Unmount noisy hard drives to stop them driving you crazy

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A hard drive, fully
A hard drive, fully "unmounted."
Photo: Vincent Botta/Unsplash

If the main disk in your Mac is a spinning hard drive, you should probably upgrade to a solid state drive. Swapping in an SSD is the cheapest way to make your old computer feel like a brand-new Mac. But for backups, and for lesser-used internal storage in a Mac Pro or iMac, a hard drive still gives you the best value. You will pay far less per megabyte of storage.

The problem is that hard drives are noisy as well as slow. If you’re used to enjoying the silence of an SSD-based computer environment, then those whirrs, whines clicks and pops will drive you nuts. Which is why you should unmount your noisy hard drives. That way they’re still available to the apps that need them, but otherwise they’re sleeping.

How to switch off iCloud backups, and why you might not want to

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iCloud backups locker room
Apple might keep iCloud backups locked in rooms like this one.
Photo: Liz Weddon/Unsplash

Last week’s revelation that iCloud backups can be accessed by Apple, and are regularly given to law enforcement agencies, came as a big surprise to many people. Isn’t Apple the company that claims to protect your data? While your iPhone or iPad is locked down, much of your iCloud data, including1 your iMessages, is available to Apple. The only way to prevent Apple, and government agencies, from accessing that data is to switch off iCloud backups, and make local backups instead.

How to control what your iPhone backs up to iCloud

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icloud backup
Keep things safe with iCloud backup.
Photo: Gabriel Wasylko/Unsplash

Are you getting ready for a new iPhone? Running out of iCloud storage space? Living with a slow internet connection? Worried about privacy? In any of these cases, you might want to exclude some apps from your iCloud backups. Doing so will save iCloud storage space, conserve bandwidth and make sure your data does not go to Apple’s servers, where it may or may not be vulnerable to decryption.

The good news is that it’s easy to exclude pretty much anything you like from your iCloud backups in iOS. Here’s how.

How to back up your iMessages (and why it’s essential)

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Never lose your old messages again.
Never lose your old messages again.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Why would you bother to back up your iMessages? After all, they’re all stored in iCloud these days, right? Well, yes your messages are all stored in iCloud, but they’re not backed up up there. They’re synced, which means that if you delete a message thread, it’s gone forever. The answer is to make a local backup, which requires a Mac. Which is ridiculous in 2019, but there you go.

Here’s how to back up your iMessages in case the worst happens.

How to back up your iCloud Photo Library

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Back up your precious — and totally non-creepy — memories.
Back up your precious — and totally non-creepy — memories.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Wait, what? Why would you want to back up your iCloud Photo Library? Apple takes care of that, right? After all, the clue is in the name — the library is stored in iCloud.

Not so fast. That’s true, but what if something screws up at Apple’s end? What if you lose access to your iCloud account? What if, what if, what if? In most cases, you’ll be fine, but being a good computer nerd, you probably understand the value of redundant backups. So today we’ll see how to make sure all your images are safely stored. Just in case.

How to recover previous versions of your files on Mac

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Files may be clunky, but it's better than this.
There's no need to keep a zillion different versions of a file on the Mac.
Photo: Phil Roeder/Flickr CC

What happens if you’re working on a document and you realize you screwed it up? Maybe you deleted a few paragraphs without realizing. Or you’ve just been writing a bunch of nonsense for the past half-hour and wish you could go back to where you were before? On the Mac, you can easily do just that. It’s called versions, and it’s automatic.

Using versions, you can easily browse and restore previous versions of any document. Some apps have this built in, so you can do it right there inside the app itself. But the Finder also supports versions, so you can revert to a previous state of almost anything.

How to make automatic, local, Time-Machine-style backups of your iPhone

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Set and forget.
Set and forget.
Photo: Cult of Mac

iCloud backups are just about the best thing ever. Not only is all your data safe if your iPhone is lost, or dies, but you can also use it to setup a new iPhone with minimal fuss. But iCloud is in the cloud, and local backups also have their uses. For instance, maybe you don’t like the idea of all your data on someone else’s computer? Or perhaps you just want double-protection in case you can’t access iCloud some time.

Or maybe you just have slow internet, or you’re on a long trip away and there’s no Wi-Fi, only data-capped cellular?

For the Mac there’s Time Machine, which automatically makes incremental backups. For iOS, you can use iMazing, a multi-purpose Mac app which can backup your iPhone or iPad to your Mac, and do it automatically, and wirelessly, so it should be as seamless as Time Machine or iCloud Backups. Let’s see it in action.

How to keep using Time Machine without AirPort or Time Capsule

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flux-capacitor
This is what makes Time Machine backups possible.
Photo: Morgan Sherwood/Flickr CC

Apple’s AirPort routers introduced one game-changing new feature to the world: easy backups. Time Machine is Apple’s automatic backup utility, and it made backups easy enough for non-nerds to use regularly.

The easiest way to use it was to buy a Time Capsule, a wireless AirPort router with a hard drive built in. Before Time Capsule, nobody backed up. After Time Capsule, anyone could keep hourly, daily and weekly backups without even thinking about it. But now that Apple has stopped making Time Capsule, and AirPort routers in general, how do you keep using Time Machine?

How to free up disk space in macOS High Sierra

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space mountain
There's some free space right up there.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

MacOS High Sierra upgraded the Mac’s under-the-hood file system, replacing the decades-old HFS+ with the shiny new APFS. What this means for the user is way faster file copying, the ability to revert to previous versions of your documents, and several other neat features. But it also means that you may have a lot less free space left on your storage disk, thanks to APFS’ habit of using it to store special ‘dark matter.’Today we’ll learn what this dark matter is, and how to free up disk space.

How to stop Time Machine backing up every freaking hour

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flux-capacitor
This is what makes Time Machine backups possible.
Photo: Morgan Sherwood/Flickr CC

I do wonder who might need their Time Machine backups to run every single hour. With the versioning tools built into Dropbox, or into text editors like Ulysses, and the reliability of SSD drives, hourly backups may be overkill. Or they may just be annoying. Or, if you have an older Mac, they may slow things down while you’re trying to work. Whatever your reason for complaining about hourly Time Machine backups, then, TimeMachineEditor has you covered. It’s a free utility that takes control of Time Machine scheduling.