Mac FAQs


Apple macOS

I use a Mac. Do I need to worry about viruses?

Interesting. This topic continues to be debated, with more discussion in May 2011.

Here’s a link to a recent PC World article: “Mac Malware Brouhaha: Are Apple Users No Longer Safe?

CNET’s MacFixIt recently published an article titled  “How to protect your Mac from recent malware” about a new series of Trojan horse attempts targeting OS X. They followed up with an article “How to manage malware in OS X backups” about what to do if malware or other unwanted items do get backed up to Time Machine.

MacWorld posted an article “Microsoft links fake Mac AV to Windows scareware gang” about Microsoft having evidence of a link between the fake security software now plaguing Mac users and a hard-charging family of similar software on Windows.

What’s the latest version of the Mac OS?

As of January 2018, the latestest version of macOS (formerly referred to as Mac OS X) is:

  • macOS High Sierra Version 10.13.2
  • macOS High Sierra Version 10.13.3, released on Tuesday January 23, fixes a problem in Messages where your conversation is listed out of order.

Historical note

As of April 2011, Mac OS X 10.6.7. Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” is scheduled to be released in July, 2011. Here’s a Lion FAQ link:

What’s the best Mac Web browser?

Currently I recommend Apple’s (default) Safari and Google’s Chrome browsers. So, on a Mac, install at least one additional Web browser.

Historical note

In March 2008, MacWorld did an informative review of Web browsers. Here’s the link:

Personally I use Firefox and Safari the most, although Google Chrome and Opera are installed as well.

While AOL Desktop comes with a built-in browser (typically a version of Mozilla or Internet Explorer), using a separate browser is recommended as long as your computer has enough memory (RAM) to run both.

What do “.hqx” or “.zip” or “.sit” or “.pdf” mean in a file name?

A file with one of these suffixes or file extensions (e.g., “”) has been saved (encoded) in a special compressed format. The “.hqx” and “.zip” and “.sit” formats all are “lossless” — the content and quality of the file’s data are preserved exactly.

Why are these formats used? The first three were invented to correctly transfer data files across the Internet, between different services and computers. They also permit transferring several files in a single “attachment” or archive. Zip’d files, and to a greater degree Stuff’d files, are smaller than uncompressed files. (JPEG or “.jpg” files already are compressed, however.)

The “.pdf” format, established by Adobe, stands for “portable document format.” The PDF format preserves the content and layout of highly formatted documents across all types of computers. For example, a 3-column newsletter will look the same on a PC and Mac. The quality of embedded images and other items may vary, depending on how the PDF document was prepared.

Viewing PDF files requires downloading Adobe’s free Adobe Reader program (or a PDF browser plug-in). Most new computers come with Adobe Reader pre-installed. On Mac OS X systems, the Preview program also can open and read PDF files.

Most modern computers can automatically convert (decode) “.hqx” and “.zip” files so that your word processor, for example, can view the files normally. However, “.sit” (or “.sitx”) files require the free StuffIt Expander or StuffIt Standard program to decompress them.

How do I use FireWire target disk mode?

See this Apple article:

What is an operating system?

See this Apple article:

What is the Finder?

See this Apple article:

What is Safe Boot, Safe Mode?

A Safe Boot is a special way to start Mac OS X 10.2 or later in order to troubleshoot, for example, an issue caused by software or directory damage on the startup volume. Safe Mode is the state Mac OS X is in after a Safe Boot.

Starting up into Safe Mode forces a directory check of the startup volume, loads only required kernel extensions (some of the items in /System/Library/Extensions), and runs only Apple-installed startup items (some of the items in /Library/StartupItems and /System/Library/StartupItems – and different than login items).

While Safe Mode can be used to troubleshoot a startup issue, certain Mac OS X features do not work when you are started up in Safe Mode. For example, you can’t use DVD Player, capture video in iMovie, use an AirPort card, use some audio input or output devices, or use an internal or external USB modem.

What are shortcuts for starting up?

Use these shortcuts when you start up your computer.

Prevent automatic login: Hold down the left Shift key and the mouse button when you see the progress bar

Close open Finder windows: Shift key

Start up from a CD: C

Start up from the default NetBoot image: N

Start up a computer connected using FireWire in Target Disk Mode: T

Select a startup disk (on some computers): Option

Open the CD tray when selecting a startup disk (on some computers): cmd + . (period)

Prevent startup items from opening: Hold down the Shift key when you see the progress bar

Eject removable disks: Hold down the mouse button

Reset Parameter RAM: cmd + Option + P + R

Show console messages (verbose mode): cmd + V

Start up in single user mode: cmd + S

Start up in Safe Mode: Hold down the Shift key immediately after the startup tone, and release when you see the progress bar

Can I use Apple’s Mail program or Entourage for my AOL account?

Yes, see keyword “IMAP” when logged into AOL.

Here’s an excerpt:

Set up Open Mail Access for PC Outlook Express, Outlook, Eudora; or Mac Entourage and other applications (e.g., Apple’s Mail program) which support the IMAP protocol.

Incoming e-mail server address:

Outgoing e-mail server address:

The outgoing e-mail server is an SMTP server. The SMTP server requires authentication, and you will have to select this feature at some point during the setup process. Using an authenticated SMTP server means that in order to send e-mail you must log in the SMTP server with a user name and password. The user name and password are the same as your AOL screen name and password. In addition, you need to change the outgoing mail (SMTP) port number to 587.

Please note the following AOL e-mail features are not available on IMAP:

* In the Recently Deleted E-mail folder, e-mail is marked ready to be deleted in the Inbox or Sent Items folders and then deleted by the AOL IMAP servers every night. Some applications show deleted e-mail in the original folder with the message flagged for deletion (such as Outlook or Eudora), while other applications do not show these e-mails.

* You will not be able to check the status of a sent message or retrieve unopened e-mail from AOL members.

* The Report Spam button is not available on IMAP. To report messages as spam, move them to your spam folder.

* AOL IMAP servers do not allow folders to be created or deleted in the root folder. You will see an Inbox, Sent Items, Saved, Spam, and Voicemail folder. The Voicemail folder cannot be accessed unless you subscribe to the AOL Voicemail product. For more information on AOL Voicemail, go to AOL Keyword: Voicemail.

* You cannot manually add messages to the Inbox or Sent Items folders. Messages will only be added to these folders when an e-mail is received or sent by the AOL IMAP server.

What’s the best way to keep my Mac software up-to-date?

In macOS, system updates typically are automatic. You will see alerts (notifications) about these.

You may always manually check for updates by clicking on Apple Menu > App Store… > Updates. System Updates and updates for applications purchased in the App Store will be listed.

Applications not purchased in the App Store usually have settings/options to automatically check for updates when launched/opened (or at least a link to the author’s Web site where the current version is available).

Historical note

On May 18, 2011, CNET’s MacFixIt posted “Differences between update options for OS X” about Software Update and Standalone Updaters.

How can my Mac be infected with a virus? I thought that couldn’t happen.

According to a recent Information Week article:

Chester Wisniewski, a security researcher at Sophos, a U.K.-based security vendor … “We have observed that most users are being infected through malicious Web pages that are turning up in Google Image searches,” wrote Wisniewski. “The malicious Web pages display a fake security scanner convincing the victim to load a program that is in fact malware.”

MacDefender, which also appears under the names MacProtector and MacSecurity, utilizes JavaScript to present simulated Mac OS X dialog windows, through which it attempts to convince users that a computer infection exists.

What’s the latest version of iOS for my iPhone?

Apple released iOS 11.2.5 on Tuesday, January 23, 2018, adding support for HomePod (coming February 9th) and the ability for Siri to play audio news.

Meltdown! Spectre! What will the patches do to my computer?

This PC World article might help answer your question: “Meltdown and Spectre FAQ: How the critical CPU flaws affect PCs and Macs.”

It varies widely depending on your hardware, operating system, and workload.

Massive security vulnerabilities in modern CPUs are forcing a redesign of the kernel software at the heart of all major operating systems. Since the issues—dubbed Meltdown and Spectre—exist in the CPU hardware itself, Windows, Linux, Android, macOS, iOS, Chromebooks, and other operating systems all need to protect against it. And worse, plugging the hole can negatively affect your PC’s performance.

What’s the difference between syncing and backing up my files?

Yes, that’s an interesting question since most mobile devices come with gigabytes of so-called free cloud storage for safeguarding your files. The main purpose of such services, however, is to allow you to access your collection of documents, music, photos, etc., from any of your devices and see the same stuff. For example, on an iPhone when you add a photo,  it will appear in the Photos app on your Mac. But deleting a photo in either device’s Photos app will remove it from both (because removed from cloud storage — which is reflected on each device).

Syncing may be all that you need in many cases, especially if you are disciplined in tending your collection or you purchase so much storage that you never delete anything. But otherwise you probably want the assurance of a restoration timeline like in Apple’s Time Machine app — you want versions of your collection, whether stuff was deleted later or not.

Reference: PC World, January 31, 2018, “The best free backup software and services: Reviews and buying advice for protecting your data.”

… you say: I have free online storage through Apple’s iCloud or Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive. Then there are services like Dropbox, with 5GB for free.

The issue with all those services is that they’re not necessarily true backup, but syncing. That is, when you delete a file from any device or online, it’s deleted from every device. Lord help you if you make a mistake and don’t realize it in time. True backup means retaining data indefinitely no matter what’s happening with the data elsewhere.

Personally, while I have files stored in iCloud, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox, for local backup of my Mac I use SuperDuper and Time Machine and for my PCs File History and System Image backup.

What’s the best Mac?

My post “Which Mac to get?” might be useful.