4 Simple Mac Maintenance Tips

Mar 4, 2012 - 40 Comments

Macs are notoriously trouble-free and easy to maintain, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore system maintenance entirely. Here are four simple Mac maintenance tips that will help you keep your Mac in tip-top shape, running at its best.

Mac Maintenance

1) Run Disk Utility

Running Disk Utility every month or two is a good idea for two reasons: repairing permissions, and more importantly, verifying and repairing the hard drive. Disk Utility is included on all Macs and found in the /Applications/Utilities folder, the two necessary procedures will be under the “First Aid” tab and can be run one after another.

1a) Repairing Disk Permissions
Repairing permissions is good practice, though it’s never the cure-all that so many claim it to be. Nonetheless, it’s still a good procedure to periodically run, especially after installing or uninstalling a bunch of applications.

1b) Repair Disk
This is probably the most important thing to do with Disk Utility. While you can verify the boot volume at any time, the best way to repair the boot disk is to boot from the recovery partition by holding down Command+R and running Disk Utility from there. This will be necessary if bad blocks are found or if the drive is corrupt. Be sure to run Verify Disk not only on the drive itself (physical drive name), but also the boot partition (Macintosh HD). If any errors are found, they’ll appear in red, and thankfully Disk Utility is usually more than capable of handling such repairs on it’s own.

Repair Disk in Mac OS X

2) Keep your Mac Software Updated

Keeping your Mac software up to date is vital. Periodically run Software Update from the  Apple menu, and periodically check the Mac App Store for updates of your apps there too. Updates can come in the form of general bug fixes, feature enhancements, and security fixes, and it’s so easy to do there is no excuse not to.

Software Update will check for updates once a week by default, but the Mac App Store has to be manually checked for updates in OS X Lion. With OS X Mountain Lion, Software Update moves to the Mac App Store so this whole process will be automated for OS X 10.8 users.

Software Update

3) Clean Off the Desktop

Believe it or not, having a lot of files on the desktop will actually slow down a Mac. The slowdown is less noticeable on the newest and beefiest Macs, but nonetheless it still happens. This is because each file and its icon preview take up RAM and resources, and the less RAM you have the more you’ll notice the sluggishness resulting from a cluttered desktop. The best solution is to get in the habit of filing things off the desktop and into appropriate folders, but if you can’t be bothered to do that than just grab all files and move them into a single directory and deal with it later.

If you can’t remember to do it yourself, there are apps that will automatically clean it for you by moving files and folders to a designated place at a regular interval.

Clean Off the Mac Desktop

4) Regularly Back Up the Mac

Performing regular backups is essential Mac maintenance. Not only will you be able to quickly recover from potential disasters, but keeping your files backed up is just good practice. By far the simplest back up solution for Macs is Time Machine. You’ll need an external hard drive, but once you set up Time Machine the rest is very simple and automatic backups occur without any effort.

If you haven’t set up Time Machine yet you really need to do so. Get a large and cheap external hard drive and then configure Time Machine through System Preferences, it’s extremely easy and in the event you ever need to recover from a backup, you’ll be very thankful you have one.

You should also get in the habit of backing up manually right before performing system software updates, it’s rare but things can go wrong, and it’s bes to be prepared.

Time Machine

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

40 Comments

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  1. Barnes says:

    Repairing Disk Permissions can resolve application behavioral issues making it not totally useless, but it is by far the most overprescribed help tip thrown at Mac users.

  2. Mario says:

    If you don’t keep you Mac on over night, then run periodic scripts manually:

    sudo periodic daily weekly monthly

    This will do various maintenance tasks like rotating the large logs (appending to large fragmented system log is much slower, slowing down almost everything on your computer) etc.

    • Eli says:

      Does this really do anything that a Mac won’t do anyway? Wasn’t the necessity ended in Tiger?

    • Modernape says:

      All macs running 10.6 or later will run these scripts automatically at the next available opportunity if the Mac was not switched on at the allocated time.

  3. Robinson777 says:

    also try CCleaner from the app store or CleanMyMac

  4. gp says:

    TL;DR: back up your data
    all the rest is useless reading

    • LOL says:

      repairing a hard disk is useless? LOL see you with a failed drive

      • someguy says:

        If you have backups why would you cares if your drive fails? “Repairing” the hard disk just updates a table of dead sectors it does not prolong the life of the drive. The best philosophy is good back ups, and when things fails (they will!) replace them.

  5. Nick says:

    Best thing I have found is just deleting old apps and cleaning login items.

  6. Eli says:

    Good tips, thanks

  7. Dan says:

    1) As well as DU, use a SMART monitor like SMARTreporter. This will keep an eye on the SMART status of your drive and notify you if it takes a sudden turn for the worse.
    2) Not so important, unless you are having compatibility or other specific issues that the developer is aware of and working on.
    3) Have one folder on the Desktop and put everything in there.
    4) Don’t forget to regularly check the health of your TM drive as well.

    Also, consider getting a dedicated maintenance app, such as Onyx, Cocktail or Lion Cache Cleaner, to run housekeeping tasks that can otherwise be missed.

  8. Joseph O'Connor says:

    One word: AppleJack

    http://applejack.sourceforge.net/

    Install it now, when you need it you most likely won’t be able to install it.

    AppleJack has helped me rescue dozens of Macs over many years.

    • Tom says:

      Last I read, AppleJack had not been updated to work with Lion; and Mountain Lion is on the horizon. I have used AJ for a long time with previous systems, always happy with being able to reboot into a basic command line to do maintenance/repairs. Is AJ now updated?

      Tom

      • Dan says:

        AJ is Lion compatible. It takes a while for them to figure out what’s changed with each release, but it does get done. I use it a lot for work.

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  11. Greg K says:

    The tips about disk repair found so many problems (incorrect volume size, overlapping date writes) That my whole disk had to be formatted. I could not enter back into the OS after hitting CMD-R. Luckily my time machine worked! Also as a note, after restoring my backup, I feel like the full re-format was also an improvement to my system.

  12. Eric says:

    These days advice regarding keeping the software up to date has been bad. Apple has failed to deliver updates that don cause more issues (at least with Lion).

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  15. Texla says:

    Yes, I do believe in all the methods mentioned above to maintain the Mac performance. I would like to add here that an adequate amount of free space is also necessary to run an application at it’s maximum ability.

    So, I suppose keeping Mac clean could be a tip to speedup Mac.

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  18. Daizy says:

    Thanks for the tips. Disk utility is the best tool to resolve disk related issues. Mac user can easily check the SMART status of Mac hard drive. I have used one more tool Stellar Drive ToolBox. Volume Repair utility of this tool helps you to resolve Disk related problems in Mac.

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  20. Mac Attack says:

    Is it necessary to turn Macs off or can they just run 24-7 all the time?

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