Customize My Own Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Leopard

Mac OS X 2 Comments

I recently got a new macbook with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. I did not like some of the useability changes made (more on that below), but thankfully did not experience the slowdown, crashes, or bad battery life that others had reported. I upgraded to Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion in the hope that those useability changes would be improved. My hopes were dashed, but I was determined to create an unholy combination of the old and the new which I will call Mac OS X Mountain Leopard. Grrr… meow.

Here are the tweaks that I made:

  1. Disable natural scrolling. The reverse scroll seems so unnatural to me. Because I will be switching between Mac OS X and Windows often, adapting to natural scrolling would also cause confusion on Windows.
    • To disable natural scrolling, go to System Preferences->Trackpad->Scroll & Zoom, and uncheck the “Scroll direction: natural” box.
  2. Enable tap-click, two-finger-tap-2nd-click and two-finger-tap-drag in addition to the new three-finger-drag. My fingers are trained to do a two-finger tap or drag so I wanted to enable it and use it alternatively with the three-finger-drag. The three-finger drag is still useful for rearranging icons on the dock; whereas, the two-finger-tap-drag would launch the application instead. I was expecting a three-finger scroll inside an application window in addition to the two-finger scroll, but it wasn’t supported.
    • To enable tap-click and two-finger-tap-2nd-click, go to System Preferences->Trackpad->Point & Click, check the “Tap to click” and “Secondary click” with “Click or tap with two fingers” boxes.
    • To enable two-finger-tap-drag, go to System Preferences->Accessibility->Mouse & Trackpad->Trackpad Options…, check the “Enable dragging” box and leave the default “without Drag Lock” selection.
  3. Globally disable application restore. This feature was very confusing and a bit annoying. For example, when I would run the TextEdit application to open up a new document, I would get 3 or 4 of the previously opened documents also and would have to hunt for the new document. I’m sure that others may find this useful but it wasn’t for me.
    • To disable application restore, go to System Preferences->General and check the “Close windows when quitting an application” box.
    • On OS X Lion, this option is labeled “Restore windows when quitting and re-opening apps” and you would uncheck it to disable the application restore.
  4. Change Gatekeeper to allow installation of programs from anywhere, not just only from the Mac App Store. I ran into this issue when attempting to install GNU Emacs, which I had to download separately because it is not in the App Store.
    • To allow installation from anywhere, go to System Preferences->Security & Privacy and select the “Anywhere” option under the “Allow applications downloaded from:” section.
  5. Disable notifications from programs like gfxCardStatus or Game Center. I’m okay with the Notification Center but too many non-critical notifications can train me to ignore all notifications (like ignoring the boy who cried wolf too many times).
    • To disable specific notifications, go to System Preferences->Notifications, select the application, and then uncheck any or all three options: “Show in Notification Center:”, “Badge app icon”, and “Play sound when receiving notifications”.
    • FYI, the “Badge app icon” is a red circle with a number inside that appears on the top-right of the application icon in the dock . The best example is the Mail program showing the number of unread emails.
    • There does not seem to be any option to only display the banner (which appears in the upper-right of the screen briefly and then disappears) without leaving at least the last notification message in the Notifcation Center.
  6. Disable automatic system updates during sleep. I don’t trust automatic updates and want to be asked if I wish to install them or not.
    • To disable automatic updates, go to System Preferences->Software Update and uncheck the “Install system data files and security updates” box.
  7. Turn on indicator lights on the dock to show that an application is running. This was checked already on my macbook (maybe because I upgraded from Snow Leopard and it persisted that setting).
    • To enable indicator lights on the dock, go to System Preferences->Dock and check the “Show indicator lights for open applications” box.
  8. Turn off Auto Correct. I usually make sure to disable automatic correction in programs like Outlook, Mail, and Word because most of the time, the corrections are wrong. I hated having my technical words replaced by common words because the dictionary used didn’t have those words, or having an acronym re-capitalized. On Mac OS X, I noticed that disabling Auto Correct in the applicatons’ Preferences did not stop all auto corrections from occurring. It turns out I have to disable it at the system level also.
    • To disable Auto Correct, go to System Preferences->Language & Text->Text and uncheck the “Use symbol and text substition” and/or “Correct spelling automatically” boxes.
    • I do uncheck the “Use symbol and text substitution” box because when I type a), b), and c), it is annoying when the c) ends up as a copyright symbol.
  9. Make scrollbars visible all the time. Hiding the scroll bars was a bad idea for two reasons. One, I can’t see the vertical scroll bar until I do a two-finger scroll. Hovering over the location of the vertical scroll bar does not show it; but strangely, doing the same for the horizontal scroll bar will show it. Two, the horizontal scroll bar appears, overlaps an item, and prevents selection of that item. For example, when attempting to move a file that is in the last display line of the Finder’s list mode, the horizontal bar will appear and prevent the selection of that file.
    • To make the scrollbars visible all the time, go to System Preferences->General and select the “Always” option for “Show scroll bars:”.
  10. Show Finder status bar. I like the Finder’s bottom status bar because it provides useful info at a glance.
    • To show the Finder status bar, go to the Finder’s View menu and click the “Show Status Bar” option.
  11. Make hard drives visible in Finder’s left-hand navigation pane. I think the reasoning behind hiding the hard drives is to force the usage of the favorites folder to access files. Unfortunately, I organize my files differently than Apple imagines I would, so I do need a way to quickly view the root folder of my hard drive.
    • To make the hard drives visible in Finder, go to Finder’s Preferences menu, Sidebar tab, and check the “Hard disks” box under DEVICES.
  12. Make the ~/Library folder permanently visible in the Finder. I could use Finder’s “Go->Go to folder” menu and input “~/Library”, but that’s slower than just clicking on the Library folder.
    • To make the ~/Library folder permanently visible, launch the Terminal application and run the following command:
      sudo chflags nohidden ~/Library

    Note: If you use Disk Utility’s Repair Permissions function, it will re-hide the ~/Library folder and you would need to do the above again.

The information above was mostly derived from:


Setup Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Windows 7 Boot Camp, and Shared FAT32 Partition

Mac OS X 5 Comments

applebootcampI recently got a mid 2012 Macbook Pro 15in laptop. It came with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion which I promptly upgraded to Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. I then installed Windows 7 Boot Camp on it. I thought I had the perfect setup.

To my dismay, I found that while the Macbook lasted 6 hours or more while running Mac OS X, the Windows 7 lasted at best 3 hours. The reason for the short battery and heat (the laptop got very hot under Windows) was that under Windows, the discrete graphics card was active all the time! The Boot Camp 4.0 drivers for Windows did not support switching graphics between the integrated and discrete video cards, but instead used discrete all the time.

I decided to use Mac OS X as often as I could to take advantage of the battery life and only switch to Windows when I needed to. Under Mac OS X, there is an neat application called gfxCardStatus which allows me to force Mac OS X to use only the integrated graphics card. This is useful because I found that unlikely applications, like Powerpoint, would switch the Mac OS X to use discrete graphics.

Update: Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite uses a new Core Storage volume manager which does not support merging or re-sizing. The solution is to revert the Core Storage volume back to a plain HFS+ (aka Mac OS Extended) partition before following any of the instructions below. See my followup post on Revert Mac OS X Yosemite Core Storage Back to Mac OS Extended HFS+ for details.

Unfortunately, sharing information between the two operating systems is inconvenient because while Mac OS X can read NTFS, it can’t write to it. And while Windows can read HFS+, it cannot write to it. There is a commercial product called NTFS for Mac that allows Mac OS X to write to NTFS, but some reviews indicated that the NTFS partition might get corrupted. Alternatively, I could use a cloud service like DropBox but I would have to pay for more storage space, there would be duplicated files on both the Mac OS X and Windows partitions, and there would be a dependency on having Internet access to sync those duplicated files. The best solution (free, non-wasteful, and fast) would be to have a shared FAT32 partition which both Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and Windows 7 can read and write to.

Update: Initially I used an exFAT partition, instead of FAT32. (exFAT is an enhancement of FAT32 that removes the 4GB file size limitation.) However, after copying back my data to the shared exFAT partition and accessing it from both Mac OS X and Windows 7 under VMware, the shared partition got corrupted within a day. I did some research and found that exFAT on Mac OS X often got corrupted and would disappear. Disk Utility was not able to repair the exFAT partition. I decided to reformat the shared partition as FAT32 using Disk Utility with “MS-DOS (FAT)” format; I can live with the 4GB file size limit, but I can’t live with corrupted data. FAT32 is older (less buggy and more reliable) and uses two file allocation tables (while exFAT uses just one) so it should be more recoverable. I’ve updated this post to refer to FAT32, instead of exFAT.

To create the shared FAT32 partition would require me to re-size the existing partitions. The Mac OS X Disk Utility supports re-sizing the Mac OS X’s HFS+ partition without destroying its contents. Under Windows 7, there are 3rd party tools to re-size the NTFS partition but success was not guaranteed and there was a chance that the Windows Boot Camp partition might become unbootable.

Because I also had an issue with running the Windows 7 Boot Camp under VMware 4 and 5 (I couldn’t figure out why), I decided to start from scratch with a new Boot Camp. After backing up the data on Windows 7, I ran the Boot Camp Assistant to delete the existing Boot Camp partition.

Maximum of Four Partitions

My original Mac OS X Lion came with 3 partitions on the hard drive using the GUID Partition Table (GPT) schema, which we can see by running “diskutil list” under the Terminal command line:

The Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) partition contains the boot software, the Macintosh HD partition contains the Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, and the Recovery HD partition contains the Mac OS X Lion Recovery.

Windows 7 uses Master Boot Record (MBR) which allows a maximum of 4 primary partitions (or 3 primary and 1 extended partitions) that Windows 7 can be installed on. Because Boot Camp requires that Windows be the last partition, we have an issue because adding a Boot Camp and a shared partition will result in 5 partitions, rendering the last partition as uninstallable by Windows 7. How do I know? I attempted it and ended up with the resulting Windows 7 install screen to the right. Clicking on Show Details informed me that Windows 7 needed to be installed on a Primary partition, which the last partition wasn’t.

To get this to work, we have to sacrifice the Mac OS X Lion Recovery partition. Then when we add the Windows and shared partition, the total will be 4 partitions. Deleting the Recovery partition was not a problem because I plan to make a bootable USB key containing the Mac OS X Mountion Lion install. Unfortunately, because the Recovery partition is a hidden partition, we cannot use Disk Utility to delete it. Instead, we will use the Terminal command line to erase and merge it with our Mac OS X partition.

Update: There is a way to avoid deleting the Mac OS X Recovery HD partition. I found a post, MBA13/2012: OSX + Win7 + Shared exFAT, which uses a tool called gptsync to avoid deleting the Recovery HD partition by hiding it from the Windows MBR table.

Here’s how to erase and merge the Mac OS X Lion Recovery partition:

  1. Launch the Terminal application.
  2. Run “diskutil list” to see the 3 existing partitions: EFI, Macintosh HD, and Recovery HD. (See the “diskutil list” results above.)
  3. Look for “Apple_Boot Recovery HD” partition and note its identifier, which in the above is “disk0s4”. Likewise, note that the “Apple_HFS Macintosh HD” partition’s identifier is “disk0s2”.
  4. Erase the Recovery HD partition by running “diskutil eraseVolume HFS+ Blank /dev/disk0s4”. (Format: “diskutil eraseVolume format name device”)

  5. Reclaim the erased space by merging the now blank Recovery HD partition with the Mac OS X HFS+ partition by running “diskutil mergePartitions HFS+ Lion disk0s2 disk0s4”. (Format: “diskutil mergePartitions format name fromDevice toDevice”. This is non-destructive on the first partition because the force flag is not set; and in this case, the format and name are ignored.)

  6. Note that the above steps result in 2 existing partitions: EFI and Macintosh HD.

Create Boot Camp and Shared Partitions

We are ready to create a Boot Camp partition for Windows 7 and the shared FAT32 partition. Before we start, there are two important points to keep in mind:

  • We will introduce a new step in the Boot Camp process, between the Boot Camp partition creation and Windows 7 installation. The new step involves creating the shared FAT32 partition.
  • Any change to the partition tables after Windows 7 is installed will break the Boot Camp partition. So make sure you are certain about how to size each of the partitions.

I decided to split my 750GB hard drive into 3 equal 250GB partitions for Mac OS X, Windows 7, and Shared. Here are the steps I took to create a Boot Camp with the Shared partition:

  1. Insert the Windows 7 Install DVD. Boot Camp Assistant won’t create the Windows partition without the DVD inserted.
  2. Run the Boot Camp Assistant and select only the “Install Windows 7” task.
    • If you don’t already have the latest Boot Camp 4.0 Drivers for Windows 7 available, then also select the “Download the latest Windows support software from Apple” task to create a DVD or USB flash drive containing the Boot Camp Drivers for windows.
  3. On the next screen, drag the slider to size the Windows partition; 249GB was the closest I could get to 250GB. The resulting Mac OS X partition would be the size of both the final Mac OS X and Shared partitions; in my case, 500GB. (We are short 1GB because it is used by the EFI partition. Partition sizes are not an exact science so I’m not concerned.)
  4. Note: Before hitting the Install button, be prepare to hold the Option key when the Mac reboots so we can boot from the Mac OS X partition, instead of the Windows 7 DVD.
  5. Hit the Install button. The Mac will create the Windows partition (takes a couple of minutes) and then reboot (screen goes grey and then black).
  6. Hold the Option key down during bootup and select the Mac OS X “Macintosh HD” icon when the Launch Manager appears.
  7. Back in Mac OS X, run “Disk Utility”, select the hard drive, and go to the Partition tab.
  8. Select the “Macintosh HD” partition, click the plus button to add our shared partition. A new partition is created with the name “Macintosh HD 2” which is half the size of the original “Macintosh HD” partition; which are the sizes I wanted. You can move the slider to adjust the sizes.
  9. With the “Macintosh HD 2” partition selected, choose “MS-DOS (FAT)” for the Format and “Shared” for the Name. Hit the Apply button to create the shared FAT32 partition.
  10. Restart and the Macbook will boot from the Windows 7 Install DVD to install Windows.
  11. For the Windows 7 install, hit the Next button, hit “Install now” button, check the “I accept the license terms” box, click Next button, click “Custom (advanced)” option, and select the Boot Camp partition; for me, that partition is named “Disk 0 Partition 4: BOOTCAMP”.
    • You might notice a “Disk 0 Unallocated Space” partition of 128MB. There isn’t any way to reclaim and use it.
  12. Because Boot Camp Assistant used FAT32 for the Windows partition, the Windows 7 install will disable the Next button and show an error “Windows cannot be installed to Disk 0 Partition 4” at the bottom. Clicking on “Show details” will display “Windows cannot be installed to this hard disk space. Windows must be installed to a partition formatted as NTFS.” To resolve this issue, reformat the Boot Camp partition as NTFS.
  13. With the Boot Camp partition selected, click on “Drive options (advanced)”, click on Format, click OK on the warning, and the Boot Camp partition will be formatted as NTFS. Its name will be blanked out, resulting in a “Disk 0 Partition 4” label. The error at the bottom will disappear and the Next button will be enabled.
  14. Click Next and Windows 7 will start installing itself to the Boot Camp partition. The installation took me about 30 mins, including an automatic reboot.
  15. Once Windows 7 is running, open “My Computer”, select the DVD drive, and click on Eject in the top menu to remove the Windows 7 Install DVD.
  16. Insert the Boot Camp 4.0 Drivers for Windows 7 DVD (or USB flash key) and run “setup.exe” on it to install the Boot Camp drivers. This took me about 10 minutes including another reboot.
  17. Open the Boot Camp Control Panel and select “Macintosh HD Mac OS X” as the system to start the computer with. Or you can leave it set to Windows and use the Option key when booting to select which OS to run.
  18. Double-check that you can access the “Shared” partition on Windows 7; it will show up as an additional hard drive.
  19. Restart and run Mac OS X.
  20. Check that the Shared partition is accessible. If you don’t see it in the Finder, go to the Finder’s Preferences, Sidebar, and check the “Hard disks” box under DEVICES. Alternatively, from the Terminal, you can type “cd /Volumes/Shared”.
  21. FYI, here is the final “diskutil list” output:

  22. As a last step, I launched VMware and it was able to load the Windows 7 Boot Camp successfully. Sweet.
    • Note: On startup, VMware Fusion will display a warning message “VMware Fusion is not compatible with gfxCardStatus”. You can quit gfxCardStatus or remember not to manually switch the graphics device while VMware is running.
    • Note 2: When running Windows 7 Boot Camp under VMware, the Boot Camp and Shared partitions will be unmounted from Mac OS X. When you shutdown Windows 7 Boot Camp, those partitions will be re-mounted under Mac OS X.

Most info above derived from:


Clone Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Install DVD to USB Flash Drive

Mac OS X 15 Comments

I thought it would be useful to put the Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard installer on a USB flash drive. It would be faster than reading from a DVD. I can use it with a Macbook Air or Pro Retina which do not come with a DVD drive. And the USB flash drive is more portable and robust than a DVD.

Note: I’m doing the following on a Macbook running Snow Leopard. The resulting USB flash drive will boot on Intel-based Macs only. If you want to boot the USB flash drive on a PowerPC-based Mac, please see the comments.

Note: The instructions below will not work for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion or later versions. Instead, see my followup post on creating a Bootable USB Flash Drive to Install Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite or Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks.

Create a DMG file

You can skip creating a DMG (Disk iMaGe) file if you clone directly from the Snow Leopard “Mac OS X Install DVD” disk to the USB flash drive. I just wanted a DMG file for speed and convenience; in case I need to clone to a dual-layer DVD or to another USB flash drive.

  1. Insert the Snow Leopard 10.6 “Mac OS X Install DVD” disk into the DVD drive.
  2. Run the “Disk Utility” application (under the “Applications/Utilities” folder).
  3. On the left-hand pane, you will see “Mac OS X Install DVD” appear under the DVD drive when the DVD is mounted. A “Mac OS X Install DVD” disk icon will also appear on the desktop.
    • If you don’t see the “Mac OS X Install DVD” even after waiting for a while, try closing and starting the “Disk Utility” application again.
  4. On the left-hand pane, select the “Mac OS X Install DVD” by clicking on it.
  5. Click on the “New Image” icon, located in toolbar at the top.
  6. Select the location to save the DMG file (“Mac OS X Install DVD.dmg”) to. Leave the defaults of “compressed” for “Image Format” and “none” for “Encryption”.
  7. Click on the “Save” button. The DMG file creation can take 20 minutes or longer.

Format USB Flash Drive as Mac OS X Bootable

You will need an 8GB USB flash drive. Format it as a Mac OS X bootable drive by following these steps:

  1. Insert the USB flash drive.
  2. Run “Disk Utility”.
  3. On the left-hand pane, select the USB drive (not the FAT32 or other partition under it).
  4. Click on the “Erase” tab, select “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” for “Format” and input a name like “Snow Leopard Install USB” (or anything because this will be overwritten later).
  5. Click the “Erase…” button and then the “Erase” button. This format operation will take less than a minute to complete.
  6. Once the format completes, make sure that the USB flash drive is selected in the left-hand pane. In the bottom pane, check that the “Partition Map Scheme” is set to “GUID Partition Table” (which means it is Mac OS X bootable). Under Snow Leopard, formatting as “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” appears to select the “GUID Partition Table” scheme by default.
  7. If you are not running Snow Leopard and the “Partition Map Scheme” is not set to “GUID Partition Table”, please repeat steps #1-3 above and then the following alternative steps:
    1. Click on the “Partition” tab, select “1 Partition” under “Volume Scheme”, ensure “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)” is selected for “format”, and leave the name alone or change it to be anything (it will be overwritten later).
    2. Click on the “Options” button and ensure that “GUID Partition Table” is selected. Click OK.
    3. Click the “Apply” button and then the “Partition” button. This format operation will take less than a minute to complete.

Restore DMG file to USB Flash Drive

Restore the DMG file to the bootable USB flash drive:

  1. Locate the “Mac OS X Install DVD.dmg” file that was created earlier. Double-click on it to mount and launch it. You will see a “Mac OS X Install DVD” disk icon appear on the desktop. You can close the “Mac OS X Install DVD” application window that was also opened.
  2. Insert the Mac OS X bootable USB flash drive that we created above.
  3. Run the “Disk Utility” application. On the left-hand pane, you should see both the USB flash drive and the mounted DMG file.
  4. On the left-hand pane, select the partition under the USB flash drive.
  5. Click on the “Restore” tab and drag that same partition (under the USB flash drive) to the “Destination” field (you will see a green plus mouse icon appear when you drag over the field).
  6. If you cannot drag the “Mac OS X Install DVD” partition under the DMG file to the “Source” field (on Snow Leopard, the green plus mouse icon won’t appear and no action is taken on the drop), you can instead right-click on the “Mac OS X Install DVD” partition and select “Set as source”. The “Source” field will then be filled with the partition name.
    • Even though you can click on the “Image…” button and select the DMG file, when you do the restore, Disk Utility will throw a “RESTORE FAILURE” error with the message: “Could not find any scan information. The source image needs to be image scanned before it can be restored.”
    • If you are cloning directly from the “Mac OS X Install” DVD, you can just drag the partition under the DVD drive to the “Source” field.
  7. I left the “Erase destination” box checked. With this box checked, the restore operation took about 25 minutes. When this box was unchecked, the restore operation reported that it would require 4 hours.
  8. Click the “Restore” button, then the “Erase” button, and input your Mac OS X administrative password.
  9. When the restore completes, you may see two “Mac OS X Install DVD” application windows appear, the first from the mounted DMG file and second from the USB flash drive. There will also be two “Mac OS X Install DVD” disk icons on the desktop. Also, notice that the partition under the USB flash drive is now named the same as the source, “Mac OS X Install DVD”.
  10. Select the USB flash drive in the left-hand pane. In the bottom pane, double-check that the “Partition Map Scheme” is still set to “GUID Partition Table”.
    • If you are not using Snow Leopard and find that the “Partition Map Scheme” is no longer set to “GUID Partition Table”, you may need to redo the restore. Reformat the USB flash drive (per the alternative instructions above) and before doing the restore, uncheck the “Erase destination” box. I fear that the “Erase destination” function may modify the partition map scheme to be something other than “GUID Partition Table”.

Boot from the USB Flash Drive

  1. Insert the USB flash drive.
  2. While starting your Mac, hold the Alt/Option key down to launch the Startup Manager.
  3. Select the USB flash drive to boot from; it will be labeled “Mac OS X Install DVD”.

Most of the information above was derived from: