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Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

In this week's Q&A we answer questions on topics including whether it's necessary to upgrade OS X to the latest versions, and how to manage large attachments in e-mails.

MacFixIt Answers is a feature in which we answer questions e-mailed in by our readers.

This week readers wrote in with questions about upgrading to OS X Lion or Mountain Lion when it is released, managing large attachments in e-mail messages, using NTFS disks with OS X, whether to wait for Mountain Lion to upgrade or purchase Lion right now, and managing 0KB files that appear in various places in OS X. We welcome views from readers, so if you have any suggestions or alternative approaches to these problems, post them in the comments!

Question: The need for OS upgrades
MacFixIt reader Arthur asks:

Is there really any necessity to upgrade to Lion? My iMac is 2008 model, so I'm not touchy-feely and I don't own iPad, iPhone, or iPad, so my mouse does the walking, not my fingers. I keep all my stuff up to date and am happy with Quicken 2007 for Mac and Word 2008 for Mac.

There is no requirement to upgrade to Lion or Mountain Lion. However, as Apple moves forward it will sooner or later drop support for Snow Leopard as it has done with Leopard, so important additions like Security Updates will not be issued. This has not happened yet, and only Apple knows when it will drop support for Snow Leopard. I do always recommend that people use operating systems that are still supported for security reasons, but even this is not a requirement. If your system is working fine for you, then there is no need to upgrade.

Question: Managing large attachments in e-mails
MacFixIt reader Dan asks:

Is there a simple way to put larger attachments to my e-mails without allowing access to most of the info on my computer?

One option is to use a hosting service like Dropbox (there are a variety of such services available) and upload the files there. You can then provide a link in the e-mail to the Dropbox files so your recipients can download it from that location instead of it being directly attached to the e-mail message.

Question: Using NTFS disks with OS X
MacFixIt reader Randy asks:

I was eager to try [SL-NTFS] out as I need to write from my iMac to an NTFS external drive. The installation seemed to work fine, but I cannot find it anywhere to enable writing to the NTFS volume.

I believe the SL-NTFS utility installs as a system preferences pane, so try going to the system preferences utility to find it. While SL-NTFS is a good attempt at enabling NTFS support, it isn't the most robust option. I would recommend using NTFS-3G, which can be found at the official NTFS-3G blog (be sure you get NTFS-3G and not Tuxera NTFS, unless you need official support and a warranty, as the latter is a paid and supported version of the driver).

Question: Whether or not to wait for Mountain Lion to upgrade
MacFixIt reader James asks:

I am currently running Snow Leopard on my MacBook Pro Model 5.2. I just got an iPad (3). Should I wait for Mountain Lion or go ahead and get the Lion OS? If I get Lion, will I want to get Mountain Lion in 2 or 3 months?

My recommendation would be to wait for Mountain Lion at this point, since it is due out this summer. Apple does have some options for upgrading to the latest version for free, but I'm not sure what its policies will be for Mountain Lion.

As with any OS upgrade I recommend you wait a short while to see if there are any outstanding problems. There will always be run-of-the-mill issues caused by new software and configuration changes, but if a bug exists that affects many users then this should be revealed within the first few weeks of the software being out.

Question: Managing empty 0KB files in OS X
MacFixIt reader Rick asks:

In your article about .plist.lockfiles, you talk about empty temp files that iTunes leaves behind. I [checked] to see if I had any of these, and sure enough, there were 283 of them! Fine, let's dump 'em! But then I decided to see if there were any more empty files laying around, [and upon checking] there a lot of them - 557 to be exact. Naturally, I was wondering which of these could be tossed. It appears that some are aliases for Recently Opened menus, so it would be nice to be able to sort those out. There are a number of iTunes-related files, similar to the ones you discussed. Here's an example:


They are all in the /ByHost/ dir. Are they safe to toss? What about all the other empty files in Preferences? If a file is empty, can one assume it is no longer needed? Presumably they aren't using any disk space, but why keep them if they're not needed? What guidance can you offer regarding empty files?

There will be many empty files in your preferences folder. They can be removed, but will come right back since the lockfiles will be recreated when you alter settings in the respective programs. As for the other preferences (including those in the /ByHost/ folder), if they're empty you can get rid of them, either by terminal commands or by using the Finder (sort the folder by size and then shift-select groups to delete).

The ones that are not lockfiles are just left over from the preferences-writing process, and are not used at all (these ones end in a string of 6-8 characters after the ".plist" component).

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