Eagle 20

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 24, 2019
20
1
Michigan
To be honest, I am not even sure where to start. I have had my Mac three years and everyday I am having to Google how to do something or what something is. So I will try to explain what is going on, what I want to accomplish and pray it makes sense to everyone else. But please bear with me because I still am basically a Mac beginner and unfamiliar with the terminology!

What is going on is, lately I have been having issues with my Mac, ranging from just annoying to worrisome. Especially since I was not able to backup my Mac. It has been running out of storage and I have addressed that for the moment. Then there are "permissions" that keep me from doing certain things and it seems to happen often but I cannot think of an example at the moment. The display is setup to turn off after ten minutes, which was never an issue, and pressing enter turned it back on. Now of a morning pressing enter is not turning the display back on. Also, if this is relevant, half the time the keyboard is still lit and half the time it is not. The only thing I can do is power off and back on again. Today I received several notifications it is not connected to iCloud, I have to sign back in, and after a short time I receive the notification again. This last happened an hour ago, and has not happened again since. But I cannot think of anything that could be causing any of these sudden issue, and I know there is another one or two I simply do not recall at the moment.

What I want to accomplish is resetting it to how I received it from Apple, but the idea has me completely overwhelmed because I feel there are too many factors to take into consideration. Most importantly, how to do this without losing anything! In the three years I have had it I acquired TONS of files I cannot lose, and several apps (free & paid) used quite often. Then I need to be able to backup my Mac, which appears can only be done (with my limited know-how) via Time Machine and that is as overwhelming to think about by itself! Plus, what steps do I take to accomplish this, and in what order do I need to do things to prevent from screwing up anything o_O

Before asking my questions, here is info on everything I have to work with...

From About This Mac...
  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2015)
  • Processor 2.7 GHz Intel Core i5
  • Memory 8 GB 1867 MHz DDR3
  • Startup Disk Macintosh HD (121 GB Flash Storage)
From Disk Utility...
Macintosh HD, APFS Volume - APFS (Encrypted), 121.12 GB Shared By 4 Volumes​
  • Capacity: 121.12 GB
  • Available: 59.44 GB (2.88 GB purgeable)
  • Used: 62.8 GB
  • Type: APFS Volume
  • Owners: Enabled
  • Connection: PCI
  • Device: disk1s1
Iomega HDD, USB External Physical Volume - MS-DOS (FAT32), 500.11 GB​
  • Capacity: 500.11 GB
  • Available: 498.06 GB (Zero KB purgeable)
  • Used: 2.04 GB
  • Type: USB External Physical Volume
  • Owners: Disabled
  • Connection: USB
  • Device: disk2s1
Additionally, there are two iPads and two iPhones that I manage backups for​

First, can my Mac be reset to how I received it from Apple without losing anything OR a way to reset and restore apps/files?

Second, can "permissions" be changed during or after, so when I start fresh I am not kept from accessing/changing certain files?

Lastly, can I reformat my External HDD so I can backup my Mac via Time Machine without doing so in a roundabout way?


If there is a step-by-step walkthrough that would be perfect but I certainly have not found one, and do not know nearly enough to take this on without a LOT of help. So thank you in advance to anyone and everyone who can help me with this or point me in the direction of how to accomplish all this!

Again, thank you!
 

dangerfish

macrumors 6502a
Aug 28, 2007
529
111
You can reformat your external drive with Disk Utility. Just connect it, open Disk Utility and erase the drive. Then back up your computer.
To reinstall the OS, you can use internet recovery.
Using internet recovery won't erase your files.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,160
5,520
From the info posted above, it looks like the internal drive is only about half-full.

Do you use the external drive ONLY with the Mac?
In that case, it shouldn't be formatted "exFAT".
It should be formatted for the Mac OS -- that is, HFS+ (disk utility calls it "Mac OS extended with journaling enabled, GUID partition format).

For backups, I'd suggest either CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper instead of time machine.

Both CCC and SD are free to download and use for 30 days.

Both will result in a backup that is also BOOTABLE if you get into an "I can't boot!" moment with the Mac.

Here's what I'd suggest:

First, reformat the external drive:
a. connect the external drive and let its icon show up on the desktop
b. open disk utility
c. select the external drive with the pointer. MAKE SURE you pick the "topmost" line that represents the physical external drive
d. click the erase button
e. choose "Mac OS extended with journaling enabled, GUID partition format"
f. now erase it -- should take only a few seconds.

Next, create a bootable cloned backup:
a. Download CarbonCopyCloner from here:
b. open CCC and accept all defaults
c. in the left box, select your source drive (the internal drive)
d. in the middle box, select your destination drive (the external drive)
e. click clone and let it go.
NOTE: If CCC asks if you want to clone the recovery partition as well, YES, let it do this.
f. When done, the backup drive is an [almost] EXACT COPY of the internal drive.
 
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Eagle 20

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 24, 2019
20
1
Michigan
Okay, so... this has already been a PITA and a bit of a nightmare, so I have not done a whole lot 😕

I had read Time Machine will use all storage available until it runs out, and storage should be at least twice the size of the backup. For the size of my Mac backup I did not want my entire 500 GB external HDD wasted on only Mac backups, I also wanted to store our other Apple device backups and files too. So I reformatted it, then added a partition allotting 200 GB to Time Machine, leaving the other 300 GB for other backups and files. Of course naming the volumes Time Machine and Iomega so they were easily identifiable. That was the easy part and it all went downhill from there so I have not gone any further.

The first Mac backup using Time Machine it kept getting stuck at 12 GB, and when it did backup it was so fast I worry it was incomplete. I could not view the backup size anywhere to know, it said "calculating" but never displayed anything. But otherwise everything seemed to work, it was making backups as well as I was able to add our other backups and files to my external HDD.

Then yesterday was my first full day using Time Machine and I absolutely hate it! Personally hourly backups are completely unnecessary IMO and apparently cannot be disabled. So for fifteen minutes every hour Time Machine would backup my Mac making it very laggy. Every other hour that Time Machine would backup my Mac it would suddenly alternate between the desktop and login screens several times, become unresponsive and then my Mac would restart. After the fourth time this happened and I lost what I was working on I had to disable automatic updates. Not a big deal as I thought I would just manually backup my Mac and not deal with the stupid hourly backups.

So last night I manually started a backup and did not have any problems. Until I went to get a file off the Iomega volume only to discover all our backups, important files... everything was completely gone! I was furious since this was my first step in attempting to have proper backups of everything and these were all original files I did not have copies of. This left me in a panic because I cannot replace some of the files, I had spent weeks gathering everything, and was up half the night stressing about this.

Then this morning, by some miracle ALL the files were suddenly back! Makes no sense to me whatsoever but I took them all off and put them back on my Mac. Now I am trying to find cloud service yet again which I was trying to avoid in the first place because I do not really trust them and cannot afford it even if I did.

Now I feel like I am right back at square one, I have no idea what is going on and do not have money to spend on anything leaving me at even more of a loss as to what to do 😢
 

Ruggy

macrumors regular
Jan 11, 2017
247
154
Hi
You aren't obliged to use time machine for a back up.
In fact when it goes wrong, Time machine can be the problem because it stores everything in an image file meaning you don't have access to individual files and if you try to find and access an individual file, you will corrupt the image. Also, if you've used different user names over time, it will only give you permission to use the file for that user name so it locks you out. I don't know if this is what's happening to you with permission but it could be. It's very likely by the sounds of it.

But what you can do is just simply back up your files by copying them individually, either onto a hard drive or a big SD card or something. Then you can access them individually if you need them, or on another machine or even a Windows machine if necessary (and what's the point of a back up if you can't get into it? )
I think just copying everything across could be the best solution for you, and I'd use FAT32 (or exfat if it's a really big drive, same thing really) and then it's readable everywhere.

You'd be better off having 2 back ups of everything you want to keep than one if it's important.
You certainly don't need back ups every hour especially if not much is changing. Can you not change that? I forget, I haven't used Time machine for ages because it let me down badly and I've never trusted it since but that is over the top. Maybe turn it off and just back them up individually.

You can also individually copy and save apps and they will work. You will need the password or unlock key of course so you will need to make sure you have all of those but, they pretty much just need to be put back on the drive to work. I've done this loads of times so I know it isn't a problem. Just copy from the Application folder then put them back later. You should be able to re-download most of them though.

I understand your reticence about cloud services but they are brilliant when you have problems. You can save all your passwords, mail rules, bookmarks, messages etc to the cloud and that's huge headache out of the way. Delete the cloud service later if you like but for back up purposes, it's great so use it and also temporarily, you can use Amazon and Google clouds for your music and photos. They let you store a ton of stuff free whilst you sort everything out then you can delete them afterwards. Really, they offer masses of free storage.
You are always likely to forget stuff doing backups and the cloud can really get you out of a hole.

I think your backup disappearing was simply because it wasn't finished. It copies stuff then it has to sort out all the filing, directories, thumbnails whatever and that can literally take hours so it was just not done.
You've also got an encrypted drive which is fine, but it makes everything a lot slower and is a pain when things go wrong. If you try to access and encrypted file from outside your user, you can't so it's lost. Especially backing up to time machine from an encrypted drive every 15 mins, no wonder it's slowing everything down.
USB drives are not even 1/10 as fast as an internal drive especially if you have USB2 and an old spinning hard drive, so this won't help.
Copying 64GB of data from an external hard drive will take at least 6 hours so be patient as there's no way of making it faster. It's physics.

OK, so assuming you've managed to back everything up as individual files and you've made good notes about where things are etc, and you have 2 in case one gets corrupted (it happens) then you should be able to reinstall everything from scratch.
You go onto the Apple store, download your operating system again and you'll have options about how you want to install but presumably you'll want to reformat and reinstall (although you will have other options).
Sometimes, you need to start at an earlier operating system, because that's the one that came with your computer but that's ok because then it lets you update to the latest one your machine will take.
If you've backed up to cloud nearly everything important will pop up again straight away. Wifi passwords for example and that's a great help when you are installing stuff. Bookmarks etc.
Don't copy everything back onto the mac at this time, just what you really need and take your time.
There are probably loads of things you don't need.

But, before you clutter it all up again, see if you still have problems with keyboard etc. The less you have installed when you do this, the less likely it is to be software or interaction between programs.

So, spend a couple of days if possible with a really light system and see how it goes.

Try it unencrypted and try not to use the external USB drive. If it's still got problems then you've excluded all that from the possible cause and if it all works fine, then anything that later goes wrong must be in one of those things.

If you do, still have problems then there's a hardware diagnostic program you can run but you can come back about that later if needs be.

Good luck. Dealing with computer problems like this feels like the loneliest place in the world and can be quite stressful. Usually, it isn't like this and it's probably that you are trying to do too much with a USB hard drive, encrypted drive and Time machine on all the time.
I hope that helps.

Sorry, there's something I've realised isn't clear here.
Of course, if everything is working and you go into Time machine then you can find and replace individual files.
But when you have a problem and you've wiped your drive then you must use exactly the same user name as you had before to let Time machine let you in.
Or, if you have a problem with the backup and want to look at it from another machine, all you will see is a single image for each back up with all the files being lumped in there somewhere, and then if you try to extract a single file you won't be able to or you will corrupt the image.
I'm not a time machine fan either.
 
Last edited:

Eagle 20

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 24, 2019
20
1
Michigan
UPDATE... I am convinced my Mac just hates me or Apple wants rid of me...

Yesterday my Mac updated to macOS Catalina (10.15), and in the more than four hours it took to update, I decided to basically start from scratch. I decided not to use Time Machine and downloaded the free trial of SuperDuper. Since I did not know if a Time Machine backup on the same drive would cause issues, I did a complete do-over on my external HDD and got it back to where I started. Also, I turned off FileVault since I am not sure whether or not I need it.

When my Mac had updated there was a folder on my desktop named, "Relocated Items" with two folders inside named, "Configuration" and "Security". Also, there is a file named, "What Are Relocated Items?" that reads...

During the last macOS upgrade or file migration, some of your files couldn’t be moved to their new locations. This folder contains these files.

Files needing new locations
Some of your files had been in a location that is now incompatible with macOS security settings. These files were moved to the Security folder for your review.

If there are any files you want to keep, you can move them to a new location, as long as it is different from their location before the upgrade or migration.

Configuration files
These configuration files were modified or customized by you, by another user, or by an app. The modifications are incompatible with the recent macOS upgrade. The modified files are in the Configuration folder, organized in subfolders named for their original locations.

To restore any of the custom configurations, compare your modifications with the configuration changes made during the macOS upgrade and combine them when possible.
I have no idea what the files are for, what they do or did, and what I am supposed to do with them. Then I found the boot volume (think that is right) is split in two, Macintosh HD and Macintosh HD - Data. But am unsure if I am supposed to backup one or both. Tried to figure that out via Google and assume I just need to backup the latter of the two but am uncertain. Then while trying to figure that out I read that creating a bootable backup requires an APFS formatted destination volume, and HFS+ is no longer an option. The consensus seems to be that a bootable backup is best, even though I do not entirely know what that is or what most of this means. My main takeaway was I needed to reformat my external HDD again. Which I did basically the same as before, only this time when adding the partition allotting 200 GB to Mac backups I used APFS format, and left 300 GB in HFS+ for files. Then used SuperDuper to create a backup of my Mac, which was way easier and faster than Time Machine!

Unfortunately, this has left me even more lost, confused and frustrated than I was! All I want to do is get all backups/files off my Mac so I do not lose anything or run out of storage again, and reset my Mac to how I received it from Apple in hopes of a fresh start resolving issues I have been having. My external HDD has not worked as I had hoped but I cannot afford cloud storage or backup, least of all any recommended for their security, and they all have storage limits of some sort. Then there is the hassle of having to convert files so I can encrypt them, which I cannot do for every file, and then track hundreds of encryption codes. So I think this is an 'I am SOL' situation since I cannot figure out a storage solution, and therefore cannot reset or restore my Mac.

Since I have no choice but to use my external HDD for now, can someone kindly help with the following...

1. What is the best format for my external HDD so I can store all my files, iOS and macOS backups?

2. Is there a way to encrypt the above backups, as well as audio and video files that is not a pain?

3. What do I do with the "Relocated Items" folder/files since I do not know what they were/are for?

4. What else do I have to backup so I can reset (or is it restore?) my Mac to how I received it from Apple?

5. If I get through the above, will I have to go through several hours of updating to macOS Catalina again?

Many thanks to everyone that has attempted to help so far, I truly appreciate it more than you all know! And if anyone has anything they want to add that will make this easier, that would be great because I am starting to feel that I am going about all this the most difficult way possible 😭
 
Last edited:

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,160
5,520
My advice is to wipe the internal drive and re-install Mojave, which is now a "mature" OS that works smoothly and well.

Catalina DOES create two "drives" (they may just be different containers or partitions, not sure). One is "protected" and "read only". The other is "writable" (which is where your home folder is).

I prefer "the old way" and I'm sticking with Mojave for the time being (on my 2018 Mini).

I also have a 2015 13" MBP.
I left the original OS (El Cap) on it.
I "care nothing" for having the latest and greatest.
Runs great.
 

Eagle 20

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 24, 2019
20
1
Michigan
My advice is to wipe the internal drive and re-install Mojave, which is now a "mature" OS that works smoothly and well.

Catalina DOES create two "drives" (they may just be different containers or partitions, not sure). One is "protected" and "read only". The other is "writable" (which is where your home folder is).

I prefer "the old way" and I'm sticking with Mojave for the time being (on my 2018 Mini).

I also have a 2015 13" MBP.
I left the original OS (El Cap) on it.
I "care nothing" for having the latest and greatest.
Runs great.
I will likely do that once I get all my files taken care of. But so far, so good with the new OS. I do wish I could choose the apps though because there are at least a half dozen I never use :(
 

monokakata

macrumors 68000
May 8, 2008
1,861
382
Hilo, Hawai'i
Unless you're pressed for cash, I'd suggest you buy another external drive, of decent size (say 1 TB). Initialize it with Disk Utility. I'd suggest a 2.5" drive, to make things simple (no external power needed).

Then just copy over everything you're worried you might lose. Make folders to hold the files, with categories you choose.

Copy even the stuff you're not sure about.

I'd be inclined to copy Library over, in its entirety, too (I don't know how Catalina handles Library but I'm sure you can find out).

Basically, make a disk with "this is everything I can find that I might want . . . ."

Then when you've done that, go ahead and use SuperDuper or CCC or reinstall -- whatever you like.

This isn't a replacement for a proper backup!

It's your "oops" disk. It's your "I forgot I needed this" disk. And because it's not in any backup format, you're free to copy things back onto your main machine.

I have a couple of externals like that, and they've saved me a few of times.
 
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Eagle 20

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 24, 2019
20
1
Michigan
Unless you're pressed for cash, I'd suggest you buy another external drive, of decent size (say 1 TB). Initialize it with Disk Utility. I'd suggest a 2.5" drive, to make things simple (no external power needed).

Then just copy over everything you're worried you might lose. Make folders to hold the files, with categories you choose.

Copy even the stuff you're not sure about.

I'd be inclined to copy Library over, in its entirety, too (I don't know how Catalina handles Library but I'm sure you can find out).

Basically, make a disk with "this is everything I can find that I might want . . . ."

Then when you've done that, go ahead and use SuperDuper or CCC or reinstall -- whatever you like.

This isn't a replacement for a proper backup!

It's your "oops" disk. It's your "I forgot I needed this" disk. And because it's not in any backup format, you're free to copy things back onto your main machine.

I have a couple of externals like that, and they've saved me a few of times.
Unfortunately, I am strapped for cash because my disability income barely covers my expenses.

What do I need a 1TB external HDD for, and what is considered a "proper backup"?

My external HDD is more than enough storage, and I thought the whole point of SuperDuper was it creates an identical copy of my Mac. So I am a little confused 😕
 

monokakata

macrumors 68000
May 8, 2008
1,861
382
Hilo, Hawai'i
Unfortunately, I am strapped for cash because my disability income barely covers my expenses.

What do I need a 1TB external HDD for, and what is considered a "proper backup"?

My external HDD is more than enough storage, and I thought the whole point of SuperDuper was it creates an identical copy of my Mac. So I am a little confused 😕
I'm sorry for your disability situation.

From your postings, I got the impression that you were in some sort of "what's where and why is it there?" hell -- a place I think many of us know very well.

You changed operating systems and now you want to go back. To me, that increases the probability that you might lose something you need.

SuperDuper will create a proper backup for you. SuperDuper is meant for exactly what you think -- to make an exact copy. And you need that.

All I was suggesting is that another form of insurance is to have another drive on which you manually put stuff that you're nervous about, that you want to make sure you have another copy of, beyond your Mac and your backup drive. That's all.

That's basically what Ruggy said.
 

Eagle 20

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Aug 24, 2019
20
1
Michigan
I'm sorry for your disability situation.

From your postings, I got the impression that you were in some sort of "what's where and why is it there?" hell -- a place I think many of us know very well.

You changed operating systems and now you want to go back. To me, that increases the probability that you might lose something you need.

SuperDuper will create a proper backup for you. SuperDuper is meant for exactly what you think -- to make an exact copy. And you need that.

All I was suggesting is that another form of insurance is to have another drive on which you manually put stuff that you're nervous about, that you want to make sure you have another copy of, beyond your Mac and your backup drive. That's all.

That's basically what Ruggy said.
It is okay, but thank you!

Actually, this all came about because I want to get everything important off my Mac, and reset it to how it was received from Apple. There are two reasons I want to do this. First, I had ran out of storage space on my Mac not long ago, and transferring my files to my external HDD would help a lot. Second, I have been having issues with my Mac I hoped would be resolved by resetting it, and transferring anything important off my Mac first would eliminate the risk of losing it in a reset. But in the midst of trying to get help doing all that, my Mac updated to Catalina and it is very different from previous OS updates.

No, I had not seen that article before now, but I am still trying to find answers to the questions I posted last Wednesday.

The biggest thing holding me back now is my files, which keep getting shuffled around, and is a good way to lose something. I want to upload them to Google Drive, but want to encrypt and compress first. Problem is, I cannot find a good option to accomplish this and cannot afford software. I found Boxcryptor, which I found confusing and a royal PITA. I read Disk Utility can encrypt and password protect files, but appears it applies to folders, and I do not know if that is a good option.

Yesterday I began having issues with Chrome shutting down by itself and that never occurred before. I was working in Google Sheets with three tabs open and it shut down. I launched Chrome again, a popup said it did not shut down properly and asked if I wanted to restore my windows. The windows opened and thirty seconds later it shut down again. After a half dozen times I deleted all browser data except passwords and it stopped. A couple hours later it started again but after shutting down a few times has not occurred since.

Anyway... if anyone can help answer my questions from last Wednesday, that would be a huge help!

In the meantime I will test Disk Utility to see how it works encrypting and password protecting my files so I can get them uploaded to Google Drive. Then I can reset my Mac and HOPEFULLY resolve the issues I have been having *fingers crossed*

Thank you to all who have helped, and those in advance who continue to help. I really, truly appreciate it!!