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How to Speed Up Your Mac

written by: Mike Piero•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 1/28/2011

Let’s be honest: Macs are not known to be the high-maintenance, computing "girlfriends" that their digital rivals, the Windows-based PCs, are. That doesn’t mean that they’re not entitled to a little attention every now and then to keep them happy and running smoothly. Check out these three tips.

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    Get Those Login Items Under Control

    One of the first things to check out is how many applications you have starting up when you boot up the Mac. Too many programs loading login items can significantly slow down your Mac as it’s starting up. Identifying the junk items is easy:

    1. Open System Preferences.

    2. Under System, click on the Accounts icon.

    3. Choose your account in the left hand column, and then click on the Login items tab.

    4. Highlight any programs you don’t use and click the “-“ sign to remove it from the list.

    Note: Please be careful when removing programs from the login list. Only remove login items from programs that you know that you do not use or that were put there without your permission. Aim to have no more than 4-5 login items for each account.

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    Free Up Some Space

    I don’t know about you, but I seem to always be running out to the store to buy extra hard drive storage. I never seem to have enough! The fact is that whether you’re running Windows or Mac OS X, your system will slow down over time. It’s not unreasonable, considering how many applications, music, videos, and pictures we cram onto a single hard drive! Take some time to backup some old photos or videos to a separate hard drive.

    Spend a few minutes removing the applications that you no longer use. AppZapper is a great application for removing programs from your Mac. As a general rule, try to keep at least 15 percent of your hard drive free at all times. When the computer drops below that, your performance will be affected because of the Mac OS X constant file indexing. Drop below 5 percent free space and your disk integrity may become compromised.

    If you haven't upgraded to Mac OS X Snow Leopard, be sure to do that, as it recovers 6GB of hard drive space when it is installed.

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    Be Proactive against Viruses

    Yes, you heard me right! Now, I’m not advocating that you go out and buy a full Mac Internet security suite and use multiple anti-spyware programs on a daily basis (like with Windows), but it is smart to take some common sense steps to stay protected. Although viruses/spyware on Mac OS X are still very rare compared to its chronically-infected competitor, the threat is growing as the proliferation of the Mac platform is continuing. I recommend using free, online virus and spyware scans to check weekly or bi-weekly for infection on your machine. Here are a few trusted scanners:

    1. Free Online Virus/Spyware Scan

    2. ClamXav – free, open source virus scanner

    3. MacScan 2.6 – Free trial, $29.99 to buy

    Just because we’ve been free from the headaches of infection that constantly plague Windows users, doesn’t mean that we should be complacent about our computer’s security.

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    Following the above three steps will help preserve your computer’s performance in the long-term. By keeping plenty of free space, controlling background/startup applications, and keeping your machine virus/spyware free, your Mac will know that you still care.