Dealing with Disks - Mavericks Taming (Or “Organization for Smart People”) - OS X Mavericks For Dummies (2014)

OS X Mavericks For Dummies (2014)

Part II. Mavericks Taming (Or “Organization for Smart People”)

Chapter 8. Dealing with Disks

In This Chapter

arrow Initializing and erasing your disks

arrow Using PC-formatted disks

arrow Creating your own CDs and DVDs

In this chapter, I talk about disk basics: How to format them for your Mac, how to format them so that your Windows-using brethren (and sisteren) can use them, how to copy or move files between disks, and much more. Onward!

This chapter offers lots of info that applies to every Mac user — including folder management and moving or copying files to and from disks other than your internal hard drive. I also show you how to work with optical media such as CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and DVD+R DL (dual-layer) — types of discs that many Mac users deal with regularly. You more than likely have an internal SuperDrive (CD and DVD player/burner). Or you may have added external storage devices such as a USB flash drive; a USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt hard drive; or an optical disc player/recorder.

Is that a disk or a disc?

So how do you spell this critter, anyway? Sometimes, you see it spelled d-i-s-k; at other times, you see it spelled d-i-s-c. If you’re wondering what’s up with that, here’s the skinny. In the good old days, the only kind of computer disk was a disk with a k: floppy disk, hard drive, Bernoulli disk, and so on. Then the compact disc (you know, a CD) was invented. The people who invented it spelled it with a c instead of a k, probably because it’s round like a discus (think track and field). From that time on, both spellings have been used more or less interchangeably.

Now, some people will tell you that magnetic media (floppy, hard, Zip, Jaz, and so on) are called disks (spelled with a k) and that optical media — that is, discs that are read with a laser, such as CD-ROMs, CD-RWs, audio CDs, and DVDs — are called discs (spelled with a c).

I’ll compromise. When I speak about something that could be either a disk or a disc, I stick with disk. If I speak strictly about optical media, I use the term disc. I hope that’s clear. If not, my editors made me do it.

Comprehending Disks

Think of disk icons as folders. That’s because your Mac sees disks as nothing but giant folders. When you double-click one, its contents appear in a Finder window; to that extent, it works just like a folder. You can drag stuff in and out of a disk’s window, and you can manipulate the disk’s window in all the usual ways — again, just like a folder.

imageIf you don’t see your hard disk icon(s) on the Desktop or in the Sidebar, open Finder Preferences (choose Finder⇒Preferences or press Command Key+, [comma]) and select the appropriate items in the General and Sidebar tabs, as I describe in Chapter 5.

Although (for all intents and purposes) disks are folders, disks do behave in unique ways sometimes. The following sections explain what you need to know.

Some disks need to be formatted first

Brand-new disks sometimes need to be formatted — prepared to receive Macintosh files — before you can use them. When you connect an unformatted hard disk, your Mac usually pops up a dialog that asks what you want to do with the disk. One option is usually to format (or initialize) the disk — that is, get it ready to record data. If you choose to format the disk, the Disk Utility program launches itself so you can format the disk from the Erase tab.

If you ever need to format or initialize a blank disk and don’t see the dialog, all you have to do is open Disk Utility manually (it’s in your Applications/Utilities folder) and use its Erase tab to format the disk.

Moving and copying between disks

Moving a file icon from one onscreen disk to another works the same way as moving an icon from one folder to another, with one notable exception: When you move a file from one disk to another, you automatically make a copy of it, leaving the original untouched and unmoved. If you want to move a file or folder completely from one disk to another, you have to delete that leftover original by dragging it to the Trash or by holding down the Command Key key when you drag it from one disk to the other.

imageYou can’t remove a file from a read-only disc (such as a CD-R or DVD-R) or from a folder to which you don’t have write permission. But you should be able to move or delete files and folders from all other kinds of disks that you might encounter.

Copying the entire contents of any disk or volume (CD, DVD, or external hard drive, among others) to a new destination works a little differently:

1. Click the disk’s icon.

2. Hold down the Option key and drag the disk icon onto any folder, any disk icon, or any open Finder window.

When the copy is completed, a folder bearing the same name as the copied disk appears in the destination folder or disk. The new folder contains each and every file that was on the disk with the same name.

Copying files in this way is handy when you want to grab all the files from a CD or DVD and put them on your hard drive.

imageIf you don’t hold down the Option key when you drag a disk icon to another destination, your Mac creates an alias of the disk (that is, a link back to the original) instead of a copy of its contents. As you might expect, the alias will be almost worthless after you eject the disk; if you open it, it will ask you to insert the original disk.

If you like using the Duplicate command, note that you can’t use the Duplicate keyboard shortcut (Command Key+D) on a disk, although you can use it on a folder. For the full details of moving, copying, and pasting, flip to Chapter 6.

Surprise: Your PC Disks Work, Too!

One of the most excellent features of OS X (if you have friends unfortunate enough not to own Macs, and you want to share files with them) is that it reads and writes CDs and DVDs that can be read by PCs.

imageAlthough your Mac can read disks formatted by a PC, the files on them might or might not work for you. If the files are documents, such as Microsoft Word .docx or Microsoft Excel .xlsx files, one of your Mac programs can probably open them. If the files are Windows programs (these often sport the .exe extension, which stands for executable), your Mac can't do anything with 'em without additional software designed to run Windows programs.

So if you want to run Windows on your Mac, you need to use either Mavericks' built-in utility called Boot Camp or a third-party program such as Parallels Desktop from Parallels (, Fusion from VMware (, or the free VirtualBox ( Boot Camp requires you to reboot your computer each time you want to use Windows; the third-party programs emulate PC hardware so that you can run genuine Microsoft Windows operating systems in Mavericks without rebooting your Mac.

So with a commercial app such as Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion (both around $60), the free VirtualBox from Oracle, or Mavericks' included Boot Camp utility, your Mac can run those .exe files (which is to say most Windows programs).

imageNone of these comes with a copy of Windows (required).

When running most Windows applications, Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion are almost as fast as a PC. Depending on which Intel-based Mac you have, they might even be speedy enough to play first-person shooters. Boot Camp is even faster but has the disadvantage of requiring you to leave Mavericks and restart your Mac before you can use it. For most other stuff (including the Windows-bundled Solitaire), all three are capable of running Windows a heck of a lot faster than many PCs can.

One last thing: Since most current Macs don't come with a built-in optical (CD/DVD) burner/reader, the details of burning CD and DVD discs are covered in an online chapter you can find at