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#798: Lingering Data, iTunes 10.5 vs. Windows: Resolutions, My Experience with iTunes Match


Happy Tuesday,

With exams ending for college students, we’re preparing for the annual rush to get those nagging computer problems repaired after the semester is over. This time of year usually brings in a high volume of liquid spill victims, but more and more we see smaller issues coming in. It seems that many people hold off on non-essential repairs—broken optical drives, cracking top cases and the like—until their computers aren’t a required part of their lives. Vacation is the perfect time to get these kinds of things fixed.

We’ve added Drobos to our tech rooms to house customer backups. We’d been using Mac Pro models with four hard drives internally and four externally (for backing up the backups!) for some time, but we find the fast and secure Drobos to be an excellent upgrade. Drobos are unique in that you can remove a drive at any time and pop in a higher-capacity drive for more space without any downtime. Should one drive fail, the array will be unaffected. Even if two drives fail, the data will be safe.

We spend a lot of time backing up customers’ computers before repairs, and while I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: if you’re not backing up your data, you will eventually lose all of it. It’s a terrible thing to have a customer tell you their baby photos are gone forever because they didn’t back them up.

Happy holidays,


  Lingering Data  

A significant concern was brought up after we posted the article Clean Install vs. Deleting Users’ Accounts a few weeks ago. The question as to whether your deleted data can be recovered is something to be aware of, but it’s not necessarily something to worry about. It is a fact that data deleted from your hard drive can possibly be recovered by the appropriate recovery software. For most people, this is not something to worry about, as it takes time and effort to recover deleted data, and depending on how long the data has been removed from the hard drive for, it very well may not be recoverable.

Recovering deleted information is possible because of the process through which the hard drive stores and removes data. All information is stored in binary format: zeros and ones. A directory on the hard drive then points to specific groupings of the binary digits to make up files. When you use Disk Utility to erase a disk, you are emptying the directory. An Apple Support article uses a great analogy of “removing the table of contents from a book but leaving all the other pages intact.” Basically, your data is still present on the hard drive; however, the hard drive ignores the existence of this data, overwriting it as the computer continues to be used. Therefore, the longer the erased data stays stagnant on your hard drive, the less likely it is recoverable.

Disk Utility has a built-in “Secure Erase” option, which allows you to effectively erase a hard drive in such a way that the data almost certainly cannot be recovered. This feature will erase the hard drive normally (removing the directory), and then proceed to write zeros over the data. Every pass of zeros written over that data makes the recovery process that much harder. In reference to the aforementioned article written a few weeks back, Lion now has a “Secure Erase” option when removing user accounts. This performs the same function, but only to the removed user account/home folder.

It’s always a good idea to consider the option of securely erasing your data, depending on the situation. Whether you have extremely sensitive personal data, or are selling your computer to a complete stranger, it’s nice to have the option of extra security.

Note from Matt: The only way to be completely sure your data is unrecoverable is to physically smash the device into small pieces. Following the suggestions outlined here is fine for 99% of users, however.

  iTunes 10.5 vs. Windows: Resolutions  

With a larger footprint in the mobile device arena occupied by Apple, and updates needed for new iOS-based devices, we have fielded many calls and resolved many issues over the last few weeks. This includes issues encountered by PC users with iPads, iPhones and iPods used with their Windows-based machines. One of the most common issues that has arisen since the launch of iOS 5 and iTunes 10.5 has been connectivity issues on Windows machines. The problem most commonly seen is the failure of Apple Mobile Device Service to launch. This alert pops up when one properly connects an iOS device to a machine running any version of Windows. The steps to resolve the problem can be simple and straight forward; it may also require removing iTunes form your Windows machine, then downloading and reinstalling iTunes.

If your are using a PC and have an issue regarding AMDS (Apple Mobile Device Service), the first step is to restart the service. In Windows XP, click on Start and in the menu provided click on Control Panel. In Control Panel select Administrative Tools and then select Services. In the next window that appears, first verify that AMDS is in the list. As the list is sorted alphabetically by default, it should be one of the first services listed. Click on Apple Mobile Device and to the left click on Restart the Service. After restarting the service, simply plug in the iOS device and see if the issue has been resolved.

If those steps have not resolved the issue, then you may need to uninstall all components related to the entire iTunes system: iTunes, QuickTime, Apple Software Update, Apple Mobile Device Support, Bonjour and Apple Application Support. It is suggested that all components are removed and in the order listed above; to not remove all components may result in no changes in behavior on your machine.

For Windows Vista and 7, you restart the Mobile Device Service by first clicking on the Windows start button. In the search field, type ‘services.’ In the Programs section in the search results, select Services to see the list of services running. Like in XP you will have an alphabetical listing of all services running on the machine. You will have the opportunity to restart the service from this window. After restarting the service, plug in your iOS device and see if the problem has been resolved. If this does not resolve the issues with connectivity regarding your iOS device and iTunes on your Windows Vista or 7 machine, then you’ll then need to uninstall all the same components as listed above and reinstall iTunes on your machine.

In both cases, removing the applications should not lead to the loss of music and iTunes content on your machine, but you should always back up before removing or installing new software on any machine.

  My Experience with iTunes Match  

iTunes Match is an iCloud feature that offers access to one’s entire library (if it’s under 25,000 songs) on your Mac or PC, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. It requires iTunes 10.5.1 and iOS 5.0.1. If you log in to iTunes Match in iTunes on a Mac or PC, your Music library automatically populates with a list of all your music and playlists.

As soon as you double-click a song to play it, the song—whether matched with one of iTunes’ 20 million tracks or uploaded from your original library—will begin streaming. You also have the option of downloading the track by clicking the icon that looks like a cloud with an arrow pointing downward.

On your iOS device (iPad, iPhone or iPod touch), if you tap a song, the Music app begins to stream the device over your Internet connection (Wi-Fi or 3G) while simultaneously downloading the track. With iTunes Match on, you can actually note what has been downloaded locally to the device by the lack of the cloud with downward-pointing-arrow icon next to the track name.

By downloading the song while streaming it, iTunes Match on an iPhone or iPad is attempting to conserve megabytes on an often-limited data plan (the next time you tap the song, nothing needs to be downloaded since it’s already been done). Unfortunately, this can lead to a fuller and fuller iOS device, as any song you tap on gets downloaded to your device. Therefore, it may become necessary to purge the cache of downloaded music on your iOS device.

In order to set your local data back to zero, go to Settings on your iOS device. Scroll down and tap on Music. Then toggle iTunes Match off. With iTunes Match off, returning to the Music app displays all of the local music. Now, if you go back to Settings and tap on General and then Usage, you will see your available and used storage with an audited list of each app and the data it shepherds. If you tap on the Music app in that list, you’ll see what’s managed to be downloaded. First, tap on the Edit button on the top right, then tap the minus sign and tap Delete. This will erase all of the music. At this point, if you revisit your Music app, you’ll see no music! Feel free to return to Settings to re-enable iTunes Match under the Music section of Settings.

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