Macintosh OS/Hidden files on mac


QUESTION: I have an imac which is about 5 or 6 years old. I had been running Leopard on it but my iphoto quit working so I reinstalled the OS X that came with the computer. Although it shows 366 GB are used on my hard drive I can't see any files. How do I restore my computer to where it was? Time machine shows no back up.

ANSWER: Loren,

OK - Let's begin at the beginning.  Did you do a clean install (that wipes your hard drive before installing) or did you replace only the system?

If you didn't clean the entire drive, you may need to update to the system level you were using before you redid the system.

Were you consistently using Time Machine?  It requires a separate hard drive or backup partition in order to use it.  If you weren't, that is the reason you have no backup.  You have to have it running constantly OR tell it to back things up every week or so.

I don't think you want to get into invisible files at this point --- most of the time, as far as I know, the regular files don't turn into invisible files.  But, we can get there eventually, if need be.

In the future, what you want to do is toss out the preferences for iPhoto when it doesn't work properly, and then reboot the computer.  That usually does the trick.

How big is your hard drive?  If you were running close to the capacity of your drive, that can cause all sorts of problems.  You need about 10GB of open space to give the computer room to move things around as needed.

Did you do any sort of backup of your personal files prior to reinstalling?  That is always recommended.  

I know this all sounds pretty basic, but by having this information I think I will be better prepared to attempt to get things back up and running for you.  


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QUESTION: I don't beleive I did a clean install because it shows I have only 60 GB left on a 500 GB hard drive (see image). I was running snow leopard at the time but I reinstalled Tiger (which came with the computer). I have since upgraded to Snow leopard, running 10.6.3 of OS X but I'm not able to do a software update (although dispite what the error message says I do have an internet connection, I will note that this was happening before so it's not relavent to this problem). As you can see, by the picture, I still have all my applications. I checked Time machine and it says there is nothing to back up, I never had it on in the past. I didn't do any back up before I reinstalled Tiger. But I can't find any files in my downloads, document or any folder. I can't find any songs that were in itunes or any of my photo's but if I'm still using about 370 GB of space they must be somewhere?

ANSWER: Dear Loren,

OK - that helps considerably.  Now, Tiger goes back pretty far, and I'm not current on that anymore, but I'll see if I can manage to find them for you.

Do a search for Documents and then Downloads and see what comes up.  In the past, when doing an install, the old system folder would be deactivated and the new one would become the primary folder.  Then you would have to drag and drop your files into the new one.  But I don't know where they put it.  Search for System, too ... if you get more than one system folder, we may have solved our dilemma.

If you didn't have Time Machine active, that is why you don't have a backup.  I would consider purchasing an external wireless drive of at least a Terabyte - more if you can afford it, and then you will always have that all-important backup.  You can actually partition the drives so it's about twice the size of your hard drive, to give it room to save, and then use the other parts for saving other things (pictures, large files, etc.)  I can' help you with that if you decide to go that way. You can probably get something that connects directly to your computer to do backup, but talk to Apple to decide what is the best option for you.  

Have you renamed your computer?  You should be able to do a search for your computer and the little house icon should show up.  Open your hard drive and the little house should show on the left in the side bar ... but that will be the active one.  If you find the house in two different locations, one might be the old one.

Try those things and then get back to me.  


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QUESTION: On my Mac HD I found a folder called "Previous System". When I open it I can see all the folders and files. Right now when I open Finder under "Loren" there is nothing in these folders, (see picture). Before this folder was called "lorendt" (which I can now find) and it has everything on my computer. Do I just drag this over to restore it? I can see all my music files (43 GB) but when I open itunes they are not currently there. Is there any way I can restore my bookmarks?

Loren, I'm thrilled you have found your files.  What you want to do now is to find and open the exact same folder in your new system, and open the same folder in your old system so that you have two separate windows open side-by-side, and drag only the files from the old system to the new system destination.  DO NOT drag the preferences from the old system into the new.  They will be replaced when you begin the programs again, although you may need some of them and we can cover those when the time comes ... for example, your settings for your e-mail program.

If you move something you suddenly realize shouldn't have been moved, go into your menu and see if there is an 'undo' option for that move.  I think it is 'command-y', but I'm not sure.  It should put the items back into the folder they were in before you moved them.

So, do those things now and then let me know how that worked.  Try using a few of them - opening things and testing to see if they behave the way you want them to.

It sounds like we are almost restored ... once you get this done, PLEASE, get yourself a backup disk (wireless or wired) and use a backup program to protect your files.  If you don't want to use Time Machine, I recommend SuperDuper.  But you MUST get into the habit of backing up weekly or monthly so you don't lose things in the future.  You have been VERY lucky this time, I think, assuming it all works when you get it moved now.  

DO get back to me with further questions on what else you might want to move ... I'm sure you will still need to tweak some things.


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Debba Robinson


AppleWorks 6, Systems up to 10.3.5, general trouble-shooting of hardware and some software.


In years past I taught computer K-8 and helped maintain Macs using sytems 7 and 8. Since 2001, I have not been working with computers daily, aside from doing my own work. I dabble in helping people out and enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out answers to your problems. Systems 7, 8, 9 and 10 are all in my repertoire now, at various levels of expertise. Please, NO networking questions.

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