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Add Hardware to Improve Your Mac’s Performance

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 2/5/2009

You can add hardware to your Mac to improve its performance, offer more space for saving files, and even to add more screen real estate. You can add RAM, second monitors, additional hard drives, and even USB and FireWire ports, to name a few.

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    Add Hardware to Improve Performance

    Have you ever thought you’d like to add a room onto your house or turn your garage into a game room? I think about that a lot, and it isn’t because my house is falling down, in disrepair, or that I need to buy a new one: I just need more room. In fact, I think I could live in this house for another 10 years if I added that room, got a storage place, and gave the place a makeover with some new paint and carpet. The same is true of your Mac.

    No matter how much care you take, there will come a time when you realize you’re simply out of space. You need more RAM so the computer can handle all of those fancy programs you’ve installed. You might need a larger (or separate hard disk), a backup device, or a USB interface or expansion unit to house all of your USB devices. These items can give your computer new life and enhance how it performs. You may even want to connect a second monitor for more screen space.The easiest and fastest way to give your computer a performance boost is to add RAM, though, so let’s look at that first.

     

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    Adding RAM

    Adding RAM to your Mac will improve its performance. Period. To see how much memory is installed in your Mac and if you have any available slots for adding more:

    1.      Open Applications>Utilities>System Profiler.

    2.      Expand Hardware and choose Memory.

    3.      Write down the information given.

    4.      Next, find out what type machine you have. You can get this information from System Profiler too; just click Hardware. You will probably be asked for this information when you purchase your RAM.

    5.      Purchase the RAM and install it per the included instructions.

     

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    Add a Backup Device

    To protect yourself from a disaster such as a failed hard drive, unrecoverable kernel panic, a spilled cup of coffee, or a lightning strike, you’ll need to back up your data regularly. One way to make this easier is to install an external hard drive.

    External hard drives can be purchased from almost any computer store and are generally easily installed. Just plug it in to the USB or FireWire port, plug it in, and turn it on, and it’s right there as another drive on your desktop.

    Tip: If you want to add a second internal hard drive or remove the one you have and install a larger one, head to your local Apple store. You’ll want an Apple technician to handle that job for you.

     

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    Add a Second Monitor

    If your computer screen is filled up with running programs and you constantly have to toggle between open windows, consider adding another monitor and extending the desktop to it. Adding a second monitor can be beneficial for those people who use multiple programs and have to access multiple open windows, such as day traders, programmers, movie makers, or artists.

    Note: Not all Apple models allow the desktop to be “extended.” For example, while you can use the Video Out port on an eMac to connect to an external monitor or projection device that uses a VGA connector, the eMac only mirrors what’s on the screen and does not extend it. This won’t be of much help if you need more screen real estate. However, it might be helpful if you’re a teacher or presenter and need to show what you see on a projection screen.

    To connect an external display or a projector:

    1.      Turn off the computer.

    2.      Connect a video cable (and an adapter, if necessary) from the video output port on your computer or graphics card to the video input port on the second display. (You’ll need an adapter if your second display is a television or similar device.)

    3.      Verify that the connections are solid.

    4.      Turn on the computer and the second display.

    5.      Once the new display is connected, you can configure it in System Preferences>Display.

    6.      If your computer supports an extended desktop, click Arrangement. Follow the onscreen instructions.

    7.      If you computer does not support extended desktop, click Arrangement and select Mirror Displays.

    Tip: To find out if your computer supports an extended desktop, refer to your user’s guide or the manual that came with your computer

     

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    Add USB and FireWire Capabilities

    As time passes, you’re likely to acquire more and more USB and FireWire hardware. These might consist of USB keyboards or mice, cameras, scanners, card readers, or iPods, just to name a few. You may not have all of the ports you need, though, and you may find yourself unplugging your DV camera to plug in your external backup device, or unplugging your PDA’s synchronizing base to plug in your scanner. That’s no good. You can resolve these problems by purchasing and installing USB and hubs or cards, or FireWire cards, and then you can leave everything plugged in all the time.

    There are several places to purchase USB and FireWire accessories, including Apple’s store at www.apple.com/store. I’ve had better luck with other options, though, including my local computer store and online retailers. One of my favorite sites is www.keyspan.com, which offers cards and hubs that work on the Mac, at reasonable prices. Most of the time, installing is a simple affair, taking only a few minutes if the devices are external devices.