Why do maintenance if Apple doesn’t mention it in their manual? Oh wait – you usually have to buy a Missing Manual. (-;
It’s common to feel we are getting mixed messages from companies like Apple. They want most consumers to believe (in Apple’s case, it’s mostly true) that using a Mac is easy and doesn’t require tinkering or fuss. Personal Computers have come a long way, but they are still a package of very sophisticated electronic components with lots of digital instructions.
This isn’t going to be the why, it’s going to be the how. And how to do it simple and quick. And you can rest assured, that along with your Time Machine Backup, you’ve done all that you can to protect and care for your Mac to minimize failures and possible expensive repairs.
Big repair bills and poor performance can be avoided by doing a few things your Mac is already programmed to do. Which is most likely why Apple does not tell you to do it.
Dispel the Myths
I won’t go into the details here, but based on my experience and research to dispel some maintenance myths that have been around for many years, I want to set it straight and clear for you, my readers.
Another thing that has prompted me to write this article is the number of utility applications on the market recently. I’ve looked at many of them and I’m just saddened to see marketing ploys and scare tactics used to get nice Mac users to buy these products. Many of the products are just a combination of patched together free utilities of things that your Mac can already do. Some of them may be good products, but not something an average user should be tinkering with.
Most of the utilities are built in to Mac OS X but are scheduled to run regularly at night, however that’s when your computer is asleep or off. So your Mac doesn’t get the chance to do its job. They aren’t critical though. However once in a blue moon, they can be helpful. So my motto is, if it doesn’t take much effort, just do it to prevent problems.
There is another class of utility that is usually disputed, and that’s called disk defragmentation. Those who say you don’t need to do it on a Mac are correct. (Except in cases where the hard drive is close to capacity so there are no large blocks of contiguous free memory that are connected physically which can be used when RAM memory is at capacity.) This happens mostly with professionals who edit large files, like video files. So again, although its not critical, I think it’s good to be aware and prepared.
Apple’s solution to defragmentation issues does in theory work: buy a new larger hard drive. Not everyone can drop what they are doing and replace their hard drive. Eventually you’ll need to, but if you are holding off just a bit longer to buy a new Mac, it would be sensible to wait.
I recommend having a product that tests for fragmentation, then if it turns out you have the problem and do need to defragment, pay for the one that works the best. See the steps below for how to do this.
By following the suggestions outlined below, not only will you lower your chances of dealing with an unhappy Mac, Mac OS X upgrade installations go smoother.
That’s enough explaining, let’s get to the doing.
You should be able to do this maintenance in less than 10 minutes!
Here is what you’ll need:
1. Keep your OS X up to date.
Use the latest version of OS X that your Mac can run and keep it up to date by running Software Update and applying all updates Apple provides. You can start Software Update from the System Preferences window, or from the top Apple menu on the top left of your screen.
2. A clean desktop.
The items in your desktop folder actually use system resources in more than one place including needing to be rendered as little images perpetually on your screen. There are many way to access files easily. Even if you put one folder on the desktop and drag them all into it, it will help. Even better, go into your finder window and move that “desktop clutter folder” to Documents, then drag the folder icon to the right side of your dock. You will then have a shortcut to it. Ok done.
To keep from having slow email problems that many of us experienced in the past, and other difficulties; if you use Apple Mail or any other email software, each of your email accounts should be on the more modern, easier to sync IMAP protocol. Check with your email provider if you are not sure.
3. YASU (Yet Another Software Utility), which is free (a donation is requested) Download at http://jimmitchell.org/yasu/.
4. iDefrag (demo version) at http://www.coriolis-systems.com/iDefrag.php.
Place the apps in your Utilities folder inside of your Applications folder. Then drag their icons, one at a time, to your Dock so that they are always easy to get to.
Here is my recommendation, based on years of testing, for running system maintenance:
1) Launch YASU and make sure the following are Unchecked:
• Update Prebinding
• Reset Launch Services
• Clear Swap Files
• Remove Cookies
Make sure that everything else in YASU’s main window is checked.
Choose: Restart After Done.
Click on Start.
2) When your Mac restarts after YASU is done, immediately after the startup sound, hold down the Shift key until you see the spinning pinwheel. Let go of the shift key and wait for your Mac to start up fully. (Which might take noticeably longer than usual.) Once your Mac is fully started up, choose Restart in the Apple menu and allow your Mac to restart again normally. (This time don’t hold down the Shift key).
3) Download iDefrag, or the demo of iDefrag. Run the scan and have a look at the chart showing the data on your drive, and check to see that there is at least one large chunk of contiguous free space (in white) left on your hard drive. If the rare case there is not, you can pay the license fee for iDefrag, or the application of your choice, to try to remedy the problem to bypass the Apple solution (get a larger new hard drive).
You’re done! Almost.
Keeping your desktop clean is an ongoing task. Try to run Yasu every couple of months or if it’s easier to remember, add it to something else you do regularly, like change the baking soda in the fridge (I do it every season change) or every time you change the oil in your car.
There are more tips I will cover later but this is enough to clear up some confusion and get you going, while keeping it simple.
If you want to go more in depth on this topic I recommend the following book.
Please post your thoughts, reactions and results in the comment section below this article.
Keep your Mac running smoothly with an easy maintenance program!
Regular maintenance is necessary for peak performance and to prevent problems, but it’s hard to know what to do and when to do it. Never fear, because you can now turn to best-selling author Joe Kissell, who walks you through his commonsense approach. Read this ebook to learn how to start on the right foot; what you should do daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly; and how to prepare for Mac OS X updates. Joe even explains how to monitor your Mac’s health and debunks common panaceas.
Whether you’re using 10.5 Leopard, 10.6 Snow Leopard, or 10.7 Lion, you can find answers to questions such as:
- How can I tell if my Mac is likely to have trouble?
- How can I find out which unnecessary files are taking up space on my disk?
- Should I defragment my hard disk and repair permissions regularly?
- What are the safest ways to clean dust and crud from my Mac?
- What is the best way to keep my software up to date?