A funny thing happened to me on a recent visit to CompUSA. There were hardly any customers in the store on this particular early Friday morning, and not many salesmen either. With most of the computers shut down, the store was actually quiet. I had free rein of the Mac aisles, and I intended to look at everything. Of course, not owning an iMac personally, I also wanted to spend some quality time on the display unit.
After five minutes of clicking this and that, I met another customer looking for someone who could answer some Mac questions. Being something of an expert on the subject, I asked if I could help. I spend the next forty-five minutes answering all her questions, giving her some basic tips on maintenance, etc. She was a very nice lady, but what struck me was the fact that she decided on the iMac purchase because her past computer was an old LCII. She said she knew how to operate the Mac, and wanted to stick with it. However, she really did not have what I call “The Basics” down very well. She had never rebuilt her desktop. She did not know what a clean install was. She had no real understanding of some of the most basic advantages of the Mac, what she could really do with it, and how to keep everything in tip-top shape.
One very nice lady, however, does not a new column warrant. But after she left, another customer came in and started asking me questions. He had heard me talking to the previous customer, knew I was not a CompUSA employee, and wanted some “real” advice on what he should buy. Forty-five minutes later, I was convinced that perhaps one of the new features of My Mac should be a column dedicated to not just new users, but those who have had a Mac for years but have either forgotten some of the basic functions or didn’t know them to begin with. Thus, starting this issue, I have created Back 2 Basics, where I hope I can answer any questions you may have, share with you in a non-technical way some of the things you should be going with your Mac, and anything else that may come to mind.
Rebuilding the desktop
What is the desktop? Everyone know that is the “Main Screen” of your Mac. So how to you rebuild the desktop? Actually, you don’t. The desktop referred to here is actually the “Desktop File” There is a lot of information stored here, like which icon pictures and stuff, and you need to make your Mac clean that file up every now and then. Once a month would be a good schedule to do this.
How do you do it? Very easy. First, restart your Mac (or the next time you turn it on). Then, simply hold down the “Option” and the “Command” keys as the Mac starts up. Depending on how long your Mac takes to start up, this could take a few moments. Don’t let them go until you see a message that reads “Are you sure you want to rebuild the desktop on hard drive” You will then click “OK”. Be sure to wait for it to get done before doing anything else, and what ever you do, don’t hit the cancel button once it starts.
When I have explained how to do this to people in the past, I have had a few clients ask “I don’t think my computer has a Command key. I can’t see one” The command key is actually the key right next to the Option key. It has an Apple logo on it.
RAM, MB, and the confusion
One of the most confusing things for new Mac users is to determine the difference between RAM and hard drive space. Which is understandable. When you open a window, it may say “1.5 GB available” but when you try and start another program, the Mac says “Not enough memory available, try quitting such-and-such” Wait, didn’t you think you had more memory available?
The truth is, these are two totally different things. You have RAM, which stands for “Random Access Memory” RAM is how much memory you have available to operate your programs in. If you select “About This Computer” from the Apple menu, you will see how much memory your Mac has. For instance, a brand new iMac has 32MB of RAM, but has a 4GB hard drive. So, how much memory do you have? 32 MB.
What does MB stand for?
MB in this case stands for “Megabytes” If you are talking about memory, you refer to the amount of memory you have in Megabytes. “Hey, Tim, how much Megabytes does your Mac have?” In my case, I would answer “I have 128 Megabytes in my Mac” When you see the initials MB in a article such as this one, you may read 32MB, but in your head, you should hear “32 Megabytes”
With all new computers shipping with at least a 2GB hard drive, some of the confusion of the past has been solved. One computer I once purchased had a 40MB hard drive with 10MB of memory, or RAM. Here people would get confused about the difference between the two MB’s. Since you already know what MB stands for when we are talking about memory, or RAM, your next question should be what does MB mean when referred to as storage, or hard drive space?
MB still stands for Megabytes. How much Megabytes does your hard drive hold? In many cases, it holds so many Megabytes that rather than refer to it as “I have a 1024MB hard drive,” we now use “I have a 1GB hard drive. GB stands for Gigabyte. Each GB is equal to 1024MB. So if you have a 4GB hard drive, such as the one that comes standard on the iMac, you actually have 4096MB. Pretty impressive, no?
A Zip drive, those popular disks everyone seems to have, can hold almost 100MB of data. To put that in perspective, a floppy disk can only hold only 1.44MB of data. Not much, really. An Imation SuperDisk USB disk can hold 120MB of information. Again, not a lot when you compare it to a 4GB hard drive, but it is superb for backing up small applications, saved email, documents you created, and anything else you would hate to lose if your hard drive went bad.
That’s it for this month! I hope you found some use for the information provided here, and if you have any suggestions, be sure to let me know! We really do want to help those still somewhat new on the Mac more comfortable with your machine. The Mac is the easiest computer ever made, but that doesn’t mean you can be an expert right off the bat! We weren’t!