The right way to switch to a new iPhone

I feel enormous guilt, even though I shouldn't. Every time a friend gets a new iPhone, it’s inevitable that I’ll get a call about some basic configuration they used to have, and need help finding out how to put back.  Then I find out they just switched phones. And by this point it’s too late: They just came back from the retail store, and the damage is done.  They won’t even know it, but they’re going to waste several hours over the next week that I could have prevented.

There’s a right way to switch to a new iPhone.  It takes a few minutes of your time, and saves you several, maybe dozens of hours of time.

Done wrong, you’ll be stressed, waste dozens of hours of your time, and possibly lose precious memories or important information.

The unfortunate reality is that most people do it wrong. In fact, I’ve been to over 50 Apple Stores in the US and abroad, and even several Verizon Wireless stores, and not only did I never once hear a customer being told how to do it the right way, but when I asked, they didn’t even know how.  

I’m going to show you the ultimate time-saver that can help you switch to a new iPhone seamlessly. Once I show you the steps, you’ll be able to restore a perfect backup to the same or a new iPhone easily by yourself, whether the switch is intentional, or an accident, like in my friend Steve’s case:

It was Saturday just after 11:00AM when my iPhone chirped. When I get calls on the weekend, they’re usually urgent. It was a long-time customer in upstate New York.

“James! I’m sorry to do this to you on a Saturday buddy… but I just made a mistake.”

“Steve, no worries, tell me what’s going on.”

He explained that he had some friends visiting, so he was mentally preoccupied with entertaining them.  Pool side.  And he had just joined then in the pool…. with his iPhone in his pocket.

I asked if he had the new one already.  He told me he just came back from the store, new iPhone in hand.  He was pretty stressed, and told me about how he dreaded going back to the busy retail store.

“Don’t worry,” I comforted him, “You won’t need to go back to the store. Let’s follow the plan.”

About one hour later, Steve’s new phone was perfect: Every app was back, located in precisely the right spot. His email accounts were perfect, as were his calendars and contacts. His photos and music were identical to the old phone.  Even the pictures he used as his wallpaper and lock screen were the same. Best of all, Steve and I spent maybe about 5 minutes in total getting the new iPhone restored.  “It’s perfect,” said Steve, “Absolutely perfect.”

What we did was simple, but the basic steps are almost never provided as an option to customers at retail stores, including Apple Stores: 

  1. We enabled iCloud backup before the accident happened.  
  2. We only used iCloud backup to restore. 
  3. We do not use iTunes.

iCloud backup, used properly to restore a new iPhone, is absolutely the best way to switch phones.  Here are the reasons why:

  • Every single app you had on your phone will be back, exactly where you had it.  Most of us get used to finding our apps with “muscle memory”.  Try finding an app on someone else’s phone without using spotlight and you’ll get a taste of how it feels to not be able to easily find things.  iCloud backup restores everything, as long as 1) it’s still an available app on the App store, and 2) you have the Apple ID and password that first bought the App or installed it on your phone.  
  • Your iPhone camera albums will be fully restored.  Not just Photostream or iCloud shared photos, but everything that you had on the other phone, no matter how many gigabytes of photos and videos you had.
  • Your Mail, Calendar and Contacts accounts will be completed restored, as well as your settings.  This is a big deal.  Remember how I shared my feeling guilty when my friends or colleagues come to me for help with something?  Well, that something is almost always a pain-in-the-ass issue with their email not being the way it was before, or their contacts not being fully complete (that’s another blog post to follow). When you use iCloud backup to restore a new phone, all you need to remember is your email account password, which you’ll need just once after restore is complete.
  • Downloaded music, playlists, ringtones, settings.. I think you get the picture.  It’s simply everything.  Even the awesome pictures you set for your lock screen and wallpaper will be restored.  

If you want a detailed, on-screen video version showing you the entire process, I’ve created a downloadable Quicktime movie you can play on Mac or PC showing you how.  Just click here to join the Switcher Genius community and get the video for free, along with other great tools to help you save time and enjoy your technology more.  

Ready for the steps?  If you’re just looking for the basic steps, here they are:

  1. Start by enabling iCloud backup in your Settings App.  Make sure you have enough storage to back up your entire iPhone and all of it’s data. 
  2. Once you’ve enabled iCloud backup, make a full backup of your iPhone.  You do this in the iCloud backup settings section. Make sure you’re on WiFi and preferably plugged into power.
  3. Once the backup is complete, you’re ready to restore to a new iPhone.  If the iPhone has already been partially set up, you’ll need to back up or safely get all the irreplaceable information off the new phone first.  That includes photos, text messages you may need, new contact information, audio memos, and anything else that you may want.  Unfortunately there is no way to merge two backups, so that means that you’ll need to start with a phone in a like-new condition, completely erased, at the initial welcome screen.  To do this, you’ll use the “Erase all contents and settings” under General and Reset within your Settings App.  WARNING:  Do not erase your phone until you’re 100% sure that you won’t lose anything.  If you need help, let me know.
  4. Once the phone is reset, you’ll be welcomed again.  This time, instead of setting up as a new iPhone, use “Restore using iCloud backup”.  You’ll need your iCloud login and password, and once you’ve logged in, you’ll be presented with a list of iCloud backups for any devices on your account.  Identify the one that you just completed for your old phone, and select it.
  5. The iPhone will go to a black screen with a white progress bar moving across it.  This is called the “Foreground Restore”, which means you can’t use your phone while it’s restoring the first part of the data.  The Foreground Restore is pretty quick, and over a decent WiFi connection typically takes between 5-15 minutes.  Once the Foreground Restore is complete, the iPhone will reboot.
  6. Next, the iPhone will boot up to what looks very similar to your backed up iPhone.  A message will appear that says the iPhone will now perform a background restore.  You can click continue or OK.  You’ll start getting prompts at this time for logins and passwords, including Apple IDs for music and Apps, as well as passwords for Internet accounts that were configured for mail, contacts and calendars on your phone.  Make sure you have all these passwords at this time and log in each account.
  7. You can use the phone to make calls, text and work the Internet while the phone restores.  As long as you’re on WiFi the phone will restore all the apps quietly in the background.  If you need to leave the network, it’s no problem.  The restore will simply pause, and then resume once you’re on a WiFi network again.  Depending on how much data you have and how fast your WiFi connection is, the background restore can take an hour to several hours.  I’ve let mine restore overnight while I sleep, but that’s because I have about 40GB of data on a 128GB iPhone, so it takes more time.

That’s it! You just switched to a new phone the right way.

A couple suggestions and precautions I recommend you take:

  1. If you have the luxury of holding onto your old iPhone for a little while, I recommend it.  iCloud restore has failed me twice, and both times I spent several hours on calls with AppleCare support, for which I’m at an advantage having not only worked with AppleCare engineers for over 20 years, but also having a background in the NetApp technology that powers iCloud.  I don’t accept no for an answer when it comes to restoring from a backup.  The point is, you don’t want to be in that position.  So keeping your original iPhone is valuable.
  2. If the switch is a proactive switch, and not the result of walking into a hot tub with your iPhone or anything else that can destroy the phone, then I recommend backing up all your iPhone data locally to your computer.  I explain the process for backing up the iPhone photos, texts and everything else in detail in my free eBook and screencast on how to back up, archive and explore the contents of your iPhone.

So why wouldn’t Apple Stores, Verizon Stores and everyone else in the business of selling and servicing iPhones inform every customer about the benefits of iCloud backup? I’ve talked with a lot of employees in both stores about this. This one key piece of information about the best way to backup an iPhone, and the best way to switch to a new iPhone, could save customers a LOT of wasted time and frustration.  

My theory is that it takes too much time to explain, and too much time to stay with the customer through the process: Restoring from iCloud backup is a multi-step process that isn’t intuitive, and requires a lot of really good communication to help the iPhone owner understand explain the benefits and be willing to make a perceived investment of time.  As for time, the process only takes a few minutes of hands-on time, but requires anywhere from a half hour to even a few hours to complete over a WiFi connection.  The retail stores just aren’t set up to do this. 

Why you need to switch your business to the cloud

It's a question I'm asked often, so I thought it may be helpful to provide some of my thoughts on the subject.  

If this is a question you've been pondering for your business, I hope this post helps you by providing some structure around the question, and explaining how I walk a business owner through determining if switching to the cloud makes sense to pursue or not.

When I first wrote this post, I got to the end having documented my entire process for working with a business owner through the process of evaluating and designing a switch to a new system, like moving from their own servers to the cloud.  Then I realized that I skipped the most basic questions people want to know.  So first, the basics:

  • Yes, you can move to the cloud and get rid of your servers.
  • In this day and age no one should own an Exchange server of their own.  It's a waste of money, time and it's slowing you down.
  • Most people don't need Exchange, they just believe they do. They think using Outlook is a reason to keep it.  It's not.
  • Any law firm or business/administrative operation can go to a cloud-based file and document storage and management system. And if it's done correctly, it will be more secure than what's in your office to begin with.
  • Only a few businesses should keep a local file server around, and in a few specific situations.  Designers and architects with complex and referenced file systems are two examples.  This may and probably will change in the future, too.
  • You'll save a ton of money and get back a ton of time if you switch to the cloud the right way.  

There's a right way, and a wrong way, which is why I've written the rest of this post.  Read on if interested!

First, clarify purpose: Why switch?

When I first meet a business owner (usually on a Skype video call, sometimes face-to-face in person) I always start with the purpose.  Their purpose. Why are you interested in switching to the cloud? It almost always boils down to two things:

  1. Saving time by not having to hassle with technology yourself
  2. Saving money by getting rid of stuff and reducing complexity

In my experience, every single business owner out there is already thinking about 1 & 2.  One of the most common statements I hear from savvy business owners is: "I'm wondering if there's a better way of doing things."

Next, imagine expected results: The Future Picture.

Once I'm clear on why the business owner is thinking about switching to the cloud, the next step is to define a Future Picture.  I've personally watched dozens of techs skip right to products (e.g. Office 365) and features (e.g. remote access, sync, etc.). This is absolutely not the time to get into products. Resist the urge to talk tech.  It's not time, and frankly, it's dangerous at this stage.

Ask yourself the question: If you switch to the cloud, if everything goes perfectly, what looks different to you when we're done? (remember, completely ignore all product and company names)

Can you imagine your employees and you getting more done each day with less hassles? Are you able to respond to your clients better?  Faster? Can you find the information you need in less time?

Do you sleep better at night knowing that you don't have the old server in the office to a) break b) fail c) be stolen or d) get hit with ransomware, shutting down your business at any moment?

Will you see your tech/consultant 50%... maybe even 90% less? Or will you have an employee currently spending time on tech get to put 100% of their time back on the job you hired them to do?

The reason you don't start naming vendors or products at this point, even if you love one in particular or think you're already sold on one, is because every tech company out there wants to sell you on their solution. Mac, PCs, smartphones and the cloud are all marketed the same way as laundry detergent and razors. And unfortunately the marketing work because we're used to buying products to fix problems. Have a stain? Buy this detergent. Need a close shave? Buy this razor. The ads focus on how fast, smooth, powerful, etc. their product is. We remember the promises and we buy it. If we like it, great.  If we don't, we buy a different product next time, until we find the one we stick it.

This works great for most things, but not tech. Every tech system, even if you're a one-person business, is an ecosystem of various parts: A computer, the operating system on the computer, applications that do things, settings and configurations that the apps need to run, fonts, network settings, browser settings, security settings, printers and other devices, email, calendar, contacts, the habits and training of the user of the computer, and more. The problem is, switching, adding or removing one piece of the system is a lot like taking medicine prescribed by a doctor: there are a lot of possible side effects from drug interactions.

Just stay focused on what you want to accomplish, without worrying about the how.  How will you measure the results when everything is said and done?  Will you get 20 hours back per week? Will your employees produce 20% more and your technology cost you the same or less per month?

Next, do an 80/20 assessment.

If you work backwards from your customer cutting you and your business a check, you'll immediately identify what products and services they are buying (or you want them to buy), and more important, you can identify what you and your employees actually do to get them to buy, and then to deliver.  In the preceding step, you starting with what you want as final results: More time, more money, happier customers, happier employees.  Now look backwards through your operations to find where things need to happen faster or more effectively.

I did this recently for a law firm of 8 people, including 5 attorneys.  The managing partner had decided to buy a new accounting system that had a lot of features that their old accounting system didn't have. The partner wanted to find out if the system was going to solve the firm's problems, so I was hired to evaluate the technology in the operations.

In my meeting with the attorneys I learned that they had daily trouble finding files for clients calling in. Email always had problems and search was next to impossible. And everyone had different workarounds for the same problems. They each told me how many times per day they experienced the issues, walked me through how they overcome the issues, and told me how many minutes it takes each time.  Did they ever mention accounting once?  It never came up.

I reported back to management: Fix the problems upstream of accounting.  The 5 attorneys can together produce $1,000,000 more per year, with no additional resources or overtime, if the problems with email and search are made to go away.  That's $1M to the bottom line that adds to your profitability.  The owner wanted to invest tens of thousands of dollars into a system that would have a 5% impact on his business, while he was missing a 20% opportunity right in front of him.

Next, project plan it. Here's where we get technical.

Fixing the email problems for the attorneys wasn't as easy as running an update or buying an application.  There were three different ways to do it, and each way would require 4-5 other major changes to make sure the entire system continued to work after the email problem was fixed.  Remember: Drug interactions.  The technical detail needs to be vetted and every possible problem, preventive step or remedy worked out proactively. The project planning stage is usually dismissed as not valuable because techs usually only place value on activities like fixing, installing, transferring and upgrading. And that's how whack-a-mole gets started. 

The best part of planning in my opinion is that opportunities to improve can actually compound. It's like writing a good paper: Once you have the complete first draft out there, you re-read it. And you notice a ton of opportunities to improve.  For me, usually I review and rework until about the 15th or 16th revision.  Sometimes even 2-3 dozen revisions later I have a plan that is ready to review with the owner.

Finally, it's time to review the plan and budget with the owner.

The plan usually presents like this:

  1. What does the current "big picture" look like?  What's working? What's not?
  2. What does the target state "big picture" look like? What works better? How will we measure it? In hours, dollars, reputation, risk?
  3. What is the strategy recommended: How will we do it?  Why is this way better than the other 5-6 or more way of doing the same thing?
  4. What products and service are required, in what order and what do they cost?  Every single line item, down to the last cable, should have a purpose and expected result identified.

When the plan is designed in line with a business owner's priorities their own business objectives, everything presented will make sense.  The key work to accomplish in this step is communication. Every business owner needs to truly understand for themselves at some level why the plan makes sense, otherwise they can't approve it.  It's my job to help them understand my thinking and alignment to their thinking.  Then they can own the plan because it becomes theirs, not mine.  My last job is usually to carry it out and deliver on the promise.

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This is a one-time opportunity to join me in a special class where I'll be teaching everything about Photos on the Mac, from the basics to some crazy fun advanced stuff. This course is designed for anyone who loves photos and wants to learn how to save, organize, share and do more with their photos, with no limitations. I will teach each student how to set up their own photos storage solution and I am also providing several hours of live workshop and training, including one-on-one training, as well as unlimited email support (and more).

When we're done, every student will be a master of their own photos, whether they're using an iPhone or using a sophisticated digital camera. I normally charge over $2500 for the services I'm offering as part of this course, but I'm offering the class for only $299 (with coupon code PHOTOS100) because getting student questions and input during the course is hugely valuable to me, and will be the foundation of future course content.  Sign up now. The course enrollment will close this month, so hurry and reserve your space.

What Inspires Me

I'm stressing in a good way right now to get several things done that NEED to get done:

  1. A more streamlined welcome process for the newsletter (thanks for the feedback Scott!)
  2. Some video samples for the Photos class I'm starting (by popular demand)
  3. Some answers to the really interesting questions in response to the last newsletter

I can't believe the amazing feedback. I'm stressed because it hit me all at once, while I'm juggling being a dad and taking care of customers during the day. But it's good stress. I love it. 

If you're reading this, I'm super thankful. I'm putting more effort and energy daily into this, so check back often.  Good stuff to come.  In the meantime, I want to share one of my inspirations with you: My dad performing his own arrangement of the Cantina music from the original Star Wars.  It's old and high-def wasn't available back then, but I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:


Apple makes a pretty bold statement that your battery "is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity at 1,000 charge cycles".  What's a charge cycle?  There's a good description here, along with a matrix of Macs and the number of charge cycles you can expect.

In reality, I haven't experienced 80% of the original capacity, even at 500 charge cycles. I think Apple marketing sometimes gets a little too aggressive with their language. Recently my wife told me that her MacBook Pro Retina (late 2013 model) was only getting about 15 minutes of battery life on a full charge.  

Her battery had 539 charge cycles and the battery status said "service battery".  And it did cut out at 15 minutes. My battery in a MacBook Pro Retina (mid 2014 model) was at 350 charge cycles, and I was routinely getting about 2-2.5 hours of life at my normal full throttle use. That's nowhere near the advertised 1000 and 80%.

I decided to replace both of our batteries, something my team at TechRoom does routinely for customers. The results were great.  She now gets an average of 7 hours of battery life and I get well over 5 hours.

After replacing the first battery, I decided to record the second replacement to video just to show you the work involved. There are a lot of tools involved that most people don't think about: I use a Magsnap wrist strap that is properly grounded to largely prevent ESD damage, and I am very, very meticulous about the connectors.  This is not a do-it-yourself job. The smallest slip or mistake can ruin the entire computer. The entire process took 38 minutes.  This video is sped up to show the work in 5:

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Please sign up for my newsletter and connect with me on twitter.

Also, hurry over to my upcoming online class on Photos for MacThe first pre-release class will get several hours of live workshop and training, worth over $1,500. Sign up now before the presale ends and get $100 off using coupon PHOTOS100.


Apple wants to help us sleep better.

An update just came out for our iPhones that includes a feature called Night Shift, which can reduce the cool, blue light from our phones and make the screen warmer, and more red-orange tinted.

How does my iPhone or iPad affect my sleep?

There's a lot of research on how blue light impacts our ability to fall sleep. The initial discovery of blue light impact was during research on bird migration, but then 15 years ago scientists discovered a new photoreceptor in our eyes (besides the rods and cones most of us have heard about) called Melanopsin. Research demonstrated that the average person reading on a tablet or phone for a couple hours before bed would find their ability to sleep delayed by about an hour.

I played with Night Shift last night before bed, testing different levels of warmth. My goal was to be mindful and sensitive: What was I feeling? At first it feels a little strange, but after a few minutes the medium setting feels natural. This was my same experience using f.lux on my Mac which it first came out. 

From left to right: No Night Shift, Medium (default) Night Shift, and maximum Night Shift

The trouble with Night Shift is that it doesn't really solve the problem of sleeplessness. It just slightly mitigates it. I noticed my near-constant desire to crank the screen color back to normal in the same manner in which I find myself wanting to crank the brightness up to maximum. If I'm reading email, I want to be 100% on.  If I'm watching a movie, I don't want to do it through rose-colored glasses.

Night Shift will make a difference, but it's not a solution

Still, I think it's great Apple implemented Night Shift. Apple is the best example of a mission-driven, purpose-oriented company, and the impact they can have on health and wellness with the iOS platform is unprecedented. But the bright screens that we look at all day are a price we pay for access to that platform. I can't help but think of Luis Von Ahn who created Captchas, those little codes we enter with numbers and letters on web sites to prove we're human. When Luis Von Ahn calculated that people were losing 500,000 hours per day entering some 2 millions captchas (an activity everyone hates), he got depressed and wanted to do something about it. So he created reCaptcha, so at least all the human hours spent reading letters and numbers could go to something useful: Book digitization. With over 100 million iPhone users in the US alone, the amount of lost sleep per night eclipses most wastes of time.

What does it look like?  Screen shots can't help you compare, because Night Shift doesn't actually change the color data, it just changes the light put out by the iPhone. I took photos of my home screen this morning without artificial light, using my Canon 7D Mark II with an EF 100mm 2.8 IS macro lens (click the picture to enlarge):

If Night Shift even has a 5% impact (it will probably be more) on the 100 million users in the US alone, and even more globally, then that's definitely a good thing.

Apple's Night Shift is a good start, and helpful if you have to be on your device. I'll use it the same was I use Sleep Cycle (link to App store). If I have no choice but to sleep 5-6 hours and I have to get up, I'd rather use Sleep Cycle to detect the best time to wake me that will have the least negative impact on my day.

How to stop tech from making you tired

Instead of shifting, I recommend stepping on the brakes. Take a break from tech. If you want really good sleep, which means both quality and quantity, I recommend some basics that are proven to help you get good sleep:

  • Ignore and don't use devices and electronics during the hours leading up to bedtime. No computer, no phone, no iPad, no TV. There's proven research that shows that the biggest issue affecting sleep isn't blue light, it's cognitive stimulus. Just using a device or watching a video can make sleeping more difficult, and reduce the quality of sleep.
  • Sleep in a pitch-black dar room, with unnatural light sources removed.
  • Schedule to get 8-9 hours of sleep. Some people feel 7 is the right number, others 8. I know from practical experience that at least 8 hours of quality sleep can drastically change your outlook throughout the day, your performance all day long, and even help you accelerate fitness goals.

Finally, I recommend you read Michael Hyatt's 6 Strategies to Sleep Soundly, Wake Rested, and Accomplish More. Especially focus in on points 5 & 6.  It's good advice and it works. 

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And sign up for my newsletter to get updated when I post new how-tos, and to get great content that is exclusive to my mailing list. 

Also, hurry over to my upcoming online class on Photos for MacThe first pre-release class will get several hours of live workshop and training, worth over $1,500. Sign up now before the presale ends and get $100 off using coupon PHOTOS100.


If you're like me, you take a gazillion photos on your iPhone. I also have a Canon DSLR camera (7D Mark II) with some great lenses, and came home today from my older son's sports event with over 1,200 new photos. Taking photos is one thing, but collecting, organizing, de-duplicating, editing, sharing and backup up is a whole other subject.

I am happy to announce early enrollment (PRESALE) of a new Photos for Mac online course I am creating.  The course will officially launch July 1, 2016, but I'm opening it up early to select group of students who want to get involved, learn and get extra support and help along the way.  When the course formally launches, these students will also get the full course, unlimited and forever.

I'm currently deep in development of the course, and I'm ready to welcome a small group of students in so we can work on your questions, challenges and problems together. I think this is the best way to create the solutions, answers and great resources that will make this course incredible.  For early-bird ("presale") course purchasers, I'm providing an extra bonus:

  1. 90 days of unlimited email support
  2. 1-hour live online workshop/training sessions with me between now and when the course launches.  That's at least 6 hours of live online workshop/training time to go over your questions, implement solutions, and to get and give feedback so you can become even more awesome at managing your photos.  That's over $1,500 worth of support, included for free for presale course purchases.

The course will launch for $399 on July 1, 2016, and will go up in price to $499 starting August 1. For a limited number of students, you can enroll right now using coupon code PHOTOS100 to get $100 off, making the course price $299.  Once you enroll, I'll email you an agenda and schedule for our online training, and you'll start receiving weekly updates with new lectures and course materials you can start using right away.

I am looking for awesome people who want to have fun, learn a ton and get a huge amount of value out of me, especially over the next three months.  Are you in?  Sign up here.


When Microsoft released Office 2016 for Mac, I jumped on it immediately.  I wish I didn't have a dependency of any kind of Office, but I still use Excel primarily because it's what I used all the way through business school. The other apps, PowerPoint and Word, are just there to use when people send me documents via email.

While it was nice that Office 2016 finally supported my MacBook Pro's Retina display, the downside was that Microsoft probably released the Office suite 3 months too early. Or more probably they weren't paying attention to Apple's development cycle, because right after release both Office 2016 and Office 2011 experienced more spinning beachballs, freezes and crashes than I had seen in over a decade.  It was pretty bad, and a slew of near-weekly updates started coming out to address the issues.

The last round of updates just came out, and they seem to make Office 2016 much more stable, and even a bit faster launching.  I highly recommend downloading and installing the updates right now.  

How do you update Microsoft Office 2016 or 2011 on a Mac?

  1. Run any of the Office applications
  2. Then select the Help menu at the top of the screen
  3. Select Check for Updates from the pull-down menu
  4. Once Office finds the updates, quit all your Office apps, run the updates and then reboot.

Things should run much better after the updates.  That said, keep saving changes, and I recommend updating your autosave preferences to 1) make sure they're on and 2) adjust for the number of minutes you're OK potentially losing work in the event of an Office panic-attack (aka crash).  Go to your application menu (e.g. Excel, Work, etc.) and select Preferences, then select Save:

Then make sure your Autosave is turned on, and the number of minutes is adjusted to your preference:


Our email inbox is kind of like another "system" we use every day.  Stuff goes in, stuff goes out. At least it's supposed to go out.  The reality is most inboxes get clogged up. And it gets worse the older you get.  More email, and more straining processing it. 

I call it irritable inbox. And it's painful.

You need an Inbox Cleansing.

Fortunately, I've got the prescription. And everything's available over the Internet.


  1. Your email syncs perfectly on all your devices.
  2. 99% of your time is spent on email you care about.
  3. 1% or less of your time is spent on email you don't care about.
  4. AND you can choose to spend 50% less time trying to push email out.

Less pushing, more flow. Sound good? Here's how:


There are basically five major options for email today:

  1. Free email (e.g. Yahoo, Gmail, iCloud, AOL, etc.)
  2. Host your own email server
  3. A gazillion different "2nd-class" companies selling hosted email (Godaddy, Network Solutions, your PC consultant reselling it under a 'white label' aka Cpanel, etc.)
  4. Office 365 from Microsoft
  5. Google Apps for Work (Business-class gmail with your own domain name)

Free email: OK if you can tolerate subtle, aching pain over a long period of time.

  • Spam = usually a problem
  • Privacy? What privacy. Bring on the ads.
  • Use your own domain name?  Nope.

Host your own email server: Don't do it.  There's not a single good reason to do this anymore.

Hosted email from 2nd-class companies: You're putting off the inevitable switch to Google or Microsoft and you'll trade any cost savings with current and future loss of time and productivity.

  • They're rarely better than free email services, maybe with just less or no direct advertising.
  • Almost no one offers a complete email+calendar+contacts solution other than reselling Office 365, which isn't nearly as good on an iPhone, Mail and Calendar as their competitor's product, Google Apps for Work.

Office 365: Unless you are totally dependent on Microsoft Exchange, you really don't need it. 

  • Office 365 goes down a lot more compared to Google, and even compared to iCloud.
  • The back-end interface is written for tech nerds, and is both unintuitive and irritating. And who needs more irritation? A business owner or head of household ought to be able to manage their own email, users, preferences, etc., and not have to retain a Microsoft Certified tech.
  • Poor search capabilities compared to using Google Apps and Spotlight on a Mac.

Google Apps for Work: Full disclosure: I switched to Google Apps about 8 years ago. And I haven't been disappointed.

  • Google and Apple may be rivals, but Google works swimmingly with Mac and iPhone apps. I don't use Chrome, except for some housekeeping.  I use Mac Mail, Calendar and Contacts, powered by Google on the back end.
  • Amazing search capabilities.
  • An admin dashboard designed for neophytes as well as hard-core tech nerds.
  • The most useful server-side filters in the Observable Universe: This is the killer functionality that can give you back 500 hours per year.
  • Works better than Office 365 for Mac users and Windows users with iPhones or Androids.


Ok, so you switched to Google Apps for Work.  Good call.  If you didn't, tweetemail or call me.  I can help you switch, usually in a few hours, and you never need to leave home or the office.

Next, set up your filters.  I wrote an article on the best email feature ever a few years back.  It still applies today.  I estimate that I have an extra 500 hours per year back to my life because of it. You can too.


There are tons of reasons to do this. Basically, when you own your own domain name, you can keep your same email address no matter who you switch to for email today, and in the future. Keeping your email address means all you need is to move your historical email. No notifying people of a new email address, missing emails, getting phone calls asking why your old email is bouncing back, etc. More Switchability® is a good thing.


There's a lot to this.  Whether you're using Google, Office 365 or anyone else's email service, the application you're using is probably Mail or Outlook (or any variety of other things out there). Some of the young lads and lasses out there use Chrome, which is cool too.  For any of these, knowing what all the settings and preferences do, and configuring them properly, can make a big difference in your productivity.  

For example, did you know that if you have Google Apps (business gmail), you should turn off Junk Mail Filtering?  If you don't, Apple's OS can get overaggressive and start throwing valid emails in spam, which you don't need because Google does an excellent job at it already.  So if you're on Google Apps, turn it off.   


Email feel out of control?  Or backed-up? That's the 1st sign you need to switch email vendors. 

Are you spending more than 5% of your time redundantly deleting the same kind of messages - things you don't want, spam, etc. - every day? That's the 2nd sign.

Has this been going on longer than a month without resolution?  That's the final straw.  And it's a sign that it's time to switch to email that works.  There's a saying: "We only change when the pain gets too great."  The problem with email is that it's a dull, lingering pain.  By the time it's too great, you'll turn around and regret having wasted thousands of hours.  

Being "too busy" with anything is not a good excuse to put this off.  The last three migrations I performed for business owners required less than 90 minutes of the business owner's time over three calendar days, and they continued working while the migration happened in the background.

What a Clean Inbox feels like

It's hard to explain to anyone who hasn't experienced it, but boy oh boy does it feel good. You'll sleep better at night.  You'll have a better time at the dinner table with family. You may even feel inspired to go for a jog, do some yoga, or whatever floats your boat. 

Getting email in and out every day is an awesome feeling.  It's even better if you end each day with zero messages in your inbox.  Processing email with tips and tricks like the ones that Tim FerrissPat Flynn and Michael Hyatt talk about is only half the solution.  The first challenge is getting a platform that works well and can be automated without having to be a tech and without having to spend countless hours tweaking.  

If you need help getting your email platform set up, let me know by dropping me a line at TechRoom or connecting with me on Twitter.

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I'm going to share my favorite tools for quickly finding out what's taking up all the space on your hard drive. At TechRoom, I perform dozens of MacBook Pro storage upgrades every week, and one of the most common questions I get is "what's taking up all the space on my hard drive?" This is really important when it's not obvious, like when your Mac shows you a large amount of space being used by "other".

I'll show you how to find out on a Mac, then I'll show you to do the same on PC as well, so if you're using Windows on a Mac, either with Bootcamp or a virtual machine, you'll be able to see where all your storage is going.  If you're a PC user, just use the same tools.

What's using all the space on my mac?

There are two approaches to finding out what's taking up all the space on your Mac.  One approach is to hunt and peck, just looking for folders or going after things based on someone else's experience and advice. This is no fun, it's time consuming and frankly it can be dangerous. The best approach is to use an app designed to show you everything.  That's where GrandPerspective comes in. GrandPerspective is a free utility that graphically shows you what's using your disk space.  Here's what to do:

  1. Download GrandPerspective here
  2. Open the disk image (.dmg) and drag the app to your applications folder
  3. Run GrandPerspective. It will open to a window allowing you to select what you want to scan. Pull down the drop-down menu and select your computer, which is the highest level you can go.  When you do, you'll see your hard drive (or hard drives, if you have more than one).  Select the drive you want to scan, then click scan.
  4. GrandPerspective will scan your entire drive, then present you with a window that shows all the data, color-coded based on one of a few options, and with boxes that represent the relative size of the file or other that's sitting on your hard drive.
  5. You can move your mouse over the files, and GrandPerspective will show you the file name, file path and size of the file at the bottom of the GrandPerspective window.
  6. Want to get to the file quickly?  Just control-click or right click on the file and select "Show in Finder" and GrandPerspective will open up a new Finder window with file or folder right in front of you.

Here's an example I just took, scanning my own MacBook Pro 1TB flash drive:

If you control-click (right click) on anything, you can select "reveal in Finder":

Which will open the finder and present the file, so you can take action, such as copying it elsewhere, throwing it away, etc.:

GrandPerspective is free, and personally, it's my favorite.  It's simple and logical, but maybe not the most intuitive. There's a really good alternative available in the App Store called DaisyDisk (link to App Store) which I think is more intuitive, and definitely fancier with pretty graphics.  DaisyDisk is a lot prettier and more intuitive for selecting a drive to scan, but the interface for finding things is just confusing to me and seems to be way prettier than useful.  That said, it is in the App Store, which is nice for those who want to stay in Apple's somewhat protected ecosystem of apps that are less likely a potential risk for viruses, etc.

What's using up all the space on my PC?

Note: Applies to both PCs as well as Windows on Macs with Bootcamp, VMWare and Parallels

On a PC, the options are, as expected, less elegant, but still practical.  I use Jam Software's TreeSize Free app, which you can find and download here.

In what is classically Windows-esque presentation, TreeSize Free simply calculates the sizes of all folders at the top level of the hard drive, and sorts it from biggest to smallest, top to bottom.  You can expand folders by clicking on the twiddles (that's the technical term for the little arrows for expanding folders).

Was this helpful?

If you found this helpful, would you share this page with a friend? Just use the share icon below.  And sign up for my newsletter to get updated when I post new how-tos, and to get great content that is exclusive to my mailing list.  And please let me know if this was helpful in the comments below or on twitter.


Stop online thieves from taking your Mac hostage.

This past Sunday about 6,500 Mac users received the ransom note. All their documents, photos, everything, held hostage. A message offers their data back if you pay a fee (about $400). Ransomware - software that takes all your data hostage - is now a reality on a Mac.  

Ransomware has been around since 1989, but up until now has only been a problem for Windows PCs. And it's a big problem. One of the most recent ransomware viruses extorted more than $18 million from users. 

Because I work with both PCs and Macs, I have been seeing PC Ransomware cases regularly for years. Ranging from attorneys with all their client data seized and held hostage (most ransomware travels inside of Microsoft Word documents), to moms and dads losing access to all their family photos and other documents. Sometimes they paid the ransom. Even then, they don't always get their data back. 

Ransomware is now a problem for Mac users. There are steps you can take to protect yourself from the thugs that steal data.  On a Mac the steps are easy. Do it now.  If you're a Windows user, the same principles apply to you, even though the apps may be different and less easy to use in most cases. 

Step 1: Backup the right way.

It's easy on a Mac, and you can make it a nearly-automated process, with multiple backups you can go back to no matter what the situation. If the latest backup gets compromised, we can go back a week. Or two. This system worked well for me when my MacBook Pro was stolen.

Using Apple's built-in Time Machine

I use Time Machine to make continuous backups every hour. You can do this with a basic hard disk (link to the drives I use on Amazon) connected to your Mac with no additional software.  Or you could make it more convenient and defeat human behavior by putting in place a more automated system that doesn't require you to plug in. My Mac uses Time Machine wirelessly at home and at the office. I put the same in place for my employees and my family members. I use a Mac Mini with Apple's built-in Time Machine server service, which allows you to back up a team of people over a wifi connection.

Using Carbon Copy Cloner

I use Carbon Copy Cloner to make a perfect, bootable disk image of my Mac every night. There are a lot of ways to do this, the most simple is to pick your hard drive, then pick an external drive, and let Carbon Copy Cloner do all the work.  

I prefer setting up Carbon Copy Cloner for a rotational backup system. I set the app up to ignore discreet volume identification: In English this means that I can write a schedule that tells Carbon Copy Cloner to back up my machine every night at the same time no matter which of three (or more) drives I have plugged in. This allows me to rotate them so that I can disconnect and stash the other drives elsewhere, not just disconnected from the Internet, but also off-site.

I keep a backup from home at the office, and one from the office at home. You can even use Carbon Copy Cloner over a wifi network.


Finally, I use Backblaze, a cloud-based backup software I'm growing really fond of. I was introduced to Backblaze by my bud David Sparks over at Macsparky. While Backblaze won't create a bootable backup, it's a cloud-based backup for Macs and PCs that treats Macs as first-class citizens, and even allows you to control your privacy settings.  Like Apple, Backblaze allows you to keep your own encryption key, which means that even Backblaze can't get to your data if you lose the key. This is seriously cool if you care about your privacy. 

I think David Sparks said it best over at MacSparky: If you get hit with ransomware, the only real solution is to nuke and pave your hard drive.  Have your backup ready and you'll be as calm and instantly in control no matter what happens.

Step 2: Don't accidentally disable Apple's built-in protection.

Apple has built-in software on modern Macs called Xprotect that Apple actively updates to protect your Mac from known malware (ransomware is a type of malware).

While it's not a guarantee against ransomware and other threats, Apple is pretty responsive for a big company, especially when it comes to threats.  When the ransomware was recently discovered, they moved quickly to yank the ability for users to install the app that contained it.

To let Apple do its part, make sure "install system data files and security updates" is checked in the App Store preferences within System Preferences (located under the Apple Menu).  Notice that I let Apple download all updates, and I let Apple install security updates automatically, but I don't allow Apple to update apps and OS updates automatically. There's a big reason for this. The ransomware that just hit thousands of users was evil code that someone slipped into a popular App that isn't available on the App Store, but is available on the Internet.  I'm preparing for the day when someone figures out how to sneak code into an App and get it into the App Store  It hasn't happened yet to my knowledge, but I don't want to be the first to experience it.

You might call me paranoid, but to me it's like looking left and right before crossing a street.

Step 3: Get additional protection.

Most Mac users don't have any idea how bad it is out there for Windows users. Did you know the average Mac user transmits at least one virus, malware or other threat per week? I get at least one Windows virus per day.

One of the first things I do for businesses and individuals I serve is teach them about cloud-based anti-threat protection. I use Sophos to actively screen my Mac including at the network level. 

This means I get alerted to threats as they're coming in, and even if they are idle. This includes PC viruses that won't affect me, but could affect someone if I unknowingly forward a document that contains a nasty.

There are other antivirus suites out there, and I've used almost all of them.  The problem with most antivirus software is that it bogs your computer down.  This doesn't happen with Sophos. Sophos has been around for over three decades, and was even on a lot of the original Mac OS X machines under the hood.

Sophos isn't cheap, but in my opinion it's the best.  I use Cloud Endpoint, which costs up to $250 per user per year. And because it's an organization-based product typically reserved for Enterprise, the version I use required a few hours of setup.

Step 4: Use your Mac and the Internet with care.

The app that contained the ransomware, Transmission, is a bit torrent client, which means it's designed for downloading files over the Internet, both legitimate and illegitimate. It's not available on the App store, and probably never will be. While I'm all for an open Internet and open platform where people can design and sell software independent of Apple, there's something to be said for the App Store where Apple takes great care to inspect and vet the apps before making them available.

I'm seeing more malware cases on the Mac.  This month we've had over 10 cases at TechRoom. In all 10 cases the customer shared with me that the ad they clicked on or the app they downloaded felt wrong. Besides taking the steps above to Backup, keep your Mac security up to date, and enabling hardcore anti-threat protection, trust your instincts and stay away from things that feel suspicious.  You'd be surprised how good your own instincts are, even if you're not a techie type.

Action Items

The most important thing: Take action now.

  1. Make sure you haven't disabled security updates on your Mac.
  2. Go buy a hard drive (or three) and set up Time Machine now.
  3. Download and buy Carbon Copy Cloner.
  4. Download Sophos (link to free version). If you need the hardcore version for your home or business you're welcome to reach out to my team at TechRoom.
  5. Be careful out there. If you're a business owner, make sure your IT person is actually managing things to prevent non-work related apps from getting on your computers.

Have a question?  Let me know. I'm @jamescoleman on twitter