Troubleshoot and recover a Mac with a failed drive

Hard drives failures can happen to anyone, including Mac 911 columnists. A relatively new hard drive bit the dust, requiring days of work to get back to status quo ante.

My wife has a 2011-era MacBook Pro and was barely keeping space free on its original 512GB hard drive. An upgrade made sense, and for a machine of that vintage, the cost of a 1TB SSD seemed too high. We opted for an affordable hard drive. I used a USB 2.0 enclosure to clone the existing drive via Disk Utility while booted into Recovery, which left us with a backup (the original drive) and the newly cloned drive, which I swapped into the computer. We also updated an existing SuperDuper clone as an additional safety policy. (Disk Utility lets you clone and restore drives, a nifty hidden superpower in Recovery.)

This worked just fine for six weeks, until she started to receive errors while using her mail client, restarted, and had screens of Matrix-like text scrolling down. Very quickly, it appeared the drive was damaged, not just corrupted. How did I diagnose this?

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iOS

How to block all calls on your iPhone except those from your contacts

There are very few things that are more annoying than unwanted cell phone calls. Macworld reader Douglas Cowan asks a question about a way to block those calls.

With the ever increasing number of unwanted phone calls and voicemails, is it possible to block all phone calls except from those in the contact list?

Yes, although it means some tradeoffs. The Do Not Disturb feature Apple introduced a few releases of iOS ago lets you suppress most notifications, sounds, texts, and calls. However, you can choose to let certain things bypass that mode.

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How to set network connection priority on a Mac

With different networking options available—ethernet, Wi-Fi, iPhone tethering, etc.—you may find yourself in a situation where you want your Mac to automatically select one type of connection over another. A Macworld reader finds themselves in that exact situation.

I’d like to connect to my grandma’s Wi-Fi connection so that I can use her printer. However, her internet connection is as slow as molasses, so I want to simultaneously use my iPhone’s tethering capability (via USB or Bluetooth, of course) to browse the internet.

macOS does let you prioritize network connections, so you can pick which adapter gets used first when your system tries to connect to local network and internet-connected resources.

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Wi-Fi Assist and Wi-Fi Calling: What’s the difference?

Wi-Fi Assist is a feature in the iPhone to help with internet connections. The name is a little misleading, though as reader Bob Andres finds out:

Does Wi-Fi Assist boost cell phone reception in a low-service area?? We have poor service in our stone office building and are hoping Wi-Fi Assist will make the difference.

Unfortunately, no. Wi-Fi Assist is exactly the opposite. If you’re on a Wi-Fi network and access is spotty, iOS will “assist Wi-Fi” by tapping into an accessible cellular network. (And, warning, a lot of people in the past have sucked down massive amounts of data unintentionally by enabling this feature, which Apple has turned on by default. I haven’t received horror stories lately, so perhaps it’s been fully tamed.)

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Mac always booting into Safe Mode? Here are ways to troubleshoot it

macOS has a feature called Safe Mode that you can use to troubleshoot your Mac. You boot your Mac into Safe Mode; to do that hold down the Shift key when starting your Mac.

Samir Sitaula has a shifty problem, he thinks. His Mac always seems to boot into Safe Mode He writes:

The Shift key gets pressed automatically only [on my MacBook Pro] during startup, and it start up to Safe Mode. After that, the Shift works.

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The case of the iMac screen that mysteriously blacks out

Editor's note: We've updated this article with advice from readers who have had the same problem.

Cecil Usher wants to give his granddaughter a 2010-era 27-inch iMac. However, there’s a problem.

The screen goes completely black and stays that way for no apparent reason, sometimes shortly after turning the mac on and sometimes not all. Sometimes the screen simply never turns on and stays completely black. When the screen stays on, it looks perfect.

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