to commonly asked questions.

Should I go to the M1 chip?

What's the latest version of Catalina currently? Should I go to Big Sur? Do I need to go to the new M1 chip for extra security?

10.15.7 is the highest. Apple will probably roll out 2 more updates before stopping development on Catalina. Catalina is a very stable operating system and there’s no need to move to Big Sur anytime soon. If you had the M1 chip then maybe but considering what we just went through, I’d stay in safe harbor Catalina for now. Big Sur has several new layers of security that sound great on paper but are proving to be a very big pain. The more secure something is, the less convenient it becomes. I don’t mean internet security. I’m talking about if someone steals your computer and wants the data, or just wants to wipe the machine (just like me last night) Apple has new steps in place with Big Sur that basically goes scorched earth if someone tries to steal someone else’s device. The iPhone has had this approach for several years now. Problem is, when someone runs into a standard issue they can sometimes not boot from an external drive, mount in target disk mode, change the password, wipe the computer etc... all for the sake of “security”. Think of it like this: say you upgrade your front door locks to 15 dead bolts instead of 1. Then one gets stuck and you can’t turn it as deadbolts sometimes (but rarely) do. You’ve just increased your chances of not being able to open your door 15 fold when one deadbolt was just fine for security in the first place. All this extra security is great if you are working for Space X but the spies from Blue Origin are after your industrial secrets but for the rest of us, a simple password on our machines is plenty.

What monitor should I buy?

i want to purchase a screen to be used with the laptop. In an ideal world, I would purchase it over the weekend and have it ready to go on Monday. That is my goal. However, the Apple website does not compare just screens (only desktop computers.) Do I need to buy an Apple? I want to purchase quality but do not want to be wasteful or overspend.

With all new laptops, the first thing to consider when purchasing a secondary monitor is the connector. New laptops come with USBC which carries data, power, audio, and video. Problem is; not many monitors on the market yet support USBC as a connection method. Most are DVI or more commonly now HDMI. This means that you'll most likely be looking for an HDMI monitor and a HDMI to USBC adapter.

Secondary monitors can come in a huge price range. You are paying for quality, contrast ratio, refresh rate, color accuracy, etc…. But for most general office purposes, a less expensive monitor is totally fine. 21, 24, 27" are all completely acceptable sizes. I'm liking the LG monitors recently.

24" LG monitor: LG 24MP88HV-S 24-Inch IPS Monitor with Infinity Display 2.5mm Bezel: Computers & Accessories

HDMI to USBC adapter: USB C to HDMI Cable for Home Office 6ft, CableCreation USB 3.1 Type C to HDMI 4K Thunderbolt 3 Compatible, Work with MacBook Pro/Air/iPad Pro 2020 2018, Surface Book 2, Dell XPS 15, Galaxy S20/S10: Computers & Accessories

My notes are gone.

After I switched AppleID's, now my notes are gone. How can I get them back?

I’m guessing you had notes that were associated with the other AppleID account. Should be a simple fix. We log into that account, pull those notes over to your current appleID notes account, then log back out again. You can use Internet accounts in system preferences to add the other iCloud. Account as a sub account. You will have less syncing options since you'll already have a primary iCloud account. So things like keychain, find my Mac, photos, will not be available to sync but notes will.

Then open notes and just drag the notes from the one account over to the other. Afterward, you can return to system preferences internet accounts pane and remove the sub iCloud account.

Restoring iCloud documents from the cloud.

I don’t know why, but all my folders and things that were on my desktop before our session, are not there. Please tell me how to restore them. You may recall we switched AppleIDs on my computer.

Sounds like Mike was probably syncing your desktop and documents items to his cloud space. Should be an easy fix. I’m happy to assist but if you’d like to try on your own here’s what you can do:

Go to and log into HIS iCloud account (based on Select iCloud Drive from the menu.

Locate the items you want back. You can hold down the option key while clicking to select more than one file at the same time. Note, you cannot select folders using this method.
Then hit the download icon at the top. Those files will now be in your downloads folder and you can move them where ever you’d like from there.

Should I be worried about this Google security alert?

How serious is this and do I have to go through and change each one...or is there a better, quicker way to address it?


As I always say: security equals inconvenience. The more secure you want to be, the less convenient it will always be.

So the answer actually depends on several things:

1. Are these passwords all the same across different accounts? In other words, if you Amazon password is the same password as you Panera bread password, that's a sort of bad thing. I think of my password security in layers. Any password related to money like Amazon, PayPal, banking, Venmo, etc… need to be more complicated.

2. Are your passwords too simple like a word in the dictionary followed by a few numbers? Banana1968 or Monkey1970 are not good passwords. If your password is Goheels1, Tarheels1, or Rolltide1 it's time to rethink your security.

Above all, never join open wifi networks that do not require a password to log in. I don't think you really need to book a session to address this. Just ask yourself how important your security is and if it's worth putting the time in to locking things down. Then write down your changes! 85% of my day is spent waiting for people to figure out their passwords.

Why won't my cursor respond?

Ever since our session the other day I’m having trouble finding my cursor. Eventually it just seems to show up but it takes several minutes. Possibly an unintended consequence of something we did?

There's no setting or change a person can make on a Mac that will disable the cursor so it would't be tied to any particular setting. However, it wouldn't hurt to make a couple small changes in system preferences that will force the Mac to rewrite the preference file associated with mouse behavior.

In system preferences go to "Accessibility". On the left, select Display then Cursor on the right side as seen below.

Now increase or decrease the slider and that will change the cursor size. It will also force a file (called a plist file) deep inside your computer to make adjustments. That alone may solve your problem. While at it, check out the "shake mouse" setting as well.

Other suggestions:

Restart your computer while holding down command+option+p+r. Then wait to hear the computer chime three different times. This resets the "parameter ram" and could be of use.

Use a plugged in mouse to see if the behavior goes away. Using a plugged in mouse would tell us where the problem is NOT and would give us a better idea of what to do next. For instance, it could be taking a long time for bluetooth to communicate with the mouse. If you are using a wired mouse, there is no bluetooth involved and therefore we would attack bluetooth settings next.

Lastly, if none of those end up being solutions, it could be that a different process on your computer is running so hard that the mouse is unable to respond due to all the CPU being used for some other task. This is rare but a possibility. Let's try the other solutions first.

What is Legacy System Extension mean?

Hey Scotty, when we met a couple of weeks ago to try to find my missing papers, you did a cleanup of some malware files. Today I received a message and took a screen shot (below) to see if I need to so anything about it. I eventually will have to click “ok” to get rid of it, but wanted to see if there is anything else I need to do.

Image 12-17-20 at 3.49 PM

Messages like this one have been a very big pain in many Mac user's sides for the last several weeks now. First, it's not malware or anything that will harm your computer even though Apple often words the messaging as such. Instead, Apple is doing a poor job of telling you that some software on your computer is or will soon be out of date and you just update it. This is due to several possible reasons but the most likely reason is the following:

Any piece of software that Apple allows to live on your computer should be "signed" by Apple. These signatures (invisible files that live on your computer that basically vouch for the software saying it's cool) can expire. When they do Apple then presents a freak out screen like this one. Most recently they've done this to HP printer drivers. "HP pinter driver xyz will harm your computer and is malware". Again this is just a poorly worded message on Apple's part.

In this case, they are taking issue with the software "Malware Bytes" and letting you know it is expiring or becoming outdated in Apple's eyes. You will often see this type of message after an update or upgrade of your computer's software. In some cases it's a pain to deal with where you might have to fully remove all the components of the older software before installing a new version but most of the time, just going to the Mac App Store and redownloading it will resolve the issue.

Again, this is not malware or a virus. This is Apple telling you the program called Malware Bytes is becoming outdated.

Which laptop for my elderly mother?

I need to buy a laptop for my mother-in-law. She is also 82. Any suggestions as to which one to buy? She currently works on the same iMac that my mom does.

First, I apologize for any stereotyping I’m about to do...

82 year olds and laptops can sometimes be a little problematic just so you know. Here’s why:

1. Trackpad and elderly motor skills. The sensitivity to one, two, three, or even four fingers touching at one time can lead an elderly user to triggering actions they didn’t intend. So you may want to go into settings and dial down the sensitivity settings on the trackpad system prefs.

2. Eye sight. Increasing the size of the cursor arrow helps a lot. I use it myself. You may also consider changing the resolution of the screen. This can be done in the display settings. You can either choose a large amount of viewable space with everything smaller or less viewable space with everything bigger. Good idea to point her to that area so she can change things herself to fit what she likes.

So if you’re going forward with the laptop idea, she won’t need much. And weight should be a consideration also. So I would look at the new MacBook Air. Apple just released a new version 2 weeks ago so now is great time to buy. They released the M1 processor Air and also in the 13” MacBook Pro. She doesn’t need the pro so I would lean toward this one:

13-inch MacBook Air - Space Gray - Apple

It has a 256 gig hard drive which should be plenty for her needs. Price point $999. I wouldn’t add on anything other than possibly AppleCare if you are into extended warranties.

Is it worth upgrading to the new M1 Macbook Air?

Is it worth upgrading in the first place? Will Rachel get much benefit - she’s going to use it for law school for the next 3 years.

The new M1 chip is the future but it’s not the present. This means, 8 months from now you will be glad you’re on the M1 chip but for now it there will be some growing pains. Several programs like Microsoft Office are having to run in an emulation mode called Rosetta. I’ve been working with a few M1 machines over the last couple weeks and I can see the potential greatness but there are some hurdles for now.

Do mail rules sync across all my devices?

Suggested email solution for Apple Mail to manage across ALL devices - specifically a) managing unwanted junk email and b) setting rules to apply to all devises.

As info:
I found that when I set a rule up with my Macbook, the rest of the devises wouldn’t see the rules kick in until I turned on my Macbook.


This is exactly right. Rules set up in Apple’s Mail program do not apply to other devices UNLESS the application is open and running on the Mac back home.

I think what’s happening is the Macbook sorts the emails out and then the other devises simply sync to the MacBook.


I’m assuming I need to set these up at the source somehow but not sure how.

You can’t set up rules on iOS devices. They are slaves to what’s on the server only. No colors, no rules. You can flag and that’s it.

Backup before moving to Big Sur

My fingers on the trigger…still January before upgrading?

Big Sur released late November with 11.0 and was soon updated to 11.0.1. As always I discuraage all users from any .0 release. YESTERDAY Apple release 11.1 so I'd say you are much more safe to upgrade. As always, have a good backup drive before any major upgrade. Just ask the computer I'm currently working on….


Ran updates, didn't have a backup. All is lost.

Why is my computer acting weird?

my machine is acting up.
I’ve attached a screen shot of the error message.
What’s the next step here?

Screen Shot 2020-12-16 at 12.33.29 PM

Looks to be Wacom tablet related. Unplug if any usb drivers. Or you can try booting into Safe mode with the shift key down then disabling any third party devices.

That’s my first guess based on the partial screenshot.

Having to force restart iMac

My Mac is getting
slower and more troublesome seems like every day. On a couple
of occasions I’ve had to shut it down and disconnect the power

Hardware vs Software problem troubleshooting:

Having to shut down a computer does happen. Always great time to go to the force quit menu then see if there is one application in particular that is not responding (usually listed in Red). Activity Monitor is also a great resource to see if there is one process in particular that may be hanging. If it’s not the fault of software then the next thing to look at is the hard drive. SATA hard drives in iMacs are famous for not being the greatest drives. They are based on the old 2.5” laptop drives from old and usually don’t last as long as we’d like. Hopefully that’s not the case. If you have a solid state hard drive however, those are extremely reliable and most likely not the issue. Then there is the “hybrid” drive type Apple calls Fusion. It’s still based on a spinning drive and still prone to failure. I know by discussing hard drive failure we are probably jumping way ahead of ourselves but drive failures in older iMacs is so common, it’s something to keep in mind. To check which drive you have, go to the black apple, choose “about this Mac” then storage. Your drive type will be listed there.

Hopefully however, it’s a software issue to blame.

Will I lose my documents if I remove Office?

Microsoft told me to uninstall and reinstall Office because excel is showing documents upside down.
If I uninstall Office do I lose my existing files?

No, you won’t lose any files associated to Microsoft Office by uninstalling. Give the uninstall a try of course. I like to think there is a difference between fixing a problem and solving a problem however. While these steps may “fix" the issue. It doesn’t actually solve the problem as to WHY the issue is happening. This shows Microsoft doesn’t know why this is happening. It’s the equivalence to “turn it off and back on again”. Let’s hope it works.

Can I use Screentime to track my child?

Currently we all have iPhones and various laptops. We put Qustodio on each of the kids phones and it's turning out to be a pain.
Would like to set up the apple management to see if it works better.

Would you be able to help with that? If so, what are your prices? There would be 3 phones, 1 is our 17 yr old that we really only want to see his movement, leaving home, arriving home.
The other 2 would be monitoring their gaming time too. They complain that they lose use of gmail with Qustodio which they do need to access for school.


Third party parenting apps are trash. They’re based on using “profiles” on a phone which can be worked around in about 10 seconds.

Yes, all the things you’re hoping to do are possible with Screen Time, Apple’s built in parenting controls. You’d need all their devices in your hands, you’d need their Apple IDs and passwords. You’d enable screen time and place a 4 digit code within the screen time settings in order to prevent the children from altering those settings. Their apple IDs would join your family giving you the power to adjust settings without having to be on their devices.

As for the 17 year old, you would be able to track and watch their movements, be alerted to when the leave, arrive etc.., but Apple consider’s 18 year olds adults so you’d only be able to use the limiting features of screen time until his 18th birthday. You’d still be able to track them and be notified of their movement but they would gain the ability to turn that off if they chose.

My rate is $130 per hour pro rated after the first hour. Terms available at

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Is it safe to upgrade to Big Sur yet?

Keep getting prompts to upgrade; is Big Sur safe yet?

Safe, yes. Stable, yes. Would I upgrade? Not yet.

I say wait until mid Jan. I’m seeing several issues, mostly with the new Apple M1 chip but best just to wait a bit. They did put out a very VERY big .0.1 update a couple days ago but that seems to mostly address Rosetta, their new translation software for the M1.

Just be be safe, I’d say chill for a couple more weeks. Once 11.1 is out (their on 11.0.1 at the moment) then I think you can pull the trigger. Software update or the App Store will tell you what the currently available version is.

Thunderbolt 3 vs 4

All the USB to USBC adapters I see are for Thunderbolt 3 plugs, will those work on a Thunderbolt 4 plug?

Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 are the same form factor so yes, the 3 connector will work interchangeably with 4. 4 isn’t faster than 3 but instead supports additional features that 3 could not like multiple 4K displays at once.

To make it even more confusing, now there’s USB4 which is the exact same form factor but has power and display limitations.

Ultimately it’s very likely the adapter you are considering will be just fine. They are all the same form factor and will fit within each other. You’d just have to get more specific if you had very specified needs like multiple 4k monitors or pushing 10 watts vs 7.
5 watts. Neither of these things are concerns for most people so you’ll be fine.

Excel displays upside down

Excel spreadsheets open upside down and how to fix?

Definitely a very rare and bizarre problem but not unheard of. As you've probably discovered, scrolling to the bottom of the spreadsheet then back up usually forces a correct redraw of the data but that is only temporary
. To try to solve this for good, first thing you want to do is make sure you have the latest version of Office.

To update Office to the latest version, first open either Word, Powerpoint, or Excel then, under the Menu bar, select "check for updates". For the super geeky, you can find the updater at Library/Application Support/Microsoft/MAU2.0/Microsoft AutoUpdate

Once the Updater App launches, be sure to check the box in the bottom left to just keep Office up to date automatically.

To make matters more complicated, Apple is in the middle of a transition to the new M1 chip which means all applications have to be re written specifically for that chip. Office has not yet released an M1 version so that means it's running via a translator called "Rosetta 2". It's invisible to you but important to know just in case the upside down issue is related. Doubtful it is because the upside down issue existed prior to the M1 chip being released. Just worth mentioning.

If neither of these things works then the next thing to try would be to remove some of the cache files associated to Office. Depending on your level of ability it may be better to have me remove those. Run the updates first and if you still need assistance, I can remote in via Zoom of course.

Limiting Xbox time using the Xbox family app

There are many methods out there one can try to limit your child's time on Xbox. Some routers allow for limiting the device's time using the serial number (aka: MAC address). There are several third party device control apps like Bark, Circle, Our Pact that profess to limit Xbox and other gaming access. The one I want to focus on is the new Xbox family app. This is Microsoft's preferred way to have parents limit game play and so far seems to be pretty promising but you'll have to get it set up first.

Now it's important to note first that your child will always find a way around any parental controls in order to get what they want. There is no perfect 100% solution. All these apps and methods do is send a message that you as a parent have certain expectation. In other words, don't rely completely on a piece of software to replace your parenting skills.

Xbox family will require you know a few things.

1. What is the email address and password your child uses with their Xbox/Microsoft account? If you don't know it, you can use this page to help you figure it out.
2. What is your email address and password to your Microsoft account.

3. Download Xbox Family on your iPhone (available in the App Store). You can use the same Microsoft account that you have used if you've purchased Microsoft Office in the past. If you are unsure of or need to create a Microsoft account, you can do so within the app or go to at then choose "sign in".

Screen Shot 2020-12-06 at 7.29.03 AM. Screen Shot 2020-12-06 at 7.30.15 AM. Screen Shot 2020-12-06 at 7.31.13 AM

4. If you've never used your Microsoft account to play xbox games, you'll be asked to make a "gamertag". This is a silly name people go by when playing. This step is unimportant and you can usually just accept whatever suggestion they give you.

5. You are now the organizer and ready to add family members to your family. You'll now be asked to either create or invite your child. I suggest starting with INVITE. Your child already has a Microsoft ID whether you realize it or not. Creating one for them will just give them two. So choose 'invite" then log into the email they used in the past to set up their xbox account (as discussed in step 1) and await the email confirmation.

Screen Shot 2020-12-06 at 7.36.03 AM

6. Once your child shows up as a member of your family on the screen below, you'll be the organizer and they will be a member. Time to start controlling!

Screen Shot 2020-12-06 at 7.41.11 AM
In the example above, I've created an organizer Microsoft account and a family member account called "s". He's the child who the organizer can control.

Screen Shot 2020-12-06 at 7.45.21 AM. Screen Shot 2020-12-06 at 7.45.12 AM Screen Shot 2020-12-06 at 7.45.29 AM

As you can see, there's a ton of variable controls you can use to limit your child's Xbox time including, time ranges, amount of time, age restrictions, Minecraft solo or group play, etc…
Another great thing about this app is that each week you can check out a report on your child's overall xbox usage (just like Screentime parental controls for iPhone). That's a good visual aid to help figure out how much time to allow or pull away from your child's gaming world.

Note: The one thing I have not yet tested personally is the managed user's ability or inability to simply sign out of the account on their Xbox and then into a different account, therefor circumventing parental controls. I'm sure that Microsoft prevents this by either sending the organizer a notification or disallowing it directly on the box itself.

Overall, I think the Xbox family app is the easiest way to influence your child's gaming. Before the app, parents had to use the xbox itself to try to manage things and kids just laughed as they watched their parents try to navigate through menu screens. Using the app, at least this way, us old people are able to use an interface that's a little more familiar to us, an iPhone app.

There's a lot more info at:

Game on.

Can you recommend a good charging station?

Do you have a favorite multi-charging stand? One that can my iPhone, iPods, and Apple Watch all at once.

Not really. Since they all have different wattage requirements and connectors or interfaces, there’s no one fits all solution. You really have to pay attention to what charger you use with what device. Example: iPad charger will charge the iPad much faster than an iPhone charger due to wattage requirements. Some USB ports will charge faster than others for the same reason.

There are also differences between Apple Watch year chargers. It’s all convoluted at the moment until all devices adapt the new USBC standard. iPad is there, iPhone is not yet. It still uses the Lightning connector which is proprietary to Apple. Conductive charging is available on the iPhone and watch but not the iPad. So everything is still in a transition and until it’s all standard, there’s not one dock solution that I can recommend.
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