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Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

This week, readers e-mailed in questions about RAM prices for MacBook systems, resetting admin passwords, and more.

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

This week, readers wrote in with questions about managing custom services in OS X, RAM prices for MacBook systems falling dramatically over the past year, and resetting a forgotten administrator password without admin access and without an OS X installer or recovery disc. I welcome views from readers, so if you have any suggestions or alternative approaches to these problems, please post them in the comments!

Question: Managing custom services in OS X
MacFixIt reader Francis asks:

I have followed the guidance in this [article on making an OS X service for sending documents], and it works as described, however it is not quite what I am trying to achieve.

Is there a way to undo an Automator service that I have created?

To remove any unwanted services that you have created, in the Finder hold the Option key and choose "Library" from the Go menu. Then go to the Services folder in here and locate and remove the custom service you created, which should appear as an Automator workflow if created in this program.

Question: RAM prices for MacBook systems falling
MacFixIt reader calebj22 asks:

I read your article from Oct 2011 about upgrading RAM in a Macbook Pro to 16 gigs. I have a 2.2 Ghz Intel Cor i7 that I bought in early 2012. My question is this. In your article you suggested the price would be $600 ish. On cricial and on Other World, the price in now under $100. Does this seem right? Have prices come down this much?

The price of RAM is always fluctuating and generally falling. When I wrote that article, the RAM prices were quite high, but since then prices have significantly fallen. Now you can purchase a 16GB RAM upgrade for around $80 on average.

Question: resetting an administrator password with limited resources
MacFixIt reader Dean asks:

I am new to Macs. I just purchased a 2nd hand Macbook pro with 10.8.1 running. The previous owner reset the user name and password but has forgotten them. I am locked out of some functions. I tried the Command-R and also option but see that it has no Recovery Partition. I am on dial-up but have a USB flash drive with 10.8.2 complete with installation files. How do I install this onto the HD without using internet or another Mac computer.

First be sure you have a backup of your system.

Hopefully all the previous owner did was forget her password, but you can log in and force her password to be reset. To do this, reboot the system into Single User mode by holding Command-S at startup. You will be dropped to a text-based command line interface, where you should perform the following steps:

  1. Run the following command to make the hard drive writable for editing:

    mount -uw /

  2. Get a list of the current "short" usernames for accounts on the system:

    ls /Users

  3. Identify the account in the list that is the previous "admin" account.
  4. With the admin account short name identified, reset its password with the following command:

    passwd SHORTNAME

Enter the new password to use when prompted, and you should be good to go. Now type "reboot" and then supply the same short username and new password you just configured, and you should be able to log in to the admin account. At this point, go to the System Preferences and at least promote your user account to have administrative privileges, but also consider out of a courtesy to remove her old account (after you have admin privileges and have logged back in to your account).

A final word of advice is to avoid using an OS installation from a previous owner, and instead use a freshly formatted one for yourself. Granted in your situation you do not have the resources to do this effectively, but I recommend it ASAP when you do get the chance.

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