In this episode, I’ll help you diagnose potential synchronisation issues and suggest 3 ways to reduce the risk of them happening in the future.
Visit https://macpreneur.com/tools for a list of tools I use to streamline my business
- 00:32 Problem
- 01:07 Solutions
- 01:40 Root cause #1: Network connectivity
- 02:13 Root cause #2: Software or operating system version
- 04:50 Root cause #3: Incorrect settings
- 07:35 Root cause #4: Data conflicts
- 09:04 Root cause #5: Time & date discrepancy
- 10:03 Root cause #6: Not enough space
- 12:52 Root cause #7: Cloud server or service is down
- 15:47 Prevention
- 20:16 Recap
- 21:22 Outro
Hello. Hello. Are you tired of battling synchronization issues between your Mac and other devices?
In this episode, we are delving deep into how you can solve and prevent this problem from both a minimalist and pragmatic perspective. So stay tuned!
You’re listening to the Macpreneur podcast, the show that helps solopreneurs save time and money by streamlining how they run their business on their Mac.
Here is your host and technology mentor, Damien Schreurs.
So many of us solopreneurs, we use a multiple devices in our day-to-day operations.
At the minimum, you could have your Mac and your iPhone, but for some we are talking about more than one Mac, an iPhone and an iPad.
And the challenge is keeping everything in sync, our files, emails, contacts, calendars, notes, and all the other things.
It can be frustrating and time consuming when our devices don’t play nice together.
And so we’ll tackle this issue from two angles today.
First of all, the troubleshooting view by addressing the main root causes of any synchronization problem, and then prevention through a minimalist approach by simplifying our digital ecosystem as much as possible.
So let’s start with the different root causes, and I have listed seven of them.
And so let’s start with the first one.
Root cause #1: Network connectivity
It could be wifi or mobile data connectivity problems.
So if your device or your devices lose connection to the internet, obviously they can’t upload or download any new changes.
So to troubleshoot that, it’s pretty easy. You double check your device connectivity. You put your device in airplane mode, or you turn off manually wifi and mobile data, wait a few seconds, turn it on again. Or if that doesn’t work, reboot your device.
Root cause #2: Software or operating system version
Second potential root cause could be differences in software versions or operating system versions that could then lead to incompatibility issues.
And this can happen after either a software update, or an operating system update on one of the devices.
For instance, with Apple Notes, new features are added almost every year, and some of them require all your devices to run a minimum version of the operating system.
If one of your devices is stuck at an older and incompatible version of the OS, some of the notes that you create, let’s say on an iPhone running the latest version, might not be visible on an older Mac or iPad, even though they are connected to the same iCloud account.
And problems with Pages, Numbers and Keynote, they also fall in that category.
I remember sharing a Numbers document between my EasyTECH iCloud account and my personal iCloud account, and after a software update. Keynote required a more recent version of macOS in order to continue collaborating on the same file.
So I could open it and modify it on my Mac running, I think it was Big Sur at the time, but none of the changes that I would make would get pushed to iCloud.
And because at that time I didn’t want to upgrade macOS from Big Sur to Monterrey, I had to move the document away from iCloud and then into my Synology NAS and synchronize it that way.
So to troubleshoot this kind of problem, Pay attention to any notice that you see either before or after an operating system upgrade or a software update.
Another thing you can do is visit the Apple support page or the software vendor website for any new changes and notification of changes.
And if it’s possible, update the application on all your devices, or upgrade all your devices to the latest version of the OS, or to the minimum required version of the OS for the synchronization to happen seamlessly.
So that’s number two.
Root cause #3: Incorrect settings
Number three, it could be that the settings or the configuration of the application is done incorrectly.
And so if you have conflicting account settings or some of these synchronization are disabled, obviously then all your devices could not play nice together.
I’ve had cases for some of my clients, where calendar events created on one device would not appear on another one, on another device.
And it turned out that actually they didn’t configure the same accounts on all their devices.
I don’t remember exactly what, what had happened, but it was like having configured iCloud and Google Calendar on one device, but only iCloud on the other device.
Obviously, when they create an event for the Google Calendar on their Mac, this event could never appear on the iPhone because the Google account was not configured or the Google account was configured, but calendar synchronization was not toggled on.
Another common source of Settings problem is which online service is configured by default.
So it’s possible to tell your iPhone, your iPad, your Mac, that every new event is saved in a specific calendar, and if that default calendar is not the same on all your devices, then it’s very easy that some event that you create on one device does not appear on the right one on the other devices.
And by the way, it’s exactly the same with Contacts.
So as troubleshooting steps on your Mac I recommend to access the Preferences pane or the Settings pane of the application. So you click on the application name and then you will see preferences or settings and then check if there are any problems over there.
You could also visit System Preferences or System Settings and then visit Internet Accounts. There you will see what is toggled on and off.
On your iPhone or iPad, you open the Settings app, then you visit the service that you have problems with. For instance, you scroll down to contacts to calendar, to mail.
Then you look at, first of all, there will be a section with the default account. And then you also have a, an accounts menu, then you’ll see all the accounts, tap on those ones that are impacted and see if everything is toggled on properly.
So that was number three. So let’s go to the fourth one.
Root cause #4: Data conflicts
And it could be conflicting or corrupted data, which could be duplicate files, misplaced data, or incomplete transfer.
And this can happen when you open the same file on different devices at the same time, or when you open files that are shared with other people.
In theory it should work, but sometimes the server gets confused about which version is the latest one, or it has issues integrating all the changes made at the same time.
To troubleshoot this kind of problem on your Mac, make sure to do a copy of the affected document using either “Save as” or “Duplicate”. Then exit the application. Wait a little bit. If it still doesn’t work, reboot the computer and then check again.
On your iPhone or your iPad, same thing. Make a copy or duplicate the file that you’re working on. Force quit the application. So either you double click on the home button or you swipe up into the middle of the screen and then you completely swipe up the application.
And if it still doesn’t work, restart your devices again.
And if none of those steps solve the issue, it could be due to one of the three last root causes.
Root cause #5: Time & date discrepancy
So root cause number five, it could be a discrepancy in time and date.
So if one of your devices has incorrect time and date settings, then there could be issues for the server to determine, okay, which version do I need to pull or push.
And this can happen after an operating system update or in the case of your Mac if it crashes at one point, or the application crashes at one point.
So to troubleshoot this on your Mac, you visit System Preferences or System Settings, then Date and Time, and make sure that it’s updated automatically.
On your iPhone or iPad, you visit the Settings app, you go to general date and time, and again, “Set automatically” should be toggled on.
Then number six, it could also be that you don’t have enough storage space.
Root cause #6: Not enough space
It could be local storage space, so on your device, and in that case it cannot pull new things from the cloud.
This usually happens on MacBooks with 128 or 256 gigabyte of storage, which is, in my opinion, not enough nowadays to cope with the amount of data that we as solopreneur we usually deal with.
This can also happen to a lesser extent on older iPhones and iPads. Even though by nature iOS or iPad OS can easily free up space when needed.
But sometimes it’s not the devices space, the issue, it’s actually the cloud storage space.
So it could be iCloud storage, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Workspace Storage. And in that, in that case, new files, new documents, new picture you just took with your iPhone, can’t be uploaded to the cloud until we either delete or move stuff out of the cloud storage or we increase our quota.
And so as troubleshooting steps on your Mac, To check the available local storage space, you visit the Apple menu, then “About this Mac”:
-)if you have macOS Monterey earlier you there is be, there will be a storage tab and you will see how much storage left you have
-)on macOS Ventura or later, you will click on the “More info” button, it’ll open the System Settings app, you will scroll down and you will see the available space.
To check the available space on iCloud, you open System Preferences or System Settings, then you click on your Apple id, then on iCloud.
And if you want to check for Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, there will be a small icon in the menu bar in the top right corner next to the clock, and then after clicking on that icon, you should see a setting pane, usually it’s an icon that looks like a cogwheel
On your iPhone or your iPad, to check the local storage: you visit Settings, General, iPhone storage, and for the iCloud storage, you open the Settings app, Apple ID and there you will have iCloud.
For Dropbox. OneDrive, Google Drive. You can open the mobile application if you find the Settings pane. I know that for OneDrive personal, it works, but not for OneDrive business.
If you can’t find the available storage space in the cloud, you can then open Safari. You log into your account and you will be able to find that information over there.
Root cause #7: Cloud server or service is down
And finally, if it’s not related to your device, somehow it could be a server or a cloud service issue, right?
So if the cloud server is down, it can’t accept the changes that one of your devices is trying to push or it can’t push the latest changes that it has to one of your devices that just got turned on.
For checking Apple Services status, you visit the page, https://www.apple.com/support/systemstatus in one word.
You might see an orange or a red light next to the service that is causing an issue.
Now for Dropbox, you visit: https://status.dropbox.com .
For Microsoft stuff you visit: https://portal.microsoft.com/servicestatus in one word.
For Google Workspace: it’s https://www.google.com/appsstatus/dashboard.
And if you have other cloud services that you’re using, you can also visit a website called Down Detector. So https://www.downdetector.com in one word, and you will then be able to search for a cloud service.
And there is a very high chance that you will find it there, and if it’s down, some of the users of this service will report it, and you will then see how many people reported that, since when and so on.
And so if all your devices are impacted, this is most probably the root cause.
But if you make some changes on your Mac specifically, but nothing gets pushed to your other devices, And if you visit the system status page, you see the server is accessible, then you should double check the synchronization agent that is running on your Mac and check it still running.
To do that, you look at the Menu Bar on top right corner of your Mac screen and you make sure that the little icon is there.
So the little icon, the little cloud for OneDrive, the Dropbox icon, the Google Drive icon is there.
If it is not there in your Menu Bar, it means that the synchronization agent crashed at some point and then stopped communicating with the server.
So to troubleshoot that, you open the Applications folder on your Mac, and then you will manually launch the service: so it could be Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive.
And then if that still doesn’t work, restart your Mac and try again.
So now that we have covered the troubleshooting part, let’s see what we can do to prevent synchronization issues from happening, or to reduce the risk in the future.
So for that, I recommend a minimalist approach.
So first step, reduce the number of devices that need to be synchronized.
So maybe that tablet isn’t that crucial for your day-to-day operation of your business, especially if it’s an old one.
And on my side from, for a very long, long time, I kept my old iPhone 6 connected to my EasyTECH iCloud account.
But since the iPhone 6 is stuck at iOS 12, I couldn’t take full advantage of the latest features in Reminders and Apple Notes.
Number two, consider consolidating your cloud providers.
So, for instance, one of my clients had many issues in the past because she was using different services for different things.
She was using iCloud for her contacts, personal and professional, then Google for the calendar, personal, professional, and Dropbox for the files, and she even had at that point an IMAP email account or something that is not linked to anything .
When she transitioned to Microsoft 365 for all her business stuff, So business contacts, business calendar, business files, and business email.
Well, guess what? The number of issues that she was facing got reduced dramatically.
So she kept all her personal stuff on iCloud and all the business stuff was on Microsoft 365.
Now, most of the issues were solved, but not everything, And I will come back to that in a, in a few minutes.
And number three of my minimalist approach: consider using native or web apps rather than configuring everything locally.
So there is a big advantage of connecting to a service directly from a browser. So using the web app.
The big advantage is that you work directly on the server, right?
There is nothing to transfer. There is no synchronization. You, you are directly on the, the truth, on the source of data.
And by the way, that’s one of the thing that I recommend my clients to do when, when they face some synchronization issue is, Go on outlook.com. Go on office.com and see what’s on there, or visit icloud.com and look at your notes, look at your pictures and see what’s up there as well.
If you have a Google Workspace account, you can virtually eliminate synchronization issues by using the web app. So connecting from a browser, I recommend Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge because they are much more optimized for all the Google stuff.
And on your mobile devices, iPhone, iPad, install the Gmail app, the Google Calendar app, the Google Contacts app directly from the App Store.
The reason is simple: those applications, they have been designed to seamlessly talk to the server.
Same thing, if you are a Microsoft 365 user, I recommend to install and to use the Outlook application on your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
Again, they have been built by Microsoft to communicate with Microsoft Server.
And if you remember that client who migrated to Microsoft 365, well she still has synchronized issues from time to time because she is still using most of the time the native mail apps, contacts, app calendar apps on Mac and every time I’ve helped her troubleshoot the issue was by making her use the Outlook app on her Mac.
So to recap, if you encounter synchronization issues between your Apple devices, it’s important to discover the most likely root cause of the issue, and then apply the necessary troubleshooting steps.
At a high level the issue can come either from one of your devices or from the server itself.
It may sound cliche, but start by turning off wifi and by rebooting your devices.
If that doesn’t work, check other potential root causes as laid out in this episode.
And to reduce the risk of potential synchronization issues, I suggest adopting a minimalist approach.
First, reduce the number of devices that need to be synchronized.
Second, reduce the number of cloud providers that you rely upon for your business.
And number three, use a web app or install dedicated apps that talk directly to the cloud servers to minimize the intermediate layers.
And in the next episode, I will cover the three killers of Mac productivity.
So make sure to click the follow or subscribe button so that you won’t miss this jam-packed episode.
So that’s it for today. I hope this episode has given you the tips, that you need to troubleshoot and prevent synchronization issues between your Apple devices.
And until next time, I’m Damien Schreurs, wishing you a great day.
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