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Sunday, July 7, 2013

If you have an older Mac, this blog is your friend-Part 2

Welcome back to the second installment of “I have an older Mac that I received as a graduation present/bought at a garage sale; and I need help.”

Today’s topics are:

#1, Where do I find information about the Mac’s hardware and software?

#2, Where can I find information comparing this Mac to other models?

#3, Help, my Mac isn’t working properly. How can I fix it?

#4, What 3rd party utility software do you recommend?

#1-Where do I find information about the Mac’s hardware and software?

Presuming that you can get to a desktop, you want to go to your Apple Menu in your upper left-hand corner.


Now click on the More Info… button and that brings up the System Profiler application. You get a report in voluminous detail about your Mac’s hardware and software. Two pieces of data you’ll want to keep close are your Mac’s Model Name and Model Identifier. My 2006 MacBook is a MacBook (natch) and its model identifier is MacBook 1.1.

I’d save the report as a text file for future reference. You might want to copy it to another computer, so you have it in case of emergency.

Another piece of information is your Mac’s IP address. Go under Network and you’ll see it under the column “IPv4 Addresses”

For more information on your Mac, you want to go to This will give you more information and a link to Apple’s own manual in PDF format.

I should warn you that the site is heavily laden with ads.

I would recommend downloading and installing Mactracker. It’s from

Yes, a Canadian site! This database application gives you information about all things Apple in all the detail you could wish for. It’s supported by donations, so drop a few dollars/pounds/euros on them.

Mactracker’s current version only works with Intel Macs running at least 10.6.8. For an earlier version capable of running on your vintage Mac, go to Mactracker’s archive page. Be aware, though, that Mactracker (well, the person who runs offers no support for these earlier versions. They’re busy enough with the current version.

#2-Where can I find information comparing this Mac to other Macs?

Go to and Everymac, as I said previously, is a Web site laden with Mac information (and ads). Mactracker is a wonderful database application, but the current version only runs on Intel Macs running 10.6.8 or better. For earlier versions of Mactracker that run on PowerPC Macs and even a version for Windows (I’m running it on Windows 7 with total success) go to their archive page

#3-Help, my Mac isn’t working! How can I fix it as cheaply as possible?

You can do two things to fix your Mac’s upset cyber-tummy.

First, reboot your Mac, and hold down the left shift key. This will put the Mac into “safe mode”. Your Mac starts up in minimal mode. It goes through a number of maintenance functions. In particular, it clears out caches; cyber “cheat sheets” designed to help you boot up quicker. If these get corrupted, though, you could have trouble.

Read this article from Apple Support for details on what Safe Mode (aka Safe Boot) entails.

Second, fix your permissions. To fix your permissions, go to the Disk Utility program in your /Applications/Utilities folder


Double-click on Disk Utility. You will see something similar to this. This is Disk Utility for 10.8.4, but it hasn’t changed that much.


A word of warning. Note that I put Verify Disk Permissions and Repair Disk Permissions in a red rectangle. They’re grayed out! Why!

Disk Utility has grayed them out because you have to select the specific partition whose permissions you want to repair. Note that I selected the whole disk and not a specific partition.

Yes, I know, there’s only one partition. You, though, must select the partition and not the disk. So let’s see what happens when I select the Mountain Lion partition.


By selecting the Mountain Lion partition on the Toshiba disk drive, Verify Disk Permissions and Repair Disk Permissions are now active.

So now click on Repair Disk Permissions. It will take a while to run. Depending on what version of OS X you run, it may display the files that need their permissions corrected and what those corrections were. At the end, you get a message saying whether the repair was successful.


Repairing disk permissions is somewhat controversial. Some writers contend it’s unnecessary. Well, this writer has had problems solved by fixing his permissions.

Now if the problem is deeper, such as a corrupted hard drive, you need to Repair Disk. Unfortunately, you can’t do that from your internal hard drive through the normal Graphic User Interface. No, you’d have to go to Single User mode.

If you’re not familiar with your Mac and don’t want to risk it; I’d advise against single user mode for right now. I’ve got some suggestions in the next part of this article.

#4-What do you advise for 3rd party utility software and hardware?

I have a combined suggestion for your first pieces of utility software and hardware.

Download SuperDuper! from ShirtPocket Software. Buy an external hard drive at least as big as your internal hard drive and preferably bigger.

If you have a PowerPC Mac, you want an external hard drive with a Firewire 400 interface. If it comes with a USB interface, too; that’s great, but you want a Firewire 400 interface.

SuperDuper! is one of several cloning programs. Carbon Copy Cloner by Mike Bombich is another good program. I like SuperDuper! because it’s free for the basic features. Totally free. If you want more features, pay the $27.95 for a license.

As for hard drives, you want a Firewire drive. You can get these drives at the Apple Store at your local mall. You can get them at Fry’s Electronics. If you want to order them from an Internet retailer, may I suggest Otherworld Computing? They are a Mac-oriented company. I recommend them.

The box will probably say “Firewire 800” drive. In that case, you only need a adaptor cable between a Firewire 800 jack and a Firewire 400 jack.

When you get your external hard drive, unwrap it and follow the instructions (if any). Plug it into the Mac. You should see an indicator LED flash a few times and then a hard drive icon appears on your desktop. If it doesn’t appear on your desktop, check your Finder.

The next article in this series will tell you about backing up your Mac with SuperDuper! SuperDuper! comes with an excellent manual in PDF format, so check it out if you can’t wait.

If I had to pick one free utility program, I would pick Onyx. This program comes in versions for each version of OS X, so make sure you got the correct version.

Well, my word count is getting pretty high, so I’m leaving you now. More in the week ahead.

Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog

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