Many Apple users rely on mac.com, me.com, or icloud.com email addresses, along with plenty of other iCloud-related services. So if you can’t send or receive email, if photos aren’t transferring via iCloud Photo Library, or if some other iCloud-related service isn’t responding, the first thing to do is check Apple’s System Status page. It’s updated every minute, and if it shows that the associated Apple service is having problems, you know to sit tight until things come back up. If everything is green, you’ll have to look elsewhere for a solution—or get in touch with us.
Poll a room of Apple experts about the one topic they can’t stop talking about and many will launch into frustrated rants about how too few people back up. Backups are always important since you can never predict when your Mac or iPhone will be lost or stolen, melt in a fire, or just break. But one time when backups are especially important is before you upgrade to a major new operating system. If you’re thinking “What could go wrong?” the answer is, “Lots, and wouldn’t you like to be able to revert instantly if something does?”
On the Mac side, there are plenty of ways to back up, and a bootable duplicate made with SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner is the best insurance right before you upgrade to macOS 10.14 Mojave. More generally, backing up with Time Machine ensures that you can not only restore your entire drive if necessary, but also easily recover a previous version of a corrupted file. Finally, since a fire or flood would likely destroy your backup drive along with your Mac, we always recommend an offsite backup made via an Internet backup service like Backblaze.
What happens if you don’t back up and your Mac gets damaged such that you can’t access important data? That’s when things get expensive, and if you have a 2018 MacBook Pro, you have even fewer options.
Historically, it was relatively easy to remove a drive from a broken Mac and recover the data from it. Data recovery got harder with solid-state storage, and even more so with the introduction of the first MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, thanks to Apple’s new T2 encryption chip, which encrypts data on the drive. To simplify last-ditch data recovery, Apple put a special port on the MacBook Pro’s logic board and provided a custom recovery tool for Apple Authorized Service Providers. With the 2018 MacBook Pro, however, Apple removed that port, so only data recovery specialists like DriveSavers can recover data from such damaged machines, and only then if they have the user’s password.
So please, back up your Mac before something goes wrong. It’s fast, easy, and inexpensive to get started, and we’re happy to help.
We’ve all seen, if not experienced, a broken iPhone or iPad. They’re durable little devices, but they won’t necessarily survive a drop onto a sidewalk or into a toilet (yeah, it happens). And it’s way too easy to forget your iPhone at the gym or in a restaurant. So a backup is necessary if you don’t want to risk losing precious photos or having to set up a new device from scratch. Plus, just as with a Mac, things can go wrong during major iOS upgrades.
With iOS, though, you don’t need extra software or hardware. Apple provides two ways of backing up your iPhone or iPad, iTunes and iCloud. Neither is necessarily better or worse, and you can—and should!—use both for added safety. We’ve seen situations where an iPhone would refuse to restore its files from iTunes but would from iCloud.
To back up to iCloud, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > iCloud Backup, turn the switch on, and tap Back Up Now. For backups to happen automatically in the future, you must have sufficient space in your iCloud account (you get 5 GB for free and can buy more), and your device must be on a Wi-Fi network, connected to power, and have its screen locked.
To back up to iTunes, connect your device to your Mac via a Lightning-to-USB cable, launch iTunes, and click the device icon to the right of the media menu.
Then, in the Backups section, click Back Up Now. If you’re prompted to encrypt your backups, we encourage you to agree since otherwise your backup won’t include passwords, Health information, or HomeKit data. For automatic backups via iTunes, select This Computer. After that, every time you plug into your Mac, it will back up.
If you have sufficient iCloud storage, we recommend backing up automatically to iCloud because its automatic backups work well at night when you’re charging your devices. Then, make extra backups to iTunes whenever you think you might need to restore, such as when you’re getting a new iPhone or iPad, or when you’re about to upgrade to a new version of iOS.
File this warning under “unless it’s absolutely necessary.” If you use iCloud Photo Library on your Mac, don’t sign out from iCloud. Also, don’t deselect the iCloud Photo Library checkbox in either the Photos options of the iCloud pane of System Preferences or in the iCloud preferences in Photos itself. Why not? Because, when you re-enable iCloud or iCloud Photo Library, Photos will re-upload all your photos, which could take days. (It’s not really re-uploading all of them, but even just resyncing will take a long time.) Worse, if you don’t have enough space in iCloud for your entire Photos library again, you’ll have to upgrade to a larger plan temporarily, resync, and then downgrade to your previous plan. Apple will refund you the cost of the upgrade, but you’ll have to work with support to get reimbursed. Read more at TidBITS.
Family life is all about togetherness, but keeping track of who’s doing what when can be tough. Apple’s Family Sharing service makes it easy to share apps, media, and more within a family of up to six members, and it provides a few helpful digital housekeeping capabilities, such as locating your kid’s misplaced iPad. Here’s an overview of how Family Sharing can enhance your family’s everyday life, both online and in the real world.
Manage Your Kids’ Purchases
Every Family Sharing group has an organizer. That person (probably you) sets up the family on a Mac in System Preferences > iCloud and connects a credit card to the account to pay for all App Store, iTunes Store, and iBooks Store purchases of apps, music, TV shows, videos, and ebooks.
For any child under the age of 18 in the group, you can turn on Ask to Buy. This feature lets your kid shop for apps or media, but complete a purchase only if you approve it. Ask to Buy also applies to free downloads so you can maintain control over free games. You can give other adults in your family the ability to approve Ask to Buy requests.
Share Apps, Media, and More
To help you keep costs down, once someone in the family has purchased an app or media file, anyone else in the family can download it. Keep in mind that some apps don’t allow such sharing and in-app purchases can’t be shared. Helpfully, you can hide some or all purchases from other family members.
You can also buy a family subscription to Apple Music, Apple’s streaming music service. At $14.99 per month for a family instead of $9.99 per person, it’s a good deal.
Family Sharing creates a few items that all group members can access on their Apple devices:
- A shared Family album appears in the Photos app, making it easy to build a common set of photos. You can designate the Family album as a screensaver on your Mac or Apple TV.
- A shared Family calendar in the Calendar app helps track those basketball games and piano recitals that everyone needs to know about.
- A shared Family list in the Reminders app has many possible uses, such as a grocery list with location-based alerts or a chore list with timed alerts.
Find Your Children (and Their Devices)
Family Sharing simplifies the setup and usage of two key Apple services related to finding things.
All family members automatically become “friends” in Apple’s Find My Friends app. This bundled app shows where everyone is on a map (more specifically, it shows where their primary device is). We find this feature helpful for determining when someone is likely to be home for dinner or for a teenager to see that a parent is en route to a pickup. If you need privacy briefly, you can temporarily stop sharing your location.
You won’t need the Find My iPhone app—which shows the location of all your family’s Apple devices, including the tiny AirPods—on a daily basis. But when your tween isn’t sure whether he dropped his iPhone on the bus or in the museum, it’s a godsend. You can also use Find My iPhone to play a sound on a missing device (in case it’s in the couch), put a message on it, or even erase the device entirely.
Family Sharing may not do everything you’d want, like share entire Photos libraries or contact lists, but it’s a boon for any household whose members use a variety of Apple devices.