The pane System gives you access to advanced system settings supported by Mac OS X. The settings apply to the operating system as a whole, so they don't represent user-specific preferences.
Nearly all hard drives contain a built-in sleep timer which is designed to power down the spindle motor, saving energy when the drive has not been in use for some specified time. Mac OS X supports a simple yes/no setting to manage this sleep feature of hard drives. It can be controlled by the option Energy Saver > Put the hard disk(s) to sleep when possible in the System Preferences application. Enabling this option corresponds to setting the sleep timer of disk drives to a value of 10 minutes of inactivity.
With TinkerTool System, you can control the sleep timers of hard disks more precisely, by specifying the exact value for the timer. Time intervals between 1 minute and 2 hours 59 minutes can be selected. To change the sleep timer of all disk drives, perform the following steps:
Mac OS X uses the policy to handle external hard drives like removable disk media. Similar to the management of a CD, which is inserted into a drive by the current interactive user, the user logged in at the front graphical user session is also considered to be the “owner” of all external disk drives. This has the consequence that the external drives will be ejected and become inaccessible after the user has logged out. Moreover, most drives will automatically power down in this situation.
This policy might not be useful in certain cases, for example when you operate the computer as a file server, and you are sharing files on external disks which should remain accessible, no matter if a user is logged in at the graphical console or not. To change this policy, perform the following steps:
This option affects all partitions on all hard drives which Mac OS X considers to be “external” and owned by a user.
Mac OS X follows the strategy to automatically detect all disk drives and all their partitions currently connected to the computer, making them active and visible on the user interface. This might not be useful in certain situations, for example when you have a Windows partition on your computer which you don't need when working with Mac OS X. With the help of TinkerTool System, you can tell Mac OS X not to activate specific partitions automatically. A second, independent option allows you to choose whether the system should allow the execution of programs which are stored on specific partitions. This feature can be useful if you connect “foreign” drives to your system that contain applications written for other operating systems, incompatible with Mac OS X. You can no longer mistakenly try to open programs on such drives.
In both cases, Mac OS X must have a way of reliably referring to each drive and partition. This is done by so-called Universal Unique Identifiers (UUIDs), a sequence of characters like 7F176A72-72B2-3D69-19FC-27ABBEFA662D which are guaranteed to be unique for every partition of every disk drive in the world. You don't need to enter these UUIDs by hand. TinkerTool System automatically finds out the UUIDs and helps you to identify the drives by specifying their current volume names and file systems.
Perform the following steps when you like to exclude certain disk volumes from automatic mounting or execution of programs:
It is also possible to drag volumes from the Desktop or the Finder's computer folder directly into the tables. You can remove one or more volumes by pressing the [-] button below the respective table, and saving your modifications. To discard your changes and return the tables to the state currently established in Mac OS X, press the Revert button.
Spotlight is the built-in search technology of Mac OS X which is designed to find files very rapidly after the user has specified key words or other search criteria. The technical implementation is based on several system services which operate silently in the background. However, Spotlight consumes a lot of processing power and storage space, and it is sometimes affected by technical problems, so administrators may need to fine-tune Spotlight operations in certain situations, or they decide to deactivate Spotlight altogether.
Spotlight is designed to operate as one of the basic core components of Mac OS X. For this reason, other system services and many applications developed for Mac OS X depend on the correct operation of Spotlight and will fail when Spotlight has been shut down. This includes the Time Machine backup service. You should not deactivate Spotlight unless you know exactly what you are doing. Unexpected side-effects may occur.
As of Mac OS X 10.6.6, Spotlight has taken over several additional important system tasks, so switching it off is definitely no longer recommended. When using Mac OS X 10.7 or later, TinkerTool System will no longer offer the feature to disable Spotlight.
To deactivate or reactivate Spotlight, perform the following steps:
The change will take effect immediately. The Spotlight feature (entry field with magnifying glass) in the upper right corner of the screen won't disappear when Spotlight is inactive. Index databases created by Spotlight will also remain intact.
When Spotlight is active, it automatically creates a hidden index database and some preference files on each volume currently connected with your computer. The database and the preference settings are needed to quickly find the contents you are searching for. These hidden components are called Metadata Stores.
For each of the volumes, TinkerTool System allows you to display whether Spotlight is activated on that volume, and how much storage space is currently needed by the Metadata Stores. This information is displayed in the table Spotlight Metadata Storage. Only volumes which are technically capable of supporting Spotlight are listed in the table. A refresh button right below the table will update the contents of the table. This step is necessary to let Mac OS X allow TinkerTool System (after authentication) to compute the size of the index databases. Access to the databases is protected because they contain potentially confidential information, namely all words of all documents all users have stored on the current computer.
After selecting one or multiple lines in the table, you can activate several operations that should be performed:
To start the selected operation, press the button Perform operation on selected volumes.
Note that the deactivation of index operations is only in effect until you restart Mac OS X. Unless Spotlight isn't switched off completely, or you block Spotlight on affected volumes by using the setting Spotlight > Privacy in System Preferences, Mac OS X will continue its indexing services upon next startup.
Under specific circumstances, it might be helpful to disable Spotlight operations on a disk volume “forever”, e.g. on a slow memory stick which you only use to transport data to other computers. This can be done by a special marker which works independently of the Spotlight privacy settings. To set or remove this marker, perform the following steps:
When you attempt to connect to an AFP server (AppleShare file server) manually, a password entry panel will appear. TinkerTool System can modify the system setting that controls which name Mac OS X should suggest in this panel. You can select between the short name of the current user, another preconfigured name, or the option not to suggest any name (No name). Perform the following steps:
As of Mac OS X 10.7, Apple deprecates the use of certain outdated authentication methods, which are considered unsafe according to today's standards when connecting to AFP servers. The operating system won't offer the affected authentication methods when contacting a server. This can however mean that you can no longer connect to old servers successfully. TinkerTool System allows you to unlock certain methods so that they can be used again. Perform the following steps:
The following methods can be reactivated:
Because all these methods are insecure and outdated, you should only enable as few as possible in order not to compromise the security of your network.
Mac OS X has built-in support for the next generation Internet protocol, known as “version 6” (IPv6). The number of available addresses for IPv6 is so large, that it is possible to give each individual computer or, more exact, each of its network interfaces a unique address. When addresses are being configured automatically (which is the recommended default), a computer will keep its unique IPv6 addresses “forever”. This can have disadvantages, however:
As solution to this problem, it is possible to modify the method how an IPv6 address is chosen, even if it is configured automatically. You can force the operating system to use temporary IPv6 addresses only, not reusing the same address all the time. The addresses should change after 24 hours if possible and are guaranteed never to be used longer than one week. (The exact time intervals may vary depending on operating system version.) The techniques used to do this are known as IPv6 Privacy Extensions and are standardized in Internet document RFC 3041.
To enable or disable the Privacy Extensions, perform the following steps:
This feature is automatically enabled in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion or later. You don't need to switch it on manually, so TinkerTool System does not display this setting in this case.
The Energy Saver settings of Mac OS X allow you to activate a feature that makes it possible to wake a computer which is switched on, but sleeping, by sending a special network signal from another computer. This function is usually labelled Wake for network access. The exact wording used for this preference depends on which network interfaces are available for this feature (Ethernet of Wi-Fi), and on the respective Macintosh model.
When this setting is enabled and an Internet router is part of your network which is supporting the feature Bonjour Sleep Proxy, the affected computer will call the router every two hours, even in sleep mode, to signal its operational readiness. If the sleeping computer is providing network services for the local network or for the Internet (e.g. Back to my Mac), the periodic signal lets the router “know” that it could wake the sleeping computer on demand, forwarding incoming network requests to it. All configuration steps necessary to do this are performed automatically by Bonjour. To let the sleeping computer register itself with the router in regular intervals, it will wake itself every two hours to a “half asleep” state, where only the necessary components are powered up, but the display screen will remain in sleep mode (“dark wake”).
Many users are irritated by the regular wake-ups. The continuous power-up and power-down of disk drives can also lead to increased wear. If you like to use the feature Wake for network access in general, but don't need the sleep proxy features, you can disable them with TinkerTool System. Perform the follwing steps:
The affected computer will no longer wake by plain access attempts to a network service when the sleep proxy is disabled. To wake it, a manual Wake On LAN (WOL) signal must be sent first, which is possible via third-party applications.
Each network interface of your computer supports an adjustable parameter, the so-called Maximum Transfer Unit, abbreviated MTU. The MTU specifies how the data sent over the interface should be divided into packages. A network package is the actual technical object (a sequence of signals) the network interface sends or receives during a single network operation. The MTU is the maximum number of bytes each package is allowed to contain. (There is also a minimum size, but it is defined by the hardware standards for each interface type and cannot be changed.)
Tuning the MTU values can improve the performance of network connections. For Ethernet interfaces for example, the standard MTU value is 1500 bytes. When an Ethernet interface is used to communicate with a PPPoE modem only — and not with other computers — reducing the MTU to 1492 bytes will typically improve performance, because this package size corresponds better with the sizes of the data blocks usually transferred during PPPoE communication. When an Ethernet interface is used to communicate with a high-speed file server, which is designed to support extra-large data packages called Jumbo Frames, a different MTU value of 9000 or even 9216 bytes will produce the best results.
There are no general rules for MTU optimization. The “best” values will depend on the particular communication partners that communicate over the network.
The Network pane in System Preferences can be used to change the MTU values for Ethernet interfaces. This is done by selecting Network > Advanced > Ethernet > Configure: Manually > MTU. But Apple is providing this option for Ethernet interfaces only. The MTU values used for other network interface types, like Airport, other WiFi cards, FireWire, etc. do not become visible in System Preferences. With the help of TinkerTool System, this limitation can be circumvented. You can set the current MTU values of all detected network interfaces, and you can save the values permanently to your network configuration, fully supporting the network location feature of Mac OS X.
To set the current MTU value for a network interface, perform the following steps:
The change will take effect immediately. It is recommended to perform some speed tests with typical data over the selected network interface to verify if the new value indeed produces better results. When you have found a good value, you may like to save it permanently to your configuration. To do this, perform the following steps:
You can remove the permanent modification of MTU settings any time by pressing the button Remove customization for the currently selected network location. Note that this will clean the stored network configuration only, not the current MTU values. The settings will fall back to their defaults the next time the computer is restarted.
If you are using Mac OS X 10.7 or later, please see the next section.
With Mac OS X Tiger 10.4, Apple introduced a new feature for the graphical user interface: The operating system has been prepared to control the screen in a resolution-independent way. This means it is possible to define the physical resolution the operating system should work with when it is drawing contents to the display screen. By default, Mac OS X assumes that the display screen is rendering graphics with a resolution of 72 pixels per inch. This policy was taken over from the classic Mac OS. While this basic assumption was true when the Macintosh was introduced more than 20 years ago, today's display devices often have a much higher resolution. The pixels have become smaller, so your screen may actually use e.g. 100 pixels per inch. In practice, this means that graphical elements, for example fonts, will be displayed too small, so a 12 point font selected in an application might no longer match the actual size of a 12 point font printed in a book when you compare screen and book side by side.
To accommodate these changes, Mac OS X is capable of using arbitrary display resolutions. TinkerTool System allows you to change the resolution between 36 and 216 pixels per inch. If the screen display stays the same, the screen contents will be displayed larger when you set a higher resolution, and smaller when you set a lower resolution.
Apple announced this feature to manage the physical screen resolution to software developers only, not to the general public. Many software vendors (including Apple) have not prepared all their applications to fully support this new technology yet. Compatibility problems can occur when this feature is activated.
To change the screen resolution, perform the following steps:
The change will take effect immediately and will influence all applications that are started after this change. To let the change take effect for the whole user session, log out and log in.
Warning: The display resolution is a very critical setting. If you set the resolution too high, the windows can become so large that they no longer fit on screen. This means you can no longer see or control all parts of some applications which can make your system unusable!
Warning: At this time, changing the display resolution is an experimental feature of Mac OS X reserved for experienced users. Parts of the user interface might not be drawn correctly.
WARNING: Safari 4 is among the applications not supporting this correctly. The program will no longer open a browser window if the system-wide scaling is different from 72 ppi. The Desktop background of the Snow Leopard Finder also does not support this: When you try to click on icons on the Desktop, the Finder can no longer compute the location of the click correctly, causing wrong or no icons to become active. Other versions of Safari or the Finder are not affected by this problem.
To return to the normal setting, press the button Set default, log out and log in.
If you are using Mac OS X Snow Leopard, please see the previous section.
Apple has removed the feature from the operating system that allowed to control the physical resolution of screen output by an infinitely variable factor. As of 10.7 or later, this function was replaced by the feature HiDPI (High Number of Dots per Inch) which allows to double the physical resolution only. This means you can select between the discrete values 72 ppi and 144 ppi (or 288, 578, … ppi in the far future). Other magnification steps or scaling down are no longer available. The HiDPI strategy allow OS X to be used on ultra-high-resolution screens (“retina displays”).
You can unlock HiDPI for your operating system independent of the monitor currently connected. For example, as a software developer you can use this feature to test applications in Retina mode although you don't own a Retina screen.
Enabling the HiDPI feature requires two steps. The first step is to unlock HiDPI mode via TinkerTool System. The second step is to select one of the HiDPI display resolutions on the pane Displays of System Preferences. Perform the following steps to work with HiDPI display modes:
When you log in again, you can launch System Preferences, go to Displays and choose one of the HiDPI settings shown in the table Display > Resolutions.
OS X will switch to the new setting, enabling the actual HiDPI mode. The whole screen contents will immediately be magnified. However, currently running applications might not switch to the new resolution with full output quality at the same time. You must log out and log in once again to ensure that you are actually getting the correct resolution and full picture quality in all applications.
Warning: The display resolution
is a very critical setting. If you set the resolution too high, the windows
can become so large that they no longer fit on screen. This means you can no
longer see or control all parts of some applications which can make your system
To use the system with 144 ppi, a screen with at least 2048 x 1536 pixels is strongly recommended, because OS X applications are designed by the rule that they can expect windows to have a minimum size of 1024 x 768 pixels at 72 ppi.
The application System Preferences is designed to support a plug-in architecture: The different control areas, called Preference Panes, are automatically activated and deactivated depending on what type of computer you are using the program. For example, the pane Trackpad will only appear on mobile computers having a trackpad, the item Ink will only be displayed if a graphic tablet or a similar device with pen support is attached to the computer.
System Preferences additionally supports a section Other that contains optional panes installed by the user. TinkerTool System can help you to manage the section Other: It can activate two additional preference panes which are part of Mac OS X, but are reserved for advanced users and are normally hidden. It can also assist you in removing preferences panes you no longer need.
The following additional pane can be activated for Snow Leopard and Lion:
Apple is providing additional panes as part of Mac OS X. Their features may vary depending on OS version, and they may be changed without notice. The optical quality of the panes may not comply with the usual design standards.
To activate one of the hidden panes, perform the following steps:
You can start System Preferences directly from here to use the new panes immediately. Press the button Launch System Preferences.
The panes listed in the previous section and panes of other vendors which appear in the line Other of System Preferences can be removed when you no longer need them. It is not necessary to know where the different vendors have installed the modules. Perform the following steps:
If you are using an operating system version prior to OS X 10.8, please see the paragraph Customize Software Update Server in the next section.
OS X contains an automatic software update service which is designed to contact Apple in regular time intervals, checking whether updates for the operating system are available. This service is controlled by the pane Software Update in System Preferences, and by the item Software Update… in the Apple menu.
It is possible to setup your own software distribution server which mirrors the software distributions and update information from Apple. This can be done by a feature available in OS X Server, or by using other third-party utilities which mimic the behavior of Apple's update servers. To redirect computers in your own network to contact your own update server instead of Apple's, a special system setting must be modified on each affected computer. This can be done automatically when you are additionally using the workgroup management features of Apple Open Directory, but you can also configure this manually on each client. To change the setting via TinkerTool System, perform the following steps:
The change will take effect immediately, and the next time an automatic software update is started, the new server will be connected. You can remove the customized setting by pressing the button Remove Customization.
If you trigger the check for software updates manually, you will be automatically directed to the application App Store as of OS X Mountain Lion. Even if this doesn't become visible optically, the application consists of two strictly separated elements, namely the part accessing Apple's software shop “Mac App Store”, and the part accessing the software update service for OS X. The latter is not receiving its data from the Mac App Store, but directly from Apple or from your private software update server.
Many users and many organizations disapprove access to the Mac App Store. For this reason, it is technically possible to block this part of the application without disabling the feature to receive OS X software updates. You can control as follows if access to the Mac App Store should be restricted:
The change will take effect the next time you are starting the App Store application.
While updates for OS X are distributed by Apple, updates for “Apps” come from the Mac App Store. In case you restrict access to the App Store, you won't be able to receive updates for “Apps”.
In the permission system of Mac OS X, which is explained in detail in the chapter The Pane ACL Permissions, each application decides for itself what rights it will grant for a new a file or folder when that file system object is being created. This also includes the Finder which is the typical application to create new folders.
Security problems could arise if you are using badly written or very old applications which don't care about permission settings. Such applications could grant write permission to the category “other users” which means that nearly everyone — no matter if the user is even “known” by the current computer — could access, overwrite, and delete each and every document created by that program. In environments where users cannot considered to behave cooperatively, like schools or large companies, such a lax policy of granting permissions can make a system unusable. For this reason, Mac OS X and every other UNIX system is using a permission filter: Whenever an application creates a new file or folder and has to set the initial permission settings, the permissions will be sent through a filter first which decides if applications are allowed to grant a specific right or not. The filter corresponds directly with the three POSIX rights read, write, execute, and the access parties owner, group owner, and others. See the chapter The Pane ACL Permissions for details.
By default, Mac OS X uses a permission filter which is preconfigured with the following policy:
Administrators can change this policy, modifying the permission filter so that the initial permissions are either relaxed or become even stricter. To modify the permission filter of Mac OS X, perform the following steps:
The change will take effect the next time you start the computer. The button Set Default can be pressed to return to the recommended standard filter. Pressing the button Revert will cause TinkerTool System to discard your changes and to display the settings currently established in the system.
Warning: It is very dangerous to set check marks in the line Owner. Enabling a filter option in this section means that applications will no longer have the right to access the files they just have created.
The setting only affects programs started in user sessions. Background programs of the operating system won't be affected (unless they are started as part of a user session).
There are specific circumstances where TinkerTool System detects that it won't be possible to modify the permission filter. In this case, the table is disabled and an error message appears at its left side. The following situations can cause such a problem:
If you are using OS X Mountain Lion, please see the section Updates.
Mac OS X contains an automatic software update service which is designed to contact Apple in regular intervals, checking if new updates for the operating system and other installed Apple software are available. This service can be controlled by the pane Software Update in System Preferences, and by the item Software Update in the Apple menu.
It is possible to setup your own software distribution server which mirrors the software distributions and update information from Apple. This can be done by a feature available in Mac OS X Server, or by using other third-party utilities which mimic the behavior of Apple's update servers. To redirect computers in your own network to contact your own update server instead of Apple's, a special system setting must be modified on each affected computer. This can be done automatically when you are additionally using the workgroup management features of Apple Open Directory, but you can also configure this manually on each client. To change the setting via TinkerTool System, perform the following steps:
The pop-up button Version Filter gives you additional control on the update packages the client is allowed to see. The standard setting is 10.4: Consider all available updates which means that the computer has potential access to all updates Apple has published since the introduction of the Software Update Service in Mac OS X 10.4. When selecting 10.5: Ignore updates for 10.4, the packages for Mac OS X 10.4 will be filtered out. The option 10.6: Ignore updates for 10.4 and 10.5 behaves similarly, and will only offer packages for Mac OS X 10.6 and later.
As of Mac OS X 10.6.7 or later, using the filter is no longer necessary and no longer recommended. Mac OS X is now capable of communicating on other channels to the software update server what system version is being used. When using 10.6.7 or later, keep the setting Version Filter always at the value 10.4: Consider all available updates.
The change will take effect immediately, and the next time an automatic software update is started, the new server will be connected. You can remove the customized setting by pressing the button Remove Customization.
Up-to-date versions of Time Machine support a feature which is mainly designed for mobile computers: In addition to the main backup, stored on the disks you have selected for use by Time Machine, Time Machine is capable of creating a second, completely independent backup set on the operating system volume. This second backup can be used to restore data while the mobile computer “is travelling”, not having access to the main backup copy. The data sets within this continuously available secondary backup are called local snaphots. OS X stores the snapshots in an invisible area of the system volume. The storage space needed for this will be considered to be “always automatically releasable”, i.e. the system may remove some or all snapshots at its discretion when the storage space will be needed for “real” data. The “normal” Time Machine backup has no influence on the backup done with local snapshots.
By default, local snapshots are active on mobile computers, and inactive on desktop computers. By using TinkerTool System, you can choose manually whether local snapshots should be created or not. Perform the following steps:
After disabling local snapshots, OS X will begin to automatically release the affected storage space a short time later.
The printing features of Mac OS X are implemented by CUPS, the Common Unix Printing System. By default, Mac OS X keeps a log of all print jobs ever processed by the local computer, the print job history. TinkerTool System can disable the log if desired, and it can show you the records currently in the log. To change the system setting for keeping print job records, perform the following steps:
The log can be reviewed by pressing the button Open local print job history. TinkerTool System will delegate this task to your preferred web browser. Web access to the printing subsystem is inactive by default in several versions of Mac OS X. You can control by using the option Enable web interface of printing system whether web access should be possible or not.