Although it’s still winter, now is the time to do some spring cleaning on your Mac to help it run more efficient and reliably. Here are six simple steps to take that will get your Mac sparkly clean and running like new.
1. Clean that screen
You’ve got a gorgeous screen on that iMac, but it’s covered by dust, debris and who knows what else. You may be tempted to use a bottle of glass cleaner — but don’t. That can harm the screen. My recommendation is to use Klear Screen kits, along with their microfiber cloth. They remove the debris while protecting the finish. If you don’t use Klear Screen, make sure whatever you do use is designed for glossy screens. For laptops, I highly recommend Radtech’s Screensavrz to prevent transfer of oils from the laptop keyboard onto the screen.
Let’s not even talk about that keyboard and how dirty it is. If you can shake it out, go ahead and do it. Then give it a good wipe with a safe, keyboard-specific cleaner.
2. Check the hard drive and keep it running right
Your hard drive stores your digital life and is a common point of failure in Macs. When’s the last time you checked the status of yours? Lion’s recovery partition makes this extremely easy. Hold down command-R at startup, and choose the recovery partition so that you can run Disk Utility on your main drive. For more information, check Apple’s detailed site about Lion Recovery.
Computers running operating systems older than Lion will need to boot from a CD or external hard disk to fully check the computer’s hard drive and perform minor repairs. If you want, you can also use third-party programs to expand your recovery and repair options.
Both Tech Tool Pro 6 and Drive Genius 3 have background monitoring of your hard drive to give you early warnings of problems, but if you want a free simple SMART warning program, check out the free SMARTReporter. Advance warning of a hard drive failure can be crucial to saving your data.
3. Replace that surge protector and test the battery backup
Do you know how old your surge protector is? Are you using one? If you don’t know when you bought it and you don’t know the amount of joules it protects against, it’s time to get a new one. Remember that a power strip isn’t necessarily a surge protector. One well-placed electrical “event” can turn that wonderful Mac into a glorified paperweight. As a general rule, when you get a new Mac, it’s also time for a new surge protector. I prefer name brand protectors from providers I trust such as Belkin, APC, and Tripp-Lite.
Similar to a surge protector, battery backups (UPS) tend to be set it and forget it. But batteries have limited life spans, and you don’t want to find out your battery is bad the hard way. It’s time to test the battery. Save your work and unplug your UPS from the wall. Did your Mac stay up? If it didn’t then your battery may be at end of life. Some vendors have software that will check the battery’s health and provide for graceful shutdowns during a power outage.
4. Clean up your cables
While you’re behind your Mac or on the floor checking your UPS and surge protector, do you know what each of those cables back there do, or if you still even need them? Organizing cables isn’t just about aesthetics. Disorganized cables tangled together creates the potential for chain reaction disasters: Pull too much on that iPod, and the entire string of computers and hard drives comes tumbling down. I’ve seen it, and it isn’t pleasant.
It’s time to trace those back, get rid of the ones you aren’t using and organize the rest. Lifehacker had a great article about how to get these under control. Oh, and you might as well dust that area, too, while you’re at it.
5. Check those logs
Your Mac has a little black box that records all sorts of problems and errata. Open up your Console app and it’s all there. It might be an application crash, a slowdown, or just general weirdness. For those of us who have trouble reading the logs and what they mean, Log Leech is well worth the $10. It makes your logs more Mac-like, and easy to find.
6. Lighten your load
Like many of you, I’m embarrassed with the collection of old manuals, disks and obsolete tech in my basement. It’s time to get rid of it. Old disks and manuals can usually be donated to libraries for their inventory or their big tent sale. While Apple has a recycling program, it’s limited to certain items, but your local Goodwill will usually take most items via the Reconnect partnership with Dell as will most Best Buy locations.
These six tips will ensure that your Mac has a happy and healthy 2012. Anything you would add?