The Mac Moment: Mac IT Support Toolkit

In his first article, Knowledge Center contributor Ivan Drucker gave the Windows-oriented IT professional some hands-on techniques about how to better support the Apple iMac, Apple Mac Pro, Apple MacBook Pro and other Macintosh computers in their enterprise. Here, Drucker continues to share some more essential tools and advice that will help IT professionals through quite a few common issues that their Mac users will experience.

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It goes without saying that every IT pro has a toolkit at the ready-the hardware, software and knowledge necessary to diagnose and resolve issues. It's no different on the Mac side of the fence. Mac OS X may be a bit different than Windows, but both systems share plenty of problems in common. Macs are no strangers to corrupted hard disks, failed RAM, network connection issues and so on.

In my first article, I talked about how Macs are increasingly popping up in the workplace, posing a challenge for Windows-oriented IT support professionals. This time out, I want to share with you some essential tools and techniques which will make your job easier and which will help you better support the Mac users in your enterprise. What follows are the tools and tips I use regularly to keep Macs running smoothly. (Note: I'm an enthusiast of several of the products below, but I am in no way affiliated with any of their vendors.)

Alsoft's DiskWarrior

An absolutely indispensable utility is Alsoft's DiskWarrior. If you do not have this in your organization, stop what you're doing and order it. I cannot describe how many times DiskWarrior has made a drive boot, made a lost directory reappear or otherwise saved the day. If you remember Norton Disk Doctor from the DOS days-where a simple program magically just seemed to fix everything-that's DiskWarrior now.

The best way to use DiskWarrior is to run it on your own laptop, connected to the user's Mac via FireWire Disk Mode (which I'll get into in a minute). You can also start up the user's Mac from the DiskWarrior CD but it takes a very long time and won't work on the newest Macs.

Bombich Software's Carbon Copy Cloner

Bombich Software's Carbon Copy Cloner is another fantastic tool. Distributed as honor-system shareware, it lives up to its name. It will clone one Mac drive to another, making sure the target is bootable. You see where I'm going with this: when you're upgrading a drive or rescuing a failing one, Carbon Copy Cloner is the tool you want.

If you're copying between drives of the same size, you can perform a block-level clone for an exact replica. Otherwise, it performs a file-level clone, preserving all file metadata and access permissions as appropriate. The author of Carbon Copy Cloner also distributes useful tools for deploying customized installations across networks, and his Web page has a plethora of useful information.