The Three Secrets of Backup Masters

“To go forward, you must back up.” Sure, it was an advertising tagline for backup software from the 1990s, but it’s still true. When it comes to losing data, the question is not “if,” but “when.” If you store valuable information—whether personal or professional—on your Mac, or if you rely on your Mac to earn a living, you must back up regularly or risk irretrievable data loss. But backups aren’t as simple as you might think.

Happily, Apple has provided the Time Machine backup software with the Mac since 2007. Give it an external drive and it will do a good job of creating “versioned” backups, which contain multiple copies of each file as it changes over time. With versioned backups, you can restore a lost or damaged file to its most recent state, or to any previous state. That’s essential if corruption crept in unnoticed such that you had been backing up a corrupt file for some time. Time Machine also enables you to restore an entire drive as of the latest backup, which you might need to do if you have to reformat or replace your drive.

Time Machine backups, useful as they are, can’t help you in two situations:

  • If your Mac’s main drive does go south, it will likely take several hours to reformat and restore, and quite a bit longer if you have to get a new drive installed first. To keep working with minimal interruption, you need a bootable duplicate, which is an exact clone of your drive.

  • Should you be so unlucky as to experience a burglary, fire, or flood that affects your Mac, it’s likely that your Time Machine drive—and your bootable duplicate—will suffer the same fate and thus be useless as a backup. To protect against that unhappy possibility, you need an offsite backup.

To make a bootable duplicate, you need an external drive that’s as large as your Mac’s internal drive, or at least a good bit bigger than the amount of data on your drive. If you have a really large drive, you could partition it in Disk Utility and use one partition for Time Machine and the other for a bootable duplicate.

You also need backup software that can create a bootable duplicate, and the leading contenders are Carbon Copy Cloner ($39.99) and SuperDuper! ($27.95). Both are easy to set up and can update your bootable duplicate reliably on a regular schedule—nightly is best.

When it comes to offsite backups, you have two basic choices:

  • Set up two or three backup drives with Time Machine, or with Time Machine and a bootable duplicate on separate partitions, and store one of them in another location, such as your office, a relative’s house, or a safe deposit box. (If you’re storing it where someone else could access it, make sure to encrypt the Time Machine backup and use FileVault to protect the bootable duplicate’s contents.) Then, on a regular basis, swap the drives such that you’re backing up to one, and keeping another off-site.
  • Use a cloud backup service, which you can back up to and restore from over the Internet. The two leading services with good Mac apps are Backblaze and CrashPlan. Plans for both start at about $5 per month or $50 per year for one computer. These apps back up constantly in the background, so you’re always protected. Their main downside is that they’re slow in both directions, but in the event of a complete disaster, getting your data back slowly is better than not getting it back at all.

So there you have it. Use Time Machine for continual protection of your data, a bootable duplicate so you can get back to work quickly if your drive dies, and an offsite backup to protect against catastrophe. You can read a lot more about the topic in Backing Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide, or just contact us for help setting up a rock-solid backup system.

The Quick Trick for Magnifying Your Mac’s Screen

No matter how good your eyes are, at some point there will be something on your Mac’s screen that’s just too small to see well. With just a minute of setup, you can take advantage of a macOS feature that lets you zoom the screen right where the pointer is. Open System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom, and select “Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom.” Choose which modifier key you’d like from the pop-up menu—we like Control. From then on, when you want to zoom in, hold down the Control key and use the gesture you use to scroll, whether it’s a two-fingered swipe up on the trackpad or an old-style mouse’s scroll wheel. The screen will zoom where the pointer is—the more you scroll, the higher the zoom level. To zoom back out, hold Control and scroll down.

Make It Stop! How You Can Control Notifications on Your iPhone

Is every app on your iPhone or iPad constantly nagging you with notifications? It’s like a three-year-old saying “Look at me!” every few minutes, but on the plus side, a little work in the Settings app can quiet your device. And it won’t whine about being sent to time-out.

To get started, go to Settings > Notifications and check out the list of apps. Every app that can provide notifications appears here, so it might be a long list. Under the app’s name is a summary of what notifications it can present. That isn’t to say it will abuse that right to show you notifications—every app is different in how chatty it is. Tap an app in the list to see its notification settings.

There are six notification settings available to apps, but not every app will avail itself of all of them. Here’s what these settings do:

Allow Notifications: This is the master switch. Turn it off if you never, ever, under any circumstances, want to get a notification from the app.

Show in Notification Center: If you swipe down from the top of the screen on an iOS device, you’ll reveal Notification Center, which collects notifications from all apps in one place. It’s a handy spot to review banner notifications you couldn’t read in time, or notifications that you never saw originally. Turn this switch off if you don’t want the app’s notifications to appear in Notification Center. In general, it’s best to leave it on.

Sounds: Those who dislike being interrupted by inscrutable noises from their pockets or purses should disable sounds. If you really don’t like sounds coming from your iPhone, turn off the ringer switch on the side.

Badge App Icon: Many apps, including Mail, Reminders, and Calendar, can tell you how many unread messages, overdue events, or other waiting items they contain. They do this by putting a red number badge on the app’s icon. If you don’t find that number useful—knowing that you have 13,862 unread email messages isn’t exactly calming—you can turn off the badge for the app.

Show on Lock Screen: Only important notifications should appear on your Lock screen, so you can see what’s happening at a glance. If you have a recipe app that likes to tell you about every new recipe, you might want to disable this option to prevent it from cluttering your Lock screen with trivialities.

Alert Style When Unlocked: The last option is the notification style the app will use when you’re actively using the device. You have three choices here: None, Banners, and Alerts. Select None if you don’t want to be bothered while you’re working on the device. Banners and alerts are similar, but banners slide down from the top of the screen, pause briefly, and then slide back up, whereas alerts stick around until you dismiss them. In general, use banners for most things, and restrict alerts to only the most important apps.

You don’t need to sit down and go through every app in the Notifications screen. Instead, just let apps do what they want by default, and take side trips to Settings > Notifications whenever an app starts to annoy you with the frequency, location, or type of notifications.

The Fastest Way to Invoke Apple Pay

When it’s an option at a cash register, Apple Pay is faster, easier, and safer than using a credit card. But accessing it from the Wallet app is way too slow! Here’s the trick to pull up Apple Pay quickly. In Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay, under “Allow Access When Locked,” enable Double-Click Home Button. Then, when you want to pay in a checkout line, double-click the Home button from the Lock screen of your iPhone to bring up Wallet instantly. If you have trouble with your thumb unlocking the iPhone instead, use another finger that isn’t registered with Touch ID, and then use your thumb to authenticate once Apple Pay comes up.

9 Tricks that Make It Easier to Save Files on the Mac

There’s nothing sexy about the Save dialog in Mac apps. It’s not pretty, you can’t tweet from it, and Apple hasn’t changed anything about it in years. But every time you create a new document in a Mac app, you have to save it. Once in the Save dialog, you name your document, pick a location, and click Save. (Many apps also add their own options, such as picking a file format.)

Using the Save dialog isn’t hard, but there are a bunch of ways to simplify the act of naming and positioning your document. Here are our favorites:

  • Expand the Save dialog. By default, it appears in an abbreviated form that shows only fields for the file name and entering Finder tags, plus a destination pop-up menu that includes favorites from your Finder’s sidebar and recently used folders. What if the folder in which you want to store the document isn’t in the menu? Click the expansion triangle to the right of the Save As field to get the full-fledged Save dialog.

  • Change the view. Once you’re working in the expanded Save dialog, note that you can switch between Icon, List, and Column view using the view  buttons at the top. Icon view isn’t terribly useful, but it’s much easier to see what’s in the destination folder in List view, and much easier to navigate around your drive in Column view. You can even press Command-1 (icon), Command-2 (list), and Command-3 (column) to switch to specific views. 
  • Search for a folder. Not sure where the folder you want is located? Ask macOS to find it using the Search field, which limits itself to finding folders. 
  • Resize the dialog. If the Save dialog feels cramped, particularly in Column view, move your pointer over an edge or bottom corner until it turns into a double-headed arrow. Then click and drag to change the size of the dialog. 
  • Use the sidebar. The folders you’ve put in the Finder window sidebar appear in the sidebar here too, and a single click on any one teleports you to it instantly. 
  • Take advantage of keyboard shortcuts. Many people like to save new documents to the Desktop and file them later. If that’s you, try pressing Command-D in the Save dialog to jump instantly to the Desktop. In fact, nearly all the keyboard shortcuts listed in the Finder’s Go menu work in the Save dialog too.


  • Make new folders. In its expanded form, the Save dialog gains a New Folder button you can click to make a new folder in the currently shown location. Or just press Command-Shift-N. Once you make the new folder, you can save your file into it. 
  • Pre-fill the file name. For some new files, you want the same name as a previous file, but with a version number or month appended. To pre-fill an existing file name in the Save As field, simply click the file in the listing. Then click in the Save As field to edit as necessary. 
  • Pre-fill the file name and destination. For our final trick, bring up the Save dialog, switch to the Finder, and drag a file from the Finder into anywhere in the Save dialog apart from the sidebar. Presto—the Save dialog pre-fills the file’s name and jumps to its location; you can now edit the file name in the Save As field as desired. If you drag just a folder, only the location changes. (The item that you dragged doesn’t move anywhere.)

So the next time you save a new document, think about all you can do in the Save dialog to spend less time fussing with file names and destinations.

Did You Know the iPhone Has a Button for Ignoring Telemarketers?

Telemarketers are a scourge on society, but if you’re getting too many telemarketing calls, you can at least reduce how much time you spend on them. When a call comes in, you can always tap the red Decline button, but it’s even faster to press the Sleep/Wake button on the side (iPhone 6 or 7) or top (iPhone SE, plus the iPhone 5 and earlier). Pressing it once just silences the ringing on your end; press it twice to decline the call and send it directly to voicemail.

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