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Mac Maintenance and Optimization

written by: Austin•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 9/19/2011

If you're a messy person and you're not quite sure how to keep your Mac cleaned out and at its peak performance, this guide is for you. From things like desktop organization that help aesthetics, to more complex tasks dealing with apps such as MacJanitor, we've got you covered.

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    Getting The Most Out Of Your Computer

    When you think of the words "optimization" and "maintenance", you probably think of the kinds of things that computer nerds do in their free time, or the stuff you have to pay tech people to do for you to make sure your computer is easy to use, as fast as possible, and as safe as possible. That's not always true though; many computer optimization techniques can be done from the safety of your own home (as opposed to the terrible dangerous and expensive world of GeekSquad), and without much more than a dollar. Probably even less than that. Maybe even free.

    It's amazing what you can accomplish with a little research, isn't it? Check out all the useful links below...

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    Cleaning Out Login Items

    The first thing anyone does when they get their computer is, obviously, turn it on. But what do you do when ten different applications try to run upon start-up and it slows everything down? Easy: You've gotta shut that stuff off to make sure it doesn't bog you down in the future. Here's how.

    Staying Clean and Optimized with MacJanitor

    Many people don't know this, but Mac computers are actually built to be left on all the time, and they run cleaning processes during the wee hours of the morning that make sure stuff doesn't get too cluttered. If you're someone who shuts down their computer at night, you'll want a nifty tool called Mac Janitor that can run these processes whenever you see fit, and make sure your computer stays in tip-top shape.

    Cleaning Up With Defragmenting

    When your computer installs something of a larger file size- say, 5GB- often times there isn't 5GB of free space all in one spot on your hard drive. More than likely the 5GB it needs is broken into many different parts of the hard drive, so your computer naturally just breaks up the file and leaves it that way for reading later. No big deal- until it happens many times, after which it takes significantly longer to read files. To fix this problem, you need to run a "defragmentation", which is exactly what this article will describe to you.

    Speeding Things Up By Cleaning the Cache

    When you look at something online or go to a website, your computer saves the location- URL title, icon, etc- onto your hard drive for quicker access later. This is generally really useful, but sometimes these folders of icons and history (or "caches") get really large in size, and that's when you'll want to clean them out. Here's how to do that.

    Truly Remove Applications and Components

    On most computer, when you "remove" an application, you didn't actually "remove" it completely. There are still bits and pieces of it left over that stay hidden on your computer for months, or even years, until you get a new hard drive. There is, however, a better way to uninstall such things, covered in this useful article.

    Uncovering the Myths of Mac Maintenance

    When cleaning out and organizing your Mac (as you will be using this guide), there are many myths that you'll want to try. Some are true, and some aren't, but it's important to distinguish between them so you don't waste precious time doing unnecessary tasks.

    Working to Tidy Your Desktop

    Beyond the performance aspect of laptop speed comes the speed with which you can control it- and that's hindered by having too many files. Here are some tips on cleaning up your desktop using nothing more than the abilities already built into your Mac.

    Tidying Your Desktop With Software

    If you're the type of person who doesn't like doing things by themselves, then you'll love this article. Cleaning your desktop off can certainly be a hassle, and in a lot of respects it's not even worth your time (sort of). But what if there were applications meant to do it for you? Well, there are, and you can find them all in this article about cheating your way out of cleaning.

    Changing Icon and Folder Appearances

    Another part of navigating your computer is knowing how to find certain things, and when all the file folder look exactly the same, how are you supposed to tell the difference between "Applications","Programs", and "Utilities"? Well, there is an easier way: Changing how the icons of your folders look, and it's as easy as 1-2-3.

    Organizing Your E-Mail

    I think it's safe to say that 99.9% of computer owners also actively use an e-mail account, and if it takes you a long time to go through those old files just to find something to copy into another program, you're certainly not using your computer at its optimum ability. Here's how to keep those files clean to help both you and your computer navigate everything faster.

    Cleaning the Address Book

    Macs come with a lot of great organization software preloaded into them, one of which is the brilliantly simple Address Book. If you've been keeping track of contacts for a long time, and not gone through the trouble of properly organizing them, your computer is going to have a hard time searching through them, and ultimately it will slow you down. Here's how to remedy that in a few easy steps.

    General Folder Organization

    Last but certainly not least in the set of articles about organization is your general folder organization. This one isn't so much for the computer itself as it is for you, but it is remarkably helpful. Simple tips on making sure your music gets into the music folder, documents go where they should, and everything else stays in quick-access so you never miss a step.

    Deleting Preference Files

    When you set preferences of an application- such as allowing Pages to auto-bulletin- the computer saves that information in a preference file. But what if you want Pages to stop auto-numberings things, because it's driving you insane? Well, then you'll need to delete those preference files. Here's how.

    Media Woes: Working With Video

    One of the things that OS X doesn't do all that well is handle a lot of different video types. Thankfully, there is some great freeware software you can get that will fill this whole in the Mac architecture once and for all, allowing you to properly play "weird" files like .AVI, .FLV, and more.

    Best Word Processors

    The first and most important function a computer fulfills is that of its word processing, and if you can't do that effectively, you really can't do all that much. I use it daily, all the writers and editors here at BrightHub use it daily, and ultimately, you'll need an application that suits your needs perfectly. Here's a list of the best, all for Mac.

    Clearing a Hard Drive

    When your hard drive is getting too full, too corrupted, or just too cluttered for your brain, there is only one thing to do: Wipe it clean. It's a sad thing to do (and make sure you back it up first!), but sometimes it's necessary, and it's certainly useful to know how to do in any case. This step-by-step guide will ensure that when the time comes- and it will come- you don't goof anything up too badly.

    Erasing and Shredding Files

    If you don't want to totally clear your hard drive, but just want to permanently erase some files (and we mean permanently), then you can do what's referred to as a "file shredding". Similar to spies in movies shredding important documents, this act will make sure no one gets their hands on a certain file that you need to make sure stays safe.

    Putting Terminal to Work For You

    A lesser-used function of Macs is the Terminal application, which is a nice, old-school command prompt which can do quite a few things. Some of these things are useful, while others are just a little bit of a hassle- you'll just need to know exactly what you type in to get the best results.

    Using Time Machine To Stay Safe

    Intel Macs these days have something that is totally brilliant built into them- an application called "Time Machine". What this does is periodically saves the state of your hard drive so that if it crashes or becomes corrupted, you can just "go back in time" and turn your computer into the state it was in at another time. A simpler time. It's like a magic photo album that you can travel into, only for your computer.

    Backing Up Your Install Disk

    Last, but certainly not least, is the function that can totally and completely save your Mac if things go wrong. Even if you're one of those people who thinks "It's a Mac. It'll never break." Believe you me; it's much better safe than sorry in these cases. Can you imagine what would happen if you lost everything on your computer right now, and couldn't reinstall the OS? It's not a pretty sight, so here's how to back up that install disk, which is pretty much a failsafe in case anything truly nasty gets into your computer.

References

  • All articles and information are from BrightHub sources.