Encrypting a Disk on macOS 10.12 "Sierra"

Encrypting a USB Drive on a Mac Made Easy
macOS 10.12.x “Sierra” Edition & 10.13.x “High Sierra” Edition

A YouTube video of these instructions can be found here!

NOTE: This was written for OS X 10.12.5 “Sierra.” If you’re looking for the Mac OS 10.11.x “El Capitan” edition, click here. The original blog entry written for OS X 10.9 “Mavericks” can be found here)

Like many of my clients and friends, I use a flash drive (also known as a “USB drive” or “Pen drive” or “Thumb drive” etc.), for backing up important files. One of the things I’ve noticed, though, is how many people put sensitive and personal data on these flash drives but don’t even bother to encrypt them. The reason it’s important to encrypt these flash drives is because these flash drives are usually physically small and can be easily misplaced, lost or stolen. If they are encrypted, you don’t have to worry about the data on them being accessible to someone that may have stolen your flash drive or happened to have found it lying around somewhere.

Apple’s Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” and later operating systems make it easy to do a full disk encryption of these flash drives. You can also easily encrypt Secure Digital “SD” cards and Micro-SD cards too! SD cards are typically what is used in digital cameras to record the images taken with the camera. Most Macs have built-in SD card slots so Apple has made SD cards very easy and convenient to use.

In order to encrypt a flash drive or SD card (we’ll call them “media” collectively from this point onward), you should either start with brand new media or prepare to reformat the media that you may already have. If your Mac has USB 3.0 ports (most Macs since 2012), you should use USB 3.0 compatible media for this project as on-the-fly encryption can slow down reading and writing to an external drive. Please note that when you reformat this media, you are effectively erasing it so any existing data (e.g. files, folders, programs, etc.) will be lost! If you’re using existing media, you should consider copying or backing up the data on that media to another media first so that you can then copy it back to the encrypted media later. All media seem to come from the factory formatted as FAT32 (a holdover from the old MS-DOS & Windows ’95 era) as this is a disk format that nearly all personal computers, whether they be Mac, Windows, or Linux, can read and write. To encrypt your media, however, you’ll need to format it in a Mac specific format called, “GUID Partition Map.” In other words, you cannot easily create an encrypted disk on the Mac without first having changing the format of the drive from FAT32 to GUID.

The first thing you need to do is insert the media into your Mac. Afterwards, press
[COMMAND ] + [SPACE BAR] to bring up Spotlight Search. Type in DISK UTILITY and the first item highlighted should be the Disk Utility application. If it is, press, [RETURN] to select it and it will launch.

Image 5-30-17 at 4.30 PM

In the screenshot above, I’ve selected my flash drive by clicking on it once in Disk Utility (in my example, it’s called, “Lexar USB Flash Drive” in the left-hand column under the “External” column heading. Once selected, I then clicked on the Erase tab. I then changed the format type to “Mac OS X Extended (Journaled)” using the drop down box as shown in screenshot. At this point, you can type in a name for your media (where it says, “Give Drive a Name” ). Naming your media can help you keep your media organized. After all, most of us have several of media, right? Giving them names helps us keep them straight! Click on “Erase” and once the formatting process is complete, your screen should look like the screenshot below:


Please note that the erase function sometimes fails. If it does, simply repeat the steps by giving the drive a name, selecting the correct format and scheme and clicking on “Erase.” Next, you want to find your media on your Mac’s Desktop and do secondary-click it (or hold down [CONTROL] and click on the media icon) and choose “Encrypt [your media’s name here].”


Next, the Mac will prompt you to enter an encryption password before it begins the process of encrypting your media.
Please remember to use a password that is not only hard for someone to figure out but one that you can easily remember. Please also note that if you cannot remember the password you used when formatting and encrypting the media, then you will not be able to access the data contained on that media ever again! You will also be given the opportunity to give yourself a “hint” on what the password is. I’d recommend writing a hint that you can figure out but would be meaningless to someone who doesn’t know you.


In a minute or two, you’ll have an encrypted flash drive or SD card ready for you to use! Remember to always drag your media off your Mac’s Desktop to your Trash to eject it properly. This step helps to prevent data loss that can result by simply pulling the media out of your Mac.

When encrypted media is plugged into your Mac, you will be prompted to enter the password you selected in order to access the data on that media. If you cannot remember your password, you can click on “Show Hint” and any hint you may have established while setting up the encrypted media will be displayed to assist you in remembering what the password is. Personally, I’d recommend that you not have the password remembered in the keychain (call/email/text me as to why!).


While Apple’s Disk Utility program is easy to use, there are a few drawbacks to using it to create encrypted media:

  • The encrypted media can only be accessed with a Mac running Mac OS X “Lion” or later. Provided you know the password, you will be able to access the media and the data on it with any Mac running Mac OS X “Lion” (10.7), “Mountain Lion” (10.8) and “Mavericks” (10.9), “Yosemite” (10.10), “El Capitán” (10.11), and “Sierra” (10.12).
  • The media is not compatible with Windows or any other operating system (i.e. Windows or other operating systems will not be able to access the data contained on the media). Most flash media come pre-formatted for use with PCs running Windows but your Mac can also access them. This process will make your media Mac only. It’s not a big deal unless you live or work in a mixed computing environment containing Macs and PCs.
  • As mentioned above, you’ll need the password you selected in Disk Utility to mount and use the media on your Mac. Without it, the data on the media cannot be accessed.

These drawbacks, on the whole, though, are minor when protecting your data on media that is easily misplaced, lost, or stolen, don’t you think? Give it a try and you’ll see that encrypting media on your Mac is easy to do. If it’s easy and safe, why wouldn’t you use encryption to protect your data?

As always, Tech Me Back stands at the ready to help you with any questions you may have!

Accessibility Features on the Mac

Accessibility & How It Can Help You!
by Guest columnist August Flassig

Apple's Accessibility Logo

Accessibility: noun. the quality of being easily reached, entered, or used by people who have a disability

Apple places great importance on accessibility in the design and use of its projects. It’s not just for people with disabilities but also for those who need a little help in using their products. In recent years, Apple has stressed the importance of simple, straightforward fitness goals to its clients using an iPhone and/or Apple Watch. Examples include the calories expended counter, steps walked, heart rate, etc. Another one of those goals is standing up every hour during the first 12 hours in a day. The premise is that if you stand, you’re more likely to walk and get some exercise. After the Apple Watch’s initial release, Apple realized there are people who can't stand because they are bound to a wheelchair and it changed that goal from “time to stand” to “time to roll.” When you get an Apple Watch and you’re setting it up, it asks if you are in a wheelchair. It’s a small example but one that helps illustrate Apple’s growing dedication to accessibility. Unfortunately, though, accessibility features are those most often overlooked by people using their Apple devices. I recently did a presentation on Accessibility at a retirement community and it’s a topic they have yet to touch which surprised me! Accessibility settings are both in macOS and iOS and TV OS.

Before talking a deep dive, let’s talk about an overview of what accessibility does and show a few useful settings. Accessibility is changing the display resolution, adding subtitles, or using speech to control the computer to accommodate someone with a disability or impairment. Apple has a lot of accessibility features ranging from increasing the size of the mouse cursor to using third party accessories to control the computer. We are going to focus on some of the basic settings because more advanced settings may require third party manuals. Therefore, we will focus on display, zoom, and click speed. I will provide a brief overview and options for these features but please feel free to look at other setting that may pertain to you. All of these settings are in System Preferences on the Mac or in Settings on iOS. Please note that this article will be for macOS and the next article posted will cover iOS as the settings are not universal for both.


This is a quick look at the menu option for Accessibility on MacOS. Currently, I’m running macOS 10.12 “Sierra” (if you are using an older version of the Mac operating system, this may be slightly different). We will only focus on a few menus in this article. The last two options require hardware. If you know someone who uses those, please refer to their respective user manuals.

First, let’s find the Accessibility settings in macOS 10.12. In the upper left-hand corner of your screen, please click on
Apple System Preferences Accessibility Zoom.

Zoom screenshot

The first option I'm choosing is Zoom, which will either make the screen larger (somewhat harder to navigate) or create a magnifying glass (picture in picture option). The zoom style I prefer in Picture-in-picture as I can have a magnified window follow the mouse cursor or leave it in one place. I personally prefer the leave it in one place and mouse over the item I wish to see. To activate the window, choose “Options…” to the far right os “Zoom style” and the secondary window will appear with more options. To make the “Picture-in-picture” appear, drag the zoom slider to the desired magnification. Anything beyond 10x will probably be too large but see what works for you. You may want the window to follow the mouse or make the window stationary. Personally, I prefer it stationary because it’s out of the way and I have the entire screen but the ability to see what’s over my cursor. It’s all personal preference and there isn't a “right option.”

Zoom Options

Display options will cover most accommodations people need when enabling accessibility options. More often than not, on a site visit, Eddy or I will usually change some settings here to make it easier to read for the client. Some options like “Invert Colors” or “Use Grayscale” are for people with more vision disabilities than we've run into but are available. The three options we change the most is “Increase contrast”, “Reduce Transparency” and “Cursor Size.” I have examples of these shown below to better illustrate the concepts. “Reduce Transparency” makes the icons in the sidebar and other interface elements easier to see. The “frosted glass” look of the menus is beautiful, but for those with a vision issue, it may be impractical.

Before reducing transparency:


After reducing transparency:


With “Increase Contrast” enabled, you can see that buttons are outlined, the grays are darker, and reduce transparency is turned off automatically. For some this will make it easier to distinguishing buttons. You can also make the cursor or arrow larger so that it’s easier to see. For those who lose track of their cursor, you can shake the cursor to temporarily increase the size and find it. This is also the place to turn it off if you don't like that feature.

increase contrast

In the same settings you can also see “Open Display Preferences…” click on that to go to that setting. This next tip is for retina display Mac’s ONLY! For those with a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro with a CD drive, a Mac Mini on a 1080P display, or an older iMac (2013 or earlier) this will not be an option for you.

Scaled Display

Scaled display on Retina Macs can make the resolution look as if it were on a smaller or larger resolution monitor. If you select “Larger text” you will see it say “Look’s like 1600 x 900” and “More Space” will say “3200 x 1800.” Most of you reading this will avoid the extreme end of the More Space spectrum and choose larger text. Please note, that larger text means larger windows and file icon sizes. It’s scaling the display to look larger so things will change. I have an examples of scaled and default on a 5K iMac as the demo machine. Screen dimensions will be smaller on MacBooks and MacBook Pros.


The first example is the “Larger Text” option. The Menu bar names are bolder and easier to see. However, Pages takes up the whole screen! You sacrifice space (i.e. screen “real estate&rdquoWinking for size so for those who have multiple items open at a time, you might have to change your workflow.

Larger text

As an example, this is what the default size looks like. Notice I have three windows open side by side, but the menu bar at the top is harder to read. With the more space option, the text, icons, and windows become even smaller. However, my dock remains the same size because it’s loaded with apps.

default scaled

Click Speed

The issue many people have is double-clicking to open a file and how quick you need to be for it to work. Some people take a few tries before it registers before opening a file. In the mouse and trackpad settings of Accessibility, this is where you can adjust the delay between clicks. By moving the slider to the left, closer to “slower,” changes the time in between click to register a double click. On the fastest setting, I even have trouble opening a folder because the required speed is so high. However, on the slowest setting, I can click, wait seconds, and click again and the folder will open. This wont affect other who may click faster than you and slow it down, but give you the opportunity to click at your own pace.

click options


There are plenty of Accessibility settings to choose from and enable that may fit your daily usage needs. This is only some of the more basic settings in Accessibility to choose from. I encourage to click through the menu’s and see if anything else pertains to you and feel free to email us about additional features. When it comes to third party accessories, please refer to your user guide. I hope this article provided some new information on an important system feature and be on the lookout for the iOS version of this article.

As always, should you need some assistance with the accessibility features of your Mac or iOS device, please call or email as we stand at the ready to help!

3D Touch - Peeking & Popping!

3D Touch - Peek & Pop
by Guest columnist August Flassig

In late 2014, Apple introduced the Apple Watch, which went on sale in Spring 2015, with a feature called “Force Touch.” Later in 2015, this feature moved to the Mac, starting with the redesigned MacBook, with the “Force Touch Trackpad.” With “Force Touch,” the surface is solid and does not move, but it can detect varying degrees of pressure between a tap and a press. So on the Apple Watch, pressing harder on the screen gives you new menus and options. Pressing down on the trackpad while the cursor is over a word shows a dictionary definition. A stronger press will speed up the skip speed in a movie. What is amazing about this technology is that when the computer is off, the trackpad doesn't move. It uses “haptic feedback,” where a linear actuator generates a click sensation instead of actual clicking. Apple’s original multitouch trackpads, you could only “click” by pressing down on the bottom half, because it was built similar to a diving board. On the new “Force Touch Trackpad,” you can click anywhere and get the same feedback, even at the very top of the trackpad because the sensors detect where you click. I mention all of this to give a sense of perspective of what 3D touch, a feature very similar but a bit more advanced, will do.

Peek & Pop

3D touch was released on iPhone 6S and 6S Plus (Apple skipped the SE) and uses the pressure sensitivity to add more options and features. They call these features “peek and pop” and I’ll be honest, I think the marketing team must have taken a break that day. For the Mac users here, “peek” is like “Quick Look,” giving you a preview of a file before opening it. On the screenshot below, I’ve “peeked” at the contents of the Tech Me Back website, getting a preview. “Pop” is actually opening them website and I can do this by pressing into the screen. This feature becomes handy so we can stay in the current app but preview a link to somewhere else. If someone sends you their address, you can “peek” at it and see quickly where it is. This means if someone texts you an address, you won’t leave Messages, go into Maps and wait for it to load, see the address, and go back into Messages. The address is viewed quickly, while you’re still in Messages, and the conversation can continue.

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Preview Everything

“Peek and pop” became the new way to preview and even respond to messages and emails. In Mail, I can preview a message (with graphic animations). The next screenshot is the message preview and the arrow pointing up indicates I have more options (Reply, Move, etc.).

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In the preview state, you can swipe left for “Read” or “Unread” or swipe right for “Delete.” These features give you the ability to look at a messages and emails without marking them as read.

While using Messages, JPGs, GIFs, or other media shows in the preview. If this were a chat that I left unread, I can “Peek” into it but still have an icon reminding me to respond. If I were to swipe up, I could get quick replies such as “Thanks”, “Thank you”, “Ok”, and “Custom.” Custom just takes you into the message to respond so it feels redundant. If you got a text saying “I got dinner for you” a quick reply of “Thanks” works well.

At the end of the day, “Peek and Pop” feel more like a novelty more than anything else, and you would be right. Previewing pictures in Camera Roll while taking photos can be handy. Press into the Camera Roll icon (it’s a thumbnail of the last picture taken) when the camera is active and see what happens - it’s kinda cool! 3D Touch goes beyond a basic preview. On the home screen, it’s the right click of iOS (if that app supports it).

Press on Everything

The feature of 3D Touch I love the most is getting options before opening an app. Press hard on the camera icon and get options to open with a specific mode. Press hard on the flashlight and get various brightness settings. Press hard on contacts and get quick access to your Favorites list. Not only do you get these quick menus, but if an app supports a widget, you can add that to your widgets screen, the left of the main home screen.

Final Thoughts

3D Touch is a welcome feature to give a new perspective in how we use apps. While some may find it gimmicky and rarely use it, others use it non stop. Now preview a website before I open it or click on an address to see if it’s close by. I enjoy using 3D Touch. We won’t know what iPhone 8 brings or iOS 11, but 3D Touch is here to stay and it’s evolving. I encourage you to try these new features, explore what they do, and have fun with them! See which apps you use support the quick actions or ability to add a widget. Preview a message before you open it or try a quick reply. Whatever you do, try it and see what you think. If you like it please, let us know and leave a comment. If you have questions, please give us a call.