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Help me with me new (used) MacBook Pro
February 17, 2012 4:30 AM   Subscribe

Inherited a MacBook Pro! Looking for some help/guidance for a PC user.

Greetings all. I have been a lifelong PC user (out of necessity - cost/affordability of PCs). I used a Mac for a couple of years when I was in university (15+ years ago) and loved them. I vowed to get one again when I could afford it. Long story short, I have always opted for the cheaper PC versions for my home computers and I currently have an aging laptop and fairly new desktop.

Anyway, I recently "inherited" a Mac computer from my brother in law! I helped him move this weekend and he gave me his "old" Mac laptop for assisting him (and doing all of the heavy lifting). He recently purchased a MacBook Air which he is in love with and he also has an iPad 2, so there was no need for him to have the older Pro. Granted, he did say it has been giving him some "issues" recently (he didn't elaborate) and that the battery no longer performs that well (which I am ok with as I will mostly be using it plugged in).

Anyway, I am completely new to the Mac world. I literally plugged it in the other night, turned it on, went through the set-up process and checked my email through Safari. Everything went smooth thus far (I think).

Without sounding like a total idiot, I didn't even know what "type" of MacBook Pro it was (what year it was released, how old it was, the monitor size, if it was one of those aluminum ones, what version of OS it ran, etc). I did some basic Google searches and found out (with the last 3 digits of the serial number YJX) that it is a MacBook Pro Core Duo 2.4 from 2008? (I think). I know it is running Mac OS X 10.5.8 (as I checked it last night).

Therefore, as a long PC user and relatively new to the Mac environment (I have an iPhone and had several iPods including a Touch, so I am not completely new to the Apple, iTunes and the App world), is there anything I should know? I am finding the layout of the file management system a little weird, but I am sure I can get used to it.

I did an "update" last night (under the Apple icon for the software update) and it now seems to be up to date (I downloaded ALL of the recommended updates). Some of the things that I am wondering:

- Are there any basic scans that I should do to see if this Mac is running smooth and there are no underlying issues with it? (as I said, he noted that he had been having some issues with it lately)
- Are their any basic tests I can do to see if the battery life is a problem (and if it is, can I buy a battery and replace it myself?)
- Is there any software that I should get for the Mac (including an apps I should buy from the Mac store)?
- I have been hearing that Macs don't get viruses as often as PCs. Is this really true? Or should I get a virus scanner and/or Malware scanner?
- I am trying to get iChat started, but I can't (it seems to have skipped the initial set-up stage – I wasn’t given the option to set it up) and I don't know how to get back to set it up
- I want to check out the Mac App store but I don’t think I can from my computer/software. Is this the case?
- Is this the reason why I can’t use FaceTime?
- What about accessories? Do I need a keyboard cover/protector, etc.

Again, I am looking for BASIC information, as I have this beautiful machine sitting home waiting for me to play with it and i have NO idea what to do?

Anyway advice would be appreciated (and please be nice)...Thanks!
posted by dbirchum to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
If it's not apparent from the stuff below, I'm not feeling very up-to-date on Mac stuff at the moment, so I'm not going to comment on the diagnostic or anti-virus stuff.

- Is there any software that I should get for the Mac (including an apps I should buy from the Mac store)?

I'd skip iChat in favour of Adium. I personally don't like Safari and I'm currently using Firefox. (I used Camino for years and years, but the internet has finally surpassed its update schedule to the point some sites don't work.) LibreOffice, I suppose, if you need office applications. Just about everything else I have isn't necessarily something everyone would want/need. (Bibdesk seems to be a perennial winner of bibliography software. Gimp. Inkscape.) Depending on what sort of software you're likely to use, you may want to check if X11 is installed. (I can't remember if it is by default or not.)

- I am trying to get iChat started, but I can't (it seems to have skipped the initial set-up stage – I wasn’t given the option to set it up) and I don't know how to get back to set it up

You can add accounts in the preferences. It's in the iChat menu, or press command-,.

- I want to check out the Mac App store but I don’t think I can from my computer/software. Is this the case?

Offhand, I think so. The App Store came in as an update to 10.6.

- What about accessories? Do I need a keyboard cover/protector, etc.

No. Or I've never bothered, at any rate.

- Is this the reason why I can’t use FaceTime?

Again, assume so. No FaceTime for me on 10.6.8.
posted by hoyland at 4:50 AM on February 17, 2012


This is a long question with a lot of sub-questions. The best thing to do would be to find your nearest Apple store and make an appointment with one of the Geniuses. Make the appointment online, in advance, because there's often a wait in-person.

If you're not in range of an apple store, check out your local library -- they may have a book in the "Missing Manual" or "for Dummies" series for you.

Also -- this will help you when asking for help or looking for the right book: go to the Apple menu and click "about this Mac". It will tell you that your mac is running OS X Version x.y.z. Ignore z, but compare x.y to the cat names on this page so that you know whether you want "Snow Leopard: The Missing Manual" or "OS X Tiger for Dummies" or whatever.

Good luck! Macs are pretty easy for a standard user to get into the swing of, so just ride the gentle learning curve and you'll be fine.
posted by gauche at 4:50 AM on February 17, 2012


Recently switched family members have found this website useful
posted by rockindata at 4:57 AM on February 17, 2012


Yes, definitely visit Apple.com's switch site, and visit the Apple store, where staff can answer a lot of questions, and make an appt. at the genius bar, or take a training there if you really need more help. The biggest issue for me was the keyboard differences, and the heavy reliance on the mouse.
posted by theora55 at 5:06 AM on February 17, 2012


>- I have been hearing that Macs don't get viruses as often as PCs. Is this really true? Or should I get a virus scanner and/or Malware scanner?

This is true. Not necessarily because the architecture is more secure (which more knowledgeable folks than me frequently say is indeed the case), but because so much more attention is given to other environments by malware authors.

>I know it is running Mac OS X 10.5.8

You might consider upgrading to Snow Leopard (10.6) and then to Lion (10.7) (also available for $30 in the app store, which is an update in 10.6). I think your machine could handle it. If your experience upgrading windows machines makes you hesitant, it's very different and (mostly) painless experience with OSX.

A trip to the apple store (if you have one close) would be totally worth it.

There are plenty of accessories available, but I've yet to find the MUST have doo-dad. Keep in mind, they need not be apple brand -- most USB, Bluetooth, and Wifi gadgets will play nicely. Though, it's still a good idea to hunt for the OSX logo when you're considering a purchase.

Enjoy!

[...maybe I should dust off that G4 Powerbook in the back of the closet. I bet it would power up without a hitch.]
posted by GPF at 5:31 AM on February 17, 2012


- Are there any basic scans that I should do to see if this Mac is running smooth and there are no underlying issues with it? (as I said, he noted that he had been having some issues with it lately)

Yes. There is an app that comes with your machine called "Disk Utility." It is often the first thing to check when your computer is acting up. Its super easy to use See this link to learn more about it: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1782

- Are their any basic tests I can do to see if the battery life is a problem (and if it is, can I buy a battery and replace it myself?)

Yes. See this article on the Apple Support forums to learn how to check the health of your battery via the System Profiler. http://www.trickyways.com/2009/08/how-to-check-macbook-battery-health/. Also note that the System Profiler gives you lots of information about all the equipment inside your computer. Additionally, the battery is fairly easy to replace. If you've ever installed a hard drive in a computer, you can do this. See here for instructions: http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Installing-MacBook-Pro-13-Inch-Unibody-Mid-2009-Battery/1332/1 . Also note that there are generic batteries available that are cheaper than the official Apple ones if you're interested in that.

- I have been hearing that Macs don't get viruses as often as PCs. Is this really true? Or should I get a virus scanner and/or Malware scanner?

I don't know a ton about this, but in my 10 years of using Macintosh computers on a daily basis, I've never had an issue, and never bothered to install anti-virus software. Just be sure to keep up with software updates (especially security updates) when they become available from the the "Software Update" app, which seem to be familiar with.

- I want to check out the Mac App store but I don’t think I can from my computer/software. Is this the case?

Correct. The Mac App Store was introduces in OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). In case you didn't know, the current version of OS X is 10.7 (Lion). 10.8 (Mountain Lion) was announced yesterday and will be coming this summer. The updates are typically only $30 and are painless compared to updating a windows machine.

- Is this the reason why I can’t use FaceTime?

Correct. Facetime is an app that you can only get from the Mac App Store, thus you need OS X 10.6 or newer.

- What about accessories? Do I need a keyboard cover/protector, etc.

No. In fact, its been reported that a lot of the cases for Macbook Pros cause unnecessary strain on the hinge, causing it to become weak.

Welcome to the world of Mac! Congratulations on your new computer.
posted by teriyaki_tornado at 6:51 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


just fyi...'defragmenting' your hard drive is something you never have to do again...apple is pretty gung-ho about making 'maintenence' tasks invisible (as possible) to the end user.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:02 AM on February 17, 2012


First off macs are not inherently more secure vs windows 7. At the hacking conferences the macs are the first ones to go down. They are more secure due to less users. Dont blindly install things and you will be ok (this is the same problem in windows or mac). One keylogger for the mac hid itself as an adobe update.

I would upgrade to atleast 10.6. Also once you have 10.6 or 10.7 on the machine if you have a lot of windows software and have a windows 7 disk you can install windows 7 to the macbook pro via bootcamp. there are some things i still boot into windows 7 to do.
posted by majortom1981 at 8:11 AM on February 17, 2012


You might want to run Activity Monitor and keep an eye on available RAM to check for some of the "issues" your brother in law was referring to. If your Mac is consistently using up almost all of its RAM and you're not doing anything more than surfing the web and using iTunes, that might be a sign that you need to add RAM. This goes double if you frequently get the spinning beach ball cursor. In my experience, all of the issues I've had with my Mac have been down to needing to upgrade to more RAM or to free up hard drive space.
posted by yasaman at 9:43 AM on February 17, 2012


Absolutely upgrade to Snow Leopard. You'll need that to get to Lion (the newest version of the OS) anyway.

You should also probably max out the RAM - that won't be expensive and could make the computer much more pleasant to use.

Viruses aren't really an issue with OSX, thankfully. Any virus scanner that you install is likely to cause more problems than it solves.
posted by The Lamplighter at 10:51 AM on February 17, 2012


Welcome to your new Mac! I was a devoted Mac user way back, switched to PCs for a few years, and then became a devoted Mac user again, with iPhone, iPads, Macbooks and Macbook Pros running basically our whole family at this point, so I know where you are coming from.

- Are there any basic scans that I should do to see if this Mac is running smooth and there are no underlying issues with it? (as I said, he noted that he had been having some issues with it lately)

As mentioned, Disk Utility will do this. I think teriyaki_tornado's link above is pretty damn involved for a beginner--just go to your Applications folder and find Disk Utility under Utilities. You can run help within the program if you need to know more about what to do next.

By the way, you can also find files and programs easily on your Mac by clicking on the square smiley face in your dock, which is Finder, to show you where everything on your computer is. Or click on the magnifying glass on the top right of your screen, called Spotlight, to search for a specific file/folder/program (it's basically like Google for your computer).

- Are their any basic tests I can do to see if the battery life is a problem (and if it is, can I buy a battery and replace it myself?)

Easy-peasy solution: free app called Coconut Battery! Your operating system will support this.

Is this your laptop? You need this battery.

- Is there any software that I should get for the Mac (including an apps I should buy from the Mac store)?

I recommend upgrading your OS to Snow Leopard to take advantage of stuff like the App store. It's fantastic, not glitchy at all, and I highly recommend it.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND upgrading beyond Snow Leopard, to Lion! Lion is just a little too glitchy at this point still. Of those I know who have done so, all have regretted it; half actually went back to Snow Leopard and the other half are doing okay, but they preferred Snow Leopard to Lion. I'm running Snow Leopard and have no issues with the App store or iTunes and no desire to upgrade to Lion until I have to (new computer or software I just can't live without requiring Lion to run).

- I have been hearing that Macs don't get viruses as often as PCs. Is this really true? Or should I get a virus scanner and/or Malware scanner?

They don't, because they aren't targeted by hackers the way Windows PCs are. But that could always change, of course. It helps that Apple is pretty strict about third-party software.

I would highly recommend, instead of getting virus scanners or Malware scanners, investing in a Time Capsule as your modem. If you upgrade your OS to Snow Leopard, your laptop will automatically back up your whole hard drive, and then periodically back up any new stuff, on your Time Capsule, at regular intervals. I personally think backing up is the best insurance.

That said, I have had no problems with viruses whatsoever since I went back to Macs.

- What about accessories? Do I need a keyboard cover/protector, etc.

Accessories, nah, you don't NEED them...but some of them are pretty cool. ;) It's really more of an aesthetic choice. I have a red, snap-on Macbook Pro cover like this because I like the look and I use my laptop ALL THE TIME, so it helps keep the case from getting dusty, smudgy, etc. But I don't need it.

You *might* want to get an extra power cord, because if anything goes with Apple stuff it seems like it's the damn cords (usually it's the charging ones that go out, though, so there's no hurry).
posted by misha at 10:57 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


- Are their any basic tests I can do to see if the battery life is a problem (and if it is, can I buy a battery and replace it myself?)

You can check the battery stats by running "System Information", under "Power". I'm not sure which MacBook you have, but even the newer ones that are "sealed" are actually quite easy to service if you're not afraid of disassembly, you just need to remove the tiny screws on the bottom. This goes for both battery and RAM replacement. iFixit is great for this sort of stuff.

- I want to check out the Mac App store but I don’t think I can from my computer/software. Is this the case?
- Is this the reason why I can’t use FaceTime?


App Store is only in Lion. It looks like you can use Facetime in Snow Leopard but I'm not sure if it's available outside the App Store. Either way, you can't use it without an OS upgrade.
posted by neckro23 at 11:38 AM on February 17, 2012


Hi all -

Thanks so much for the many comments and detailed information!

Looks like I will be upgrading to Snow Leopard 10.6.

Also, there isn't an Apple store anywhere remotely close to me (closest one I could find is about a 2 hour flight from me), so thats not an option.

Where does one upgrade to Snow Leopard? Can this be purchased as a download or do I need to buy the actual cd in a retail store?

In the meantime, I still would like to get iChat started. I am sure this can work with my current OS, but when I click on the iChat software, nothing happens. The menu bar at the top changes, but I don't know how to log in, set up my preferences, add people, allow people to add me, etc. Also, can iChat be set up for Yahoo accounts?

Thanks again.
posted by dbirchum at 2:31 PM on February 17, 2012


Where does one upgrade to Snow Leopard? Can this be purchased as a download or do I need to buy the actual cd in a retail store?

Snow Leopard is available by disc only. The only downloadable versions are bootlegs.

App Store is only in Lion.

False. The App Store is Snow Leopard which comes at 10.6.8 I think. You need the App Store to buy Lion. You can buy FaceTime for Snow Leopard in the App Store for 1.99 I think.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND upgrading beyond Snow Leopard, to Lion! Lion is just a little too glitchy at this point still. Of those I know who have done so, all have regretted it; half actually went back to Snow Leopard and the other half are doing okay, but they preferred Snow Leopard to Lion. I'm running Snow Leopard and have no issues with the App store or iTunes and no desire to upgrade to Lion until I have to (new computer or software I just can't live without requiring Lion to run).

I'm going to be contrarian and I DO RECOMMEND you do take the step to go to Lion*. Why? I've had it since the day it came out and have not had problems with it. The people I know who hate Lion hate it because it is new and takes unlearning how things were done in earlier versions of the OS. But since you, dbirchum, are switching to OS X now you're not going to have to unlearn earlier OS X stuff because you never learned it the first place. As the feature guide for Mountain Lion shows, the future of the OS is going to be more like Lion (and iOS). A lot of people that upgrade to Lion don't like it won't run old PowerPC apps via Rosetta and other legacy things that you probably won't be burdened with.

I upgraded to the Messages beta for Lion yesterday so I no longer have iChat, but at least in Lion and Snow Leopard you could add Yahoo accounts. iChat supports Jabber/Google Talk, AOL and Yahoo accounts.

If you see iChat on the menu bar, you should be able to add accounts by going to clicking on the word iChat in the menu bar and clicking "preferences..." From there the preferences pop up should pop up. There should be an "accounts" tab. From there, you can hit the little + in the list of account (which I assume is empty at the moment) and then select the IM protocol and then enter the credentials. After finishing adding your accounts, click the OK or Apply (I'm doing this from memory). It should log you into the service and there should be a window with your buddies (look under the Window menu item to bring it to the top). If your friend is logged in you can start chatting (including via video/voice if the protocol supports it). I only use GTalk now so I don't know how it works with AIM or Yahoo.

Oh, to confirm what model of MacBook Pro you have you can go to the "About this Mac" item from the Apple menu at the top left. I think in Leopard (10.5) there will be a More Info button that will open the "system profiler" On the left pane there's a list of different components of your system starting at the top with Hardware and things like USB, Power, etc. When you highlight Hardware you should see your Mac's info. Mine says this (this is the Lion version of the information, the exact info may vary):
Model Name: MacBook Pro
Model Identifier: MacBookPro4,1
Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
Processor Speed: 2.4 GHz
Number of Processors: 1
Total Number of Cores: 2
L2 Cache: 3 MB
Memory: 4 GB
Bus Speed: 800 MHz
Boot ROM Version: MBP41.00C1.B03
SMC Version (system): 1.27f
and so on.
What you're going to want to pay attention to is your model's Model Identifier label. If you have the MacBookPro4,1 you have the same model as mine (removable battery, silver keys) also known as the Spring 2008 model. Anyway once you know this you can look it up here for things like the Apple part number for it and specific dates it was in production. This will help because it will let you know if your MacBook Pro can be upgrade to new versions of OS X and can research things like the max RAM it can take (officially 4GB but I've read it will recognize 6GB).

Like others have suggested, I'd recommend getting the Missing Manual for Mac OS X. The hardest part of switching to me was having to unlearn how I did things in Windows. Things are very similar but they're not exactly the same. But stuff will make sense pretty quickly when you learn the OS X analogs of things like Control Panel and how the Finder works. Like I said, if I were you, I'd jump to Lion* because you won't have to unlearn things like how the "save as..." dialog menu item has changed or full screen mode. But a lot of the items in OS X haven't changed that much so getting an older version of the book from the library or discount bin should suffice for all but the Lion-specific new stuff. With the release of Mountain Lion, the Lion-specific books might just go on sale soon.

Oh, and last thing, did your brother-in-law give you the startup DVD that came with the MacBookPro when it was new? If not, see if he can dig around and find it because it may come in handy if your Mac needs to be restored back to new. It also contains the Apple Hardware Test application you boot to and it can run a test on the hardware and spot problems.

*My assumption is you have the same model MacBookPro that I have, if yours is older the experience may vary. My MacBook Pro ran Snow Leopard and runs Lion well with 4GB of RAM. If yours doesn't have 4GB of RAM, I'd strongly recommend going to OWC for more RAM. OWC also sells 3rd party batteries for when yours may give up the ghost.
posted by birdherder at 3:57 PM on February 17, 2012


I recently got a (used) Mac too for the first time, so I can answer the battery question. When you need a new battery, you'll see a message saying so on the battery indicator (top right of screen). Mine was also shutting itself off after a few minutes when not plugged in. They are easily changed on your own, but expensive.
posted by FlyByDay at 7:32 PM on February 17, 2012


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