How to navigate the Genius Bar at the Apple Store

The “Genius Bar” name may do a disservice to everyday Apple users, scaring them away from fixing their own devices and implying only a “genius” can troubleshoot them. But sometimes, going to the Genius Bar makes sense—especially if your phone or Mac is still under warranty and you can get it fixed for free.

The vast majority of PC and phone manufacturers don’t have retail locations where you can walk in and get service—in fact, a lot of them require you to mail your device in for warranty service. A short trip to the Apple Store is much, much easier.

So if you’re headed to the Genius Bar for some help, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Research the issue before you go

Before you go: check with Google and see if the problem is easily fixable at home. If your iPhone is having trouble charging, for example, the charging port may just be full of lint—grab a toothpick and try to clean it out. You’d be surprised how often people waste a trip to the Apple Store for such a simple solution, and if you can save yourself an hour of hassle, you’ll feel pretty smart, too.

Similarly, the problem could be on your end—maybe your computer’s “slowness” is actually a poor Wi-Fi signal degrading your internet speed, or maybe your sound is finicky because the headphones are broken.

Plus – back up your data before you hand your phone or computer over to Apple. You never know when something will go wrong and you’ll be left without your crucial files.

Get an appointment—don’t try to walk in

Once upon a time, you could walk up to the Genius Bar, wait a few minutes, and get quick service. Those days are long gone. If this is your first trip in a while, going to the Apple store is like going to the DMV now, and an appointment is crucial if you don’t want to stand around waiting. Head to Apple’s website, click the “Get Hardware Help” button at the bottom, and make an appointment for the device in question. (You can also do this from the Apple Support app.)

If you have multiple issues or multiple devices that require service, make multiple appointments back-to-back from one another. Apple schedules those appointments assuming they’ll last 10-15 minutes each, so bringing a bunch of “but also” problems with you is only going to slow them down—and potentially get you worse service from a rushed technician.

Familiarize yourself with AppleCare

When you buy an Apple device, you get a one-year warranty with the device called AppleCare. You also have the option to purchase an extended warranty called AppleCare+, which not only adds an extra year (or two) of service but includes coverage for accidental damage, theft, and loss. That does not include a broken screen.

If your device has a known issue that you didn’t cause, then AppleCare will likely give you the repair for free. But if you damage your screen, dunk the phone in water, or otherwise damage it accidentally, you’ll have to pay a service fee to fix that damage. It’ll just be a lower service fee than you would have paid without AppleCare+. So don’t go demanding a free repair you aren’t entitled to.

In other cases, Apple may deny warranty coverage if you’ve damaged the phone, even if that damage isn’t directly related to your issue. The same goes for devices that you or a third party has repaired: Apple may decline to offer warranty coverage, even though it is illegal for them to do so. We’d encourage you to remind them of that fact if they try to pull a fast one.

See if you’re eligible for at-home repair

If you need service on a desktop Mac, it might be a hassle to take it into the store. They don’t advertise it heavily on their site, but Apple actually offers at-home repairs for desktop Macs if you’re still under the AppleCare warranty. You’ll need to give Apple a call, explain your situation, and they should be able to transfer you to a supervisor who can set up an at-home visit.

Don’t be afraid to look for help elsewhere

Geniuses are given specific troubleshooting steps by Apple, and many will just stick to those. Others may go above and beyond the call of duty, but that’s never guaranteed.

So if the Genius Bar can’t fix your problem, take it to an independent repair shop (or even a tech-savvy friend) and see if they can do anything. You may be out of luck, but you never know. So like visiting any other doctor, get a second opinion first.

Be nice, but be firm

At the end of the day, the Genius you’re talking to is just another person working their daily retail job. If you run in, angrily demanding repairs and blaming the Genius for your problems, you’re going to have a much worse experience than someone who is polite, listens carefully, and doesn’t act like you know more than them (even if you do). That doesn’t mean you should be a pushover—be firm in the resolution you want, especially if you know you’re entitled to it—but a little kindness goes a long way.

Wait… is there another option besides the Genius Bar?

Yes… It’s us! Faster, more available, and less people and hassle to deal with. Contact Us and we will take care of you before you spend hours at the Genius Bar!

Can You Encrypt Your Documents Before Sending Them in Email? Yes!

So – you have a Word, Excel, or PDF document that you want to send via email, but it is sensitive in nature. Now you are wondering if there is a simple way to encrypt that document so that no one can open it, unless they have the password. The answer is YES, and you don’t have to buy an expensive program to accomplish this.

This article will describe how to encrypt your documents using either the 2011 or 2016/2019/Office 365 versions of Word and Excel, and also how to use Apple’s included Preview program to encrypt your PDFs.

Important note!: You should use some other form of technology to communicate the password to your receiver(s), such as a text message, a phone call, or snail-mail. Using email to communicate the password defeats the whole purpose!

Encrypting PDFs

Apple’s Preview app can encrypt any PDF file in preparation for emailing or any other file-transfer method.

  • Open your PDF in Preview and go to the File menu
  • Hold down the Option key and choose the “Save As…” option.
  • In the dialog window that opens, you’ll see a checkbox titled, “Encrypt”. Select that and also give your document a slightly different name.
  • After checking that box, you’ll see a Password and Verify field. Enter your password into each of these and click the “Save” button.
  • Your newly encrypted PDF file’s desktop icon will now look like this:

What about PDFs within Windows?

Lifewire has a great article about encrypting PDF documents in Windows, using a free utility, PDFMate PDF Converter.

Encrypting Microsoft Word Documents

The methods Microsoft uses for various versions of Word look different, but the result is the same. You get a password-protected document that is not openable without the password (even by Microsoft).

Word 2011

  • Open your .doc or .docx file in Word 2011.
  • Go to the menu File:Preferences and click on the Security icon.
  • You will be presented with a dialog box in which to enter your password. I recommend NOT entering the password in the “Password to modify” box.
  • Press the return key to accept your password, then enter it a second time.
  • Save your document.

Your new file’s desktop icon will look like this:

Word 2016/2019/Office 365

  • Open your document.
  • Click on the Review Tab
  • Click on the “Protect Document” icon
  • Enter your password in the “Password” field. I recommend NOT entering it into the “Set a password to modify this document” field.
  • Click the “OK” button and save your document.

Encrypting Microsoft Excel Documents

The methods Microsoft uses for various versions of Excel look different, but the result is the same. You get a password-protected document that is not openable without the password (even by Microsoft).

Excel 2011

  • Open your .xls or .xlsx document in Excel 2011
  • Click on the Review tab
  • Click on the “Passwords” icon
  • Enter your password in the Password box. I recommend NOT entering the password in the “Password to modify” box.
  • Enter your password in the “Reenter password to open” box.
  • Click on the “OK’ button and Save your document.

Excel 2016/2019/Office 365

  • Open your Excel document
  • Go to the menu File:Passwords…
  • Enter your password in the “Password to open” box. I recommend NOT entering the password in the “Password to modify” box.
  • Click on “OK” and reenter your password in the “Reenter your password to edit” box and click OK and Save your document.

What about everything else?

The simplest way to encrypt other documents is to use an app that can password-protect your compressed .zip file (which the Mac does not do natively).

Keka is free from their website, or $2.99 from the App Store. It is simple and easy to use. Make sure to review their Help menu to get started.
WINZip is free for a limited time, and although its interface feels complicated and dated, it does work.

Practice Makes Perfect

Once you’ve gone through these procedures once or twice they will probably feel much easier for you. But if not, Contact Us, and we will be happy to walk you through all of it!

MacOS Catalina – Should You Upgrade?

Catalina

(Update Oct. 2019 – Catalina breaks almost all DJ program’s ability to read the iTunes library. If you use DJ software, triple check with the author to ensure compatibility, or heartbreak will ensue.)

(The answer is – No, not yet!) Apple is slated to release the latest version of its Mac operating system, 10.15 Catalina in September of 2019. As with many major operating system updates from Apple, this version introduces some huge changes under the hood. Because this new system runs in 64-bit, many of the apps that you’ve been using for years may no longer work in Catalina.

Unless you have a pressing reason to upgrade right away, we recommend waiting to upgrade, perhaps until 10.15.1 or even 10.15.2 is released later in the year. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to prepare for that day. Educating yourself is the best thing to help you with that.

What is new in Catalina?

Catalina has more major new features than we’ve seen in past macOS upgrades. There are a few new apps, and several other apps with major new features. Performance has been improved and usability has been increased. Here’s a quick list of some of the new features and apps:

  • Project Catalyst: iPad apps that have been brought over to the Mac
  • Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV apps that replace the iTunes app
  • Improvements to the Photos and Notes apps
  • Three new features in Apple Mail: mute a thread, block a sender, and unsubscribe
  • Safari updates
  • A redesigned Reminders app
  • A new Find My app that combines the features of Find My iPhone and Find My Friends
  • Screen Time for Mac
  • Sidecar, for using an iPad as an external display
  • Voice Control

What’s Different about Catalina?

Apple has announced that macOS 10.14 Mojave will be the last version capable of running 32-bit applications.

You’ve probably been seeing alerts like this one:

App not optimized dialog box

As Apple finalizes its transition to all-64-bit code, Mojave and High Sierra present an alert like this when you launch a 32-bit application. While it’s not a crisis now, you’ll need to upgrade or replace those applications before you update to macOS 10.15 Catalina later this year.

St. Claire Software has created a very handy and free utility, Go64 that will show you what apps are still 32-bit and which ones will NOT work under Catalina. If you run this utility and find that you have mission-critical apps that are 32-bit, do NOT upgrade to Catalina until you find an upgrade or a replacement. Downgrading from Catalina backwards to Mojave is a non-trivial and complicated action that I do not recommend. You will want to do this homework so that you don’t find yourself stuck in a big mess.

RoaringApps has a site with listings of which apps are compatible with which operating systems.

MacUpdater is a free utility that you can run and it will give you a listing of what needs updating, plus 10 free in-line updates.

What About iTunes?

You may have heard that Apple is discontinuing iTunes and is instead releasing three separate apps to handle what iTunes previously did. Before you take the Catalina plunge, you should consolidate your iTunes library so that nothing gets lost in translation.

Consolidation means making sure that all your audio files are in one place. It means that whatever you or iTunes has ever done with any of your media, you can straighten it out now.

It’s possible, for instance, to have media that is listed in your iTunes library but actually, physically resides somewhere else. But exactly where? We’re talking a decade and a half of using iTunes; nobody remembers this stuff.

Yet if you don’t check it, you could end up discovering that these other files were not copied. 

So in iTunes on your Mac, go to the Files menu, choose Library and then Organize Library. Click the box marked Consolidate files and then OK.

Get iTunes to organize all of your media into one place

If you have any media listed in iTunes but is actually somewhere else, this will bring it all in to iTunes. What it really does is copy any such file. It places the copy within the iTunes Media Folder and updates the iTunes library to say where it is now.

Your files will be specifically copied; not moved. So at the end of this process, you will have two copies of any such media. You could delete the original that’s outside the iTunes library, but make sure you’ve got a backup of the iTunes one first.

What About Microsoft Office 2011?

The 2011 version of Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint (as well as Outlook) will not run under Catalina. In this area, you have basically two options: get Microsoft Office 2019 for Mac or a non-Microsoft alternative.

Office 2019 Mac

For Microsoft Office 2019 Mac, Amazon has a number of options, including a one-time purchase (with limited update and upgrade options); and a subscription model – either a single license or an economical family 5-pack to share with your housemates.

For non-Microsoft alternatives, LibreOffice, OpenOffice, and FreeOffice are all free, though somewhat limited in how they handle documents with complicated formatting. These apps, similar to Google’s Suite of online apps can work well for occasional usage.

Back up your data before you upgrade

Securing your data is critical. Before you go for any macOS updates, make sure you’ve backed up your Mac so that nothing gets lost in the shuffle. By far, the easiest way to do that is with Apple’s Time Machine:

  1. Go to Apple menu > System Preferences > Time Machine. 
  2. Click on Select Backup Disc and choose the disc from among available options.
  3. Check the box for “Back up automatically.”

Help, Mr. Wizard – It’s all too much!

Yes – that’s why we are here. We can do the entire upgrade for you – when the time is right. Contact Us when you are ready and we can get it done together!

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Troubleshooting, small business networks,
Macs, iPads, and printers
Device syncing, backups,
passwords and email accounts
OS and app optimization and updates, and
preventive maintenance