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#948: Mission to Mars; Data Security; iMac SSD; Data Management


Hello Fellow Technophiles,

One of our most frequent topics in our newsletters and conversations with customers regards backups. I will say it again here in case you haven’t heard it before: Make sure to back up! Your Mac includes a tool called Time Machine that can be used to automatically back up your machine to an external hard drive. Your iOS device can automatically back up to iCloud or can be manually backed up to a computer via iTunes. There are numerous other third-party solutions that can be used to back up your data such as emailing the document to yourself, other cloud storage providers (like Google Drive or Dropbox), cloning software such as Carbon Copy Cloner, etc.

But we as a people have failed to back up our most important asset: humanity itself. Now you may be saying to yourself “There are almost 8 billion human beings…isn’t that enough copies?” While that is a redundancy that is probably overdoing it for the limited resources that we have (although I am not sure I can really complain about there being too many people as I am pictured on the left with my two little backup copies), that only covers us for local disasters. What if an asteroid was to take out the entire planet? We need an offsite backup to take care of that.

Fortunately, we have a pretty good option right next door: Mars. While not currently naturally inhabitable by human beings, it does have many of things that we need including an abundant supply of water. With technology that exists today, we could get to and live on Mars. In the long run, there is the option to terraform Mars as well, which has the potential to make Mars even more hospitable for us.

While I do not have the influence that JFK had in announcing the plan to get to the Moon and back, I am nevertheless setting a goal for humanity here in this week’s Tech Tails: Colonize Mars as soon as possible. I hope that you, our faithful readers, can help me in making this dream a reality.


  Recovering Deleted Files  

On many computers, the operating system and user data is stored inside a component called the hard drive. You may remember my contribution to Tech Tails #946 in which I went into some detail on the inner workings of hard drives. This week, I will cover some different methods of deleting and recovering files from hard drives.

Data is stored on hard drives in the form of magnetic signals of varying intensity. A weak magnetic charge can be interpreted by the computer as a “0”, and a strong charge as a “1”. With enough of these simple signals, a computer can store a song, a video, or just about any type of information imaginable.

When a user deletes a file from a computer the standard way, by moving it to the trash and emptying the trash, it does not actually remove the magnetic signals from the hard drive. Parts of the file are altered in a way that instructs the computer to ignore it and treat it as blank space. The actual data of the file is not erased until it is overwritten with a new file. This is done because it is much faster than actually erasing the data every time a file is deleted from the computer.

In versions of OS X previous to 10.11, a “Secure Empty Trash” option existed. This would overwrite all of the data in the trash with empty data. This feature was removed in OS X 10.11, because Apple could not guarantee that the user of the computer had not made other copies of the file on the same computer, which would not be erased. Apple recommends enabling Filevault if you are concerned about the security of the data on your computer. You can learn more about Filevault in my contribution to Tech Tails #942.

Be cautioned: If you enable Filevault and then forget the password to your computer, your data will be permanently unrecoverable.

  SSD in an iMac  

A solid state hard drive (SSD) is what you want in your computer when it comes to speed and reliability. Whether in your laptop or iMac, you WILL notice a speed increase by changing out your old rotating hard drive (HD) for an SSD. But the main difference between doing this job in a laptop versus an iMac is physical compatibility. All laptops that come with a traditional HD come with a 2.5” hard drive, whereas most iMacs come with a 3.5” hard drive. This means swapping out an SSD in a laptop is as simple as removing the old hard drive and installing the SSD in its place. Because of the 3.5” hard drive in an iMac there are a few things you need in order to complete this install. I will not go over the install process in detail, but simply what you need to get the job done:

  1. Solid State Hard Drive
  2. 3.5” to 2.5” Hard Drive Adapter bay
  3. Thermal sensor (if it’s a 2011 iMac) or a fan control app (if pre-2011)

Because the iMac is so big it needs more fans to cool everything. The HD has its own fan and its speed is controlled by reading the temperature of the HD by plugging into it. Well SSDs do not have this port to plug into, meaning the HD fan can’t read temperature causing the fan to speed up. If it’s a 2011, purchasing a simple thermal sensor will fix this issue. If it is pre-2011, you can use a Mac fan control app and set the HD fan speed to 2500 RPM, which will not cause it to overheat yet be low enough not to be an annoyance. But you may get lucky on a pre-2011 iMac because some of them have a hard drive temperature sensor that simply sticks onto the outside of the SSD, which will read the temperature and work fine. If you are installing an SSD in a 2012 or newer, the thermal sensor will work fine.

It is also important to note that you must remove the original bracket from the 3.5” HD and attach it to the 3.5” to 2.5” adapter bracket in order for the SSD to fit into the iMac. With all these items you can easily install an SSD in any iMac. If you do decide to do this yourself, just take your time and follow detailed instructions. Of course, your friendly Apple-certified techs at Small Dog can do this for you, too!

  SSD Data Management  

As technology makes huge strides in producing more stable hardware one thing has become crystal clear, solid state hard drives (SSD) are the way of the future. Apple has only one notebook with a traditional spinning hard drive and it’s likely just a matter of time before they discontinue the MacBook Pro 13in Mid 2012.

The current generation of MacBook provides some great features based on the fact that they have SSDs. Stable data storage is the biggest. Also, the lack of a spinning hard drive allows Apple to produce lighter Macs with less moving parts. The only downside of the SSD is relatively small storage size for the price.

Learning how to manage your internal drive is key when most model’s starting storage is 128 GB. When you purchase a new machine you can write off about 20 GB for the OS and pre-installed applications. This leaves you roughly 108 GB free and that is if you haven’t transferred data from an old machine. People tend to fill the remainder of their drives with media (videos, picture, and music).
If you are transferring data from an old machine, I highly recommend going through your files and getting rid of unused files. Many people have stuff cluttering up their drives and don’t even know it. Duplicate photos, PDFs, old papers, old iOS device backups, and unused applications can fill up your computer unnecessarily.

Another space hog is application installers. I have seen customers have 5 GB of an Adobe Flash Player installers. You can easily find installers by going to the Downloads folder in Finder. Once you are there, sort by file type and scroll through till you find the .dmg files. After you review the installers to make sure you have installed the ones you wanted, you can delete them.

Most people stream their movies and music which also cuts down on the need for internal storage. Yet there are still many people who like to use their media offline. To save on space I highly recommend keeping an external drive. With an external drive you can move your iTunes and Photos libraries off your internal drive. But be sure to back these up as you never want your important data in only one location

With an external hard drive and basic data management you can make a 128 GB drive feel a lot bigger!


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