Is your Mac running slower than usual? Prolonged use can lead to extra files and settings bloat that will slow down the performance of the computer. Follow this guide for a wide variety of tips and tricks, including removing unnecessary files, upgrading your hardware, defragging your hard drive and reinstalling your copy of Mac OS X.
Cleaning Up Your Desktop
Update your system. Keeping your software and operating system up to date will make sure that your system is secure and running at its best. When software is updated, oftentimes the performance of the software can increase. Staying updated and secure will also help keep malicious files from slowing down your computer.
Click the Apple menu and select Software Update. The program will check the internet for any available updates for your installed applications and your operating system.
Install the updates you want. In general, it is recommended that you install all available updates to ensure that you have all the latest fixes and security changes.
You can check for updates for apps installed with the App Store by opening the App Store and clicking the Updates tab. OS X Mountain Lion and later will include App Store updates in the general Software Update program. Older versions of OS X will need to update App Store apps through the store interface.
Uninstall old programs. While they may not be actively running, old programs take up storage space. This can be an issue if you are running out of room on your hard drive, as low free space can decrease performance. To uninstall applications, you normally just need to drag them to the trash can. This will leave behind old files and preferences, however, which can bog down your system. Try using an uninstaller application to completely remove old programs. There are several free and paid applications available from the App Store.
Clear out unnecessary desktop icons. Having too many icons on your screen can negatively impact your computer’s performance. This is because Mac OS X treats every icon as an individual window. The impact may be small, but can be noticeable if you have a large number of icons.
Disable widgets. If you are using the Dashboard and widgets, you may be eating up your system’s memory. Widgets are mini-programs that are constantly running in the background. Because of this, they are a small but constant drain on your system resources.
If you are using OS X 10.5 or earlier, you can access the Widget Manager from the Dashboard. Click the + sign in the Dashboard to open the Widget Bar. Select the Widgets icon on the left side of the row of icons. Uncheck any widgets you don’t want to use in the list.
If you are using OS X 10.4, you will need to manually delete widgets. Open the Finder, and then click the Go menu. Choose Home from the dropdown menu. Open your Library folder, and then find the Widgets folder. Drag any widgets that you wish to remove into the Trash Can.
If you don’t use widgets at all, you can disable the entire Dashboard. Open your Applications folder and then open Utilities. Select Terminal. In the Terminal, run the following commands:defaults write com.apple.dashboard mcx-disabled –boolean YESkillall DockTo return the Dashboard, reenter the same command but change YES to NO.
Changing Your Startup Items
Disable unnecessary programs. When new programs are installed, they sometimes start themselves up when Mac OS X boots up to save you time when you want to start the program. If you don’t use the program often, however, then all this does is increase the amount of time it takes to start the computer.
Open System Preferences. You can access the System Preferences by clicking the Apple menu in the top-left corner of the screen. In System Preferences, select Users & Groups from the Systems section. Select your user.
Choose your login items. Once you’ve selected the user, click the Login Items button. This will display a list of all the programs that start up when that user logs in. Use the – button to remove items from the list.
Maintaining and Optimizing the Hard Drive
Clean out old unused files. Keeping your hard drive clean and error-free is a great way to keep your Mac running smoothly. While you can go through your hard drive file by file to find things to delete, there are programs that will simplify the process.
One such program is Disk Inventory X, a free application that will graphically portray how much of your hard disk space is being taken by what kinds of files. You can then use the program to clean out specific files from your computer.
Another software program to use is Drive Genius, a $99 application that will help you speed up, clean up and optimize your Mac.
Remove unused language files. If you typically only use one or two languages with your Mac, you can remove the other language files to free up a substantial amount of hard disk space. To do this, you will need a program called Monolingual. This program is free and open-source, and older versions support older operating systems. Drive Genius has a tool called DriveSlim will help you free up space with: Duplicate Files Search, Large Files Search, Language Support Removal and Universal Binary slimming. Removing the English language files from Mac OS X can cause it to malfunction.
Verify your hard disk’s integrity. Regularly checking your hard disk can catch errors before they become a serious issue. OS X comes with a hard disk verification tool. You can access it by opening your Applications folder and then the Utilities folder. Select Disk Utility.
Select your hard disk from the frame on the left. In the main frame, click the First Aid tab, and then click the Verify Disk button. Disk Utility will then begin checking the disk. The results will be displayed in the readout frate. The check process may take a while, especially if you have a large drive.
Repair a damaged disk. If Disk Verification says that the disk has errors, click the Repair Disk button in the First Aid tab. Disk Utility will attempt to repair the errors. If the errors are serious, the hard drive may need to be replaced. There are other programs that will help with repairing the hard drive. Some of these options are Drive Genius or Disk Warrior.
Use a system cleaner. There are a variety of system optimizers available for both free and for purchase. These programs will optimize your applications and remove old, unused files. Some of the more popular options include CCleaner and Onyx
Defragging the Hard Drive
Over time opening, editing, saving and deleting files will cause the hard drive to become fragmented. When a file is saved it looks for empty space to save the file to and if the space is too small it will save the data to multiple locations. This way no disk space is wasted. However, this will cause the drive to slow down as it will need to scan multiple parts of the hard drive to locate and read the file. The more writing and deleting that is done to the hard drive, the more fragmented the drive will be. The process will gradually have an impact on the hard drive’s performance. This is why using a software program to defragment your computer is an excellent way to boost the performance of your computer.
Drive Genius has an Enhanced Defrag tool that puts all these broken up pieces together into one continuous block with all of the empty space at the end. The Defrag feature displays information in two separate tabs: Volume Fragmentation and File Fragmentation. Volume Fragmentation will display a graphical representation for a quick overview for the files laid across the hard drive. File Fragmentation will display a list of the files that are fragmented on the hard drive. This list will indicate which files are fragmented, how many fragments the file is spilt into, and how much space the file uses.
Adding More RAM
Purchase more memory. Depending on your system, you may be able to add more RAM (Random Access Memory). RAM allows programs to store information into quickly accessible memory, which increases the speed at which programs can operate.
Determine how much memory you currently have installed. Different systems will require different types of RAM. MacBooks will use different RAM than desktop Macs, and different models will use different speeds. Be sure to research what type of memory to purchase for your model, as well as if you can actually add more.
To find out how much memory you have installed, as well as the speed of the memory, click the Apple menu and select About This Mac. This will open a window showing your installed version of OS X, your processor, and your memory.
This screen does not tell you how much memory your system will support. Typically you can install up to 4GB, though there are some models of MacBooks that only support up to 2GB. Be sure to double check your documentation to see how much memory you can use.
If you have 2GB installed, and you want to install another 2GB, it may not be as simple as buying one stick of 2GB memory and inserting it. Chances are that you have two slots for RAM, and that each of these currently has a 1GB stick installed. In order to upgrade to 4GB, you would need to purchase 2 2GB sticks.
Open the computer. If you are installing MacBook memory, you will need to remove the back casing from the laptop. Be sure to note which screws belong to which holes, because some of the screws may be different sizes. If you are upgrading a desktop computer, you will need to remove the case so you can access the components.
When working with components inside the computer, be sure to discharge any static electricity by touching the bare metal of the laptop casing.
Eject the old RAM. If you are uninstalling MacBook RAM, the RAM slots will have metal ejection levers on the side. Press these in to pop the existing RAM up at an angle. Pull the RAM straight out by gripping the notches on the side and pulling firmly. If you are removing desktop RAM, the slots are vertical, and the latches are plastic and located on each end.
Install the new RAM. If you are installing MacBook RAM, insert it in at the same angle that it ejected. Install memory into the lower slot first, then the upper slot. Push firmly with even pressure directly into the slot until the stick clicks into place. If you are installing RAM for a desktop, insert it straight into the slot and push evenly until the stick clicks into place.
Reboot your computer. You can verify that the RAM was installed correctly by clicking the Apple menu and selecting About This Mac. Verify that the correct RAM total is displayed. If it is not, you may have incorrectly installed the RAM, or installed the wrong type.
Reinstalling Mac OS X
Reboot in Recovery mode. If your system is bogged down, and nothing seems to be able to fix it, you may need to format and reinstall your installation of Mac OS X. Make sure that you have any important files backed up before reinstalling, as all of your data will be deleted.
To reboot into Recovery mode, click the Apple menu and select Restart. While the computer is rebooting, hold down the Command + R button. The Recovery menu will open after the computer boots.
Erase the disk. Select Disk Utility from the Recovery menu. From the list of your drives, select the hard drive that OS X is installed on. Click the Erase tab, and then select Mac OS Extended (Journaled) in the Format menu. Enter a name for the hard disk and click Erase.
After the erase process is complete, click Disk Utility and then select Quit Disk Utility.
Connect to a network. In order to reinstall Mac OS X, you will need to have an internet connection. This can either be via a wired connection, or via Wi-Fi. You can access the Wi-Fi menu at the top-right corner of the screen.
Reinstall Mac OS X. Click the Reinstall Mac OS X button and then click Continue. You will need to accept the license agreement, and confirm that you accept it. Then, select the disk that you want to install Mac OS X on. This should be the disk that you erased in the second step of this section. You will be asked for your Apple ID in order to proceed with the installation. Once you sign in, the installation will begin. The process can take up to an hour.
Once installation is complete, the computer will reboot and your newly reinstalled copy of Mac OS X will begin. You will need to set some basic preferences, such as language and date & time settings.
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