Category: How to

Maybe you’ve bought a new computer and can’t use Migration Assistant, or maybe you need to restore your data after it has been corrupted. Whatever the reason, you’ll be happy to know that replacing the data in Address Book, iCal and Keychain is as easy as replacing a file. Since OS X stores data inside standard text files, all data associated with a specific application will be found inside the user library.

Here’s where to find them.

Address Book

Navigate to userfolder / Library / Application Support / AddressBook. Inside that folder is a number of strange and mysterious file names. The one you’re looking for is If you try opening that file in a text editor, you’ll see gibberish because it is a binary data file.

Transfer that file to another Address Book instance (in the same folder), restart the application, and you’ll have all your contacts again.


Restoring the Keychain, while basically the same process, requires slightly more work to complete. Navigate to userfolder / Library / Keychains and look for login.keychain. This file stores all the passwords and website form details that are collected whenever you save them. “Login” is the master keychain that the system always looks for. If you’re replacing this keychain with another backup, you’ll have to unlock it before you can use it properly again. To do that, open Keychain Access (inside /Applications/Utilities) and select Unlock Keychain “login” from the File menu. Enter your administration password, and you’re good to go.

iCal data

Backing up iCal calendar data is much easier if you export the calendar from inside iCal. To do that, select the calendar from the list on the left side of the window, and choose Export from the File menu. That will produce a file with a .ics extension that can be imported into iCal by double clicking the document.

If you’re looking for the iCal data specifically, the calendar files are located at userfolder / Library / Calendars. The problem with this method is that the calendars are stored inside a cryptically-named folder that can only be distinguished by opening the info.plist file inside the folder. Using the folder itself is probably only necessary when you need to rescue data and iCal cannot be opened.

Thanks to the file organization of Mac OS X, you can be sure that important personal data can be recovered or backed up if there is a problem.

[tags]Mac OS X, iCal, Keychain, Address Book, backup, troubleshooting[/tags]

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Originally, this was going to be a tip about how to remove the addresses used previously inside Mail. I found the preference file, an application to edit the database, and even wrote up a post for MacOSXHints. Then Rob Griffiths — the legendary hints master running the site — sent me an email to say that everything I had done was accessible from the single menu item you see here. Once inside that window, you can search, remove and edit any addresses you have used to send email.

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No matter how stable, awesome or bulletproof your operating system may seem, there may come a time when you need to start over. This may not happen with Mac OS X very often, but it can be real annoying when it needs to be done. I was asked recently what’s the best method for getting OS X clean on your computer, and the answer really depends on how fresh you want to start. You need to choose if you want to retain your current information or have a completely empty computer.

With that in mind, here is a small guide for installing OS X properly.


  1. Upgrade
  2. Archive and Install
  3. Erase and Install

The procedure for all of these operations is the same. Once you have booted from the Install disk, fill out the necessary options for customizing your installation and choose Options from the install location panel (where you pick which disk to install on). This window gives you an option to do any of the 3 procedures outlined here.


The fastest and simplest method for starting with a new operating system, Upgrade simply overwrites the system folder with a fresh one. If the Install DVD is older than your current system, it will revert to that number (ie. OS X 10.5.4 goes back to 10.5.0). This will not impact your personal data at all, and can be done in as little as 20 minutes (if you customize the install). When you receive a new OS from retail, this is typically the default method.

Though you should back up regularly regardless, it is especially important to back up before upgrading in this manner because there is slightly more risk involved than other methods.

Archive and Install

A popular method for Apple Geniuses to heal sick computers, archive and install means installing a new system folder overtop the old, but also moving that old folder into a safe place on your hard drive for backup. With this method, all your original documents, settings and applications are safe, as long as you select Preserve network settings and users, like the above picture. It offers more safety than the standard Upgrade procedure because it makes a single overwriting operation into two safer ones.

Erase and Install

Erase and install will wipe your drive clean and start fresh with a brand new system. Your documents, settings and applications will all be deleted for good, and you will not be able to access them unless you’ve backed them up before to a separate drive. This method shouldn’t be used unless you believe your computer needs to be cleared of everything in order to work properly. If you’re selling your computer, this is how you should prepare it.

If you choose to erase your drive completely but still wish to retain your data, all hope is not lost. In a case like that, you could clone your hard drive to an external drive, and use the Migration Assistant to transfer your files. The MA appears as the option Would you like to transfer files from another Mac? when you prepare your computer initially. Make the selection for Transfer from another partition on this Mac and choose the external drive. Wait for the files to transfer and you’ll be productive again in no time.

Apple makes installing their operating system very easy. With a little preparation you can reinstall OS X quickly and efficiently so you can get back to your work.

[tags]OS X, Apple, Mac, MacBook, installation, tutorial[/tags]

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It’s 8 AM. You’re just about to email the TPS reports you’ve been working on since 1 o’clock this morning when suddenly your computer stops responding to your inputs. In a panic, you shut down the system by holding the power button, but on the next startup, the screen doesn’t even reach the desktop. Before starting to pull your hair out, you suddenly realize that you’ve prepared for an event like this — you’ve made a backup drive.

By and large, Macs are very stable systems. Even with little or no maintenance, they’ll run for years without a problem. Unfortunately, they do occasionally decide to take a vacation, which most often comes at a very unlucky time. To protect yourself from such problems, you should have a bootable drive that contains only the bare minimum of applications, hopefully allowing you to remain productive in desperate times.

Important note: There is an important difference between making a drive for Intel-based systems versus PowerPC-based computers. Intel systems can be booted from cases using the cheaper USB 2 standard, while PowerPC computers can only use FireWire drives. Be sure to use the correct case for your computer, as well as the right partition scheme: GUID for Intel, Apple Partition Map for PPC.
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This is part 2 of a 2 part series on upgrading your MacBook. Part 1 is exchanging the hard drive.

After you upgrade your MacBook’s hard drive, you’re stuck with a computer that likely has no data on it. This, of course, is impossible to boot, so you’re left with a very nice looking paperweight. With a few pieces of software, you can be back up and running in no time.
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