Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

Mac-related questions answered about external hard-drive permissions, multibooting, USB modems not working, and more.

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
4 min read

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

This week people wrote in with questions on external hard drives appearing as read-only, Apple's USB modem not working after upgrading to OS X Lion, whether triple-booting OS X and Windows will work properly, and Safari's menu bar disappearing after zooming the window. We welcome alternative approaches and views from readers, so if you have any suggestions, post them in the comments!

Question: External hard drive appearing as read-only
MacFixIt reader Orlando asks:

I was wondering how come every time I set up my external hard drive from my macbook it doesn't let me write on it on my iMac. I format it on my macbook pro and when I hook it up to my iMac, it only lets me read, not write on it. Is there anything I am doing wrong? I also have another hard drive I formatted in Windows and it does the same on my iMac and macbook pro.

Which format are you using when you erase the drive on your other Mac? Be sure the drive is formatted to Mac OS Extended and not to NTFS. As for when you format the drive in Windows, you are likely formatting it to NTFS, which in OS X is a read-only file-system format. If you need to read the volume in both the Mac and Windows, then be sure to format it as FAT32, which can be done either in OS X or in Windows.

A final option is to right-click the drive and get information on it, and then check the box in the Sharing & Permissions section for ignoring permissions on the external volume. Doing this will prevent any odd permissions settings on the volume from interfering with its functions when you use it on different computers.

Question: Apple USB modem not working in Lion
MacFixIt reader David asks:

Recently I discovered that after upgrading to Lion, I cannot use my Apple external modem to send a fax over my telephone line. I realize that I sound like someone trapped in the '80s, yet I occasionally need to send and receive faxes. I hate the idea of paying for a fax service when I've been doing this for decades. Any ideas?

You can still use the modem if you reboot with the 3 and 2 keys held down to load the 32-bit kernel. This kernel is required to use the modem, but do keep in mind that when Apple eventually drops the 32-bit kernel from OS X then the modem will no longer be usable.

While the driver for Apple's modem does not work in 64-bit mode, others such as the Zoom Telephonics USB modem do work in 64-bit mode and should work in future versions of the OS.

Question: Triple-boot OS X and Widows
MacFixIt reader Dan asks:

Is it possible to triple-boot Lion, Snow Leopard, and Boot Camp on one hard drive?

Yes, it is. Just use Disk Utility to create two partitions and install OS X to each of them. Then when booted to one partition (preferably the OS X installation that is on the second partition) use Boot Camp to create Windows partition and install Windows to it. After this is done you should have a triple-boot environment.

Question: Menu bar missing in Safari
MacFixIt reader Jane asks:

How do I get my Safari back to its original settings? Ever since enlarging a website page for viewing (it was airline sites--they were too narrow to read) I can't figure out how to view my iMac stuff at very top of page -- can't see Apple, file, edit, view, bookmarks, history, etc.

It sounds like you have set Safari to run in full-screen mode. To exit this mode, press Control-Command-F on the keyboard, or put your mouse to the very top of the screen and when the menu bar shows up click the blue box with the two arrows in it that should be at the top-right of the screen. If this does not solve the problem, then to otherwise reset Safari you can choose the Reset Safari option in the Safari menu, check all items in the resulting window, and then click Reset to revert them back to their original settings.

You can also press Option-Command-E or choose Empty Cache from the same Safari menu to empty the browser's cache, and finally you can go to the Go menu in the Finder and choose Library (hold the Option key if the Library is not in this menu), and then open the Preferences folder. With this folder open, locate and remove the file called "com.apple.Safari.plist" (this is Safari's preferences file) and then relaunch Safari.

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