Ask the Mac.AppStorm Editor #7

It’s time for another “Ask the Editor” post today. A big thank you to everyone who sent in their questions – it’s great to have the chance to help you out with your Mac-related queries and quibbles.

Some of the topics covered this week include how to recover data from a failed hard drive, setting up your own application to sync with Google Tasks, re-installing system software from your OS X recovery disk, and adding an extra hard drive to your MacBook Pro.

Read on for plenty of handy Mac knowledge, and I hope you’ll find most of it useful for your own situation as well!

A few months ago, I noticed that iChat had a question mark instead of the usual Dock icon. I can’t find the application anywhere!

– Chris

Occasionally, for whatever reason, you might find that an application goes missing. If a piece of software is accidentally deleted or corrupted, when you try to launch it, you’ll see the Dock icon show a question mark over the icon:

iChat Gone Missing?

iChat Gone Missing?

If this happens, the simple fix is to re-install the software. Easy for a third-party app, but what about system software such as iChat, Mail, or iCal?

You’ll need your original OS X installation or upgrade DVD. Insert it into your drive, and open the “Optional Installs” folder after it launches. Open Optional Installs.mpkg, and navigate through until you can select the different applications you’d like to install.

Optional Installs

Optional Installs

One of these should be iChat – select it, and continue on to install just that single piece of software. After a few seconds wait, you should once again have a fresh copy of iChat in your Applications folder! It might be a good idea to run a quick Software Update at this point, just to check whether any new updates are available.

Pick the Software Required

Pick the Software Required

This process works for re-installing pretty much any system software, and is worth remember next time you need to re-install iChat, iCal, Address Book, or any other piece of software that shipped with your Mac!

Can I add an SSD to my MacBook Pro, or do I have to replace the current one?

– Lorenzo Peña Álvarez

All Apple notebooks ship with a single hard drive slot, so the easiest way to add an SSD is to remove the existing Serial-ATA drive, and replace it with the new, upgraded model. This is a really straight-forward process, and you don’t need any technical knowledge to perform the upgrade yourself.

Interestingly, a few enterprising folk have come up with a solution that does allow you to add a second hard drive slot, by replacing the SuperDrive in your MacBook Pro. MCE Technologies make a product called the OptiBay, which converts your DVD drive into space for a second hard drive.

You can either install the hardware upgrade yourself using their instructions, or pay between $49 and $99 to have the company install the upgrade for you. This might be a good option if you really want to have two hard drives available, and can make do with an external DVD drive.

I’m wondering what software is best for recovering files from a hard drive with a broken boot sector?

– Ragnar

Hi Ragnar, and good question. Hard drives are always prone to failing from time to time, but hope is far from lost – it’s often possible to recover information, even if you’re no longer able boot into OS X using the drive.

The most popular piece of software for recovering hard drive data is called DiskWarrior. It isn’t cheap (coming in at $99.95), but has a proven track record of being a remarkably useful application. I’ve used it on a couple of old hard drives that I thought were past recovering, and it was able to restore and mount the drive for me to access all my old data.

I’ve been amazed at how well it works, and would strongly recommend giving it a try. DiskWarrior is an interesting piece of software, as it’s still distributed on a physical disk. You can pick up a copy from your nearest Apple Retail Store, or order the DVD from their website.

Another piece of software that I haven’t tried personally is Disk Drill. This one is free, and might be worth giving a shot before splashing out on DiskWarrior. We actually published a review a few months ago, which you may find useful!

Best of luck recovering your data, and be sure to let us know how it goes.

I’m looking for a quality task management program that integrates with Google Tasks. Can you help?

– Matt

Of course I can! Most GTD and task management applications tend to have their own in-built cloud sync option (almost all – we’re looking at you, Things), and there are actually very few that work directly with Google Tasks.

Fortunately, a fantastic alternative solution is available. This option would be to install a desktop application such as Fluid, which can turn a website into a standalone desktop application. Many people use this for Gmail, and it works equally well for Google Tasks! A novel trick is to set the site to display in your Menu Bar, giving you a minimal approach to desktop tasks.

Didn’t See Your Question?

If you asked a question but didn’t have it answered today, don’t worry! I’ll do my best to get to it in a future week. I love a challenge, so feel free to ask some weird and wonderful questions…

If you’d like to submit your query, you can do so here:

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you agree or disagree with anything I mentioned today!