Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

MacFixIt Answers is a weekly feature in which we answer questions e-mailed in by our readers. We welcome alternative approaches and views from readers and encourage you to post your own suggestions in the comments.

MacFixIt Answers is a feature in which we answer questions e-mailed in by our readers. This week we had questions on how the iTunes Home Sharing feature works, different approaches for upgrading to OS X Lion, how to list open network ports in OS X, and how to identify whether you installed the Adobe Flash Trojan. We continually answer e-mail questions, and though we present a few answers here, we welcome alternative approaches and views from readers and encourage you to post your suggestions in the comments.

Question: Options for reinstalling OS X
MacFixIt reader "Eric" asks:

I have a Macbook Pro 13-inch which I purchased in February 2011, and purchased and installed OS X 10.7 Lion from the Mac App Store. I also installed an antivirus program that was annoying to say the least. I [couldn't] rid my computer of the program remnants so I opted to format the drive and try the internet recovery. I did not make a boot disk, Time Machine backup or any type of recovery disk. The internet recovery did not work as advertised due to an error during the verification. I do have a friend's Snow Leopard 10.6.5 USB key which was included with his new MacBook Air. I need help to format my hard drive one final time and install Snow Leopard so that I am not stuck with an aluminum paperweight. Any help will be greatly appreciated, thank you in advance.

Answer:
If you want to merely format and start over from scratch, then you should be able to boot to the USB key by attaching it and booting while holding the Option key down. This will bring up a boot menu from which you can select the USB key to boot off. If the USB key contains an installer, then you can reinstall OS X this way. Another option is to use a disk-cloning tool like Carbon Copy Cloner to clone another computer's OS installation to your Mac's hard drive using an external disk as an intermediary. Cloning in this manner is not the prettiest way to install OS X, but it should work. There is a chance the USB drive will not boot your system, in which case you would need to obtain a Snow Leopard installation DVD to reinstall the OS on your system.


Question: Assigning new keyboard functions in OS X
MacFixIt reader "Simon" asks:

How do I assign Ctrl up and down arrow/page up and down to function keys so I can perform this with one key stroke? Handy during web browsing.

Answer:
I'm not certain if there's a way to edit Apple's configurations to do this; however, a tool like Keyboard Maestro might allow for this. Do keep in mind that unless you switch the function keys in the system preferences, then you will still be required to press Fn to activate the function keys.


Question: FAT drive will not format in Disk Utility
MacFixIt reader "Faye" asks:

I got a WD 750GB drive that was already formatted as FAT, expecting to be able to reformat it and use it as a Time Machine drive for my MacBook. However, when I mounted the drive and went to Disk Utility, I got messages saying that I could not reformat it or even change any partitions. Is there anything I can do to reformat it so I can at least get some use out of it? I've been able to have other drives, formatted for Mac, partitioned easily using DU, but this drive is basically useless. I already have a network drive that is FAT for simple copy-n-paste copying from either computer (have an iMac and a MacBook) .... I don't need another USB drive that is limited like that.

Answer:
You definitely should be able to format the drive. Be sure you are logged in as admin when attempting to format the drive, and instead of formatting the volume on the drive try selecting "1 Partition" from the drop-down menu in the partition tab of Disk Utility, click the Options button, and select GUID as your drive's partition scheme, then click "Apply."


Question: Universal Binary applications not launching
MacFixIt reader "dobrien" asks:

I can not get Graphicconverter, and other Universal Binary applications, to start with Lion--a splash box appears stating that PowerPC apps are no longer supported. Is there a fix? Developer says mine is the only complaint, and Apple, after an hour+, simply went away.

Answer:
You can try using a utility to "Slim" the application and thereby remove PowerPC code from it so the computer only has the option to launch the native Intel code on it. One tool that can do this is Xslimmer, but there are others as well. Before using these tools be sure to back up your application.



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About the author

    Topher, an avid Mac user for the past 15 years, has been a contributing author to MacFixIt since the spring of 2008. One of his passions is troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware at home and in the workplace.

     

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