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Ask TUAW: Backing up photos, remove Boot Camp partitions, Snow Leopard and Windows 7 and more

Welcome back to Ask TUAW, our weekly Mac troubleshooting Q&A column. This week we've got questions about backing up photos, removing a Boot Camp partition, Snow Leopard and Windows 7, Bluetooth menus, iPhone search results and more.

As always, your suggestions and questions are welcome. Questions for next week should be left in the comments. When asking a question please include which machine you're running and which version of Mac OS X (we'll assume you're running Leopard on an Intel Mac if you don't specify). And now, on to the questions.

Han asks:

What is the best way to archive photos without using iPhoto? I have about 100 GB of original photos and I have been saving them on my NetGear ReadyNAS Duo. Sometimes I leave the photos in the folder and just copy it to the NAS or sometimes zip them before I put it in the NAS. What I am worried about is if I zip the folder and somehow the zip file itself gets corrupted, is it harder to recover them? Is it better to just not zip and leave it as a folder then copy it to the NAS?

Because photos are pretty important and almost impossible to recreate I take my photo workflow and backup seriously. First, I never import photos directly into iPhoto and instead, using a card reader, copy the files to a folder I have labeled specifically for these photos which resides in my main "Photography" folder.
Then, if I want to put those photos in iPhoto, I import them from the new folder and that way the original files are preserved even if something happens to my iPhoto library. Also, I back up those originals in addition to the backup of my "Users" folder which contains my iPhoto library. This may seem like overkill, but with the price of storage media dropping all the time, several backup drives are not unusual anymore.

At the moment I have three backup drives. Two that rotate at home and one that I use monthly and then take to another location besides my home. That way if something happens to my house and my backups are destroyed as well, I still have my other "off-site" backup that's at most a month old. My backup software of choice at the moment is still SuperDuper! which I have set up to alternate a full clone of my iMac's hard drive to each of my two external Firewire 800 backup drives.

Then, when its time to clone to the drive I take away, I do that manually once a month. Or sooner if I think of it. Because I'm using "Smart Update" it only takes a few minutes to clone whatever files have changed. I don't use Time Machine and I don't use any compression.

Stephen asks:

I want to upgrade my MBP to Snow Leopard. I also want to get rid of my Windows partition (which I have only booted from once). What is the best way to do this?

Well, there are a few ways out there that will allow you to erase a partition on a drive and reclaim that space "on the fly" but since you asked for the "best way" I'll tell you what that is. The best way is to completely backup your Mac OS X partition to an external hard drive via a utility like SuperDuper! and then erase and reformat your Mac's drive to get rid of your Windows Bootcamp partition. Then, using SuperDuper!, restore your drive from the clone you made and go about your business.

Claire asks:

I bought a 24" Intel iMac (2.93 GHz, OS 10.5.8). I used Migration Assistant to bring files and programs over from my old 17" PowerPC iMac (running OS 10.3). I think I've managed to delete all the programs and preference files that won't run on the Intel system, but I'd like to start with a clean slate when I install Snow Leopard to be sure.

What's the best way to transfer back the files & folders I want to keep? If I backup to an external hard drive using Time Machine before upgrading, will I be able to transfer selected files/folders from there after the upgrade? Or would it be better to save files & folders directly to an external drive & then transfer them back? Or...? I'm concerned about missing stray preference files and the like.


As with Stephen above, the best way at this point for you is to backup the Preference files, Applications and user data you want to keep directly and then do a fresh install of Snow Leopard. Don't upgrade. Then, restore the files, preferences, etc. that you need via direct copy back from your external hard drive.

It takes longer, but in the long run it will serve you better to only restore specifically what you need and not bring along any legacy files and potential problems from older systems.

Ned asks:

Before I make the leap and update to Snow Leopard, I just wanted to be certain that it won't affect my Boot Camp partition!? I'm running the Windows 7 RC. Also, does anybody know of any issues with the Boot Camp 3.0 drivers and the Windows 7 RC?

So far, and this is only after minimal testing on a few of Macs, everything seems to be working just fine with the combination of Windows 7 and Boot Camp in Snow Leopard. In fact, some users are reporting better results with Snow Leopard because it includes a newer version of Boot Camp. Version 3.0, to be precise.

That said, before you upgrade to Snow Leopard, make sure you are running the most recent version of Windows with all updates and then make a full backup of your data. That way, if something does go wrong, you can restore, troubleshoot and try again.

Brian asks:

I'm running Snow Leopard on a mid-2007 13-inch white Macbook. While I was running Leopard, I could choose to send files through Bluetooth by opening a contextual menu from Finder and choosing what device to send the file to. However, this ability disappeared when I upgraded to SL, and I could find nowhere in the Bluetooth preference pane to restore it. While I can get around this by opening Bluetooth File Exchange (in Utilities), and sending files through that application, I would much rather restore the slick contextual menu option I had before, if possible.

According to an Apple support rep I spoke with, this feature is not part of Snow Leopard. Unfortunately, he could not tell me why this had been removed but he suspected it may return in a future Bluetooth update. Until then, you seem to be out of luck.

Even though it seems there's an answer (at least according to Apple) I also included this question just in case one of our TUAW readers knows of a way to restore it in Snow Leopard. We have some of the smartest readers of any site so if there is a way, I'm sure they will let us know in the comments.

Seb asks:

Like in Spotlight, can I change the order of search results when I search for something using my iPhone?

Sure. Just go to Settings> General > Home and at the bottom you will see "Search Results." Once there, simply drag them in the order you want them to display when you do a search.

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