MacBook in easy steps: Covers OS X Yosemite (10.10) (2015)
Despite its stability, OS X still benefits from a robust maintenance regime. This chapter looks at ways to keep OS X in top shape, ensure downloaded apps are as secure as possible and some general troubleshooting.
Problems with Apps
Time Machine is a feature of OS X that gives you great peace of mind. In conjunction with an external hard drive, it creates a backup of your whole system, including folders, files, apps and even the OS X operating system itself.
Once it has been set up, Time Machine takes a backup every hour and you can then go into Time Machine to restore any files that have been deleted or become corrupt.
Make sure that you have an external hard drive that is larger than the contents of your MacBook. Otherwise Time Machine will not be able to back it all up.
Setting up Time Machine
To use Time Machine it has to first be set up. This involves attaching a hard drive to your Mac. To set up Time Machine:
Click on the Time Machine icon on the Dock or access it in the Launchpad
You will be prompted to set up Time Machine
Click on the Set Up Time Machine button
In the Time Machine System Preferences window, click on the Select Disk… button
Connect an external hard drive and select it
Click on the Use Disk button
In the Time Machine System Preferences window, drag the button to the On position
The backup will begin. The initial backup copies your whole system and can take several hours. Subsequent hourly backups only look at items that have been changed since the previous backup
The progress of the backup is displayed in the System Preferences window
When you first set up Time Machine it copies everything on your MacBook. Depending on the type of connection you have for your external drive, this could take several hours, or even days. Because of this it is a good idea to have a hard drive with a Thunderbolt connection to make it as fast as possible.
If you stop the initial backup before it has been completed, Time Machine will remember where it has stopped and resume the backup from this point.
Using Time Machine
Once the Time Machine has been set up it can then be used to go back in time to view items in an earlier state. To do this:
Access an item on your Mac and delete it. In this example folder iMac has been deleted
Click on the Time Machine icon
The Time Machine displays the current item in its current state (the icon is deleted). Earlier versions are stacked behind it
Click on the arrows to move through the open items or select a time or date from the scale to the right of the arrows
Another way to move through the Time Machine is to click on the pages behind the front one. This brings the selected item to the front
If you have deleted items before the initial set up of Time Machine, these will not be recoverable.
The active item that you were viewing before you launch Time Machine is the one that is active in the Time Machine interface. You can select items from within the active window to view their contents.
Click on the Restore button to restore any items that have been deleted (in this case the iMac folder)
Click on the Cancel button to return to your normal environment
The deleted folder iMac is now restored in its original location
Items are restored from the Time Machine backup disk, i.e. the external hard drive.
Disk Utility is a utility app that allows you to perform certain testing and repair functions for OS X. It incorporates a variety of functions and it is a good option for general maintenance and if your computer is not running as it should.
Disk Utility is located within the Applications > Utilities folder.
Each of the functions within Disk Utility can be applied to specific drives and volumes. However, it is not possible to use the OS X start-up disk within Disk Utility as this will be in operation to run the app, and Disk Utility cannot operate on a disk that has apps already running. To use Disk Utility:
Click the First Aid tab to check a disk
Select a disk and select one of the first aid options
If there is a problem with a disk and OS X can fix it, the Repair button will be available. Click on this to enable Disk Utility to repair the problem.
Erasing a disk
To erase all of the data on a disk or a volume:
Click on the Erase tab and select a disk or a volume
Click Erase to erase the data on the selected disk or volume
If you erase data from a removable disk, such as a pen drive, you will not be able to retrieve it.
This can be used to view how the different hardware and software elements on your Mac are performing. To do this:
Open the Utilities folder and double-click on the System Information icon
Click on the Hardware link and click on an item of hardware
Details about the item of hardware, and its performance, are displayed
Click on software items to view their details
System Information is located within the Applications > Utilities folder.
Activity Monitor is located within the Applications > Utilities folder.
Activity Monitor is a utility app that can be used to view information about how much processing power and memory are being used to run apps. This can be useful to know if certain apps are running slowly or crashing frequently. To use Activity Monitor:
Click on the CPU tab to see how much processor memory is being used up
Click on the Memory tab to see how much system memory (RAM) is being used up
Click on the Energy tab to see how much energy your computer is using and battery performance
Click on the Disk tab to see how much space and disk usage each app uses
Click on the Network tab to see how much data has been sent and received over your network.
Apple periodically releases updates for its software: both its apps and the OS X operating system. All of these are now available through the App Store. To update software:
Open System Preferences and click on the App Store icon
Click here to select options for how you are notified about updates and how they are downloaded
Click on the Check Now button to check for updates manually
Available updates are shown in the Updates section in the App Store. Click on the Update buttons to update
If Automatically check for updates is selected, you can specify to be alerted at the appropriate time when updates are available. This is done through the Notification Center.
Check On the Automatically download apps purchased on other Macs box if you want to activate this function.
For some software updates, such as those to OS X itself, you may have to restart your computer for them to take effect.
Internet security is an important issue for every computer user; no-one wants their computer to be infected with a virus or malicious software. Historically, Macs have been less prone to attack from viruses than Windows-based machines, but this does not mean Mac users can be complacent. With their increasing popularity there is now more temptation for virus writers to target them. Yosemite recognizes this and has taken steps to prevent attacks with the Gatekeeper function. To use this:
Open System Preferences and click on the Security & Privacy button
Click on the General tab
Check On the buttons to determine which apps can be downloaded. In some earlier versions of OS X, apps were downloaded from anywhere. Now you can also select to only have them from just the App Store, or the App Store and identified developers, which gives you added security in terms of apps having been thoroughly checked
Under the General tab there are also options for using a password when you log in to your account and also if a password is required after sleep or the screen saver
To make changes within the General section of the Security & Privacy System Preferences, click on the padlock icon and enter your admin password.
Apple have a very robust checking procedure for apps in the App Store and those produced by identified developers.
Also within the Security & Privacy System Preferences are options for activating a firewall and privacy settings:
Click on the Firewall tab
Click on the Turn On Firewall button to activate this
Click on the Privacy tab
Click on the Location Services link and check On the Enable Location Services if you want relevant apps to be able to access your location
Click on the Contacts link and check On any relevant apps that want to access your Contacts
Click on the Diagnostics & Usage link and check On the Send diagnostic & usage data to Apple if you want to send information to Apple about the performance of your MacBook and its apps. This will include any problems and helps Apple improve its software and apps. This information is collected anonymously
Yosemite apps are designed to do only what they are supposed to, so that they do not have to interact with other apps if they do not need to. This lessens the possibility of any viruses spreading across your MacBook. For instance, only apps that can use Contacts will ask for permission to do this.
Problems with Apps
The simple answer
OS X is something of a rarity in the world of computing software; it claims to be remarkably stable, and it is. However, this is not to say that things do not sometimes go wrong, although this is considerably less frequent than with older Mac operating systems. Sometimes this will be due to problems within particular apps and on occasions the problems may lie with OS X itself. If this does happen the first course of action is to close down OS X using the Apple menu > Shut Down command. Then restart the computer. If this does not work, or you cannot access the Shut Down command, try turning off the power to the computer and then starting up again.
If a particular app is not responding it can be closed down separately without the need to reboot the computer. To do this:
Select Apple menu > Force Quit from the Menu bar
Select the app you want to close
Click on the Force Quit button
It is true that things do go wrong with OS X, although probably with less regularity than with some other operating systems. If something does go wrong, there are a number of items that you can check and also some steps you can take to ensure that you do not lose any important data if the worst case scenario occurs and your hard drive packs up completely.
•Backup. If everything does go wrong it is essential to take preventative action in the form of making sure that all of your data is backed up and saved. This can be done with either the Time Machine app or by backing up manually by copying data to a pen drive, an external hard drive or a CD or DVD, using an external SuperDrive.
•Reboot. One traditional reply by IT helpdesks is to reboot, i.e. turn off the computer and turn it back on again and hope that the problem has resolved itself. In a lot of cases this simple operation does the trick but it is not always a viable solution for major problems.
In extreme cases, you will not be able to reboot your computer as normal. If this happens, you will have to pull out the power cable and reattach it. You will then be able to reboot, although the computer may want to check its hard drive to make sure that everything is in working order.
•Check cables. If the problem appears to be with a network connection or an externally-connected device, check that all cables are connected properly and have not worked loose. If possible, make sure that all cables are tucked away so that they cannot be pulled out by accident.
•Check network settings. If your network or Internet connections are not working, check the network setting in System Preferences. Sometimes when you make a change to one item this can have an adverse effect on one of these settings. (If possible, lock the settings once you have applied them, by clicking on the padlock icon in the Network preferences window.)
•Check for viruses. If your computer is infected with a virus this could affect the efficient running of the machine. Luckily this is less of a problem for Macs as virus writers tend to concentrate their efforts towards Windows-based machines. However, there are plenty of Mac viruses out there, so make sure your computer is protected by an app such as Norton AntiVirus which is available from www.symantec.com
•Check Login items. If you have set certain items to start automatically when you log in to your MacBook, this could cause certain conflicts within your computer. If this is the case, disable the items from launching during the login process. This can be done within the Users & Groups preference of System Preferences by clicking on the Login Items tab, selecting the relevant item and clicking on the minus button.
•Check permissions. If you, or other users, are having problems opening items this could be because of the permissions that are set. To check these, select the item in the Finder, click on the File button on the Finder toolbar and select Get Info. In the Sharing & Permissions section of the Info window you will be able to set the relevant permissions to allow other users, or yourself, to read, write or have no access.
Click here to view permissions settings
•Eject external devices. Sometimes external devices, such as pen drives, can become temperamental and refuse to be ejected, or even show up on the Desktop or in the Finder. If this happens you can try and eject the device by clicking the trackpad when the Mac chimes are heard during the booting up process.
•Turn off your screen saver. Screen savers can sometimes cause conflicts within your computer, particularly if they have been downloaded from an unreliable source. If this happens, change the screen saver within the Desktop & Screen Saver preference of the System Preferences or disable it altogether.