MacFixIt Answers

MacFixIt Answers is a feature in which we answer questions e-mailed to us by our readers. This week, we have questions concerning multiple files being deleted when using Secure Empty Trash, application integration between OS X and virtual machines, using Spotlight to search system files, and using Web mail (Gmail specifically) as a default e-mail client.

Topher Kessler MacFixIt Editor
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.
Topher Kessler
5 min read

MacFixIt Answers is a feature in which we answer questions e-mailed to us by our readers. This week, we have questions about multiple files being deleted when using Secure Empty Trash, application integration between OS X and virtual machines, using Spotlight to search system files, and using Web mail (Gmail specifically) as a default e-mail client.

Question: Multiple files deleted with Secure Empty Trash enabled

MacFixIt reader "Jay" asks:

I'm a long-time reader of the column and I've got a problem that I can't seem to solve...there seems to be invisible trash files that I can't locate or delete.

The problem only becomes apparent when using Secure Empty Trash. If I put a single item into the Trash and attempt Secure Empty Trash, the progress indicator will dutifully inform me that I have 10 items to delete. Obviously that's 9 too many.

There's no content in Trash on the dead storage volume, and the Time Machine, of course, doesn't back up the trash, so far as I know. I've logged in to each account on the Mac Mini and emptied the Trash, and the basket has the empty icon.

Any ideas on why the Trash count seems to have these mystery items?


When you normally delete items, the system will just do what's called "unlinking," which frees up the reserved space on the drive that contains the document, and makes it available for writing. This technically still keeps the document on the drive, and it can be recovered. The Secure Empty Trash option implements a feature in which the system will unlink the file, but then create a new file that is physically at the same location on the drive as the old file, overwriting the old data. This new file has its data in a specific pattern (ie, alternating zeros and ones) so it will be sure to change the magnetic patterns of the old data. The computer performs this task many times very rapidly, with different patterns of data (all zeros, all ones, random zeros and ones, etc.) so the original data absolutely cannot be recovered by detecting any residual magnetism on the drive. This is essentially a digital "shredder" for files, which prevents them from being recoverable once deleted, and is why you see multiple files being deleted when you use the Secure Empty Trash option.

Question: The extent of virtual machine guest application integration

MacFixIt reader "Anna" asks:

I have one of the 24-inch iMacs from 2009 and I use the Adobe CS4 Creative Suite for Mac, which includes Dreamweaver. I am taking a Web design class that requires me to use Microsoft Office's Access program along with Dreamweaver to do the coursework. Because I have a Mac, I'm not able to get MS Access. Can I somehow use VMWare or Parallels to run Access 2010 for Windows (I have to buy this) at the same time as my Dreamweaver for Mac software? They have to integrate due to some database things we'll be working on.

I'm unsure how VMWare or Parallels work--and want to know all I can before quite possibly sinking money into upgrading my five-year-old Sony Vaio laptop--which currently runs XP Home. Could I use my XP operating system disk in my Mac to install Windows? Would it be compatible with the newer versions of Dreamweaver and/or Access?


I am surprised they require this kind of integration that only allows for PCs, but I guess until the Mac gets a larger market share then these limitations will still exist (the Mac is growing steadily).

Unfortunately running Access in a VM will have it relatively isolated from the Mac OS, so while individual files on the filesystem can be shared, most other features will not. It would be like trying to integrate two programs on completely separate computers. The only real items that can be shared between the two environments are those that could be stored on a common network drive or other shared medium.

It sounds like the best option would be to consolidate all you need for the class onto a Windows installation, be it in Boot Camp or in VMWare/Parallels (either should do). Boot Camp will be the cheaper and faster option, but will require you to partition your computer's hard drive. Nevertheless, you can install XP (or preferably Windows 7) there, along with Access and Dreamweaver (hopefully education discounts make this feasible). You can still use your Mac hardware, and it should be fine; however, because of the requirement for Access you will need to run it in a Windows environment.

The only other option I see is to contact the class instructors for alternative software setups they can suggest.

Question: Using Spotlight to find system files

MacFixIt reader "Harald" asks:

[In your article on enhancing spotlight searches with hidden features] you wrote "By default Time Machine and System folders are not included in searches; however, they can be searched if desired." but didn't write how. I sometimes really would like to search the system folders. Please tell me how this is done with spotlight.


The feature is not available in the Spotlight menu search, but is available in the Finder spotlight search. Go to a Finder folder and enter a keyword into the search field at the top of the window. Then click the "Kind" menu and select "Other." Search for "System files" in the resulting list and choose that filter (optionally check it so it will always be available in the menu) and click OK. Then ensure the "System files" filter is selected and choose "include" from the secondary menu to include system files in the search.

Question: Using Web mail as a default e-mail client

MacFixIt reader "joneposner" asks:

I use Gmail on my Safari. I do not use Mac Mail. However, sometimes when I want to contact someone using their Web site and click e-mail Safari, it sends me to MacMail. How can I make Gmail through Safari the default?


Original answer: Unfortunately, you cannot do this with Web mail clients. When you click an e-mail link, you will open the default e-mail client application on your computer, which will be Mail unless you have Entourage, Eudora, Thunderbird, or another e-mail client installed and set as your default. Web browsers will not serve as e-mail clients, even though they run Web mail applications.

Update: While there is no way to use Web Mail clients as default e-mail clients in OS X alone, there are some third-party utilities that will allow you to do this and thereby link the "mailto:" Web links through Web mail. Some of these for Gmail are: MailPlane, GeeMail, and Google's "Gmail Notifier."

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