How to revive a dead hard drive

If you are one of a numerous victims of MacBook and MacBook Pro hard drive failures, there is a glimpse of hope that you can still have your data recovered. It involves removing the hard drive from its enclosure, from the computer in this case.

Removing the hard drive from a MacBook is a breeze, it takes good part of a few minutes.  However, MacBook Pro owners will need some bravery, surgical precision and, of course, lots of time. Be aware that opening the MacBook Pro will definitely void your warranty.

Sometimes the drive heads get stuck in a parking bay and consequently your hard drive fails to read or boot. There is no clear indication that would help distinguish between this and the genuinely dead hard drive, but since it’s not working anyway, you can still give it a try. Often this fixes the issue.

Remove the hard drive from your computer and hold it on the palm of one hand. Give it one flat-handed brisk slap on the top of the drive. Just one. Then place it back into your computer and see if it worked.

If it’s still dead then it’s bad news. If it works – you have a decision to make; leave it as it is, and continue with your life like nothing ever happened, or get the data off the drive as soon as possible and get a replacement drive. It’s really up to you.

You’ve also learned about the benefits of backing up, so go on and get that external drive, they’re cheap as chips now, and back-up, back-up, back-up …

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Ten tips for every new Mac user

This is the summary of some tips for new Mac users I have posted in my blog over the past 18 months. If you are new to Mac, I would recommend you read them, you may find some of them very handy, a few maybe quite fascinating.

Installing applications on Mac is somewhat different to the installation you may have experienced on Windows. While some new users struggle to get it at first, it is incredibly simple and easy. [details]

The Dock provides easy access to some of the applications on your Mac, displays which applications are currently running, and holds windows in their minimized state. But if you see it only as a pretty strip of cool bouncing icons, then you’re dead wrong. There is so much more to Dock then you could imagine. [details]

What’s the jelly bean’s job in OS X – We all know about that jellybean on the top right corner of OS X windows. And we also know that clicking it will toggle the toolbar on and off. But what if we wanted to customise the toolbar even further. [details]

Shortcut to Desktop – Sometimes, when saving the file, we’d like to have it saved directly to the Desktop, but the option provided by OSX points somewhere else. This explains how to save the file to desktop in one keystroke. [details]

Accessing menus – If you come from Windows world and are used to using menus, you may feel a little strange that you can’t do it on Mac. Actually … you can. [details]

Zooming the screen – One of the great features of OS X (10.4) is that you can zoom in the screen, perfect when viewing small images. [details]

Slideshows in Finder – Imagine you have 80 photos on a CD and you’d like to preview them all. You can either double-click on each one to open them in Preview, import them all to iPhoto, or simply use Slideshow in Finder. [details]

Changing icons in OS X – There are trillions of beautiful icons for Mac out there, so why not use them, you can replace your default icon in a few simple step. [details]

Screen capture and text clipping – One thing I couldn’t live without is the screen capture, lets you select an area, window or full screen. And capturing text is even easier, just select and drag away. [details]

Switching windows and applications – Many new Mac users are slightly disappointed that Cmnd+Tab (Ctrl+Tab on Windows) is actually switching between applications and not between the windows, as they used to do in the Microsoft world. But there is something else that works even better. [details]

Other things you may find useful are Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts and Most popular Mac applications, as well as few handy tricks such as invert screen and slow motion.

Move emails from one Gmail account to another

Get 5 GB of free cloud storage with a a bonus 500 MB if you register via SilverMac, so you can safely back-up, share and synchronise your documents, photos, videos, music…

After going through internet newsgroups, endless trials and nearly smashed keyboard, I finally managed to move my emails from my Gmail account to a new one. Actually the new one is the GAFYD (Google Applications for your Domain), but it’s the same thing, it works through Gmail interface.

The best of all is that the emails will retain the correct timestamp, so something I have received into my Gmail account on 28/07/2006 will arrive to my GAFYD account with the same date and time on it. Nice!

First, you need to log into your Gmail account and enable POP3 access. Click on Settings, Forwarding and POP and tick Enable POP for all mail.

Now go to your new Gmail (GAFYD) account and click Settings, Accounts, Add another mail account. In the window that opens type your old Gmail address and press Next Step.

You need to fill out the form on the next page by entering your old Gmail account username and password, and select “Other” for POP server, then enter and press Add Account.

The setup will ask you if you would like to use this email address in a way that you are able to send email from your new account as you were sending it from the old one, very handy when replying to some emails sent to the old address. If you select “Yes” you will need to verify your old email address. It’s as simple as receiving a confirmation email and entering the confirmation code into the setup window of the new account.

That’s it! Just sit and wait and your old emails will slowly start popping up in your new Gmail (GAFYD) account after a while. Of course if you have few thousands of them, it may be wise idea to go and do something else for some time while this is being transferred.

Please note that you will not be able to transfer labels that have been applied to the messages on your old account. However, you can generate and automatically apply one for all emails that are coming from the old address.

Since Yahoo! mail also supports POP access, I haven’t tried it but I don’t see any reason why this shouldn’t work with their accounts, or any other POP accounts out there.

Mac OS X Dock explained

What is Mac OS X Dock ? It’s the beautiful thing on the bottom of your screen, the thing you either love or hate, but the thing you can’t live without after you’ve been using it for a while. It provides easy access to some of the applications on your Mac, displays which applications are currently running, and holds windows in their minimized state.

Dock 1

What are these icons ?

The icons are representing applications you have on your Mac. Some have been placed there during the OS X installation, others are placed there by the user. Sometimes you will see the little black triangle, just below the icon, this means this application is running.

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More cool stuff on your Mac

We all know about Command-Tab function on Mac and Alt-Tab on Windows. But what if we have multiple windows of the same application, Safari for example, and want to switch between them?

Command-Tab won’t be of any help as it will give us only one window of each application to deal with.


I guess quite a few people didn’t know this, myself included. You simply press Command~ (tilde). That’s the key just above the Tab key on your keyboard. Sweet and simple.

Another cool thing I figured out while fooling playing around with my Mac. If you are in any cocoa application and select some text, press CommandShiftY and the text is automatically stored in a sticky note on your desktop. A perfect reminder right before your eyes.

Not only this works with the text, but the hyperlinks will be stored as well, which is nice.

Images? Well… yes, see below. I was really surprised to see it capturing an image and also being able to save it.


Another way of capturing the selection is if you click on Application name in the menu bar, select Services and then Make New Sticky Note.

And no, it doesn’t work in Firefox.

Read my earlier article Cool things you can do on Mac for more tips.

[tags]OS X, Cool, Stickies, windows[/tags]

How to save your MacBook Pro hard drive

Isn’t it beautiful when using your MacBook / MacBook Pro, you just close the lid and the computer instantly goes into the sleep mode? Even better, you just open it and in a few seconds you are where you were before.

And the coolest of all is when you’re in a hurry, you just shut the lid, put the computer into the bag and run downstairs, or jump on your bike and off you go. Right ?


What I just described above is a big no-no if you have a MacBook, MacBook Pro or the very last model PowerBook (late 2005).

The reason for this is SafeSleep, a technology Apple introduced to all portable computers since October 2005.

What happens when ‘normal’ computers are put into sleep mode is that the memory is supplied with a very small amount of power to keep its content ‘alive’. When you wake up the computer, it will be in the state you left it before. But in case of a power failure, or battery going completely flat, the memory will lose the power and therefore your data is gone. Game over.

Apple’s SafeSleep works similar to this but it has something else for when the disaster strikes. When you close the lid the computer goes to sleep mode, but not instantly. Firstly, it copies entire content of its memory onto the hard drive, and then goes to normal sleep mode. Once you wake up the computer, the memory is already loaded and you can use it straight away.

If you lost the power/battery, once you power on the computer again, the memory content that was stored onto the hard disk will be loaded, so you take it from where you left it before. You will see the black and white screen while this is happening, so don’t panic, your display is just fine.

And this is exactly where the problem is. You must not move your computer while the data is written to the hard drive. You have to wait until the sleep light on the front starts pulsing. This may take anything between 10 and 30 seconds, depends on the amount of memory you have installed in your computer.

This is what Apple’s MBP manual states:

Warning: Wait a few seconds until the white sleep indicator light on the display latch starts pulsating (indicating that the computer is in sleep and the hard disk has stopped spinning) before you move your MacBook Pro. Moving your computer while the hard disk is spinning can damage the hard disk, causing loss of data or the inability to start up from the hard disk.

So, you wonder – what difference does it make, Apple notebooks have the Sudden Motion Sensor and will prevent any data loss or disk damage ?

Wrong again! The Sudden Motion Sensor has no effect in this situation, so you’ll be better off to leave your computer to finish the job it has to do.

Update 03-Aug-2008: There is a glimpse of hope that you can still save your data and get your hard drive running again, read my article How to revive a dead hard drive.

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How to install an application on your Mac

Every so often someone asks me “How do I install this application on my Mac?” I must admit, I was also a little confused when I switched to Mac, so a little help from a friend was as good as gold.

There are a few ways to install applications on Mac. The most common one is with a dmg file, or the disk image. In an example below, we’ll try to install ImageWell, a nice little application that I use to edit images for this website, including the ones below.

First we download the application. The file is called imagewell3r241.dmg and will be saved onto the desktop. Now double-click the file,  this will mount the disk image in this case called imagewell3. It looks like a little hard drive on your desktop.


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Cool things on Mac

Dictionary has been part of Mac OS X  since 10.4 and there is a feature that not many Mac users know about.

When you are in any of Cocoa (Mac native) applications you can hover your mouse above a word and press Ctrl-Cmd-D on your keyboard. You will get the Dictionary description for that word. Just move your mouse over to any other word and the Dictionary description for that word is displayed instantly.

You don’t need to have the Dictionary open at all.

A few examples where this works are; Safari,, MacJournal, TextEdit, Text Wrangler, Comic Life, iWeb, etc.  Unfortunately it doesn’t work with any of the Mozilla applications, including Firefox, Camino and Flock.

Invert screen

Another function that not many Mac users know is “Invert screen”. Just press Ctrl-Option-Cmd-8 on your keyboard and see your Mac invert its colours.

One could ask – Why would you ever want to do this? It comes very handy when your eyes are tired and some genius has been experimenting with background and text colours on his or her website … MySpace anyone?

It is also irreplaceable tool in photography, during the post production editing. If you have a large, bright picture and you are trying to locate any dark spots that you need to clone out (e.g. sensor dust, birds in the sky, etc.) it gets really tough on your eyes after a few minutes. Reverse colours and look for bright spots on the dark background – they stand out like Christmas lights at night.

It would be funny if you did this in Apple store and watched the salesperson freaking out.

Get 5 GB of free cloud storage with a a bonus 500 MB if you register via SilverMac, so you can safely back-up, share and synchronise your documents, photos, videos, music…

Slow motion

When you want to minimise a window,  simply click on the yellow button in the top left corner. The window quickly goes down to the right end of your dock using either scaled or genie effect.

But  if you hold down the shift key while clicking  the window will minimise in slow motion, approximately five times slower than the normal speed.

Text clipping

I love telling this to my friends Windows users. I ask them how would they save a piece of text from the document they are viewing at the moment, for example a web page.

Their answer is usually something like: “Oh, easy. You select the text, right click and copy. Then you go to the desktop, right click and select New | Text file, give the file some name and click away. Now you double click the file to open it, paste the text in there and save it. Simple, isn’t it?”

Then I show them how to do it on Mac. I select the text and drag it to the desktop and that’s it. Dropped jaws everywhere.

If you want to include this text somewhere, say in an email, you simply drag the file into your composed email. Simple as that.


Screen capturing

This is my favourite of the Mac goodies. There are few ways to capture the screen on Mac.

Firstly, you can capture the whole screen. Simply press Cmd-Shift-3 on your keyboard and the screen will be captured in a PNG file and saved on your desktop as something like Picture 1.png.  As of Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6) this file is named Screenshot-<date>-<time>.png.

Picture 9.png

You can also capture a selection, just press Cmd-Shift-4 on your keyboard and you will see a small cross hair selector on your screen.

Select the area you want to capture and let go, the file will be saved on your desktop, again something like Picture 1.png. As of Mac OS X Leopard (10.5) you also get the infomration on the picture size (in pixels) which changes as you move the crosshair.

And finally you can capture the active window. Simply follow the steps above and once you see the cross hair, press the space bar and you will get a camera icon. Hover the camera above any window and the window will get the gray overlay indicating it’s in hot-spot. You can even capture the window that is in the background, as long as a part of it visible and allows you enough room to hover the camera icon over it.  Click on it and the window will be captured.


Again, the file will be safely placed on your desktop as … good guess, Screenshot-<date>-<time>.png

However, if you’d like to capture the screen (or part of it) to the clipboard rather than to desktop, simply hold the Control key down while capturing, i.e. Shift-Ctrl-Cmd-4.

This is very handy when you need to paste it straight into an email or any other document.

See some More cool stuff on your Mac