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 people wrote in with questions about a change to system colors, how to access lost e-mails in Time Machine, cursor repetition not working after upgrading to Lion, and DiskWarrior not being able to fix damaged file resource headers. We continually answer e-mail questions, and though we present answers here, we welcome alternative approaches and views from readers and encourage you to post your own suggestions in the comments.

Question: Restoring system colors
MacFixIt reader Margo asks:

The colours throughout my desktop icons and applications have become psychedelic in tones. It happened when my husband accidentally leant on my wireless keyboard. Can you help me to restore them to normal please.

Try going to the Universal Access system preferences and in the Seeing section check the "Black on White" option, or try pressing Control-Option-Command-8 on your keyboard. This should invert the colors on the display, which is likely the issue you are having. Apple provides this along with other options to increase contrast and otherwise help visually impaired people.

Question: Accessing lost e-mails with Time Machine
MacFixIt reader ns456_ns asks:

Is there a way to access the Users Library folder from a Time Machine backup? I inadvertently deleted several Mail messages & thought I may be able to recover them from Users Library Folder>Mail folder from a previous Time Machine backup.

If these messages had been downloaded to your system (which they should have by default), then you should be able to access e-mail backups from within Mail. Open Mail and then invoke Time Machine from the Time Machine menu, after which you can browse through the backups to locate and restore your lost e-mail.

Question: Cursors not repeating after upgrading to Lion
MacFixIt reader Mike asks:

Since updating to Lion I've noticed that my cursor keys don't work the same. This is especially true when working in Word (2011). I press the down key, expecting the cursor to go down, but instead it doesn't move at all, or moves only one line and stops. I have to press the down key twice to get it going down. Because I work with long documents this is a maddening situation. Hit the down arrow, wait, wonder what's wrong, hit it 2-3 times and it works. Why on earth has the down arrow gotten so complicated? New feature?! I don't see it. And, it doesn't even do it consistently.

Have you tried adjusting the Mac's keyboard repeat rate settings in the Keyboard system preferences? Try opening the Terminal utility, and then run the following command:

defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false

After doing this, log out and log back in, and see if the problem persists. To undo this command, run it again in the Terminal with "true" at the end instead of "false."

Question: DiskWarrior unable to fix damaged file resource forks
MacFixIt reader Dick asks:

When I used DiskWarrior to check files, it [reported] property list data being damaged and not able to be repaired, and [reported resource fork headers] being damaged and not being able to be repaired. The property list I just trashed; but the resource header I'm not sure that is an ok thing to do. Some are connected to important-sounding things: network browser, FireWire authoring, FireWire enabler, find by content, etc.

(After further investigation it appeared these files were in a folder called System Folder at the root of the hard drive.)

It appears a lot of these files are older ones that either use an older data storage syntax or make partial use of the resource fork option in the filesystem, which is similar to a metadata component of a file and was used extensively in the older Classic Mac OS (before OS X was released). The resource fork used to be extensively used by the Mac OS, but in OS X the data fork is the primary storage location for files.

In most cases in OS X, even if the resource fork has some data in it, the relevant data is in the data fork, so it is very unlikely that problems with the resource fork would cause any issues. It also appears many of these files are in a folder called "lost & found" at the root of your hard drive, which indicates they are from some sort of recovery process and are not actively used. Some of the others are also in an odd location, "/Macintosh HD/System Folder/Extensions," which to me looks like an old OS 9 installation that will have no impact on a system running OS X.

Ultimately this situation looks like a bunch of older files that used to use resource forks are just hanging out on the filesystem, and because of the switch away from using resource forks in OS X these files' forks may have been slightly altered to where DiskWarrior now detects potential problems, but in reality these resources will never be used.

To get rid of them, unless you need to boot into OS 9 or run the Classic environment in an older version of OS X, then you can delete the folder called "System Folder" that is at the root of your hard drive (do not remove the folder called just "System"). You can do the same for the "lost & found" folder, though you might try browsing through this one to see if any files might be useful to you, such as old personal files you might want to keep. For the other files mentioned in that list, documents can be opened and then saved again by their handling programs, which should strip the old, unused resource fork from the files. As for the couple of applications themselves that are mentioned in the list, those appear to be older Mac OS Classic applications that you can discard if you no longer use them, or at least upgrade to a newer version.

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