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Ask TUAW: Migration, syncing, backing up, and more

Mat Lu

Welcome back to Ask TUAW, our weekly Mac troubleshooting Q&A column! This time we've got questions on migrating to a new Mac, using a Time Capsule for wireless backup, speeding up podcasts, syncing two Macs, 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.

CozartDono asks

Can the Time Capsule be partitioned for a Time Machine back-up and a Windows back up? I'm assuming the Time Capsule can be re-partitioned into many different partitions, like any other drive you plug into a Mac. My second question is if I were to get an Airport Extreme base station and plug in an external hard drive, can still do wireless back-ups in a similar fashion? This would be more preferably because I will use this a router to replace my current G-router.

As far as I can tell you cannot partition the Time Capsule drive (apart from yanking it out, etc.). So you might be better served by using the internal Time Capsule drive with Time Machine on your Mac, and then plugging in another external USB hard drive to use as your Windows backup target. And yes, you can do wireless Time Machine backups to an external USB hard drive on an Airport Extreme. So, perhaps, you might actually be better off using an Extreme, perhaps with two separate USB hard drives (plugged into a hub).

Anthony asks

I have a first-gen intel iMac with the following and I'm wondering if it'll be compat/worth it to get Snow Leopard. Really wish there was some software to check stuff like this to simplify the whole process.

The short answer is that Snow Leopard will run on your Mac. The only real requirements are an Intel Mac and 1GB of RAM. As far as whether it will be worth it, I think the answer is definitely yes. Even your 32-bit Core Duo should benefit from some of the improved technologies in OS X 10.6, particularly the optimizations. Perhaps more important, however, is that once Snow Leopard ships there's good reason to believe that lots of third-party applications will require it. Apple has put in lots of Good Stuff™ for developers under the surface, and it stands to reason that more and more applications will be taking advantage of these Snow Leopard-only technologies. Since it's only a $29 upgrade, I think it's a no-brainer even for an older Mac like yours (I will certainly be upgrading my own first-gen Intel iMac).

jfish asks

I just bought a Mac Mini which I'm going to be using as my main computer. I currently have a MacBook Pro. Can I use a Time Machine backup to make a clone of my MacBook Pro onto the Mini?

You can restore a Time Machine backup to restore to a new Mac. However, you can also simply use the Migration Assistant (in /Applications/Utilities). It will be able to read a Time Machine backup as a migration source. Finally, if you actually want to make a direct clone you can do that as well, by putting your Mac mini in FireWire target disk mode, hooking it to your MacBook Pro and then running SuperDuper! ($27.95) or Carbon Copy Cloner (donations requested) on your MacBook Pro to clone your MacBook Pro's drive onto your mini's hard drive.

Joe asks

What's the best way to transfer my old data on my old MacBook to my new MacBook Pro without erasing new software on the MBP like the new iLife suite?

The easiest way is definitely to use the Migration Assistant as above. If your old MacBook has FireWire, put it into FireWire target disk mode and run the Migration Assistant. If your old MacBook does not have FireWire you can still use Migration Assistant with a direct Ethernet connection between the two machines.

Lauren asks

I've gotten hooked on listening to podcasts on my iPhone in 2x speed. Is there a way to accomplish this in iTunes as well?

There isn't a way to do this natively in iTunes, but Apple has a tip for achieving this with QuickTime Player. You can do this manually (select podcast and right-click show in Finder Open With QuickTime Player) and then Show A/V Controls in the Windows menu. Or you can just use this handy script from Doug's AppleScripts for iTunes. Once QuickTime Player's A/V Controls are displayed you can choose the playback speed at the bottom.

Greg asks

I have a MacBook Pro that I've relegated to a de facto desktop, as I've recently supplemented it with a MacBook Air. However, I wish I could have the systems be able to sync, so that files and settings are kept uniform. I know about ChronoSync (which I've tried, but for the life of me, can't seem to set up properly, even when following instructions and using their ChronoAgent), but that was to sync one folder. Is there a system-wide solution? Like FoxMarks/X-Marks, but for the non-browser stuff?

If you really want a file level sync, you should check out ChronoSync's Home-to-Home tutorial. However, if all you really want is to have files and settings synced, you might like the sync features of MobileMe. You can use iDisk to sync files (or I actually prefer Dropbox) and MobileMe's sync will let you automatically sync things like mail accounts, contacts, calendar entries, keychains, dock items, Dashboard Widgets, and System Preferences. If you want to get some of these same syncing functions without the yearly fees of MobileMe, have a look at SyncTogether ($49.95) from Mark/Space, which uses some of the same basic underlying sync services as MobileMe.

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