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First off I'll use the word "MacBook" throughout this post. I'm doing that to keep from having to write MacBook/MacBook Pro, MacBook Air every single time. These tips are for all "MacBook" users despite your particular model. I'm a MacBook Pro user in case you were wondering.

1. Secure it with a password

When you first set up your Mac and create a user account by default that user account is set to automatically log you in each time you boot up or wake up from sleep. While this may be less of an issue for a desktop Mac in your home, I highly recommend that you turn OFF the automatic login on any MacBook notebook. This way if you lose it, or it's stolen or someone tries to access it when you're not looking, they can't just get in and have immediate access to all of your info.

2. Put your name on it


Sounds silly, but once upon a time I accidentally left my MacBook Pro at the TSA checkpoint on my way to my flight. See the details of my saga here. Luckily I got it back, however, I would have got it back before the flight took off if they knew whose it was? There was no name on it and therefore they didn't know who to page. I use this Brother labeler to label ALL of my portable gear.


3. Dim the display, turn off the keyboard light and bluetooth while on battery

It never fails, I'm on a flight I walk down the isle and I see a fellow MacBook user and I can tell right away that it's a MacBook because the keyboard is lit up. While this is great when you have plenty of power it's an extra drain on your battery. So ways that I stretch my battery life when I travel include turning off the keyboard backlighting, turning off Bluetooth an dimming the display as low as I possible can especially if I'm watching a movie. I can usually get away with one notch above off.

4. Create an "On the Plane" location

Mac OS X has a location manager (not nearly as functional as the one from Mac OS 9, but it works). I created a location called "On the Plane" that basically turns off Airport and all networking. This way the MacBook isn't constantly looking for a WiFi network. Since it's a location I can easily switch to it under the Apple Menu and when i land I can switch back to my "Automatic" location.

5. Tap the trackpad

I was never a fan of the "Tap the trackpad to click" feature until Apple made the whole trackpad the button. I find the new glass trackpad to be very loud and the click to be very rigid. I really do miss the old separate button. So I turned on the tap to click feature and now I love it. Instead of having to physically press the button, I can just tap and that does the trick. Also any Windows user that goes to use your MacBook will expect it to be this way because I believe it to be the default behavior on Windows notebooks.

6. Get AppleCare

If you have a MacBook, you should get AppleCare. It isn't that MacBooks are any more problematic than desktops, it's more about the potential expensive repair costs if something does go wrong after the one year warranty is up. A MacBook repair could easily set you back hundreds and hundreds of dollars (exceeding the value of the computer). So whenever I buy a New Mac and especially a MacBook, AppleCare is an automatic purchase.

7.Use your longer cord


Your MacBook came with a separate extension cord that replaces the little "duck head" prongs on your AC adapter. Not only does this give you double the length, but it's also makes the adapter more power strip friendly by taking up a lot less space. I hate it when I walk in a meeting and some MacBook user is hogging two to three outlets with the fat power brick.

8. Get a USB or MiFi data card

Until we get iPhone tethering from AT&T, you might consider getting a 3G data card. Your MacBook comes with WiFi built-in and that's great if everywhere you travel has WiFi coverage, however, I'm still finding WiFi to be a hit or miss scenario at best in the places that I go. So luckily I get to carry a 3G data card that gives me high speed internet pretty much anywhere I have cellular service. The plans aren't cheap (averaging $60/month), but for a road warrior that needs to have connectivity just about everywhere, they can't be beat. See my recent HSPA MiFi review here.

9. Back it up before you leave

Luckily backing up is less of an issue now with Leopard and Snow Leopard than it used to be. However, I remind you to make sure you're backed up before you head out the door. If something happens to your MacBook while you're traveling and it needs to be replaced or the hard drive crashes, at least you know you have a complete backup that can be restored to your new one the minute you get home.

10. Take a bootable backup with you

I depend on my MacBook everywhere I go. Often times I presenting in front of a large group. If my hard drive dies or my OS gets hosed, I don't have time to do a restore. I need to be able to boot up immediately and get to work. This is why in addition to having a Time Machine backup at home, I carry a Firewire portable hard drive that has a SuperDuper clone of my entire hard drive on it. I also update this before I head out the door too. If something goes wrong, I can pull out my portable drive, boot and keep working. I can figure out the problem later.


Bonus Tip

Get a TSA friendly bag so that you don't have to take your laptop out of it at the Airport when going through security. See my NEW Skooba TSA friendly roller bag review here.

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13 Responses to 10 MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air Tips

  1. Kathy says:

    Great ideas! One thought I had in regards to the Brother Labeler is that when ever I get a new electronic device, I always use the labeler to label each of the power cords, etc. as at some point they all end up in a jumble and it helps to sort them out.

  2. Carolyn says:

    I just thought — if you put the label INSIDE the battery case, then you can get to it easily enough if you need to, but it’s then not easily seen when it doesn’t need to, and it also doesn’t fall off. Great idea — thanks!

  3. Randy says:

    I LOVE the PowerCurl from quirky as a way to keep my power cord (item 7) neat in my travel bag…

  4. RSDouglass says:

    re: #7- Yes, I agree, use the longer AC cord…
    BUT, don’t forget to still take along the ‘duck head prongs’ plug also…

    This two-bladed plug has saved me several times when the only power source is an ‘old-fashioned’ 110v outlet (the kind without the third ground prong hole).

    (The longer cord only has the three-prong plug it).

  5. randy says:

    I think its important to point out that password only to protect data on your system is extremely weak. Anyone could use firewire target disk mode to read or copy any data on the system, without needing any login information. I don’t think this is commonly known.

  6. edwin says:

    Just bought my macbook pro not long ago and these tips really help. Thanks

  7. Michael Lynch says:

    Terry, Great tips. I appreciate it, especially where I am a new Mac Air user and also travel some 80K miles per year.
    I’ve incorporated some of your tips and they really helped.

  8. Bryan says:

    Thanks for the tips, I have just got my MacBook Pro as a christmas present!

  9. Chris Wright says:

    Nice tips, very handy and well timed for the arrival of my macbook pro.

  10. Raj says:

    This are great tips and very cool tricks for those who has macbooks.

    Thanks For Sharing

  11. lalit kumar says:

    Great information. Thanks..

    see :

  12. Jack Lam says:

    There are some inconveniences when we using MacBook. Such as the problems of limitation of SSD capacity, shortage of expansion port, absence of Wired LAN port, expensive price of exclusive SSD even though the SSD Upgrade is provided and unreasonable prices of peripheral devices.

    I knew one product called Plusdock which can not only provide high-capacity STORAGE, Wired LAN, additional USB ports and high-quality DAC for the expansion port, but also with extra 10000mah Li-ion battery power in one single product for Mac Book.

    Here is the link in Kickstarter.

    I want to share this information to more people.