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Fix Your Fusion Drive

September 28, 2020 Comments off

Recently we have been seeing newer Macs – iMacs and Minis – that come with Apple’s Fusion Drive. What exactly is a Fusion Drive? Apple says, “Fusion Drive, a storage option on some iMac and Mac mini computers, combines a hard drive and flash storage in a single volume for improved performance and storage capacity.”

The issue we’ve found – twice now – is that this drive has been split so that it looks like a regular hard drive and a smaller SSD drive. The two Macs we came across (one an iMac, one a Mac Mini) were split into a One TB hard drive and a 200 GB SSD Drive.

Why they were split is a good question – the design of the drive is, as Apple says, to improve performance. Code that is used often is stored in the SSD so that it can be accessed rapidly. It certainly speeds up the boot process!

TUTORIALS

It turns out there are a number of good tutorials out there – including YouTube videos – to help you easily recombine your Fusion Drive.

Just three of the many video tutorials from YouTube to help you with a problem Fusion Drive.

The quickest way to find all the tutorials is to use your favorite search engine for “Repair Fusion Drive.” But if you just want to see what Apple says – you can go here. A software company called Stellar also has an easy-to-use tutorial here.

THE PROCESS

Essentially, the instructions will tell you to boot into the recovery drive of the the machine you are using with the split Fusion Drive and use Terminal to input a series of commands that will, ultimately, reintegrate the two split drives.

I took a slightly different route – I have an external drive (see above) with an OS that my Mac can boot into. I used El Capitan (10.11.6) but anything up to Catalina should work. Once booted into the external drive, you can just run Terminal from the Utilities folder and go from there (no need to use Recovery Drive). The benefit in my mind is that you are essentially working on your main Mac (and its split Fusion Drive) as if it were an external drive.

Again, anytime you are doing something like this, be sure to do a backup of your data – I was working from a Mac Mini (early 2012) that just had an OS on it so I wasn’t concerned about it losing data. If there were issues, I could always reinstall an OS (up to Catalina in this case). But you’ll see why this is so important in just a minute.

Once you’re in Terminal, follow the tutorial to identify the the two drives (diskutil list) and then process them to reintegrate as one drive. I captured the process from start to finish below so you can see what it actually looks like. The drives I wanted to work with were identified as disk0 and disk1.

Note those final commands at the end – Terminal does format the drive after it is recombined – and it won’t mount until that happens. So again -be sure to have a clone/Time Machine backup or you will lose all your data.

So there you have it! Let us know if you were able to follow the tutorials to successfully restore your Fusion Drive or if you have some other suggestions. Best way is to use the Contact Us page at MacRecycleClinic.org.

How to Access Inexpensive Internet Service

March 29, 2020 Comments off
Thanks to Vecteezy for this graphic.
Thanks to Vecteezy.com for this graphic.

During this time of Covid19, the need for Internet service is more important than ever – especially as students (in many areas of the nation) must study from home. Luckily, a number of Internet providers have stepped up to help.

Thanks to HighSpeedInternet.com for this article that discusses resources residents in the DMV (and beyond) can take advantage of. Note that Comcast and Charter-Spectrum are making their WiFi hotspots open and free to use as well. Verizon and RCN are currently not offering similar services (tho they offer a government low cost service – see below.)

Thanks to HighSpeedInternet.com for compiling this list.

Get more information about Comcast Essentials (including opportunity to purchase an inexpensive computer) here. Montgomery County (Md.) schools (MCPS) is teaming up with Comcast so students have internet access using the Essentials service.

If you are in Spectrum-Charter’s area you can call 1-844-579-3743 to get more information and enroll in their low-cost service.

The federal government also offers (through Verizon, RCN and other carriers) what is called a “Lifeline Service” for low-cost Internet and phone services. Please check the website to see if you qualify and how to subscribe. Verizon’s page about the Lifeline Service is available here. RCN’s information about the Lifeline Service is here.

Note also that some counties – like Prince George’s County in Maryland – are starting to make free WiFi hotspots available. Information can be found here. Check online for what your service providers are doing to help you and your students get online. For example, here’s an article from the LA Times.

NOTE: If you have any updates on resources for families to access low cost Internet, please let us know at dottalini@macrecycleclinic.org.

Can Google Chromium OS Extend the Life of an Older Mac? (Part 1)

February 16, 2020 Comments off
An old MacBook that was running OS 10-7 (Leopard)is now running the Chromium OS via the cloudready installer. It's free for home use.
Yes it can! A MacChromeBook!

MacRecycleClinic refurbishes and recycles Macintosh Computers. You know that!

But as we head into the second decade of the 21st Century, we are increasingly seeing older MacBooks, MacMinis and even older iMacs that – at best – can only run up to OS 10.11.6 (El Capitan) and don’t have the hardware to keep up with newer WiFi and security needs.

We’re at the point where we don’t want to give out these machines because they are effectively on their last legs as a Mac.

But the question is, is there a way to extend their lives and still provide for the needs of those we donate to? Could it be… Google’s Chromium OS?


AN ANSWER YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE EXPECTED

The answer is in the installation of the Chromium OS in place of the Mac OS. Chromebooks are commonplace in Montgomery County, Maryland schools and beyond these days and many people have purchased them because they are inexpensive ways to access the Internet and do basic work.

Three of five refurbished Chromebooks on their way to a middle school in North Carolina.
These refurbished Chromebooks are destined for a middle school in North Carolina.

In fact, your MacRecycleClinic is now refurbishing Chromebooks as a way to further our mission of returning usable computers back to the community.

The biggest problem is that you are forced to live within the Google Universe when you use these machines. You must use Google’s cloud applications like Google Docs, you have to use the Chrome browser, Chrome App store, etc. That said, the OS provides an easy user interface and good security.

But because Chromebooks are so inexpensive, they are also cheaply made and don’t always stand up to heavy use – especially in the classroom. Just check EBay for lots of abused machines that are locked to a school network.

Many times, it really is easier to sell for parts (see EBay) – or just toss it (OK- recycle to Shady Grove or your local recycling center) and replace it. That said, we have had good luck just replacing the motherboards (bricked when tied to a school network)(or other components) to bring the machine back to life.


CONVERTING A MAC TO A CHROMEBOOK

Our beloved Macs – including the older MacBooks, MacMinis, white iMacs, etc. – are very well made and able to take a lot more abuse than the Chromebooks can. So if there was a way to install the Chromium OS onto a Mac, we could extend the computer’s life while giving our clients an OS they (or their children really) are used to using.

The Chromium OS is based on Linux and is what’s called “open source.” That means anyone can use it and – more importantly – update or transform it as you chose. The Chrome OS you find on a purchased Chromebook is Google’s version of Chromium and ONLY AVAILABLE for license by vendors who manufacture Chromebooks.

The Chromium Projects website FAQ indicates that Google’s version “has some additional firmware features, including verified boot and easy recovery, which require corresponding hardware changes and thus also don’t work out of the box in Chromium OS builds.”

That said, the open source OS has a lot to offer the home user and since we can’t use Goggle’s version, we’ll move ahead with Chromium. We can do that thanks to a company called Neverware.

NeverWare’s CloudReady site provides excellent instructions for installing the home edition of it’s Chromium OS install software on Macs and PCs.


FIRST TASK: MAKE A CHROMIUM OS/CLOUD READY USB INSTALLER

This article won’t go into HOW to create the installer but it’s not hard (see the video below to help). Take a look at NeverWare’s website first as it has a thorough installation guide. One of the things you need to check is the software company’s list of computers they say can take the Chromium OS. Even so, I think you just have to try it to see if it can be installed!

Other resources include this Lifewire tutorial or check out the numerous YouTube videos.

Create your Chromium Boot Drive with the Chromebook Recovery Utility.

But you will need three things:

  1. The Chrome Browser on your Mac (or Windows machine) to access and run the Chromebook Recovery Utility.
  2. Go to the Neverware.com website and download (to the Downloads folder) the freeware CloudReady app for the Mac. Neverware will recommend you do this on a PC but I have been able to use the Mac version without a problem. The only “issue” is that there is just one 64 bit download. Don’t worry about that – just download it to your Downloads folder and unzip it (your Mac will suggest a program to do this).
  3. A USB stick of at least 8 GB or larger (you will have to dedicate this thumb drive to the installer however, no partitions allowed).

NOTE that Lifewire has not updated their instructions to reflect you only have the 64 bit version of CloudReady to download but go ahead and download it.

Once you've created the CloudReady installer on a USB stick, you can boot via the Option key and then install Chromium via the EFI boot (on the thumb drive.)
Once you’ve created the CloudReady installer on a USB stick, you can boot via the Option key and then install Chromium via the EFI boot (on the thumb drive.)

CREATING THE MAC CHROMEBOOK

This is really the easiest part of the process. Plug in the USB installer into a USB port on the MacBook and start your machine with the Option key pressed down. You can let up when you see the cursor appear on the screen.

Now you’ll be presented with two or three “choices” on screen. One is the hard drive of your MacBook and separately, its recovery drive (not all installs will have a recovery drive but don’t worry about that.)

Your Mac will now boot up as if it were a Chromebook. Cursor over to the bottom right part of the screen and open the window there. At the top left is an icon that says “install OS.” Choose this and follow the screens – your hard drive will be reformatted and the Cloudready version of Chromium installed.

Once installed, the Mac will automatically shut down. Remove the USB stick and restart as normal.


Our next blog will focus on installing Chromium on other Mac hardware and restoring a Chrome OS machine back to the Mac OS. Congratulations! you now have a MacChromebook!

Up next: Installing Cloudready on other Macs.

All the Latest Mac OS Downloads In One Place

February 7, 2020 Comments off

Those of us who use Macs may have need to reinstall an older version of the OS from time to time. At the MacRecycleClinic, we keep thumb drives and external hard drives partitioned with individual installers from Catalina on back – or even Time Machine backups (which are quicker than OS installs).

El Capital on a MacBook.
OSX El Capitan on a MacBook Pro. Photo: Dave Ottalini.

While it might seem easy to just Google your request, it’s not always that easy. Thus, we offer a list of OS downloads (from the Apple website and beyond) so that you don’t have to go looking for them. Even tho Catalina is available via the App Store, we’ll include it here (as a link).

Note that some of the earlier Mac OS varieties like OS 7 Lion is, for some reason, sold by Apple rather than provided for free (but keep reading – there’s a solution for that!). If you have a need for a really old OS and don’t want to download and install, contact MacRecycleClinic, as we have DVDs with most of the older OS software – including some PowerPC software, and can help you with the install.

If you want to make a bootable installer (to put on an external drive or thumb drive), this is what Apple suggests. Better is this great free (donationware) App – DiskMakerX.

(All photos except where noted and links are courtesy Apple via the company website.)




Please note that the link provided by Apple will take you to iTunes and breaks after that. The easiest way to download MacOS High Sierra is to follow these instructions from OSX Daily





Following is a rundown of all the OS X versions for the Mac through 2020 – (thanks, Macworld UK)! Even better – this UK site has actual download links for older Apple software going way, way back starting with OS 10.9 Mavericks (from the Apple Discussion Community.)

OS X 10.0: Cheetah – 24 March 2001
OS X 10.1: Puma – 25 September 2001
OS X 10.2: Jaguar – 24 August 2002
OS X 10.3 Panther (Pinot) – 24 October 2003
OS X 10.4 Tiger (Merlot) – 29 April 2005
[OS X 10.4.4 Tiger (Chardonnay)]
OS X 10.5 Leopard (Chablis) – 26 October 2007
OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard – 28 August 2009

Snow Leopard and earlier Apple OS versions can only be installed from DVD (or 3.5 disk).

OS X 10.7 Lion (Barolo) – 20 July 2011
OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (Zinfandel) – 25 July 2012
OS X 10.9 Mavericks (Cabernet) – 22 October 2013
OS X 10.10: Yosemite (Syrah) – 16 October 2014
OS X 10.11: El Capitan (Gala) – 30 September 2015
macOS 10.12: Sierra (Fuji) – 20 September 2016
macOS 10.13: High Sierra (Lobo) – 25 September 2017
macOS 10.14: Mojave (Liberty) – 24 September 2018
macOS 10.15: Catalina (Jazz) – 7 October 2019

By the way – this is an interesting compilation of all the older Apple/Mac software. It’s a list only as the “links” don’t work.

Capitolmac Baltimore Closes

January 24, 2020 Comments off

The Apple Universe can be a tough one to operate in. Recently, Baltimore’s Capitolmac – an Apple authorized retailer – closed its doors after an 11 year run. Owner and president Dheeraj Vasishta told the Baltimore Business Journal late last year the closure was primarily due to money: “The margins on everything got tighter over the years,” he said. “It’s always bad when selling Apple products, but the squeeze got tighter on repairs. It really comes down to money, as it always does.”

Capitolmac in the Fells Point area of Baltimore has closed its doors.
Capitolmac in the Fells Point area of Baltimore has closed its doors.

Last week, MacRecycleClinic was invited to come see the Capitolmac Fells Point, Baltimore store (there are two others in Richmond and Williamsburg. The Williamsburg store, operated by another owner, will continue).

A panorama view of the Capitolmac sales floor in Fells Point, Baltimore.
A panorama view of the Capitolmac repair area and sales floor in Fells Point, Baltimore.

We were able to see both the front end retail store and back-end where the company did repairs and kept a ton of older machines and parts. We were able to come back later and gleen some of the older Mac parts- hopefully to use in our own refurbishing/recycling efforts here in Silver Spring.

As Vashishta noted to the Baltimore Business Journal, it is always going to be tough running a small business, but trying to be a technology retailer can be especially challenging. We’re sorry to see Captiolmac go because it has an impact on consumer choice as well as consumer experience.

What Happens When a Mac Battery Goes Bad.

June 19, 2019 Comments off

While at the Clinic Monday night, we looked at a 2010 MacBook Pro (Core2 Duo) whose battery had gone bad – literally blown up, in fact. In the process it destroyed the trackpad and other parts inside.

The problem with swelling in 13″ MacBook Pros last year (without the trackbar) caused Apple to agree to replace the batteries for free. Apple claimed it was a component issue that – upon going bad – would cause the battery to swell.


UPDATE: MacWorld reports “Apple on Thursday (June 20) announced a voluntary recall for owners of the 15-inch MacBook Pro. If you bought such a laptop between September 2015 and February 2017, it could have a battery that is at risk of overheating. Apple will replace the battery in these laptops for free.”


But clearly the problem of a swelling lithium ion battery is not new. We have seen many over the years at theMacRecycleclinic.

Here are a few photos to show just how bad this problem can be (again on an older Mac in this example.)

The inside of the 2010 MacBook Pro shows there’s extensive damage to the trackpad.

The good news is that it can be repaired – but it can be costly if you take it to Apple or other Mac shop. When MRC does it, we have to take parts from another non-working laptop of the same generation and switch out the affected parts. If Apple or another company did the repair, it would likely use new OEM parts – a costly endever. In fact, it might be better to just get a new laptop (which is usually what is recommended).

But if you see a swelling in your Mac laptop under the trackpad and the computer is not acting properly, look at the battery as a possible culprit. In that case, make sure you have a backup of your data and unplug it from the wall until you can get it to the Apple store (or the Mac Recycle Clinic if you’re in the DMV) or third party repair facility.

What has your experience been with swelling batteries – and did you have the laptop repaired or just replaced? Let us know in comments!

REPAIR UPDATE – June 24, 2019

Given what this MacBook Pro looked like, it was hard to imagine it would be worth the repair effort. But repaired it has been. It is what MacRecycleClinic does!

WHAT WE DID

  • Replaced the battery
  • Replaced appropriate cables and hinges
  • Replaced the trackpad

And yes – it took two to three OTHER MB Pros to make this one whole again. But whole it is… and now it’s ready to go back out into the world and help a family or student who might not have access to a computer!

Early i7 MacBook Pro Graphic Problems & Solutions

June 17, 2019 Comments off
It doesn’t take much searching to find lots of articles about graphic problems on a 2011-2013 MacBook Pro.

We get questions. Good ones, in fact, about all sorts of Mac problems.

Recently, the owner of an early 2011 15″ MacBook Pro with an i7 processor was experiencing some disastrous graphics issues.

These machines (15″ and 17″) offered two graphics processing units (GPUs). One is the graphics processor that’s part of the Intel CPU. The second graphics chip is made by either AMD or NVIDIA and was designed to provide an additional graphics performance boost for the laptop.

The problem is that the AMD/NVIDIA GPU has what Adam Barscheski of Realmacmods says is a “tragic defect” that causes that i7 to either have lost its video or soon will.

As our MacRecycleClinic laptop Guru explains, “The supplemental video chip was incorrectly soldered to the motherboard and when the cold solder connections separate, boink goes your video.”

As he wrote the owner, “There are some specialty shops that will try resoldering the video chip.  Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t last very long. The clinic has lots of i7 machines with your new woes.”

Solutions

There are frankly no good solutions to this problem, but here’s what MRC is recommending:

  • Search the web for sites that claim to resolder the
    video chip.  Good ones insist on removing the
    motherboard, removing the chip and reinstalling;
  • Go to the MacMedics website and see what they say
    about the problem;
  • Realmacmods offers one possible way to fix the video issue by disabling the AMD/NVIDIA GPU so that only the Intel GPU is used;
  • Find an older i5 (2013-2015) machine with retina display if your work does not require intensive graphics/video support. This series of machines does not have supplemental video problems.
  • Look for a newer i7 on Craigslist or eBay that did not experience these problems.

A Crazier Solution…

A quick search on YouTube found this video from HotshotTec – who basically took the MacBook apart and COOKED the motherboard. It worked for him, but it’s not something you should consider unless you are very comfortable taking apart – and putting back together – a Mac laptop. But the process is certainly interesting:

If you’ve had this problem – and found a solution – let us know and we’ll share it here!

Access Podcasts from iTunes or Your Apple Device

June 10, 2019 Comments off
Image result for podcast free graphics
Graphic courtesy of Pixabay.com. (Labeled for noncommercial use.)

Readers: I was recently asked about how to find and subscribe to Podcasts. Having written this tutorial for one of our MacRecycleClinic patrons, I decided to share it with you as well with a little editing.

First off: Podcasts (both audio and video) are easy to use and to watch or listen to! Apple has a great resource page for you here.

iPhone or iPad Podcast Players

Apple’s Podcasts App is part of the programs you get with a new or refurbished iPhone and is worth checking out.

That said, there are also a ton of third party Podcast players for your iDevice. Just check out the iOS App Store. As for me, I use Overcast – a free download. But because many of you have your own favorites, just let me know and I’ll be happy to include them here.

Podcasts on iTunes

If you want to access Podcasts from your Mac, then iTunes is the way to go:

Open iTunes:

From the menu on the left (“Music” is there by default) – choose “Podcasts” from the dropdown menu. (Note we will focus on AUDIO Podcasts here but videos are similar.)

If this is our first time, you’ll see:

Click “Continue” to get to the subscribe/download page (This is what mine looks like – yours might be different.)

Choose “Store” to get to the Podcast store (don’t worry – they are virtually all free).

Focus on Podcasts:

Look through the latest Podcast selections or go to the Search Box look for Podcasts you might like. As an example, let’s look for Freakonomics:

As you can see – there are a number of choices but the one we want is the first one – Freakonomics Radio. Choose that (click on the graphic) to see the FR page all by itself.

Note you can cursor down though each selection, choose it,  and a play button will automatically appear on the left. It can be played there immediately with a click.

If you want to subscribe, just click on the “Subscribe” button on the left under the program logo. That means iTunes will download all the old episodes and any new ones as well as they are posted. You can delete any or all of them later, download only a few, etc. as we’ll see.

If you want to download the Podcast to play later, just choose  “Get” on the right side to download that particular Podcast. We’ll choose the second one Once you’ve chosen “Get” – you’ll see a small download icon on the top right showing your progress – it’s pretty quick. 

Choosing “Unplayed” at the top menu will show all the Podcasts that are downloaded but yet to be played.

OR choose “Library” from the top menu (under the Apple logo), select the downloaded podcast and play. Note it also says “Not Subscribed” in this case (as I am not going to subscribe at this point).

See that gear icon on the right? It will let you choose to subscribe to the Podcasts (from this page) as well if you like, and make other settings…

Note the blue circle with the three dots at the top right- you can click on it for a dropdown box to subscribe as well.

OR if you highlight one of the Podcasts, you’ll also see three dots where the time listing was on the right. If also gives you many choices as to what to do with the Podcast.

You should make sure to subscribe if you like the program. Looks like a lot but it goes pretty quickly once you decide what you’d like to listen to. 

Podcasts are a growing part of the online experience and cover just about every interest. Like listening to the radio, you can listen anywhere at anytime. And there are lots of Podcasts for kids too – a great help on long vacation trips!

AntiVirus and Malware for Macs: A Software Update

May 7, 2019 Comments off

By Jim Ritz – MacRecycleClinic

For many years we Macs users felt that antivirus software was unnecessary. Although the likelihood of a Virus remains quite low, the possibility exists. At the weekly MacRecycleClinic, we are seeing more and more indications of infection.

A more pressing concern these days is MALEWARE. Maybe not as vicious as a VIRUS, malware nonetheless, can be considerably problematic.

There are two pieces of software all Mac users should consider using today. AVAST ANTI VIRUS for the Mac and MALWAREBYTES. Both have free versions that are really worthwhile installing on your Mac.

Malwarebytes can be run within minutes and offers very reasonable protection. (See Malwarebytes video from YouTube:)

AVAST on the other hand requires considerable time (see previous post about Avast). The run time is directly proportional to the volume of material on your Mac. As an example, for my iMac – with almost 700 Gigabytes of content – the scan required six hours run time to complete. (See Avast video from YouTube.)

Both programs are easy to run. Simply open the application, initiate the SCAN and let it go. The ideal of course, is that the scan completes while finding no problems. If so, simply quit the application. In most cases the application can CLEANSE or REMOVE the threat. However, if the scan identifies something, further action is required.

Simple to run, both of these applications are worthwhile in today’s world.

How often should they be run?

I usually run them each weekly on my Macs. That is not to say that everyone should run them weekly. I would recommend running MALEWAREBYTES weekly as it is easy to use and fast. Because Avast takes longer to run, monthly may be a better choice.

Given the time required for the Avast scan I would recommend setting it to run when you do not plan to use your computer for several hours. After the first run you will know how long it requires for a full scan.

If you feel comfortable doing so, each can be downloaded and installed onto your Mac. Once installed each will automatically check for periodic updates, inform you and install updates ONLY with your approval.

There Are Many Solutions To Remembering Passwords

January 12, 2019 Comments off

A password manager is something you must have these days to help remember all the passwords you accumulate with Apps and websites. This is true whether you have an older Mac/PC or a brand new one. It’s really a matter of protecting yourself and all your data.

There are other Apps that will work for both Macs and PCs and can be synced across all platforms, including mobile devices. On my Mac, phone and tablet, I use a program called Wallet by Acrylic Software ($).

Wallet Password App for Mac

But a quick Google search offers many more suggestions.

Note that most WILL cost you some money to purchase…

IF you don’t want to use an App, Amazon (as an example) offers a number of alternatives, including a separate “password vault” electronic device separate from your computer/phone:

Electronic Password Vault.

Prefer paper?

Password (paper) Book Organizer.

Your browser will also be more than happy to save passwords for you as well and automatically fill in the information for you. If you are squeemish about that, just turn it off:

Turn Off Autofill in Your Browser.

Hope this helps. Our world is so full of the need to keep things secure (as much as we can!) so having a secure App to help along the way is a good thing.

Other Resources:

ConsumersAdvocate.org recently (March, 2020) posted what it calls a “comprehensive report on password manager software and devices, and how to keep your data safe from hacking.” Check it out!

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