to commonly asked questions.

September 2019

What should I do with this message?

As you know I’m trying to make space on my MacBook by Deleting a bunch of redundant images from my Photos Library. 

As a backup, I saved the Library on an external hard drive ... just in case I messed up images I wanted to keep.

I went to confirm the library was copied over properly but when I clicked on it in my external hard drive, this popped up (see below). 

What should I do? 


This message is trying to tell you that your library contains full res versions as well as "optimized" or thumbnail versions of pictures. Therefore if you want to copy the entire library, you are not really copying all the pictures in their original file size. Since iCloud works with Photos in sync, the only way to actually drag over an entire full res version of one's library, they would have to download all full res versions of those pics from iCloud first. Some of those items were only partially downloaded and the message is trying to say that they will leave the full res versions alone in the cloud but get rid of the partial files it has already download. The good news here is that regardless of what you do with this message, you shouldn't lose any pictures as Photos would have already put them in the cloud.

I would need more info in order to answer the question more thoroughly.

How can I sort out my Photos libraries?

Following up on the previous inquiry about missing Photos projects. I have 3 photo libraries in my Pictures folder. I pulled the last 2 over from TM backup files.

Photos Library (my main one that has everything backed up to the cloud and is up to date, but is missing all old projects) 111GB
Photos Library (original) I didn’t do this, but the system named it this. Not sure why it’s there, but it is. I opened it and all my projects are there but pics only go back to July ’19. 108GB
iPhoto Library 75GB

How should I proceed? Is there any way to get all my projects from Photos Library Original into Photos Library (main)? Do I still need iPhoto Library? Seems like maybe a lot of duplication.

Pretty involved question to answer without seeing the libraries first hand to get a better understanding of the issue but I'll give a rough response.

Main Photos library is also referred to as the system library. Only one library can sync to an iCloud account. Some people have more than one photo library for various reasons but the second library will not sync to the cloud. Nor will it receive pics from the cloud (or a phone) without manually adding them.

If you only pulled content (by showing package contents and moving/importing masters) then that would only include the photos themselves and not the projects. To my knowledge there is no way to import projects from one library to another. There may be third party software out there that syncs multiple photo libraries but the last several times I've tested them out, I've been met with disastrous results so I do not recommend third party photo library syncing tools.

You could bless the original library as your system library, therefore recovering your projects but sacrificing July to present pics. However, they would be in the old (main) library and you could move over the 2019 July through present pictures manually.

The old iPhoto library is no longer necessary and can be deleted. As always, have a good time machine backup before you proceed with any deletions.

Phone contracts for your child.

I've had a rash of struggling families lately with how to deal with technology in their children's lives. If your child is in the 9-14 age group you may want to take a look at a couple of these phone contract examples. These should not be used as is with your family. Chances are, you won't agree with every element of any of these examples. Instead, let these act as a starting point for you to take a few minutes to create one along with your child. Make them a part of your contract negotiations. They'll feel more invested themselves.


Is this legit?

This image keeps coming up on my screen. Seems odd. Is it legit?


This is legit. However I don't know specifically what process is asking you to input your password. I could be caused by several things. You could have changed your master password in the past and the computer is having to re-authenticate over and over for various tasks. Only by investigating further within Console or Activity Monitor would I know for sure. Or if you have a specific series of events that cause it I could rationalize it as well.

What virus protection to you recommend?

Antivirus/Malware-I have been using the free Malware and free Sophos-what are your recommendations here? And do you recommend the paid versions of these?

I do not recommend any antivirus for the Mac. Bad things happen on your Mac when you allow it to. In other words, in order for your Mac to become "infected with malware" most of the time it requires that you grant permission for it to be installed. I see the issue of people falling for the tricks out there every day. Saw it twice today. Bottom line is that when prompted for your password you should be very cautious and understand why your computer is asking for your password.

I have a dedicated section to this question on my answers site that can be found here.

scams | Answers | Sells Consulting
viruses | Answers | Sells Consulting

For more details on how to avoid the scams that are out there I'd be happy to go over things with you via remote session any time. I work with a variety of people across the US remotely using a piece of software called Zoom.

What backup plan do you recommend?

I use iCloud for my whole family, and that is working well.
I also use Crash Plan. I used to have their family backup service, but they cancelled their home back up and went “business” back up only. Since then, I have had my families 5 computers backing up to Crash Plan's business back up, but it is $50/month.
I have been looking at others to see if there are any less expensive that allow a family to be backed up.
Do you have one you recommend? iDrive, Back Blaze, stick with expensive Crash Plan, use another one as a “small business”-I just don’t know what to use!


I've never been a fan of those cloud backups. When it comes time to recover your data from any of the cloud services mentioned, it's usually a very lengthy mess. What I do prefer is good organization and a larger range of services. Using Dropbox for all of your important text documents then iCloud for your pictures and videos shot with your iOS device leaves one category unbacked up: home movies. Other that that category everything else makes it way to the cloud. However, what supersedes all other backup strategies is good old fashion Time Machine. Having two dedicated Time Machine drives that your rotate several times a year will ensure you don't lose your data. Keep one plugged in and the other offsite.

Has Time Machine completed yet?

Hi. Back up drive still yellow after being plugged in all day yeaterday.

Often, looking at the color of the hard drive icon on the desktop is not the best way to determine if the backup has completed. Instead, go to the menu bar and click the counterclockwise circle near the time in the top right hand corner of the screen. The drop down there will tell you the time machine backup status. It will either say "last backup" followed by a time or it will say "backup in progress.". If backup is in progress then you need to consider how long the backup has been going. If the backup has been running more than 12 hours and still not completed then it's time to reformat the backup drive and start completely over again.

Another consideration is to perhaps just get a completely new drive. External drives are very fragile things and I don't put much faith in their longevity. $60 (the price of a new drive) buys a lot of peice of mind when backing up your computer.

Surface won't connect to wifi.

Hey! My son’s wifi works on all devices except his Microsoft surface that the school gave him. Here is pic.
What should he do?
Should he call you?


If all other devices are able to connect to the wifi network with the exception of the Windows Surface, that would lead us to believe that the problem is with the Surface. Given that it is a school computer, I wonder if there are limitations that have been placed on the computer that do not allow for it to connect to random networks. To resolve this you may need to ask the school admin if connecting the Surface to outside networks is allowed. If he can go to Starbucks and connect to the Starbucks network then this is not the issue of course.

A few other things to try in the meantime:

Restart the Windows Surface (not shut down)

Toggle Airplane mode. To do this go to Settings/Network & Inernet/Airplane Mode

Check the date and time settings: Settings/Time & Language.

If none of those work then it might also be possible that the school has Machine Access Code Filtering turned on. This is another method that does not allow school computers to join unauthorized networks.

How do I recover files from Time Machine with different users?

1) Mac’s slowness never seems to be related to CPU. It’s always very low (<5%) even when I’m getting spinning beach ball or general slowness.
2) When I kill Photos and all those processes, still no difference. The system will hang if I click to open an email for example, or click somewhere in an already open app. It’s maddening. No idea what’s causing it.
3) As for the missing Photos projects, I tried your idea about entering TM while Photos is open and seeing if they show up in the sidebar. Two issues that arose from that.
a) When I enter TM with Photos open, it just opens a Finder window and gives me all the past backups of Finder windows. No way to see Photos.
b) It only has backups showing (when I enter TM) going back to when I started using the external HD as the startup drive. I think it’s because when I did that, I mistakenly named my user account differently that what it was previously. It’s now fullname, but it used to just be firstname. Can I change that? Files are all still on the TM drive, but not available when I enter TM.

I would use Time Machine manually. In other words, instead of going through the Apple "space warpy" interface, just open a finder, navigate to your time machine backup. From there, you have to choose the correct path. If you didn't choose to inherit backup history when you went to the new drive, then it's possible time machine has two different backup folders; one for each drive. If it doesn't have two drives then there would definitely be two users as you described. But since you'd be in the finder, you'd just navigate to the older full name user and then go into the pictures folder. You would then pull the entire photos.library file out onto a different location, hold down the option key when booting Photos and tell it to open that library.

Another problem you could possibly run into would be permissions conflicts. If you get a message that says something like "you don't have permission to access" that file, then you would need to apply a different set of permissions. I won't go into that at the moment. But long story short, I never use Apple's space warp interface. I always just use the finder and find what I'm looking for within time machine's history manually.

Can we export mailboxes?

Hi Scotty,
I didn’t want bother you for an office visit, but we’d like to back up our emails on a jump drive. I wanted to click on “Export Mailbox” but I got nervous that this would move it or delete it somehow. Can you quickly advise us how to back up our emails using the exchange email?

Using the export mailbox should be totally fine. It will place a copy of the selected box or boxes on the desktop or where ever you choose for them to go. They will be in the form of "mbox". This does not allow for individual emails to be browsed within the Finder. Instead, if you ever need those emails again, you would choose to import the mailboxes back into Mail and then you'd be able to see the individual emails once again.

Can I recover only my Photos projects from Time machine?

Follow up to the Mac slowness issue. I’ve been running the Mac from the external drive for the past several weeks. Not much difference honestly as I still get the spinning beach ball a lot and overall system slowness for mundane tasks. I do notice it happens very frequently in Photos (I have a fairly large photo library of over 34,000 images but it’s all stored in icloud)
Which leads me to...all of my Photos projects are missing after reinstalling it on the new drive.  How do I go about finding them on a TM backup and adding them back?

First, as we may have discussed in the past, watching Activity monitor will reveal the painfully massive CPU intensive processes related to Photos. As Photos continues to identify objects, places, and people, it sometimes brings computers to a halt. These processes include, but are not limited to the following:


Keep in mind several of these processes will stop when Photos is open. But then your computer is dealing with caching the entire size of your library and it can struggle in that regard. In other words, dammed if you do, dammed if you don't.

Now to your more specific question. Your Photo projects are missing. Hmmm. You can't (to my knowledge) easily add only the projects to a photos library back exclusively and not touch the other items. Instead, you might be better off replacing the entire photos library. To do this, you may want to leave the current photos library in your Pictures folder but rename it because you'll be bringing in another full copy of that exact library, just an earlier version that hopefully contains the projects.

I don't use the "enter time machine" function Apple provides. Instead, open your time machine drive, navigate to backup.backupsdb/computer name/macintosh hd/users/you/pictures/ then pull a copy of the photos.library over to your computer in the same folder you just renamed the old photos.library.

Now before you do this, you may need to think about storage. You'd be temporarily duplicating your photos library which could cause space issues. If you can't afford the gigs then you can move the file you've retrieved from the backup drive to a different drive.

Now open Photos holding down the Option key. It will automatically find all the photo libraries (not contained in the time machine backup) and list them as candidates that you can open. So choose the new library you've dragged out and open it. If your projects are there, great. If not, delete that file then repeat the process but with an even earlier version.

Full Disclosure: I've never tried just using the "enter time machine" while Photos is open in order to recover projects. It's worth a try. You may find that time machine will allow you to restore just the projects. To try it, open Photos, go to the time machine icon in the menu bar, select enter time machine. Your screen will go into a funky star trek warp looking thing. Start scrolling back in time and keep an eye out to see if the projects reappear in the left column. I doubt it but worth a try before going through everything else.

iPad won't hold a charge.

Long time/no talk - hope you are well.

I am having an issue with my 12 inch iPad Pro whereby the battery drains even when plugged into my apple 29v USB C charger. In fact, sometimes it drains while sitting on the charger overnight. Apple replaced the iPad, which new iPad I restored from a cloud backup. The new ipad immediately had the same issue, so it’s not hardware/battery.

A hard reset (hold power and home buttons til it reboots) fixes the problem temporarily, but I have to do it several times a day. Am pretty sure it’s a software/malware/corruption problem, but my iPad is becoming unreliable because of it, and the Genius Bar could not help. I’ve done some online research, and tried the simple things they suggested, to no avail.

Is this something you could work on? Please advise.

Well this is an interesting one. It sounds like you did a good job so far of troubleshooting however I do feel like something is amiss. Malware cannot live on an Apple iOS device. The only way ANY software is allowed to be installed is if it goes through the App Store. In other words, Apple has to approve every app before it lands on your device and they can be relentless. (I know this from personal experience). They have extremely restrictive rules in regard to apps. Even over a word that should be capitalized, they will deny your app.

This being said, I would rule out malware. Now, replacing the iPad should have ruled out the problem but in your case, since the problem continued after your restored, let's explore that. When you restore your iPad from a backup, you're actually not restoring the actual apps from before. You are restoring the FACT that you had them installed in the past. This means that you will get the latest version of the app, not the version you had previously. This makes sense if you think about it. Apple doesn't need to store 50 million copies of the weather app for each backup. They can instead store the fact that you had it on your device, then just send the most up to date version back down during the restore process. This is important because it means that the previous potentially corrupt version of an app or OS that you had would no longer exist on the new device.

That leaves me with the last step to troubleshoot. Wipe the device but this time don't restore. Sure, log back into your iCloud account to regain your contacts, calendars, notes, pics, etc… but don't restore completely. Instead, download only the necessary apps. (Maybe just a couple) Test the device that way. If the battery behaves (as I think it would) then slowly add other apps one by one, testing in between, until you find the possible problem app.

That's the best way to solve the issue. When you stated that you replaced the iPad but the problem carried on through, that would logically place the blame on your specific iPad software combination/settings. That would be extremely rare. I've never seen it. I never rule anything out but it doesn't make a lot of sense. So give the other method a try first. It's a long process but would definitely give definitive evidence as to where to place blame.
This image is a theme.plist hack