up space on your phone. You might find that there are some apps that you never use, and probably no longer need to be there. So,  if you need to clear up space on your phone because it’s getting full, this is the first place you should look to understand what exactly is taking up the most room.

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in iPhone, Productivity, Tips & Tricks, 0 comments
Keep your apps updated

Keep your apps updated

Today, YouTube updated their iOS app after users reported that their devices would get unusually warm and the battery would deplete much quicker than usual while watching videos on the YouTube app. This update is supposed to fix that. And I think this brings up another important point. Whenever Apple releases a major software update such as they did with iOS 11 a couple months ago, many users will experience battery issues and are often very quick to blame Apple for what they are experiencing. I see a lot of comments implying that Apple is intentionally breaking or slowing down their phones with these updates so that consumers will be forced to buy a new iPhone or iPad. But I think that’s completely wrong. In most cases, I do think the problem lies with poorly written apps, or outdated apps that do not function properly with the new iOS update.

I often work with clients and when I open up their App Store, there is often dozens of apps that need updates. And once we’ve updated those apps, it usually resolves most of the issues they had been experiencing. Somewhere along the way, it seems like many people using various technology have gotten weary and suspicious of updating their devices. But updates in the vast majority of cases actually fix bugs and improve the app. Rarely is it a bad idea to update your devices. So, keep all your apps up to date and and you will most likely experience a better functioning device and new feature in your apps.

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in iOS, iPhone, Productivity, Software, Tips & Tricks, 0 comments
Tips for your Apple ID password

Tips for your Apple ID password

If you use any Apple devices, you have an Apple ID. And that Apple ID is crucial since that’s how Apple tracks what you’ve purchased, downloaded, and particularly if you’re using any of the iCloud services whatsoever. And while it’s always been important to create and use a strong password for your Apple ID, I feel that it’s even more important now than ever, given how many important hacks have been occurring the last few years. So, make sure to use 2 Factor Authentication, and then make sure you’re using a really strong password.

Also, I see more people using the Notes app on their Mac and iPhones to store sensitive information, such as all their passwords and financial information. So, it seems to me that Apple ID and iCloud login info will become an increasingly appealing target for hackers in the coming years.
I work with clients every week, and even though I try very hard not to let people share their login info with me, they will often blurt it out right in front of me, or write it down so that I can see it. And what I can say, is that most people are using awful passwords.

Apple’s guidelines is that your password must contain at least eight characters, a number, an uppercase letter, and a lowercase letter.
So, here’s my recommendations for this password:

  1. Don’t make it unnecessarily long. I’ve seen people use passwords that are 25 or 30 characters long, and that’s going to be a major pain in the ass when you have to enter that whenever you download a new app. Keep it short. Use just 8 characters, just like Apple wants you too. Try not to go over that.
  2. Use a password that you are not using anywhere else. You should do this for most important passwords anyways, but it’s particularly important with this password.
  3. Use something that makes no sense whatsoever. I see people use their dog’s name and birth-date all the time. Or their kids name. These are things that can often be found online if someone is trying to guess at your password. Social engineering is one of the key tools that hackers use, so don’t use anything that someone could find out online with a little bit of effort.

So, my recommendation is avoid at all cost using something like this: Julie1992 – It might be easy for you to remember, but you’re probably using names and dates that mean something to you, and chances are that you used something similar on other websites as well.
Use something like this instead: bur83-Lk – That makes absolutely no sense, and it should be very unique. And it’s really not that hard to memorize if you give it a try.

So, that’s it in a nutshell… I strongly recommend using a nonsensical password that’s short enough for you to memorize and type with ease. Hopefully, a strong password will help save you from any security breaches in the future.

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in iPhone, Mac, Mac Security, Recommendations, Tips & Tricks, 0 comments

10 tips for Apple Mail

I’ve recently uploaded a video to YouTube with 10 tips for customizing and working smarter in the Mail application for Mac. These should help anyone work a little faster when using the Mail app. In this video I explain how you can :

  1. Customize the Mail toolbar.
  2. Make your email replies a little more concise.
  3. Check the real email address of a sender in order to prevent scams.
  4. Clean up old email addresses stored in Mail.
  5. How you can use the Filter and VIP function.
  6. Save attachments to different locations on your Mac or in the cloud.
  7. Use shortcuts to store messages in your folders.
  8. Select the default account for sending new messages.
  9. Use the Stationery browser.
  10. Change the sidebar icon size.

Hopefully you’ll find a couple of these tips and tricks useful, and let me know if you have any questions about any of these.

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in Mac, Productivity, Software, Tips & Tricks, 0 comments
Great free software for your Mac

Great free software for your Mac

There are some great Mac software available your computer, which can help make your Mac run a little smoother and safer. Today, I will list 3 of these tools which I highly recommend, and that I’ve been using for years.

The first one I’d recommend is OnyX from Titanium Software. This utility lets you clean up and customize certain aspects of your Mac without requiring you to learn a ton of features. You still need to be careful, as it is pretty powerful, but as long as you stick to the default options and do not turn on the features you don’t understand, you will be fine. You can download OnyX from here.

Another piece of software that I would strongly suggest you install on your Mac is Malwarebytes for Mac. This program lets you easily remove any malware you may have inadvertently installed on your Mac. Even though they now also offer a paid yearly subscription, the free version still does a fantastic job of removing any malware from your computer. This is an incredibly useful piece of software which can be a life-saver if you have adware on your Mac.
You can find Malwarebytes for Mac on this page.

And finally, I’m also a big fan of AppCleaner. If you decide to remove an application from your Mac, you should make sure that you remove every little bits and pieces from your computer. If you simply drag an application to the trash, there will still be plenty of small helper files left on your Mac. AppCleaner searches your whole computer and removes everything associated with the software you’re getting rid of, which is really great.
You can download and then install AppCleaner from this page.

That’s it, hopefully, you will find these applications useful for your Mac for some time to come. Enjoy !

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in Mac, Recommendations, Software, Tips & Tricks, 0 comments

The basics of using Mac shortcuts and gestures

I’ve put up a video overview of the basics of using shortcuts and gestures on your Mac, and why you should start using them to save time. Keyboard shortcuts are probably the biggest productivity boost that you can  incorporate in your daily workflow, and learning a few important ones can really help tremendously.
Also check out these two web-pages for more information regarding shortcuts and multi-touch gestures:

First off is Dan Rodney’s MAC KEYBOARD SHORCUTS web-page, which is a fantastic resource for learning more about all the little symbols you’ll see in shortcut menus, and how they match to your keyboard:
https://www.danrodney.com/mac/

Then, you should also look at the Apple Support webpage that explains track-pad gestures here :
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204895

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in Learning, Mac, Tips & Tricks, Training, 0 comments
The Mac Productivity Course is now available

The Mac Productivity Course is now available

Over the last few months, I’ve been busy developing a 6 week course designed to help you master your Mac. In the course, you get over 6 hours of HD video tutorials that will help you become more efficient and knowledgeable in the most important areas of using your Mac. Starting off with the important basics of using a Mac, all the way to more advanced features. The point of this course is to teach a number of ways you can speed up your workflow on the Mac, as well as your other Apple devices. It is filled with little tips and shortcuts that I’ve learned over the last 10 years of working as an Apple Certified Pro.

This course will help you :

1. Be more organized on the Mac.
2. Become more efficient online.
3. Get the most out of iCloud and other cloud services.
4. Work with Photos and videos on your Apple devices.
5. Back up your Mac properly.
6. Work with music, podcasts, and iTunes across all your devices.

You can find out more about this course by going to the home page of the Mac Productivity Course.

Posted by Ian Van Slyke in Learning, Mac, Productivity, Tips & Tricks, Training, 0 comments