Help Desk

Glenn Fleish­man an­swers your most vex­ing Mac prob­lems

Macworld - - CONTENTS -


When you cre­ate a backup sys­tem for your data, du­pli­ca­tion is the best course of ac­tion. I don’t mean du­pli­cat­ing the files – that’s a re­quire­ment, but du­pli­cat­ing the des­ti­na­tions to which files are bound. Ev­ery form of backup me­dia is des­tined to fail, and de­spite high re­li­a­bil­ity from cloud-backup ser­vices, you can’t put all your faith that any of them will al­ways be per­fect. Even a sys­tem with ‘five

nines’ of re­li­a­bil­ity (99.999 per­cent) may suf­fer a loss, and the uni­verse might pick you to ex­pe­ri­ence that loss.

The rule of thumb is sum­ma­rized as 3-2-1: three copies of your data, two of them lo­cal, and one off-site. One copy is your live ver­sion on your ac­tive drives; one can be a Time Ma­chine backup; and the off-site one can be ei­ther a cloud backup, or your files stored some­where se­curely and reg­u­larly ro­tate with the lo­cal backup.

Time Ma­chine has this con­cept baked in, but I don’t think most peo­ple are aware of it, as it’s not pro­moted as such and based on the ques­tions

I get from Macworld read­ers. Ap­ple makes hay (and rightly so) about the ease of plug­ging in a drive, re­spond­ing to a prompt that asks if you want to use it for Time Ma­chine back­ups, and then never hav­ing to in­ter­act with it again un­less you need to re­store files.

But macOS also in­cor­po­rates sup­port for hav­ing mul­ti­ple ac­tive backup vol­umes used for your same source data at the same time.

1. Plug an­other drive into your Mac. (See note at the bot­tom about for­mat­ting.)

2. In the Time Ma­chine sys­tem pref­er­ence pane, click Se­lect Disk.

3. In the di­a­log that ap­pears, se­lect the new drive un­der Avail­able Disks and click Use Disk.

4. When asked if you want to re­place your ex­ist­ing Time Ma­chine vol­ume or use both drives, click Use Both.

(Check­ing the En­crypt Back­ups box in Step 3 is an ex­cel­lent idea, too, be­cause it means when­ever the vol­ume isn’t mounted, it’s of no use to any­one else with­out your passphrase to un­lock the disk.)

Time Ma­chine be­gins an ini­tial backup to this vol­ume, which will take as long as the first time you per­formed a backup with the pre­vi­ous vol­ume. Af­ter it’s com­plete, macOS al­ter­nates be­tween the two drives in mak­ing back­ups when both are con­nected.

But here’s the best part. As soon as the ini­tial backup is fin­ished, you can eject ei­ther of the drives, take it some­where safe away from your home or busi­ness, and the Time Ma­chine backup con­tin­ues on your re­main­ing vol­ume. As fre­quently as ev­ery week or two, swap your off-site vol­ume

with the one on-site, and even if you have a fire, theft, or de­struc­tive event, you’ll have that off-site copy.

If you pair this kind of backup with stor­ing im­por­tant doc­u­ments us­ing a sync ser­vice, like Drop­box or iCloud Drive, you’ll wind up be­ing able to re­store a Mac that ex­pe­ri­ences a se­vere crash, or one that’s stolen or you lose on a trip, to nearly the state it was when it be­came un­avail­able.

Note on for­mats: Re­mem­ber that Time Ma­chine vol­umes – even in High Sierra and Mo­jave – can­not be for­mat­ted with the new APFS method that Ap­ple re­quires for SSDs used as the macOS startup vol­ume. In­stead, they must use HFS+. You can for­mat a drive as HFS+ in Disk Utility (Ap­pli­ca­tions > Util­i­ties) by eras­ing it in the macOS Ex­tended (Jour­naled) for­mat. Eras­ing loses all the data on the disk.


Af­ter a re­cent in­ex­pli­ca­ble prob­lem on my MacBook, in which macOS would com­plete load­ing but never get past the blank screen be­fore the Desk­top ap­peared, I had to re­vert to a clone. (Even re­in­stalling macOS didn’t work.) I then up­graded to Mo­jave. Some­where in there, an im­por­tant piece of macOS ‘fell out’, metaphor­i­cally.

Ap­ple added the con­cept in 10.13 High Sierra of a ‘se­cure to­ken’ to the first ac­count cre­ated in macOS on in­stal­la­tion or af­ter up­grade as part of the process that al­lows you to use FileVault. There’s al­most no in­for­ma­tion about this fea­ture,

and there’s no way to de­ter­mine from macOS’s graph­i­cal fea­tures whether an ac­count has it set.

But if you’re miss­ing a se­cure to­ken on all your ac­counts, there’s no way to ob­tain one, and you won’t be able to turn on FileVault. That’s the sit­u­a­tion I find my­self in – and I found plenty of oth­ers in the same boat. I went down this rab­bit hole by try­ing to re-en­able FileVault af­ter I got my MacBook re­stored and up to date:

1. Open the Se­cu­rity & Pri­vacy sys­tem pref­er­ence pane.

2. Click the FileVault tab.

3. Click the lock icon in the lower-left cor­ner and en­ter an ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­count and pass­word.

4. Click Turn On FileVault.

What should hap­pen af­ter Step 4 is that ei­ther macOS pre­sents a di­a­log that guides you to pro­ceed, or an er­ror mes­sage ap­pears ex­plain­ing (some­times ob­scurely) why you can’t.

In my case, and that of other peo­ple who have shared the same ex­pe­ri­ence on in­ter­net fo­rums, there’s no in­ter­ac­tion at all. Click­ing the but­ton doesn’t re­sult in any ac­tion. At this point, you can ‘in­ter­ro­gate’ macOS via Ter­mi­nal (in Ap­pli­ca­tions > Util­i­ties). First, you need to know the Unix ac­count name of your macOS ac­count. If you don’t know what that is, fol­low th­ese steps first:

1. Open the Users & Groups pane.

2. Click the lock icon in the lower-left cor­ner and en­ter an ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­count and pass­word.

3. Con­trol-click your ac­count name in the ac­count list and choose Ad­vanced Op­tions.

4. The Ac­count Name is your Unix ac­count’s short name.

Now, with that name in hand, fol­low th­ese steps:

1. Open Ap­pli­ca­tions > Util­i­ties > Ter­mi­nal.

2. At a ter­mi­nal prompt copy and paste the fol­low­ing, re­plac­ing ac­count­name with the Unix ac­count name you found above, and press Re­turn: su­dosys ad minct l-se­cure To­ken Sta­tus ac­count­name

3. When prompted, en­ter your ac­count pass­word. If you’re hav­ing the same prob­lem as me, the re­sponse will be:

sysad­minctl[...] Se­cure to­ken is DIS­ABLED for user Full Name

(Your ac­count name will ap­pear in­stead of Full Name.)

From all my read­ing and test­ing, there’s no way to en­able a se­cure to­ken. I tried one method sug­gested that al­lows you to re-run the ini­tial macOS setup with­out eras­ing your sys­tem, and cre­ated a new ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­count that should os­ten­si­bly re­ceive a se­cure to­ken grant. It didn’t work. There are also ar­ti­cles ex­plain­ing how to grant your­self tem­po­rary se­cure ac­cess and use that to as­sign it to an­other ac­count – it also didn’t work in Mo­jave. I also tried a method of hav­ing an ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­count set ac­cess, which failed in Mo­jave and High Sierra. Here’s the er­ror mes­sage:

set Se­cure To­ken Au­tho­riza­tion

En­abled er­ror Er­ror Do­main=com.ap­ple. OpenDirec­tory Code=5101 “Au­then­ti­ca­tion server re­fused op­er­a­tion be­cause the cur­rent cre­den­tials are not au­tho­rized for the re­quested op­er­a­tion.” User Info={NS Lo­cal­ized De­scrip­tion= Au­then­ti­ca­tion server re­fused op­er­a­tion be­cause the cur­rent cre­den­tials are not au­tho­rized for the re­quested opera ti on.,NS Lo­cal­ized Fail­ure Rea­son= Au­then­ti­ca­tion server re­fused op­er­a­tion be­cause the cur­rent cre­den­tials are not au­tho­rized for the re­quested op­er­a­tion

I haven’t yet tried the next op­tion, which is to re­in­stall macOS. My re­cent re­in­stal­la­tion is too fresh in mem­ory and cur­rently sta­ble. And some peo­ple have re­ported even that didn’t work for them, so I’m not sure it’s the best path for­ward.

There’s a nu­clear op­tion, which is to make a full backup, wipe your Mac, and install macOS from scratch. Then use Mi­gra­tion As­sis­tant to re­store your files. (If you use a clone to re­store, it over­writes the ac­count in­for­ma­tion, and thus erases the newly cre­ated se­cure to­ken, too.)


A Macworld reader want to know if there’s a way in iOS to block texts from ev­ery­one who isn’t in the Con­tacts list. Her el­derly mother is re­ceiv­ing ha­rass­ing texts from some­one who ob­tains a new num­ber and con­tin­ues the at­tack ev­ery time they are stymied us­ing iOS’s op­tion to block texts (along with FaceTime re­quests and calls).

There isn’t such a fea­ture, al­though you’d think this would be a much-de­sired one. Ap­ple has con­tin­ued to add anti-spam and con­tact-block­ing fea­tures across the lat­est re­leases of iOS, and al­lows third-party app mak­ers to tap into calls and texts to help, too.

Ap­ple does of­fer a fea­ture to sort iMes­sages – texts sent from peo­ple with reg­is­tered iCloud ac­counts – into a sep­a­rate area. Visit Set­tings > Mes­sages > Un­known & Spam, and en­able Fil­ter Un­known Sen­ders. (On a Mac, us­ing Mes­sages

> Pref­er­ences, and uncheck the No­tify Me about Mes­sages from Un­known Con­tacts box.) This doesn’t act on text mes­sages (SMS), which are al­ways de­liv­ered is more likely the prob­lem faced.

The only op­tion at present is to change one’s phone num­ber and keep it pri­vate.


Macworld reader Lon has a prob­lem find­ing a file on his Mac. He needs to re­move it to avoid a com­pat­i­bil­ity prob­lem, and no amount of Spot­light searches nor brows­ing through fold­ers can find it. Spot­light should let you find nearly any file

you cre­ate or store in macOS with ease, but it doesn’t al­ways work that way. There’s a way to search com­pre­hen­sively through your macOS drive (or drives) us­ing the Ter­mi­nal, but I think of it as a last re­sort, be­cause it in­volves tricky syn­tax and can be slow. It also may match a lot of files you’re not in­ter­ested in.

In the Ter­mi­nal, a com­mand called find can per­form a com­pre­hen­sive and deep search across ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing sys­tem files and other stuff that we don’t need to in­ter­act with and macOS doesn’t read­ily ex­pose to users. (Find is some­thing I’ve used for decades, and it feels like a tool de­signed for a com­puter with a tele­type­writer at­tached.) In this ex­am­ple, let’s as­sume I’m look­ing for a file I know is named easyso­lu­tions.mdl, and I’m go­ing to search on just easyso­lu­tions as the unique por­tion. The search pat­tern I show be­low is case in­de­pen­dent, so up­per­case and low­er­case let­ters get matched re­gard­less of what you spec­ify. If you need to use a space, en­close the text in quo­ta­tion marks, like “easy so­lu­tions”.

1. Launch Ter­mi­nal, which you’ll find in Ap­pli­ca­tions > Util­i­ties.

2. Switch to su­pe­ruser, which re­quires an ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­count. You en­ter: sudo su - and press Re­turn, and then en­ter the ad­min­is­tra­tive pass­word. If it’s the first time you’ve used sudo, macOS also warns you about the dan­gers of hav­ing sys­tem su­per pow­ers.

3. You can in­clude part or all of a file name in the search. Type ex­actly: find / -name easyso­lu­tions -print

4. This may take some time to process. It could be sev­eral min­utes as macOS matches against ev­ery one of hun­dreds of thou­sands or mil­lions of in­di­vid­ual files. Each re­sult ap­pears as a sep­a­rate en­try.

5. When you see the file ap­pear, it will be pro­ceeded by its full path name. Copy the path from the first / to the last / be­fore the file name, like /Li­brary/ Ap­pli­ca­tion Sup­port/Bin­goBongo/set­tings/ pref­er­ences/con­fig/

6. Now in the Finder, choose Go > Go To Folder, and paste in that path.

7. The folder will open. In some cases, you may have to au­tho­rize open­ing the folder, en­ter­ing an ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­count name and pass­word.

8. If you’re sure the file you see is the one you want to delete, move, or in­ter­act with, you’re all set.

Dur­ing this find op­er­a­tion, you will see en­tries you can ig­nore, like:

find: /path/name/here/file­name.txt: Op­er­a­tion not per­mit­ted or find: /dev/fd/3: Not a direc­tory

Even though you’re a su­pe­ruser, the un­der­ly­ing Unix op­er­a­tion sys­tem and Ap­ple’s spe­cific mod­i­fi­ca­tions pro­hibit some kinds of op­er­a­tions.

Once you’re done, re­turn to Ter­mi­nal and press Con­trol-D or type exit and press Re­turn to leave su­pe­ruser sta­tus. (The # at the far left will change to a $.)



You can fil­ter iMes­sages from those with an iCloud ac­count

The Unix find com­mand shows the full path of match­ing files, wher­ever they ex­ist on disk

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