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Tom Briant

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Using Windows Themepacks in macOS, Clearing the cruft from an slowing Mac, and setting up an alternate iTunes or Photos Library

It’s amazing what articles I post get the most appreciation. This Windows themepack topic generated more interest than I anticipated!

I happened upon the fact that Microsoft cloaks the .jpeg files within a Themepack in a renamed plain old .zip file purely by circumstance. “Hmn,” I wondered one day, “What if Microsoft just recycled an older format such as .zip to compress Themepack files? Let’s see…”

I call this the Jeff Healey method, after the late great musician Jeff Healey, who tests out his foot pedals with wonderful results before launching into a live version of John Lennon’s Yer Blues. That’s all I claim, wonderful results by pushing the boundaries a bit.

I tested this Themepack hack one more time to see if it works with the current Microsoft .themepack format. Yes, it still works. 

If you use a themepack you like and which requests a donation, donate! My hack pales in comparison to the skills of these photographers. 

Cleaning Up an Untidy Mac


And now that you’ve added more stuff to your Mac, it’s time to clean it up. I can recommend the methods Thorin Klosowski wrote up in a Lifehacker post in 2017. I’ve tried these tips out and they have produced a noticeable improvement in the Mac’s performance. 

Mr. Klosowski suggests using largely free apps for this cleanup. In place of Daisy Disk, I can recommend the Omnigroup’s OmniDiskSweeper. This gives you a text display of folder sizes, ranked from largest to smallest.

I prefer a text display of my fattest folders to Daisy Disk’s graphic display, but that’s just me. I bought Daisy Disk when it went on sale. It’s worth the price if you prefer a graphical display of your fattest folders. 

SSD’s and Alternatives


Mr. Klosowski’s most expensive fix for slow performance involves buying an SSD to replace your conventional hard drive. The most recent price for a 500 GB Samsung SSD is $130 to $140. This compares with the Frys Electronics price of $64.99 for a 1 TB 7200 rpm 2.5” hard drive

What are your options when faced with a 2:1 tradeoff between speed and capacity? I can offer three ideas.

First, consider a hybrid drive using a small SSD in conjunction with a larger conventional hard drive. This will give you increased performance at a lower cost. You can buy one from for $60.99 for a 1 TB model.

This uses similar technology to Apple’s Fusion Drive, but puts the controlling software into silicon right on the drive itself. Apple puts the Fusion Drive’s software into macOS.

I installed a similar unit in my 2011 Mac Mini with great results. I can’t imagine going back to a conventional hard drive to run macOS 10.13.4. The spinning beachball would drive me nuts. 

Second, you can split the load between a small SSD (<256 GB) for macOS and a larger conventional hard drive for your /User/<yourname> folder. You use this technique as outlined by M. Christopher Stevens of MacSales. If you use your Mac in one place and don’t mind plugging in an external USB hard drive; even a USB 2.0 connection would give you greatly expanded capacity. I used this technique with my old plastic 2006 MacBook so I could play all my iTunes music and movies through it. 

This technique has two caveats. First, don’t unplug your external hard drive while logged in. Second, only unplug or eject the hard drive when you turn off your Mac or log out of your Mac. 

Third, if your iTunes or Photos media collection has expanded beyond the size of your hard drive, here is a technique if you don’t want to permanently commit to an external /User/<your name here> folder.

You can choose an alternative iTunes or Photos folderwhen you start iTunes or Photos IF you remember to hold down the Option/Alt key while double-clicking on the app. macOS will offer you the choice of another iTunes or Photos folder. 

First, plug in your HFS+ formatted hard drive. (Remember, you need to reformat a new USB hard drive from Windows NTFS into macOS HFS+ format first)

Set up a folder on it. Name it as either iTunes #2 or Photos #2. Whatever strikes your fancy and that you will remember!

Now go back to that dialog box asking for you to either create or choose a new iTunes or Photos library.

Create a new iTunes or Photos library. Put it into the folder you created.

Now it’s up to you to populate this new library with media. Take your time adding media to it, instead of just transferring your old library over at once. That’s my advice.

Even if your older Mac only came with USB 2.0 connections, that’s fast enough for music and movies and photos. 


Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog



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