Is FileVault Disk Encryption Good or Bad?

The other way a reader emailed me asking whether it’s a good idea to turn on FileVault on her Mac.

Well, let’s admit it — this is a topic that has been debated again and again, and still it doesn’t seem to have a consensus among macOS users.

Just take a quick look at this forum thread, and this one in Apple Discussion…you’ll understand what I mean.

So, is FileVault disk encryption good or bad? What’s the best practices to follow if possible? That’s what I’m going to cover in this post.

But first, here are some opinions from authorities:

FileVault Is Good

Data security is the top reason for using it, and that’s what the feature was designed for, according to Apple, FileVault 2 full-disk encryption uses XTS-AES-128 encryption with a 256-bit key to help prevent unauthorized access to the information on your startup disk.

So, if your Mac has stored tons of highly private and sensitive information — it’s probably a good idea to have FileFault turned on as always. Because you never know what would happen to your Mac machine, e.g. one day you may need to resell or donate it, or in worst situation the machine got stolen.

BackBlaze had a great point in this:

FileVault protects your data from prying eyes. If you’re using your computer to access sensitive data, or if you just don’t want your information to fall into the wrong hands, FileVault gives you peace of mind you won’t have otherwise.

FileVault Is Probably Not Good

The main concerns include: performance, password, and data safety.

First of all, if you’re using an older Mac that loads with a spinning hard drive rather then an SSD (unless you’ve upgraded it), then having it turned on would probably cause more slowdowns or hangs.

As Jim Tanous put in TekRevue:

Another issue to consider is performance. Because the Mac will have to encrypt and decrypt data as the user calls for it, there will be a slight performance hit when it comes to reading and writing data.

On the other hands, you’ll need to set a password for the drive, and have to enter it to mount it. These days I believe you already have enough passwords, adding an extra one (different from other passwords) means more risk — you may forget it. And if that happens, it’s a disaster for all the data and content saved in the drive.

My personal take

You see? We can’t say it’s absolutely good or bad to encrypt Mac disk with this built-in feature.

Personally, I prefer not to turn it on. That’s why you see this on my MacBook Pro. Go to  > System Preferences > Security & Privacy.

I have disk encryption turned off 🙂

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t value data security. You may consider set up and enable Find My Mac, and if your Mac is too old to perform well and you want to recycle it, do these things to make sure the new owner has no access to your data (yes, data recovery is possible, see my previous post here).

Last yet most important, no matter what you choose — enable or disable the encryption option, always make timely backups of your Mac data. That’s the golden rule of protecting yourself from data disaster in the digital age.

How to Disable AVG Antivirus App Icon in Mac Menu Bar?

I’m not super paranoid about Mac security as I haven’t been caught by any virus or malware (yet), since I started to use my Mac. But it seems recent years there are some anecdotes (maybe facts) saying macOS isn’t safe any more.

Personally, I think the trend is to the benefits of the antivirus makers whose revenue comes from system protection software. AVG is one of them. I’ve installed AVG Antivirus on my Mac and liked its quick scan and through scan features.

But, one thing I felt annoying is the icon keeps showing up on Mac menu bar (screenshot here), every time I turn on my machine. This is not cool because I’m organized and I care a lot about desktop cleanness.

I don’t like this 🙁

Fortunately, preventing it from showing up is quite easy. Here’s how to disable the icon step by step:

Step 1: Click the AVG icon and select “Open AVG Antivirus…”.

Step 2: On the top left corner, click on AVG AntiVirus > Preferences.

Step 3: Under “General” tab, uncheck this option “Show AVG AntiVirus icon in the task bar.”

Step 4: Bingo! Now the icon should disappear from your Mac menu bar.

P.S. not sure why AVG calls it “task bar” but on Macs we’re used to call it “menu bar” (that’s also what Apple describes, see here). Also, in case you want to rearrange menu bar icons instead of removing it, check out this tip from HowtoGeek.

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.

Done!

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.