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When Migrating to a New iPhone or iPad, Try Quick Start First

You have a new iPhone or iPad—congratulations! When transferring your data to the new device, you have three options: Quick Start, an iCloud backup, or a Mac backup. All will work, but they don’t quite provide the same end result (particularly if you didn’t encrypt your Mac backup). Our advice—backed by this post from Apple expert John Gruber—is to try Quick Start first because it transfers everything directly from your old device to your new one, maintaining app logins in most cases and allowing you to transfer your Apple Watch pairing. It may seem like it’s taking a long time before you can use the device, but it’s worth it to avoid logging in to numerous apps and unpairing and repairing your Apple Watch.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

It’s Time to Consider Upgrading to macOS 11 Big Sur

We’re cautious when it comes to recommending upgrades to new versions of macOS. Apple makes the upgrade process easy—though it can be time-consuming—but upgrading can create workflow interruptions, render favorite apps inoperable, and have other consequences. At the same time, it’s important to stay in sight of the cutting edge for security reasons and to take advantage of advances from Apple and other developers. Upgrading is not an if question; it’s a when question.

We’re not saying that everyone needs to upgrade to macOS 11 Big Sur now, but if you want to, it should be safe now that Apple has released several bug-fix updates. However, there are still a few caveats, and preparation is essential.

Reasons Not to Upgrade

Some people should continue to delay upgrades to Big Sur due to software incompatibilities. Most software under steady development will have been updated for Big Sur by now, but some workflows rely on older versions of apps where an upgrade isn’t practical or possible (ancient versions of Adobe Creative Suite, for instance), or on obsolete apps that will never be updated. You may be able to learn more at RoaringApps, but those who haven’t yet upgraded past 10.14 Mojave may have to upgrade or replace 32-bit apps that ceased working starting with 10.15 Catalina.

The other app category that continues to have trouble with Big Sur are backup apps that make bootable duplicates. Catalina moved macOS to its own read-only volume, and Big Sur goes a step further by applying cryptographic signatures that make it even harder for an attacker to compromise the operating system. Unfortunately, that also makes creating a bootable duplicate difficult. Carbon Copy Cloner and ChronoSync have developed workarounds; SuperDuper remains incompatible at this point, although an older version can create data-only backups. If you rely on one of these apps for critical backups, make sure you know what you’re getting into before upgrading or reassess your backup strategy.

Before You Upgrade

Once you’ve decided to upgrade to Big Sur, you have three main tasks:

  • Update apps: Make sure all your apps are as up-to-date as possible. If you regularly put off updates, now’s the time to let them complete so you have Big Sur-compatible versions.
  • Clear space: Big Sur needs a minimum of 35.5 GB to upgrade, and as of macOS 11.2.1, the installer won’t proceed unless there’s enough space. Don’t cut this close—you should always have at least 10–20% free space for virtual memory, cache files, and breathing room.
  • Make a backup: Never, ever install a major upgrade to macOS without ensuring that you have at least one current backup first. In an ideal world, you’d have an updated Time Machine backup, a bootable duplicate, and an Internet backup. That way, if something goes wrong as thousands of files are moved around on your drive, you can easily restore.

After those tasks are complete, make sure you don’t need your Mac for a few hours. There’s no telling exactly how long the upgrade will take, especially if it has to convert your drive to APFS, so never start an upgrade if you need the Mac soon.

Initiating the upgrade is just a matter of opening System Preferences > Software Update, clicking the Upgrade Now button, and following the instructions.

After You Upgrade

Part of the reason to set aside plenty of time for your Big Sur upgrade is that there are always clean-up tasks afterward. We can’t predict precisely what you’ll run into, but here are a few situations we’ve noticed:

  • macOS will probably need to update its authentication situation by asking for your Apple ID password, your Mac’s password, and if you have another Mac, its password too. Don’t worry that this is a security breach—it’s fine.
  • Some apps may have to ask for permission to access your contacts and calendar even though you previously granted permission. Again, that’s fine.
  • If you use your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac and apps (and you should, it’s great!), you’ll need to re-enable that in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General.
  • If you use Gmail or Google Calendar or other Google services, you may need to log in to your Google account again.
  • Websites that usually remember your login state will likely require that you log in again. If you’re using a password manager like 1Password, that’s easy.
  • You may have to re-enable text-message forwarding to your Mac on your iPhone in Settings > Messages > Text Message Forwarding.
  • Those who use Backblaze for Internet backups will find their backups have been “safety frozen.” Follow these instructions for thawing your account.

Finally, Time Machine in Big Sur now supports and prefers APFS-formatted drives, and all of Apple’s development is going in that direction now. You can keep using your existing Time Machine backup in Big Sur, but after you’re confident that everything is working well—and you have another backup—it’s worth removing your Time Machine backup drive in System Preferences > Time Machine > Select Disk, reformatting the drive as APFS in Disk Utility, and restarting the backup in the Time Machine preference pane.

With all that housekeeping done, it’s time to check out all the new features in Big Sur!

(Featured image based on originals by Apple)


Social Media: Should you upgrade to macOS 11 Big Sur? There’s no need to do so yet, but it should be safe for most people, so if you’re excited about the new look and the new features, this is a good time to upgrade. Read on for our pre- and post-upgrade tasks.

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.

When Should You Upgrade to macOS 10.14 Mojave, iOS 12, watchOS 5, and tvOS 12?

It’s that time of year again, when an Apple user’s thoughts drift to new versions of macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Apple announced the new versions in June, and public betas have been available since. But once Apple makes macOS 10.14 Mojave, iOS 12, watchOS 5, and tvOS 12 available for free download, you’ll need to decide when to install each.

(Note that we say when and not if. There’s no harm in delaying major operating system upgrades until Apple has had a chance to squash early bugs. But waiting too long puts you at risk from security vulnerabilities and prevents you from taking advantage of new features. Plus, should you have to replace an Apple device unexpectedly, you will likely have to use the current operating system, which could be awkward if you weren’t ready.)

The hardest upgrade decision comes with macOS 10.14 Mojave. Whereas the last version of macOS—High Sierra—was a refinement upgrade that added few new features, Mojave introduces lots. Some people’s eyes will appreciate Dark mode, and the Dynamic Desktop changes subtly throughout the day. More practically, Stacks help organize files on cluttered Desktops, the Finder’s new Gallery view makes browsing images easier, and Quick Actions in the Finder’s Preview pane and in Quick Look let you work on files without even opening them. Apple significantly enhanced macOS’s screenshot and screen recording capabilities as well. And apps like Home, News, Stocks, and Voice Memos make the jump from iOS.

However, these features are bound to come with quirks and bugs, and Mojave’s new privacy and security controls may cause problems for older software. So we recommend waiting until at least version 10.14.1 or even 10.14.2 before upgrading. That gives you time to make sure your key apps are compatible with Mojave and for Apple to resolve any unanticipated problems.

iOS 12 is a different story, particularly if you have an older iPhone or iPad. That’s because Apple has focused on improving performance for such devices. If your device is bogging down, iOS 12 may give it a new lease on life. Also compelling is Screen Time, which helps you track your usage and set limits if you’re unhappy about how much time you spend giving Facebook your personal data. Screen Time even works for your entire family, so it could make dinner less device-intensive. A beefed-up Do Not Disturb lets you keep your iPhone from nagging you so much, and new features let you tamp down excessive notifications more easily. Finally, if you do the same things repeatedly, Siri Shortcuts can help you create your own Siri voice commands.

Our take is that iOS 12 is a good upgrade. Don’t pull the trigger instantly, since Apple may discover important bugs in the first week or two, but after that, upgrade when you have time to play with the new features.

watchOS 5 is linked to iOS 12, so you can’t upgrade your Apple Watch until your iPhone is running the latest. Most of the changes revolve around the Workouts app, with automatic detection of running workouts, a new Yoga workout, activity competitions, and more. Other new features include a Walkie-Talkie app, the arrival of Apple’s Podcasts app, a smarter Siri watch face, and improved notifications. There’s no downside to watchOS 5, so as soon as iOS 12 lands on your iPhone, set your Apple Watch to upgrade that night.

tvOS 12 is the easiest to agree to install. It’s a minor upgrade, with just a few new features. The most noticeable is a new aerial screensaver of Earth from low orbit, made by the crew of the International Space Station. You can also tap the touchpad of the Siri Remote while an aerial screensaver is playing to see where it was taken. When you start trying to type a password on the Apple TV, a notification on your iPhone lets you autofill that password. And finally, the Apple TV 4K gains support for Dolby Atmos soundscapes. So yeah, install tvOS 12 when it comes out, or let your Apple TV do it automatically.

As much as change can be hard, we’re excited about Apple’s new operating systems. Like you, we probably won’t end up using all the new features, but some will enhance the experience of being an Apple user.


Social Media: Apple is about to release four major operating system upgrades—macOS 10.14 Mojave, iOS 12, watchOS 5, and tvOS 12. When should you take the leap and install them? Short answer: it depends. Long answer: read on!