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Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

Do you have log-in items in OS X that you cannot seem to remove, or have you lost your account's password? Here we answer these and other questions from MacFixIt readers.

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

This week people wrote in with questions about log-in items returning after being deleted, installing Lion to another partition within Snow Leopard, missing menu extras for Spaces in Lion, whether or not it's feasible to customize a Mac's wakeup schedule, and how to reset a lost account password. We welcome alternative approaches and views from readers, so if you have any suggestions, then post them in the comments!

Question: Log-in items returning after being deleted
MacFixIt reader Thom asks:

I have two programs that auto start when I log into my account (10.6.8), that I do not wish to startup. They are Safari and Mail. I have gone into Systems Prefs/Accounts and removed them from the Login items, but they still auto launch, and when I recheck the Login items, they have re-appeared. It seems that the prefs. files is locked. Do you have any clue as to where these settings are stored? Other user accounts work fine.

The file that is used to configure the log-in items is called "com.apple.loginitems.plist" and is located in the /username/Library/Preferences/ folder. Go to this folder and remove the file, followed by logging out and logging back in to your account. After this is done, the log-in items should no longer launch.

This issue indicates that your account might have trouble accessing certain needed files within your home folder and possibly elsewhere on the system. If you are having other odd issues like this, then you might consider running a permissions fix on the boot drive using Disk Utility, or reset the home folder permissions on your account using the Reset Password utility in the Snow Leopard installer (see the first suggestion in the linked article for how to do this).

Question: Installing Lion to another partition
MacFixIt reader Meredith asks:

Can you partition in SL then load in Lion? Your instructions are upgrade then reinstall Sl if I read them correctly. I had to uninstall Lion to get back email messages and connect to our company server, but have Lion at home.

You can definitely keep SL by partitioning the drive and then installing Lion to the new partition. Just be sure you select the new partition as the volume to install to when you launch the Lion installer.

Question: Missing Spaces menu extra in Lion
MacFixIt reader Larry asks:

I used to have an icon on the menu bar that let me select the desktop of choice. Then I had an unfortunate malfunction and had to replace all my preference files (at the request of an Apple tech to resolve an issue of a blinking menu). I no longer have that icon in the menu.

I am unable to figure out how to get it back. Any thoughts?

This item is called a menu extra, and can be enabled by going to the Expose & Spaces system preferences and clicking the Show Spaces in menu bar check box at the top of the Spaces section of the preferences pane.

If you are using OS X Lion, then the issue here is that Apple switched to Mission Control in OS X Lion instead of providing Spaces, so there is no option to do this. The only menu extras that are available that Apple provides are those in the following folder on the system:

/Macintosh HD/System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras/

Question: Customizing a Mac's wakeup schedule
MacFixIt reader Gene asks:

I receive numerous e-mails per day when I am at work and my Mac is sleeping. Can I set my Mac to wake up and check for mail and then go back to sleep? Can I do this more than once a day? Thanks for any help.

Unfortunately you can't really do this. There is only one way to set a scheduled wake-up, so you can only set it to either wake up or start up at a specific time, and not at multiple times during the day. Setting a schedule to sleep after checking e-mail would also be a frustrating setup, since it would cause the system to do this at all times, even when you are trying to work.

Question: Resetting a lost account password
MacFixIt reader Gus asks:

I have a friend who has forgotten her password. Of course she's unable to install new software etc. She is using Snow Leopard. Is there any help for her? All I can think of is wiping the drive and restoring from a time machine BU.

You can definitely change the password, provided you have an OS X installation DVD. Boot to the DVD and select your language. Then use the Utilities menu and choose the reset password option. In here you can select the hard drive, followed by the username of the desired account, and then click the Change Password button to reset the password.

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