UPDATE, July 16, 2016: This article was originally published on May 21, 2014. Since then, it’s consistently been the most popular piece on this site almost every month. The original text is still valid, but SSD recommendations are now outdated.

As of July 2016, the consumer-grade SSD I recommend is the Samsung 850 EVO. If you want something fancier, both the Samsung 850 Pro and the SanDisk Extreme Pro are excellent, as well. That said, keep in mind that in this case the bottleneck will be your iMac’s 3 Gb/s SATA 2 interface, so any of these drives will have nearly identical performance. Prices vary slightly on Amazon but you can’t go wrong with any of these, so my advice would be to get whichever is cheaper at the moment.

Even though it will not be supported by the newly-announced macOS Sierra, my Early-2008 iMac is still my primary Mac. It’s a terrific machine and I have no plans to replace it anytime soon. The rest of the article has been preserved in its original form for historical accuracy.

Set everything up in a comfortable environment and get to work!


A couple of weekends ago I finally had time for a project I’d been wanting to do for months: upgrading my iMac’s internal hard drive to an SSD. This is an account of how the upgrade went, the difficulties I found, and whether I recommend anyone do the same (Spoiler alert: yes, very much so). Before I begin, please note that this article is not a how-to manual, and as such it should never replace the excellent step-by-step guides available on iFixit and elsewhere on the Internet. I followed the iFixit guide throughout the entire process and if you’re thinking of upgrading your own iMac, I suggest you do the same. Also, the Amazon links in this article are affiliate links, so if you buy anything through one of those links, I’ll get a small kickback from Amazon. Thanks!


Ask around the Internet and most people will tell you that the single most important upgrade you can make to an old computer is an SSD. It’s absolutely true, followed closely by adding more RAM. In old computers, the most frequent performance bottlenecks in day-to-day use are caused by having to wait for the hard drive. It normally takes the drive a few milliseconds to get ready to read/write the desired data and, worse than that, those milliseconds add up quickly as the drive gets filled, because it has to look for different pieces of data that are scattered across the drive’s surface, and that takes time. Moreover, if you’re short on RAM, the system will try to create Virtual Memory by writing data to disk instead of RAM, which takes significantly longer. What the combination of these two situations amounts to is simple: you start seeing more beach balls, your entire computer appears to be frozen for a few seconds at a time, and the general “snappiness” of the system is gone.

An SSD, on the other hand, has no moving parts to spin, and it doesn’t have to go looking for pieces of data anywhere, so all those waiting times are cut down to effectively zero. That’s the main reason people swear by their SSD’s: if you put a modern SSD inside an old computer, it’s like rolling the clock back a few years. In fact, your machine can perform better than it ever did, even when it was new.


My iMac is a 24-inch model from early 2008. It was the top-of-the-line configuration then, with a Core 2 Duo processor clocked at 3.06 GHz. About two years ago I upgraded it with the highest amount of RAM it can get: 6 GB. Apple officially supports only up to 4 GB, but it’s been tested many times on the Internet that these iMacs actually support up to 6 GB, so I decided to go for it and had no problems whatsoever. Then, about a year ago, my graphics card died. I thought long and hard about whether it was time to replace my then 5-year-old iMac, but I decided to take it to the Genius Bar and see how much it would cost to repair it instead. It turned out to be a relatively inexpensive repair, about $180, so I figured it was worth it to keep my iMac around a bit longer. I like to use my computers for as long as possible and this one had served me well, so I saw no compelling reason to spend upwards of $1000 to replace it.

Now it’s a year later and the iMac continues to perform admirably for a machine of its age. However, I was starting to feel a little uneasy about the internal hard drive, a 500 GB, 7200 RPM model from Seagate. Commercial-grade spinning hard drives have an average lifespan of about 5 years, so mine was probably nearing the end of its life. I do keep up-to-date backups so I was prepared for an eventual failure, but modern consumer SSD’s are finally affordable enough that upgrading the internal drive started to make a lot of sense. I’d rather anticipate the drive’s failure and deal with the upgrade process on my own terms.

As for what SSD to get, when you’re coming from a spinning hard drive this is probably not a critical issue, since there are massive performance gains to be made by switching to pretty much any modern SSD. Still, I’m a nerd, so I like to do my research and make an informed purchase whenever possible.

WARNING: These SSD recommendations were originally published in May 2014 and are now outdated. Check the update notice above for the current recommended models.

Fortunately, the general consensus seems to be that right now, the best consumer SSD in terms of performance vs. price is the Samsung 840 EVO, so I decided to go with that one. The size question is trickier, though: prices scale almost linearly with capacity, so you don’t save much money by going bigger. On the other hand, it’s been suggested that the bigger flavors of the 840 EVO (500 GB, 750 GB and 1TB) have better performance and more durability. While that may well be the case, the smaller drives (120 GB and 250 GB) are already plenty fast and durable, so this is not a decisive point either.

I was initially leaning towards the 500 GB model, which retails on Amazon in Spain for 216€ (about $295). It would match my internal drive’s size, so I would not give up any space in the transition, which seemed like the best way to go. However, I never really used all the space in my internal drive. Most of my storage needs are for my media collection (music, TV shows, movies and photos), which I keep on an external drive anyway. I typically only use about 100 GB of internal storage, which include the OS, my applications, documents, my Dropbox folder and little more, so what’s the point of buying a large SSD if I’m not even going to use half of its capacity? For reference, the 250 GB version retails for 120€ (about $164). After careful consideration, I decided to buy two 250 GB drives instead of the 500 GB, and use the other one to upgrade my 13” Mid-2010 MacBook Pro. That way I could upgrade both Macs for only a little bit more money.

Scary, I know, but it’s easier than it looks.

Getting my hands dirty

Upgrading the hard drive in a Mid-2010 MacBook Pro is relatively simple, just follow the iFixit guide and you’ll be fine. I will focus here on the iMac. In order to install a 2.5” SSD into an iMac, you need to use a special adapter. The iMac’s bay is designed to hold 3.5” drives, so if you try to install the SSD as-is, it will not be properly secured and it will move around inside the iMac. Obviously, you do not want that to happen. I recommend using the Icy Dock EZConvert adapter, which is cheap and will get the job done without any issues.

Other than that, all you need is a Torx T-8 screwdriver, a Torx T-6 screwdriver, two heavy-duty suction cups to remove the glass panel, and you’re good to go. Disassembling the iMac, especially for the first time, is a bit imposing and not for the faint of heart, but it really is quite simple. The whole process from disassembly to reassembly can probably be done in under an hour, if you know what you’re doing.

I have uploaded an album with some photos to my Flickr account, in case you want to see it in more detail. Each photo includes a brief description of what’s going on. It’s fun to look at the pictures and think, “hey, I did that”, but there’s really nothing there that you won’t see on the iFixit guide.

I do have a few comments that I thought were not sufficiently clear on the guide, though:

  1. The screws that hold the aluminum bezel in place have different lengths depending on their position. I took some pictures with each screw next to its original hole to help me remember where each one went.

  2. When you’re about to remove the LCD panel (Step 11 on the iFixit guide), DO NOT DISCONNECT THE LCD POWER CABLE FROM THE POWER SUPPLY END. Seriously. Instead, disconnect it from the other end, where it attaches to the LCD panel itself. It’s extremely difficult to reconnect that cable, since the awkward position underneath the power supply makes it almost impossible to handle. I didn’t connect this cable properly the first time and my iMac’s display would not turn on. After getting through the entire process, I had to disassemble everything again, including four additional screws that hold the power supply in place so that I could tilt it and gain access to the connector. I then realized I had bent one of the connector’s pins, which was causing the problem. It was only thanks to the comments section of the iFixit guide that I found out about this. They really should change the guide to state this more prominently, since it is a potentially dangerous situation: had the pin broken, I probably would’ve had to replace the entire power supply, with the added cost and difficulty that would have meant. This is the only complaint I have on what’s otherwise an excellent guide, but it’s kind of an important one.

  3. When you’re mounting the SSD inside the adapter, thread the thermal sensor cable through one of the ventilation openings and attach the sensor to the SSD using duct tape. I found this to be easy with the Icy Dock adapter, which is one of the reasons I recommend using that one. A wrongly-attached thermal sensor may cause your iMac’s fans to work at full-speed all the time, thus killing one of the greatest features of the iMac: its near-silent operation.

  4. This is probably an obvious thing, but I’ll say it anyway: this is a great opportunity to thoroughly clean up your iMac’s interior. I assure you, the amount of dust you’ll discover inside will surprise you. Make sure you clean everything before reassembling your iMac. I used a compressed-air spray to remove dust from the trickier components: fans, motherboard, speakers, etc. Put special care into making sure there are no dust particles caught between the LCD and the glass panel. Remember, a clean Mac is a happy Mac.

Restoring the System

The last part of the process is, of course, getting your new SSD up and running. Here you have basically two options: you can restore from a previous Time Machine or SuperDuper! backup, or you can start fresh by installing OS X from scratch. For the iMac, I decided to restore from a backup, since I’d made a clean install not too long ago. For the MacBook Pro, however, I chose to do a clean install instead. I booted the newly-assembled iMac from a SuperDuper! backup I had on an external drive and used SuperDuper! to restore the backup to the SSD. The restoring process took about 90 minutes and it was absolutely flawless. When it was done, I was up and running again without any issues whatsoever. I really cannot recommend SuperDuper! enough. If you own a Mac, you should definitely be using it.

It’s Alive!

The Verdict

Upgrading my 2008 iMac with an SSD has really given it a new lease of life. I couldn’t be happier with the result, and I sincerely recommend doing the same if you own one. The performance improvement is nothing short of spectacular: apps launch instantaneously, file transfers are a breeze and the entire system keeps up with my workflow without breaking a sweat. These days, computers are so over-specced that there really is no need to upgrade as frequently as before. The 24-inch iMac is an amazing computer, and it’s so well-built that it really makes sense to keep it around for as long as you possibly can. With the added performance of an SSD, my iMac will probably always be “fast-enough” for my needs, so I intend to keep it around until it breaks apart or it is no longer supported by new releases of OS X. Whatever comes first.

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Zeiss and Fellowes launch iPhone accessory photography lenses →

January 07, 2016 |

Interesting news to start the year. From Zeiss’ own official press release:

The first three lenses – wide-angle, telephoto and macro – are scheduled to be launched in late Q2 2016. The wide-angle and telephoto lenses offer excellent image performance with outstanding edge-to-edge contrast. The macro lens features a zoom function – unique for accessory lenses of this type – for flexible image composition. The new lenses can be used on the Apple iPhone with customized mounting brackets.

These will be iPhone-only at launch, but they plan to release versions compatible with other phones in the future.

I always thought add-on lenses like these were little more than a marketing gimmick, but if Zeiss is getting involved with their brand, there may be more to them than I thought. These ones certainly look the part, at the very least.

Still, I wouldn’t be interested in buying something like this, because it just seems too much hassle to be worth it, especially considering I already own and use a dedicated camera. That said, I can totally see the appeal for iPhone-only or even iPhone-first photographers.

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My review of the Apple Smart Battery Case was published today on Tools & Toys. Long story short, I was surprised by how good the case is, despite the unsightly hump.

Alas, my brand-new iPhone 6s has more than enough battery life for my current usage, so I won’t be keeping the Smart Battery Case. If I were in the market for a battery case, though, I would probably go with this one.

By the way, while I was thinking about the review, I recorded a small video trying to show how to put the iPhone in and out of the case. It somehow ended up turning into a mini-review of sorts, and I’m actually quite happy with how it turned out. Check it out:

If you want to know more about the Smart Battery Case, head on over to Tools & Toys for the full review.

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Happy Holidays

December 23, 2015

Dear reader,

I want to take a minute to thank you for being there another year — and boy, what a year it’s been. I wish you nothing but the best for this holiday season, and I hope you have a chance to spend some quality time with your loved ones over the next few days.

For my part, I will also be taking a much-needed break. There’s some really cool stuff in the pipeline that I can’t wait to share with you early next year, but for now it is time to rest, and to recharge my batteries. Before I sign off, though, I have something to ask of you.

Times like these we take for granted all too easily, but trust me when I tell you, they are precious. One can never have too many opportunities to show our love to the people we care about. Please, make it a point to do just that this holiday season. Forget about this crazy Internet family of ours for a little while, and pay some more attention to them instead.

Don’t worry, we will all still be here when you get back. I promise.

Oh, and one last thing: happy holidays!


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December 19, 2015

Hello there, welcome to another issue of Morning Coffee, my weekly roundup of interesting writing.

Issue #28: Star Wars, film, and photography

After a few months of hiatus caused mostly by the pressures of work, these days I seem to be looking at film with a renewed interest once again.

Let’s get to it.

Review: the iPad Pro is a line in the sand | Stephen Hackett →

Roughly a month after the iPad Pro was released, the second wave of reviews are starting to pop up around the Internet. I really liked Stephen Hackett’s take on it, as usual:

And that’s why the iPad Pro, with its crazy-powerful CPU, super-accurate Pencil and 12.9-inch screen is such a mind-bending device to me. The hardware is more Mac-like than ever, and iOS is more flexible now than ever before. In many ways, the iPad Pro feels like a line in the sand. Will we all cross it eventually, or will the computing world remain fractured between those who can use a tablet for everything, and those who can’t?

Travelling Indonesia with an iPhone 6S | Nick Heer →

Great travel log and in-depth iPhone review by Nick Heer.

So you married a supervillain: watching Jessica Jones as a trauma survivor | Kia Groom →

Must-read piece over at The Mary Sue (spoiler alert for Jessica Jones, though):

This is why Jessica Jones is triggering, and this is also why Jessica Jones is vital. While it masquerades as a show about heroes and villains, ultimately, Jessica Jones is not a fantasy. It’s the reality of existing in a patriarchal society that does everything it can to silence, dismiss, and ignore women—that strips power and agency from us at every conceivable level: domestically, romantically, politically, legally, and in the media.

The Force is with film! Dan Mindel on Star Wars: The Force Awakens (no spoilers) →

I was surprised — and delighted — to discover yesterday that the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens, was shot entirely on film. The majority of the movie was shot on Kodak Vision3 35mm film, except for a few scenes that were shot on Kodak Vision3 65mm film. Considering episodes II and III were 100% digitally shot by Lucas, this represents a wonderful change for the better.

Before you go all pro-digital on me, let me remind you that movies need to endure for generations. Episodes II and III were shot 13 and 10 years ago respectively, and were two of the first fully-digitally shot movies ever. However, they were shot at a then-state-of-the-art 1080p resolution at 24 frames per second, a standard that is already starting to become obsolete. That means these movies can’t be converted to 4K resolution without upscaling. That the master recordings of these movies have only managed to last a decade or so before being out-resolved by existing consumer-grade technology is absolutely unacceptable.

On the other hand, the original trilogy — episodes IV, V and VI — were shot on 35mm film, meaning the existing masters, as complicated a history as they’ve had, offer more than enough detail for a 4K scan and eventual release. In fact, several 4K restorations of the original trilogy are either complete, or currently in the works.

Let me say that again: a movie shot on film in 1977 can be released in 4K today, but a movie shot digitally in 2005 can’t — not without losing detail at least. If there’s a better example of irony in the history of cinema, I don’t know it.

Untouched is impossible: the story of Star Wars in film | Ben Kuchera →

Speaking of Star Wars and film, this great 2010 article by Ben Kuchera for Ars Technica shined some light on the current available copies of the original Star Wars film. Famously, Lucas said a few years ago that the original negative had been heavily damaged in the process of creating the 1997 Special Edition restoration. This was a hard blow for fans of the original theatrical release, many of whom still have hopes of eventually seeing a modern restoration of the original versions of these movies.

To find out if such a release is even possible, Kuchera interviewed Michael Kaminsky, author of the book The Secret History of Star Wars, and this is what he had to say:

Kaminski points out that a duplication of the original negative—commonly printed for the sake of protection—doesn’t seem to exist for Star Wars. Something better was created, though: separation masters. “These are special silver-based copies that do not fade, and in theory should be almost identical in quality to the original negative itself, so even if the negative was destroyed you still have a perfect copy (which is the point of making the separation master).” Duplicates from these prints were used to replace damaged sections of the negative during the restoration before the release of the Special Edition.

This is all fascinating. As for whether film continues to be a good format for long-term archival, Kaminsky says yes, very much so:

It’s unclear how the film exists digitally within Lucasfilm, but Kaminski does know one thing: the scanning done in the past has become obsolete. “The 1997 SE scans were done in 2K and the 2004 Special Edition was done in 1080p, but now the standard is 8K (4 times the 1997 SE and about 7 times the quality of the 2004 SE), and the color reproduction is better too,” he says.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, the original film remains important as the most robust way to store this information. Hard drives fail, and data is vulnerable to time. “This may seem silly because everyone always talks about how fragile film is, but film is the most robust, durable image technology we have ever invented. There are reels of film that date back to the 1920s that still look pretty good.” He claims that color Eastman Kodak film has a half-life of around 50 to 60 years. Oddly enough, the negative film used in the 1970s to shoot Star Wars is less stable than the film used before or after. We’ll get to a point where all we have left are digital copies, but technology has only recently allowed digital copies to rival the original celluloid in quality and detail.

Fujifilm X100T: a camera review | Erin Brooks →

Erin Brooks wrote a fantastic review of the Fuji X100T camera:

The camera is digital, but the results are made to look like film, and it has film filters built in that I can select before I shoot a photo. I love the look of film, so this is a huge bonus in my eyes. The tones and colors are nicely dynamic, with lots of detail captured in shadows and highlights. It’s not exactly the same as film, but it comes close enough for me to enjoy that part of it thoroughly. And, the fact that it’s digital means I get the immediate gratification of having my photos right away. It’s the best of both worlds as far as getting a film look, without the wait to develop the roll. I still usually edit my photos in post, but honestly, I don’t have to with most of my FujiFilm X100T images if I don’t want to: they already look beautiful straight out of the camera.

Built-in film presets are without a doubt the main reason Fuji cameras are so appealing to me, and the X100T in particular seems to capture the essence of shooting film better than any other digital camera out there.

Review: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II | Jordan Steele →

Wonderful in-depth review of the Olympus E-M10 Mark II by Jordan Steele:

The E-M10 II lacks the E-M5 II’s high res mode, has a smaller EVF and lacks weather sealing. However, aside from those major points, it is almost identical. The original E-M10 was also a great value, but Olympus did cut some key things to differentiate the camera. This time around, it seems they cut almost nothing. The E-M10 Mark II feels like a complete camera, with outstanding in-body image stabilization, robust construction, outstanding haptics and ergonomics and an exceptionally long feature set.

Looks like the successor to my favorite small camera is another winner from Olympus.

Sony’s Sky HDR app review | Anastasia Petukhova →

Sony cameras have a rather unique feature: their PlayMemories app store, where you can download apps that provide extra features directly to your camera. Sky HDR is one such app, and it does precisely what its name implies: it allows you to capture high dynamic range images by combining multiple frames shot with different exposure parameters entirely in-camera.

The bad news is that the app will cost you $9.99, which is rather ridiculous considering what you already paid for the camera. It does appear to be pretty useful, though:

There are a few essential uses for this app. First of all you don’t need to carry the whole filter kit and worry about dust and glare. You also don’t need to worry about combining anything in post production. You get as much data in one image as you can get. And for all of us Instagram lovers and social people, you can export this shot right to your phone and post it right away on the spot. You also save money by not buying extra gear that typically is needed to get similar results. Filter kits can go from $50 to $500 if you’re really into it. I know many landscape shooters spend a lot of time in post production, but this is the quicker way to get at least a portion of the job done. This app is not designed to be everything for everyone, so keep an open mind and see if this $10 investment is right for you.

London - November, 2015 | Michael Fraser →

Michael Fraser goes to London armed with a Mamiya 7, a Leica MP, a Wista VX, and lots and lots of film. Lovely images.


It appears film is making a strong comeback in the filmmaking industry and I, for one, couldn’t be happier about it. Many critically acclaimed directors like J.J. Abrams and Christopher Nolan are unapologetic in their love of film, and this points to a bright future in the industry.

Shooting a motion picture on film not only helps achieve a certain look that is preferred by many, it also enforces a series of logistical limitations in the way productions are handled and shootings scheduled. The slow nature of film has a way of ensuring things are not rushed, and demands that a substantial amount of thought and care be put into every aspect of the shoot.

This may seem like a logistical nightmare in the digital era — and to some extent, it is — but when you see the end result, more often than not the increased complexity and difficulty end up being completely worth it.

As for future-proofing, the fact that 35mm film — not to mention 65mm or even 70mm film — still out-resolves most state-of-the-art digital recording systems should be all the argument we need to persevere in the use of film. It doesn’t matter how good a digital system may look today, the odds of it being rendered obsolete in just a few years’ time are substantially high, and that’s too big a risk to take when we’re talking about movies with budgets in the several-hundred-million-dollar range.

I’m sure there will come a time when digital is unequivocally better than film for all practical purposes, but it appears we’re not quite there yet and, truth be told, I’m in no hurry to get there at all.

On the work front, I’ve been testing Apple’s new Smart Battery Case for the past week or so, and I’m now working on my full review of it for Tools & Toys. It should be ready for publication soon.

Admittedly, at first glance the Smart Battery Case looks terrible, with a super-weird hump on the back. Once you get past that, though, I’ve found it’s actually a pretty good accessory for your iPhone 6/6S.

Now, it’s true that there are other cases out there with bigger batteries inside, but for most people I think the Smart Battery Case will offer plenty of power. Just for reference, I managed to get over three full days of regular use after starting with both my iPhone and the case at 100% charge. Add to that the built-in Lightning port and the integration at the iOS level that only an Apple-made case can provide, and you have a compelling product that will surely sell well despite that unsightly hump.

I’ll have much more to say about the Smart Battery Case in the full review, so stay tuned.

And on that note, we’ve reached the end of this issue. As usual, thank you for reading, and have a great weekend.

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Apple puts Phil Schiller in charge of the App Store →

December 17, 2015 |

Interesting news from Apple today. Jeff Williams, writing for Ars Technica:

SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiler is now in charge of all App Stores across all of Apple’s platforms, which now include iOS, OS X, WatchOS, and tvOS.

Schiller is taking over the App Store from Eddy Cue, who as Apple’s president of Internet Software and Services is still in charge of things like Apple Music, iCloud, Apple Pay, Siri, the apps formerly known as iWork and iLife, and other initiatives.

On one hand, developer relations is under the App Store division, and Phil Schiller strikes me as a far better person to manage that than Eddy Cue ever was. On the other hand, everything else in the division has little to do with Schiller’s area of expertise, so I can’t help but wonder if he has what it takes to run it by himself. UPDATE: Looks like I got this wrong. Developer relations has always been under Schiller, with the rest of the App Store management falling under Eddy Cue’s iTunes division. This shuffle brings everything App Store-related under Schiller’s supervision, which should help improve consistency and mitigate some of the issues that plague 3rd-party developers today. It’ll be interesting to watch what future changes, if any, Schiller introduces in the way Apple runs its various App Stores, that’s for sure.

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Jonathan Poritsky introduces Film Twitter Slack →

December 16, 2015 |

Don’t you just hate it when popular movies get spoiled on Twitter before they’re released to the general public? This is usually done by film critics, filmmakers and, generally speaking, any one person among the crap-load of people who get access to advanced private screenings of those movies.

That phenomenon is known as Film Twitter. It’s incredibly annoying but luckily, Jonathan Poritsky has just the thing:

What bugs me is the Socratic dissection of a film I’m not ready to delve into. I prefer to see movies fresh and form my own opinions. If I could time shift these Film Twitter tête-à-têtes and experience them after I’ve seen the film, that would be lovely. But there isn’t an elegant way to do that without reading the tweets in the first place (yet).

So what to do? Clearly those who see movies before the general public can aren’t going to stop the chatter. And I’m not going to unfollow a community that I love reading. So I put together a thing: Film Twitter Slack.

Great idea. Now, if only all those who love to spoil movies would just sign up and use it, that would be lovely.

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13 million MacKeeper users exposed →

December 15, 2015 |

Brian Krebs, writing at Krebs on Security:

The makers of MacKeeper — a much-maligned software utility many consider to be little more than scareware that targets Mac users — have acknowledged a breach that exposed the usernames, passwords and other information on more than 13 million customers and, er…users. Perhaps more interestingly, the guy who found and reported the breach doesn’t even own a Mac, and discovered the data trove merely by browsing Shodan — a specialized search engine that looks for and indexes virtually anything that gets connected to the Internet.

A couple things here:

  1. If you’ve been using MacKeeper, stop. Seriously, just stop.

  2. Even after you stop, change your password immediately or, better yet, delete your account entirely.

MacKeeper is nothing but a scammy program designed to prey on Mac users’ fear. There is nothing useful or actually safe about it, so just get rid of the thing.

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