A super FAQ

Hello. How are you all?

The last time I submitted an article I recall, with waves of embarrassment, saying I was going to get loads of articles out of the way because I was stuck at home. How wrong I was!.

I don’t think we have been busier since the lockdown started. So apologies for not posting as much as I was sure I was going to do.

For this article I thought I would field the most common questions posed to me whilst paddling around with clients computers in their study or on the kitchen table.

Do you like putting stuff on external hard drives?

In a word… no. I certainly approve of backing up to an external hard disk and actively nag people into having a good backup but fragmenting your data across many different drives is a recipe for disaster. People tend to do this to relieve pressure off their internal hard disk and end up with photos on disk 1, photos on disk 2 with their music spread across both. Trouble is these drives are not regularly backed up (or at all) because these drives are usually never plugged in until you are looking for that picture of the cat wearing Christmas tree decorations on her head.

My advice always has been… have a hard disk in your Mac large enough to comfortably accomodate your digital life and have it automatically and frequently backed up to at least one ext hard disk. Preferably add an offsite backup to the mix as well.

What do I think of Anti Virus on a Mac?

Total waste of time… and never spend money on traditional anti virus applications, that’s for sure. If you really feel the need to have something akin to anti virus detection, Sophos have a free home version that will happily detect the windows virus’ (that don’t work on your Mac anyway) that people send you. But as for keeping you safe… it won’t do anything. The one tool that is worthwhile is Malware Bytes for Mac. This will detect malware on your Mac and remove it and unlike ‘viruses’ this stuff does affect your macs performances getting rid of it is a good idea.

What is good for password management?

My go to is 1Password although these days Dashlane seems to be stealing a fair bit of its thunder and for good reason. If a software solution is not your thing then formatting a book is my other suggestion. Find my article on it here.

Should I turn on FileVault?

Mmmm. This is a tough one! Most people don’t even know they have turned it on because when they set up their Mac it sort of guides them in that direction. The first time they become acquainted with it is when their Mac starts to play up and slow down. And more often than not, turning off FileVault is the answer. So you’d be forgiven for thinking that I would suggest turning it off and leaving it off and for the most part you’d be right. But it does offer a worthwhile service in that if your Mac is stolen and the scumbag doesn’t know what your password is your data is safe. I guess in the end it is a question of security over stability.

Should I cover my camera?

An article comes out and claims that the camera on your laptop can be hacked. They are often talking about a PC or it is merely a theory and not happening in the wild but the damage is done. And even after a software patch has been released and its no longer a thing the myth persists.

To be honest I think covering the camera is a waste of time and, if you do buy one off the nice sliding covers, a waste of money. But, if it makes you sleep well at night…

Backups

Not so much a question but a plea from me. Whenever I am doing a health check and I find there is no backup or there is a backup but it is old or our if monitoring service detects the no backup we pounce. 

Having a good backup is THE most important thing you can ever do for your Mac.

The best way is to use Time Machine and use an external hard disk (see my recommended hard drive further down)

If you had a Time Capsule and it failed you cannot replace it but there are third party options such as the Western Digital MyCloud drive.

iCloud do I use it?

There is a very good chance that you do and don’t realise. And if you don’t, I recommend that you do. Apple’s iCloud is best on an iPhone or iPad and it makes sure that all your data remains in sync with each device. Make a change to your Contacts on an iPhone and that change is reflected on your iPad. Extend this convenience to the Mac and you’ll never lose a phone number again. More importantly, given the large screen and mouse control you have on the Mac, you can really do a lot of housekeeping in your Calendar and Contacts (to name but two) that will be reflected on those smaller devices. Magic!

The iCloud app also keeps documents and Photos in sync in the same way and so, as long as you have a large enough account, all your data can be kept up to date automatically. Now while this syncing of data is a great thing and it kinda acts as a backup… I really encourage people not to think of iCloud as a backup service (unless we are talking about iOS devices) so keep your Time Machine backups running. 

Best word processor

Pages, full stop.

Ok, that might be a bit simplistic but generally I think it is true. Most people buy Word because they think they have to (same story with Excel) but 99% of the time they don’t. Pages is very capable, easy, works with Word files and is 100% free.

Best external hard disk

This greatly depends on what you need it for. Backing up your Mac to a small Toshiba or Western Digital passport drive is just fine. If you need faster and more industry standard ext hard disk access the Pegasus Promise range is my go to. (But they are very expensive)

Applecare

Like any other insurance policy depends on your risk profile and it does added $100-$200 to the price of the unit. Australian consumer law gives you more than 12 months of warranty anyway, so the days of ‘sorry but its 1 day out of warranty’ is a thing of the past. It does give you 90 days free telephone support… but to be honest I have called Apple for all kinds of stuff and they have never charged. And besides… if you are reading this you already have a friendly neighbourhood Apple tech available to you. (Grin)

Upgrade vs replace

That really depends on the Mac and what you want to use it for.

Prior to the latest WWDC 2020 from Apple, a 2012 iMac was still a viable computer as it ran the latest OS – 10.15. However, the next OS, Big Sur, will only run on 2014 iMacs or higher 

(its a slightly different story with laptops)

So does that mean your 2012 iMac is less upgradeable? Well,  not really but there is a death sentence hanging over it. Right now you can slip an SSD into your 2012+ iMac, install Catalina and have a fast Mac that is supported (security updates form Apple) for at least the next three years.

Generally this kind of upgrade will cost $400-$500. Compare that you $2000-$4000 for a new iMac and, well, I’ll leave it up to you.

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