4 Minutes A Day: How to Clean up Your Mac

 

Little can compare to the feeling of a brand new computer. When every program and file opens quickly and smoothly, every user makes a promise that, this time, the system will remain tidy and unused programs will be uninstalled!

This is often a hard promise to keep, though. Before a few months have passed, the computer’s resources start to dwindle, used up by downloads, programs, and everything else that gradually finds its way onto a computer. 

Once a computer starts showing signs of sluggishness and the spinning wheel becomes more of a feature, it can be daunting to know how to proceed. However, in a few minutes any user can make significant inroads toward making a computer feel brand new once more.

Back Up First

As most users know, before undertaking any sort of clean-up operation or maintenance on a computer it is always best practice to create a backup.  This ensures that everything is safe if the user gets a little overzealous and deletes things they might need by mistake.

For a Mac, there are numerous free back up tools, which offer differing levels of ‘depth’ to the user.

Time Machine is Apple’s own back up solution. It is simple to use and, at the most basic level, simply requires an external drive and a few clicks. Time Machine will copy the entire Mac – files, programs, preferences and all. Time Machine, however, is slightly inflexible when it comes to saving batched or individual files. 

Silverkeeper is entirely free and offers a number of useful features. The layout design is easy to use, and the program comes with an automation option, for regular back-ups. In addition, Silverkeeper also offers file exclusion, so the user can choose which files to back up as they so choose. 

iBackup has a stripped back aesthetic, but is a capable free program in its own right. It offers the ability to back up specific files or whole drives, and the choice to restore the data from an earlier point in time. 

Startup Items

A Mac’s slow performance could be due to a multitude of programs firing up as soon as the computer is turned on, thus slowing everything down before the Mac even has a chance. 

For many users, especially those who have not checked in a while, the amount of programs consuming the Mac’s resources from startup may come as a shock. Many programs – such as iTunes, Spotify, Dropbox, and so forth, run automatically, even if there are no outward signs that they are running.

To regulate which programs are using resources from startup, go to System Preferences, then Users & Groups. From the, the user selects their Username, then Login Items. From here, the user can check the boxes of the programs they want from startup and those they do not.

Use the Activity Monitor

If a Mac is running at an interminable speed, or grinding to a halt at the most simple of requests, then there is a good chance that one, or multiple, programs are draining many of the computers CPU (Central Processing Unit).

As the CPU is akin to the brain, it is apt to imagine a person attempting to undertake dozens of demanding tasks at once. Instead of one task being done quickly, this will lead to multiple tasks grinding along at a uselessly slow speed. 


To mitigate this hogging of the CPU, the user can access all the information they need in a few seconds.

Simply go to Finder, then Applications, Utilities, there the user will find the Activity Monitor. 

Once in the Activity Monitor, the user has a raft of information laid out before them. Initially, it may seem quite complex, but the pertinent information simply comes in the form of CPU usage – the higher the number, the more of the CPU that process is using.

A web browser, for example, will use more resources the more windows or tabs are open. If the CPU usage for something is very high, the user should check if there is any way to eliminate or reduce the usage.

Clean the Desktop

A messy desktop is something that most computers users suffer with.

Much like the new computer, the intention is always to keep everything tidy, sparse, and sleek, but this usually falls quickly by the wayside. A folder here, an icon there, and some photos and, before the user knows it, the desktop is full. Moreover, unlike a system utilising a Windows operating system, this can affect the speed of a Mac computer.

This is because OS X treats each icon on the desktop as a separate window, which uses system resources.

Simply eradicating desktop clutter and folders with large volumes of data – photographs, for example, can have a big impact on overall system speed.



Be Ruthless with the Hard Drive

When it comes to reclaiming system speed, a Spartan hard drive can have a massive impact. 

If the hard drive is fit to burst, then it definitely pays to approach the clean up with ruthlessness. All kinds of detritus accumulates over time on any system, not taking into account the things that the user has not even downloaded – caches, logs, and so forth, which can aggregate over time into a large amount of data.

The user should remove old apps, unused movies and music, as well as old plugins and all the other trash that builds up over time.

 

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By following the above steps and being careful about what they have on their system, any user can regain the speed and usability that they had when the Mac was fresh out of the box.