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M1-Based Macs Have New Startup Modes: Here’s What You Need to Know

For many years, Macs have relied on sets of keys held at startup to enable specific modes. Most notably, pressing Option displays the Startup Manager and lets you pick a boot drive, Command-R starts up from macOS Recovery, Command-Option-P-R resets the NVRAM, Shift starts up in Safe mode, D opens Apple Diagnostics to check the hardware, and T starts up in Target Disk Mode. Needless to say, obscure key combinations aren’t the friendliest way to help someone who may already be stressed out about their Mac not working, so Apple improved things for the new M1-based Macs.

The most important part is that you no longer have to press a key combination during startup. Instead, press and hold the power button until the screen shows “Loading startup options…” and displays the Startup Manager.

Unfortunately, Apple is still a little fast and loose with terms, so we’ve tried to list all of the ones you might see.

Startup Manager / Startup Disk

If you have multiple boot drives and wish to switch among them, you’ll want to use Startup Manager. Immediately after you see “Loading startup options…,” the Mac displays the new Startup Manager, which shows icons for all the bootable drives, along with buttons for Options, Shut Down, and Restart. To boot from a particular drive, select it and click Continue under it.

If you work your way into macOS Recovery but then want to back out in order to select a startup drive, look in the Apple menu for a Startup Disk command, which provides similar functionality with a slightly different look.

Startup Manager (but not Startup Disk) also lets you start up in Safe mode and set a drive as the default to use for booting. First, select a drive. Then, for Safe mode, press the Shift key and click the Continue in Safe Mode button below it. To set a selected drive as the default, press the Control or Option key and click the Always Use button underneath it.

Note that M1-based Macs can’t boot from just any external drive. We’re all still learning about the new platform, but it seems that you need a Thunderbolt 3 SSD that has been freshly formatted with APFS and set up with a new installation of macOS 11.1 Big Sur. See Howard Oakley’s writeup for details.

macOS Recovery / Recovery

When you need to reinstall macOS or restore from a Time Machine backup, head to macOS Recovery. From the Startup Manager screen, select Options and click Continue underneath it. After you choose a language, an initial macOS Recovery screen appears. Note that you have access to the Apple menu, which lets you choose Startup Disk, Restart, or Shut Down, and to the Recovery Assistant menu, which includes a potentially useful Erase Mac command.

macOS Recovery presents you with a list of users. Select one for which you know the login password, click Next, and enter the password when prompted. Now, in the Recovery app, you can restore from Time Machine, reinstall Big Sur, launch Safari to browse the Web and get online help from Apple, and open Disk Utility to manage drives.

The Recovery app has a full set of menus, and notice Utilities in particular. It lets you launch the Startup Security Utility, to reduce the macOS security level, or Terminal, if you want to run command-line tools before startup. (The old macOS single-user mode accessible by holding down S at startup has disappeared.) To return to the Recovery app from any other app, quit the current app. Finally, note that the Recovery app’s Window menu has an option for Recovery Log. As is often the case with logs, it may be inscrutable to all but high-level support experts.

Oddly, once you’re in macOS Recovery, there’s no way to return to the Startup Manager.

Target Disk Mode / Share Disk

If you ever want to access one Mac’s drives from another, you can connect the two Macs via a USB or Thunderbolt cable and use Target Disk Mode. On M1-based Macs, you initiate Target Disk Mode using a command in the Recovery app’s Utilities menu: Share Disk.

Choose Utilities > Share Disk to start sharing one of the M1-based Mac’s drives via Target Disk Mode. Select the drive and click Start Sharing. When you’re done using it, click Stop Sharing before disconnecting the cable.

Apple Diagnostics / Diagnostics Loader

If you’re worried that your M1-based Mac is suffering from a hardware failure, running Apple Diagnostics may shed some light on the problem. Oddly, getting to Apple Diagnostics still requires a hidden keystroke.

Once you’re in the Startup Manager screen, press and hold Command-D to reboot the Mac into the Diagnostics Loader app. You can choose to run the diagnostics offline or to share the information with Apple.

After you pick one, the diagnostics run right away and report back when they’re done. If you have an M1-based MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, make sure to plug it in first, or you’ll get an error telling you that the power adapter couldn’t be found.

The troubleshooting approaches that no longer seem to be available in any way are to reset the NVRAM (Non-Volatile RAM) or the SMC (System Management Controller). Apparently, the NVRAM tests itself at startup and resets automatically if necessary. M1-based Macs reportedly don’t have an SMC in the same way as Intel-based Macs, so there’s no option to reset it.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Apple’s M1-based Macs change how you switch drives and access troubleshooting tools at startup. Read on to learn the new techniques.

Don’t Worry about an Occasional “Not Charging” Message on Your MacBook

Starting with macOS 10.15.5 Catalina, Apple introduced a battery health management feature that improves your battery’s lifespan by adjusting charging patterns to reduce the rate at which the battery chemically ages. (Find it in System Preferences > Energy Saver > Battery Health.) One thing to be aware of with battery health management is that it might cause your MacBook to display “Battery Is Not Charging” in the battery status menu even when it’s plugged in. That’s normal, and it’s nothing to worry about. Of course, if you regularly see that message, it’s a hint that you may not be using the proper power adapter and cable or that the power source isn’t delivering enough juice.

(Featured image created with originals by cottonbro from Pexels and OpenIcons from Pixabay)

Remember to Enable Text Message Forwarding When You Get a New Mac or iPad

You’ve long had text messages forwarding from your iPhone to your Mac and iPad, but after you get a new device, it might be a while before you realize that it’s not receiving texts sent to your iPhone. It turns out that, when you get a new Apple device, you must manually enable it to receive forwarded texts from your iPhone—the setting is off by default. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Messages > Text Message Forwarding, and flip the switches for the new devices.

(Featured image by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels)

Beware iCloud Phishing Phone Calls!

We’ve been hearing reports of an uptick in the scam phone calls that claim to be from Apple. If you answer, an automated message tells you that your iCloud account has been breached and asks you to call a provided 1-866 number. Do not do this! Apple will never call you unprompted. Unfortunately, the criminals behind this particular phishing attack are spoofing Apple’s phone numbers effectively, so the call looks legitimate. Be very careful about which unrecognized phone calls you answer, and if you’re ever asked for personal information like a bank account or credit card number during such a call, hang up, look up the institution’s phone number elsewhere, and verify with someone at that number rather than one provided by the caller.


(Featured image by GEORGE DESIPRIS from Pexels)

Use This New Setting to Prevent iOS Updates from Consuming Precious Space

People whose iPhones or iPads have relatively little free space have long struggled with the fact that iOS likes to download updates so they’ll be ready for installation. “Who wants to wait for a long download?” Apple thought. Unfortunately, lots of people do. The problem is that if you don’t want to update right away, that download consumes precious gigabytes of your free space in the meantime. In iOS 13.6 and iPadOS 13.6, Apple has finally provided a setting you can disable to prevent iOS from downloading updates ahead of time. Find it in Settings > General > Software Update > Customize Automatic Updates, where you can turn off Download iOS Updates to be sure an update won’t chew up your free space. But yes, you do have to update to 13.6 to get it.

(Featured image by Julia Joppien on Unsplash)

Yay! Older ScanSnap Scanners Get New Life in Catalina with ScanSnap Manager V7

About a year ago, Fujitsu informed owners of older models of the company’s ScanSnap scanners that it wouldn’t be updating the necessary ScanSnap Manager app to be 64-bit, effectively preventing those people from using their scanners in macOS 10.15 Catalina. Unexpectedly, Fujitsu has now reversed course, releasing ScanSnap Manager V7 with support for the previously orphaned ScanSnap S1500, S1500M, S1300, and S1100 models. Even though they’re not listed as being compatible, ScanSnap Manager V7 also reportedly works with the S300M and S510M, so if you have any older ScanSnap scanner, it’s worth trying the S1500M download.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Use This Trick to Find a Missing App Window

Every so often, we hear from a Mac user with a seemingly impossible problem: a document window in some app is opening somewhere outside of the screen so it’s effectively invisible and they can’t work with it in any way. Just closing (with File > Close) and reopening the window, or quitting and relaunching the app, or even restarting the Mac won’t usually help because the app will reopen the window in the same off-screen position. The solution is to try various commands in the app’s Window menu, such as Tile, Move, or Zoom. (You may need to choose View > Show All Tabs to get the tab-related commands.) What’s there will vary by app, but with luck, one of them will bring your errant window back on screen.

(Featured image by Jeff Hendricks on Unsplash)

iPhone Not Charging Reliably? Clean Its Lightning Port with a Toothpick

If you’re plugging your iPhone in regularly but getting low-battery warnings when you shouldn’t, consider the possibility that something is preventing your iPhone from charging successfully while plugged in. If there’s no lightning bolt badge on the battery icon when the iPhone is plugged in, that’s a sure sign that no power is reaching the device. Another hint that failures could be happening intermittently would be a lack of charging in the Last Charge Level graph in Settings > Battery when you know the iPhone was plugged in. Luckily, the solution is often easy. Take a wooden (not metal) toothpick and gently poke around inside the iPhone’s Lightning port for pocket fuzz. You’d be amazed how much crud can end up in there. If cleaning doesn’t solve the problem and you use only a single Lightning cable to charge, try another one.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Is Your iPhone Reporting “No Service” When You Know There’s a Signal?

Have you ever seen the dreaded “No Service” label at the top of your iPhone’s screen, even when you’re pretty sure there should be cellular reception? It’s not common, but the iPhone’s cellular radio can occasionally get confused. Luckily, you can easily fix the problem. Open Control Center (swipe down from the upper-right corner on an iPhone X or later or an iPad; or up from the bottom on an earlier iPhone) and tap the airplane icon to put the iPhone in airplane mode. That turns off the cellular radio. Wait a few seconds and tap the airplane icon again to re-enable the cellular radio. If that doesn’t work, power-cycle your iPhone by holding the side or Sleep/Wake button until you see the Power Off slider. Slide it to turn the iPhone off, then press and hold the side or Sleep/Wake button again until the iPhone restarts.

(Featured image based on an original by Pexels from Pixabay)

Strategies for Moving from Mojave to Catalina

For some Mac users, macOS 10.15 Catalina is no longer a choice. That’s because the new 16-inch MacBook Pro and the 2019 Mac Pro that Apple released late last year ship with Catalina installed and can’t run any previous version of macOS.

But for most people, it’s time to consider an upgrade to Catalina. Most backup software now works with Catalina’s bifurcated drive approach that puts the system on a separate, read-only volume from your data and apps. We’ve all had several months to come to terms with the fact that old 32-bit apps won’t even launch in Catalina. And Apple has shipped several updates that bring Catalina to version 10.15.3, addressing most of the complaints users had with the initial release.

If you are ready to try Catalina but still want to use 10.14 Mojave, we have some advice for how to make that happen. This could be the case for someone who has purchased a new Mac that does support Mojave but came with Catalina installed, for someone who wants to test Catalina while still using Mojave, or for someone who wants to move on to Catalina but has a 32-bit app that they aren’t ready to say good-bye to.

Downgrade from Catalina to Mojave on Some New Macs

Apple has started installing Catalina on new Macs other than the 16-inch MacBook Pro and 2019 Mac Pro, but since these older Macs can still run Mojave, it’s possible—if a bit tricky—to downgrade them to Mojave.

System engineer Armin Briegel has worked out a way of downgrading new Macs to Mojave. First, you create a Mojave Installer USB drive. To use that drive to boot a Mac with a T2 security chip, you must allow external booting from the Security Utility on the Recovery partition. Once you’ve booted from your Mojave Installer drive, use Disk Utility to erase the entire internal drive. Then install Mojave.

Use Virtualization to Keep 32-bit Apps Running

For some people, what’s keeping them on Mojave is a single 32-bit app that will never be updated in an appropriate fashion. Quicken 2007 falls into this category, as does the ScanSnap Manager app for the ScanSnap S1300, S1500, and S1500M scanners. Sure, you can get a current version of Quicken, but it may not do precisely what you want, and Fujitsu would be happy to sell you a new ScanSnap scanner that does come with 64-bit software, but then you’ll have to figure out what to do with your old scanner.

So if you’re ready to upgrade to Catalina in general but need to maintain access to one or two apps, one solution is virtualization software: either Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion. Both apps let you run nearly any operating system—including older versions of macOS like Mojave—in a virtual machine. In essence, they fool the guest operating system, whether it’s Mojave or Windows, into thinking it’s running normally on a computer, when it’s actually running in a virtual environment.

These apps cost about $80, and while there’s a bit of work in setting them up (the screenshot below shows the option for installing Mojave in Parallels Desktop during setup), once you have them configured, it’s easy to run older apps alongside newer ones with little or no performance hit. This approach is also perfect for a 16-inch MacBook Pro or Mac Pro that can’t run Mojave in any other way.

Install Catalina and Mojave on Separate APFS Volumes and Switch Boot

Finally, there’s one other option that lets you switch back and forth between Mojave and Catalina, assuming your Mac supports Mojave. You can create an APFS volume on your internal drive and install another version of macOS on that. It’s easy, and Apple provides full instructions. The only problem with this approach is that you’ll have to restart to switch operating systems, whereas both are available simultaneously with the virtualization solution.

First, make sure you have at least one current backup of your Mac, since it’s foolhardy to adjust your drive structure without one. Next, in Disk Utility, select your internal drive, choose Edit > Add APFS Volume, and click Add. We recommend naming the drive such that it will be clear what’s on it.

Then boot into macOS Recovery and install the desired version of macOS on your new volume. The keys you hold down to get into Recovery determine which version of macOS you’ll get:

  • Command-R reinstalls the latest version of macOS that was installed on your Mac.
  • Command-Option-R upgrades to the latest version of macOS that’s compatible with your Mac.
  • Command-Shift-Option-R reinstalls the version of macOS that came with your Mac, or the closest version still available.

Choose Reinstall macOS from the macOS Utilities window and proceed from there.

Once the installation is complete, to switch from one version of macOS to another, open System Preferences > Startup Disk, choose the desired volume to boot from, and then click Restart. Or, press Option at startup and select the desired volume from the Startup Manager screen.

Needless to say, the decision about when and how to upgrade to Catalina isn’t a trivial one, so feel free to contact us to discuss your particular situation or to get help with any of the procedures that we’ve described in this article.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Considering upgrading to Catalina? Or maybe you have a new Mac that came with it already installed? Read on for strategies for downgrading to Mojave or running both Catalina and Mojave.