How to Erase Mac Hard Drive without CD

Question submitted by a reader of the blog:

Hello Tysa, I have an old Mac machine which runs extremely slow. I’ve just ordered a new Mac from the Apple Store. Now I want to sell my old Mac on eBay. I read that one of the best practices is to erase the hard drive so no one can retrieve any data from it. The thing is how to do this without the system restore CD?

Here’s my reply:

For modern Mac machines, you don’t need to rely on the original system disc to wipe a Mac clean. Plus, Macs shipped after OS X Lion don’t come with CDs any more (see this MacWorld news). So, there is no way you can get one unless your Mac really shows its age.

That said, you can quickly erase your old Mac hard drive with OS X’s Recovery feature, which is built into Apple’s Disk Utility. See this screenshot on my Mac. There is an “Erase” option. Note: it’s grayed out because I can’t erase the main hard drive when I turn on my Mac. You’ll have to shut down your Mac and use the trick below to access Disk Utility without booting the disk.

How to access Disk Utility on startup?

All you have to do is shut down your Mac, press the Start button, and hold Command + R keys (or Option key, depending on the OS X your Mac is with). It’ll come to a screen called “OS X Utilities”, there you’ll find Disk Utility, click it and erase your Mac securely.

This YouTube video made by Shani Jaf nails it step by step

In case you find the above method too complicated or it doesn’t work, another way is to use third-party software.

Reminder: using the above methods will permanently remove all data saved on the hard drive, use with caution. Before you proceed, make sure you’ve already backed up all important data to an external hard drive or cloud storage.

Any Free Mac App to Retrieve Data from a Formatted USB Key?

One of the hard lessons I’ve learned living in the digital age is that: you should always back up your data. In other words, never “put all eggs in one basket”.

Today’s issue is related to data recovery, a topic that could be making many people nervous.

I accidentally formatted my USB flash drive, later realized that I’ve some photos and documents yet to be backed up. I’m using an iMac (OS X El Capitan), just wondering if there is any free Mac app that allows me to recover the lost files without any restrictions? Thanks.

My first advice is – stop what you are doing immediately. That means you should avoid writing any new data or generate any new files to the USB key.

Why is that important? Because, the more you continue using the USB drive, the lower the chances are to retrieve the lost files. Disk formatting won’t get rid of the files at least for a while, but it depends on the disk volume. Check out this HowtoGeek article that explains why.

Next, you’ll need to find a third-party recovery software; it seems you’ve already tried some. Based on my limited experience, most of the programs or services in the market are not free though they do offer trials or demos for evaluation purposes.

The only free Mac app I’ve tried and worked is called PhotoRec. Don’t be fooled by its name. It’s actually a powerful file recovery program that is capable of retrieving many types of items such as photos, documents, videos, emails, archives, etc. The application can be run under Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux.

PhotoRec running on my Mac (OS X El Capitan)

The thing you may dislike is that the app is not GUI software. Instead, it’s a command line tool. If you are comfortable with tech, you’ll have no problem using it.

I have to remind you, though, that chances of recovering your files are not 100%. There is no guarantee due to the nature of the matter. But, don’t give up. You never know how much you can get back until you try.

In case you need, here are a few more useful resources you might find helpful.

Good luck!

How to Clear Browsing History on Safari Internet Browser (El Capitan)

We all care about privacy, don’t we? That is the main reason I do one thing on a regular basis ? clearing off the browsing history on Safari web browser. Another reason I do so is to free up disk space (just a little bit though, but I hate my Mac being stuffed with unneeded files).

Before we jump into the how-to part, just wanted to show some computer knowledge with you 🙂

What is web browsing history?

According to Wikipedia, it refers to “the list of web pages a user has visited recently and associated data such as page title and time of visit which is recorded by web browser software as standard for a certain period of time.

See? The key message here is that web browser software like Safari, Chrome or FireFox does record the pages you’ve visited and keep them forever unless you erase them.

What does that mean? These web browsing histories are basically traces that tell people where you’ve been and (what you’ve done). Hm, guess you don’t want other people to have access to the data, right? Of course, if you are not paranoid, that’s another story.

Okay, now back to the topic. How to clear your browsing history on Mac Safari? I’m going to show you two quick methods.

#1: Manually remove Safari history on Mac

Step 1: Open Safari web browser on your Mac. In the menu bar, click History, and then Clear History.

Step 2: In the new pop-up window, select “all history” and click “Clear History” button. Note: if you can also choose to clear history in the last hour, today, or today and yesterday.


Useful tip: in case you don’t know. If you are not used to cleaning history regularly, you can also open a private window (which I usually do on a friend’s or public computer). All browsing history in Private mode won’t be recorded.

#2: Clean Safari history using CleanMyMac 3

The CleanMyMac app is really amazing. I love it since I have it on my MacBook. The core functionality is its deep cleaning ? one of which is removing web browser junks.

To clear off Safari Browsing History, all I need to do is launch the app, move to the “Privacy” tab (on the left), then select “Safari”, and click the Remove button. That’s it.

Note: if Safari is running on your Mac, you’ll have to quit it before CleanMyMac cleans the history thoroughly.

That’s all what I want to share with you today. Hope you find the above tips helpful.

New to Mac? Learn These Common Keyboard Shortcuts to Improve Productivity

Just wanted to share several great “cheat sheets” to increase your productivity. If you are new to Mac OS X, you probably find them useful.

Guess what my favorite keyboard shortcut is? I mean except the basic Command + C and Command + V. It’s Command + Shift + 4 ? what the hell is that? Screenshot! Yes, the screenshot shortcut makes it a breeze to capture whatever I want, an app interface, a system setting, etc. You understand if you read this blog.

Here we go…the cheatsheet!

Awesome resource from LifeHacker, they even made a comparison table (Windows & Mac OS X).
Awesome resource from LifeHacker, they even made a comparison table (Windows & Mac OS X).
Credit to Pinterest.
Credit to Pinterest.

Don’t forget to check out the ultimate list from Apple. Enjoy.

What to Do When Mac Keeps Hanging after Updating to El Capitan

A faster Mac is better than a slow one. But what are you going to do when your Mac keeps hanging? That’s exactly what a reader was suffering.

“Hi, I just couldn’t resist the temptation and updated my MacBook Pro to latest OS X El Capitan. Well, it’s supposed to run faster and perform better (that’s what Apple said in the release). But not for my Mac. Now it keeps hanging around every now and then. When that happens, I couldn’t do anything but wait because it seems the whole system froze up. What should I do?”

Here’s my answer:

You are not the only one who suffered after updating to latest OS X El Capitan. Take a look at here and here. Many of the Mac fans were furious after the system upgrade. I’m sure Apple was not prepared to see these feedback.

I’m on El Capitan already. I remember the first few days after upgraded to the new system, my Mac was slow as well. But the performance went back normal. I guess it has something to do with Spotlight indexing, which could take 24 to 48 hours, according to this StackExchange Apple community discussion.

So, I’d suggest you wait a day or two and leave your mac open (do not shut it down), then get your hand on it. See if the frozen issue still exists.

If it still persists, now try to isolate the real culprits and fix them.

First, check how many programs are running on startup. You can find it out from Login Items. The more you have there, the more likely your Macbook is going to freeze up due to limited RAM.

Next, check the CPU and RAM usage from Activity Monitor. If the number is too high, no surprise that your Mac is performing sluggishly. Try to close as many applications as possible, especially those that tend to “eat” up more system resources (aka, heavy software).

Also, make sure you have enough free storage space – at least 15% available is ideal. The more, the better.

Last but not least, not sure if you have the habit of updating software. In particular, after a major OS X upgrade, third-party software are supposed to release a new version to better work with El Capitan. Unfortunately, some may take a while.

That’s all. Hope you find it helpful. By the way, as I was reading some resources, I also found this Apple tip very comprehensive. It may also give you some hints.

How to Disable Pictures from Syncing from iPhone/iPad to Mac Photos?

I love my photos as they truly mean the whole world to me. I also love iCloud for making it easy to back up all my precious photos taken from my iPhone or iPad. But, I don’t like it when those iOS device pictures automatically sync with Photos on my Mac.

Well, I get the point that by doing this, Apple allows users to enjoy moments wherever we are. But, I value my Mac storage space more than anything else. I do store lots of pictures on my Mac hard drive, but they are all selected ones.

Many of those pics in my iPhone or iPad are actually duplicates. I usually take some time to organize them before making a copy on my mac and external hard drive.

So, how to disable photos in iPhone or iPad from automatically showing up on your Mac? I’m here to show you how to do this in a few quick steps.

Step 1: on your Mac desktop, click Apple logo, go to System Preferences.

Step 2: on the System Preferences pane, click iCloud.

Step 3: here, uncheck “Photos”.

That’s it.

Note: my Mac is under OS X El Capitan by the time I wrote this post.

How to Make an iMac Run Faster without Getting a New One?

Yesterday morning, I got an interesting question from a reader of this blog. Just thought it might be worth sharing here.

Hey, love the things you’ve been doing in the blog. I know you are using a MacBook, but I have a question about iMac which is the model I’m using. Recently it is painfully slow. Not sure if it’s because I’ve installed too many apps, or the machine just shows its age. How do I make an iMac faster? Are there any magic tricks out there without me buying a new Mac?

The reason why I said it was interesting is that we all look forward to the “magic trick” to fix things. Sadly, in reality, that rarely exists, so far as I am aware of.

Here’s my answer to her question:

If I have to recommend one magic trick that is guaranteed to tune up its performance, I’d say – replace your current hard disk drive (HDD) with a solid-state drive (SSD). I’ve just done that with my MacBook Pro, and the speed I gain is so obvious.

For example, it used to take about 40 seconds to start up and launch the first screen, now it’s less than 10 seconds. 300% performance increase (though this might be the best way to measure).

Like you said, since I’m using a MacBook, I’m not sure how many similarities an iMac would have with a MacBook, though I know they both run the same operating system – i.e. OS X. However, the hardware configurations between the two models can be different, thus the solutions to make an iMac faster vary.

So, I can’t provide a step by step tutorial to troubleshoot the issue and help you out. All I can do is to share some resources with you, hope you find them helpful.

How to swap your old iMac’s hard drive for a fast new SSD – Jeremy Horwitz also recommends replacing the hard drive if your iMac is three to five years old. If you decide to do so, watch this video first:

iMac Running Slow or Freezing? 6 Simple Speed Solutions – Common reasons why an iMac runs slow and provides a list of fixes.

How to speed up your Mac in 30 minutes – Peter Cohen looks at the detailed ways you can improve your Mac’s performance beyond factory spec.

Questions? Leave a comment below.

PC vs Mac Infographic: I’m Kinda Both!

When I was enjoying myself in social media today, I found this gorgeous infographic that sort of explains the demographic difference between Windows PC users and Apple Mac fans.

The data are very interesting, though I doubt they are 100% accurate though.

Anyway, it’s good to know the status especially for us who switched from PC to Mac. So, I find myself to be both a PC and Mac person. Well, maybe because I use both of them.

A couple of funny highlights:

  • PC people are 22% more likely than Mac people to be ages 35-49.
  • Mac people 22% more likely than PC people to be ages 18-34.
  • Mac people are 50% more likely than PC people to say they frequently throw parties (I quite agree on this point :))

Enjoy the infographic (click to enlarge):