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Ask TUAW: Recovering video files, moving from an old Mac to a new one, MobileMe Sync and more


Welcome back to Ask TUAW, our weekly Mac troubleshooting Q&A column. This week we've got questions about recovering video files from a corrupt SDHC card, transferring files from an old Mac to a new one, MobileMe sync, virtual machines 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.

Matt asks:

I recently shot video with a camera that records it to an SDHC card. Unfortunately, that card is now corrupted and when I try to download the video to my computer, it doesn't show up. How can I recover the video from the card?

I know how you feel because this exact thing happened to me recently. We shot a bunch of great video interviews for another site I work with, and one of the SDHC cards became corrupt. Fortunately, all was not lost but recovering the video, at least for me, was a two step process.

This is the method that worked for me, even though there are probably other tools available; I was under a deadline and needed to get this worked out fast so looking for the best free apps or the best deal wasn't an option. However, it did work and all the video was recovered with no loss.

First, and most important, I needed to find a tool to get the video files off of the card and save them to my Mac. That tool was TestDisk/PhotoRec. It isn't the easiest tool to use (given that you need to drop into the command line to use it), but it scanned my card, found the files and recovered them with no issues. It didn't even take that long to scan and recover files from a 16GB card. It is now my recovery tool of choice. Plus, for the less technically inclined, there's a pretty good online documentation for the tool so that will definitely help if you run into trouble.

So, one step down and one to go. As I stated previously, I was under a deadline so I didn't search endlessly for a tool to convert the recovered files to a format iMovie could recognize. The tool I found was iSkySoft's Video Converter ($35.00) which took the files and converted them to Quicktime easily and flawlessly. Sure, the software cost money, but in the end it was a small price to pay to recover hours of video interviews we could probably never have shot again.

David asks:

I recently purchased MobileMe to sync all of my information between 15" MBP, iPhone, and the web. Everything is working fine, except on my iPhone I have duplicate copies of everything. How do I fix this?

The easiest way is to do a one time wipe of your IPhone's MobileMe data (Address Book and iCal Info) and have that data replaced completely with the data on your Mac -- provided the data on your Mac is the most recent and accurate. To accomplish this, select the appropriate check box in iTunes while your iPhone is connected.

Find that box when your iPhone is connected by clicking the "Info" tab and then scrolling to the bottom under "Advanced." There check the boxes next to the data you want to replace on your iPhone. On the next sync your iPhone's MobileMe data will be replaced with that of the data on your Mac. Once all your devices have the same data, they should hopefully sync up normally from that point forward.

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 best way to accomplish this is by using Apple's included "Migration Assistant." This tool, located in /Applications/Utilities, comes with every Mac sold and is a great way to take date from an older Mac and move it to a new one -- particularly if both Macs have Firewire ports and the old one can support Target Disk Mode. If one or both Macs don't have Firewire, you can still use Migration Assistant via Ethernet, it will just be quite a bit slower.

To use Migration Assistant, launch it and follow the prompts until you get to the point of selecting what files, folders and other things to migrate from one Mac to another. Then, simply deselect the "Applications" choice and the Apps from your old Mac won't be transferred to your new one.

Anthony asks:

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

According to Apple's stated requirements for Snow Leopard, your Mac should be able to run the next version of OS X just fine. However, due to your Mac's graphics card, you won't be able to take advantage of one of the newest and coolest features of Snow Leopard, Open CL acceleration.

This feature allows the OS to make the graphics card handle more tasks and thus results in speedier overall performance. Sadly, your Mac doesn't sport the necessary card so your Snow Leopard experience will be less than optimal. Still, you will be able to run it and take advantage of many of its other features and improvements.

With the given limitations, deciding if the upgrade to Snow Leopard is "worth it" is up to you.

ophiucus15 asks:

I use an early 2009 24" iMac, and a late 2007 13" MacBook running 10.5.7. My question involves a 1TB Time Capsule and VMware Fusion. I was wondering if it were possible to install a Vista virtual machine on a 100GB external hard drive and connect it to the Time Capsule and access this virtual machine wirelessly with either of my Macs?

That's a very interesting question and one that I've been asked a few times before. In theory there should be no reason this won't work. As long as the drive where the Virtual Machine is located is mounted on the desktop of the computer you are trying to run it from, it should work. Also, you can create an alias of the Virtual Machine in the folder where it should reside locally on your Mac. For VMWare, that's usually in your user folder inside the "Documents" folder.

However, keep in mind that it will be much slower than what you could expect from a locally available Virtual Machine. This setup is also not recommended by VMWare, which they advised me during my discussion with them about this question, so use this setup at your own risk. If you do decide to use it, let us know how it goes in the comments.

As a precaution, you may want to back up your virtual machine on a relatively frequent basis.

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