Posted by Florian Wardell | 4 comments
Boost your Mac in 5 simple steps
Every now and then, I’m forced to work on a colleague’s computer, and it’s no fun. Sometimes it’s a Windows machine, and seeing the virus scanner expiration dates popup, the overcrowded task bar and random warning windows show up is almost funny, but using a badly configured Mac is like driving a Porsche with flat tires. The problem with Macs is that they are so easy to use that they don’t force their users to learn the basics, and that even if they are slow, old, badly configured and full of bugs, they’re incredibly hard to crash. And when they do, a simple restart usually hides the problem again, prompting the user to think that if “it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”. The good news is that they are equally easy to clean up than they are to mess up. Here are five simple tips to ensure that your Mac is always running bug-free and as fast as it can.
Ok, I now some people still use their Apple II computer, but don’t expect too much if your Mac is more than 5 years old. The battery will die sooner or later, and the hard drive like any mechanical part, isn’t designed to live forever which means that one day or another it will fail. Always make backups.
But there are other reasons than total failure for upgrading your hardware. The more recent software usually requires higher specs, for instance. An easy way to boost your Mac’s performance is to simply buy more RAM. Consider 2GB the bare minimal for an up-to-date system. More RAM will allow you to do more things at the same time and to load larger apps. You can also upgrade your hard drive. Not only will it live longer, but newer drives have a higher capacity, and you can even choose to get faster ones, boosting your Mac’s overall performance.
What goes for hardware also goes for software. Apple and third party developers don’t spend time and money on updates because it’s fun, but because it’s necessary, so make sure that your system and apps are up to date.
The system and native apps (iLife, iWork, etc…) are extremely easy to update on Mac, there are no excuses not to do it. In the top menu, go > Software update and just let it run. It’s always a good idea to restart after an update, even if you’re not prompted to do so.
Third party apps are a little trickier to update because they’re not all handled in one common place (this is the one thing I envy Linux users for), so you’ll have to start each app up and see if there are updates manually. This is usually done by clicking on the app’s name in the top menu and clicking on “Check for updates”. If there is no such option (a rare case), find the homepage of your app on Google and download the latests updates.
One quick tip though: Install Bodega, an app that acts like a storefront right in your computer, and use it to find and manage updates for the apps it has already indexed.
Once you know that your system is up-to-date, organize it. This is one of the most important aspects of daily computing, and it will make your workflow faster and more efficient.
First and foremost, clean up your desktop. A desktop is exactly what it sounds like: a place to store temporary projects. Once you’re done working on a project, store it in a folder. The folder system is really well done on OSX, just go to Macintosh HD > User > YourName and you’ll find 8 different folder categories, ranging from music to documents. Use these to store your files, and don’t hesitate to create subcategories. Keeping your desktop clean is really important because every icon, folder or alias on it is loaded into the RAM, slowing your system down. If there is a certain folder or file you need to access regularly, leave it where it should be and slide into the right side of the OSX dock; this will create a stack, a feature that is incredibly useful.
While you’re at it, why don’t you use the opportunity to rename you files and delete duplicates? I suggest you set up an organizing routine and go through at least once a week.
Another thing I noticed on a lot of macs is the tendency to not install apps correctly. I distinctly remember a Skype app being kept in its mounted disk on the desktop, instead of drag-and-dropping it into the app folder.
Now that your system is organized, up-to-date and organized, it’s time to clean all the residue from the previous mess. There are a couple of expensive apps that will do this for you, but Onyx is free and is probably the best out there. Once you’ve installed it, let it run through its automated workflow. Onyx will delete your various caches, check and repair your disk permissions, delete various invisible files, rebuild indexes and run and so on. You may notice the changes or not, but a regular housekeeping session of your computer will increase its stability and lifespan.
You can also do some cleaning yourself: cleaning the cache of your browser and emptying your trash regularly is a good idea.
Oh, and one of the beautiful things about Macs are the incredible screens and wonderful design. Don’t let it become physically filthy, and if it does, clean it with a soft, damp cloth.
5. Be gentle
Even if your system is clean, up to date and well organized, go easy on it. Don’t run photoshop and watch a 1080p movie at the same time. Don’t load 1000 widgets in your dashboard. Also, a common beginner mistake, especially when switching from Windows, is to not close your apps. Remember, on Mac, closing the window does not quit the app. To completely quit the app, either press ⌘+Q or option click it in the dock and select “quit”. Do this every time you’re done using the app: this will free the RAM and allow you to move on to other tasks.
As you can see, all these tips are quite easy to follow, but like almost everything in life, they do require a minimum amount of self discipline. It’s quite easy to let your mac become a mess, but going through a weekly cleaning routine will make your computing experience easier. Do you have other Mac boosting tips? Share them in the comments section!
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