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Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

Readers ask questions about library locations, Wi-Fi networks, and using an internal hard drive as an external drive.

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 on the locations of the various libraries in OS X, the options for using an old internal hard drive from a MacBook as an external hard drive, and the options for managing Wi-Fi networks that span greater distances than their radios can cover.

I welcome contributions from readers, so if you have any suggestions or alternative approaches to these problems, please post them in the comments!

Question: The location of various libraries in OS X
MacFixIt reader "BioHutch" asks:

I can't seem to find the system's library. Where are they located in OS X?

OS X has three relevant libraries. The first is the system library, which is at the following location on your hard drive. This library contains core OS X components and is rarely touched by third-party programs:

Macintosh HD > System > Library

The second library is the global user library, which is located directly in the root of your hard drive, and is a location for shared resources (such as fonts installed by Microsoft Word for all users to access):

Macintosh HD > Library

The last library is the one in your user account, and contains similar resources to the global library. It is only accessible by your account when you are logged in, and is the way OS X separates your account settings from those of another user. This is the only one that's hidden in OS X Mountain Lion. It is located in the following location, but can be accessed by holding the Option key and choosing Library from the Go menu in the Finder.

Macintosh HD > Users > username > Library

Question: Using an old internal hard drive as an external drive
MacFixIt reader Daniel asks:

I removed my internal hard drive from an old 15" A1150 MacBook Pro and would like to try and retrieve some music files from it. Is it possible to connect it to my new MacBook Pro as an external hard drive?

There are a few options. One is to place the drive in an external enclosure and turn it into a USB or FireWire drive. These enclosures can be found in numerous locations online, and depending on their construction and port offerings should be anywhere from $30 to $80. Some that I recommend can be found here.

Another option is to use a cheaper SATA-to-USB adapter cable, which will serve the same purpose but not have the enclosure. This is a convenient and cheaper option if you do not plan on using the drive regularly and only want to get some data off of it. Simply do a Web search for "SATA-to-USB adapter" to see the many types available.

A final option is a drive docking station, which is could be considered a hybrid solution. It's a USB device with slots to hold various drive types (2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives, with various connections) that will likewise connect the drive to a USB slot. This is more of an enhanced version of the SATA-to-USB adapter cable, and usually is for those who regularly need to read bare drives. You can search for "SATA-to-USB Dock" to find examples of this.

Question: Options for automatically switching Wi-Fi networks
MacFixIt reader Alex asks:

Is there a way to automatically switch to a different, more powerful connection, among those available and known to iOS and OSX? For example, I have my home and office in the same building, on different floors. I have two different connections, as they are not close enough to use a single one for both home and office. But, as they are not far enough to lose the connection moving from one to the other, I end up with a slooow connection. So I have to switch manually back and forth many times a day. It would be perfect if there was a way for both OSes to understand that a more powerful and known connection is available and switch autonomously.

What you're looking for is the functionality of the cell network, where individual towers power a "cell" and you can jump between them. Unfortunately Wi-Fi hot spots and Wi-Fi technology do not have this capability, and the system will try to maintain connection with one until it loses its link, then it will attempt a connection with the next available one in its priority list.

There is no way for the system to know when you are moving downstairs as opposed to there being some other interference, so while you could develop a script or program that detects a certain signal level and puts the system into a Wi-Fi search mode at a given threshold, my guess is this would likely create more confusion than good, and the system would not know which one to choose based on your location.

However, with that said, the functionality you are looking for is technically possible, and you can try implementing the script outlined in this StackExchange discussion and then schedule it with a launch agent to have the system regularly check signal strengths and make the switch.

The alternative to this would be to set up your network with Wi-Fi repeaters, so the one network is extended to multiple floors and can be accessed directly. This would be my primary recommendation for a home or business network.

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