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Summary:

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.

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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?

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  1. A backup and fresh install of Lion always gives you that new feeling. Plus adding extra RAM make it feel like a new mac. If you want cheaper options a disk permissions repair using a well known free bit of software can help speed the mac up.

    1. A clean install can be good but very time consuming. Good idea for a future article. I generally do a clean install every other time I purchase a new Mac

  2. iMac has too bad cooling system. At least 24″ one. Due to that fact HDD’s temp grows too high (which HDDs most hates) while iMac is working. And thats why “Your hard drive … is a common point of failure in Macs.” There is no software solution and your HDD will die soon whatever you do unless you will not turn your iMac on :).
    IMHO it’s the main point of iMac’s design. Apple just want you to buy new model of iMac every 2-3 years and you’ll do, believe me.

  3. Thank you *so* much for not saying “Repair Permissions”, the #1 most-given bit of wrong advice ever on the OS X platform. Very refreshing to see an actual list of useful tidbits instead of voodo http://daringfireball.net/2006/04/repair_permissions_voodoo

    1. Thanks! It’s the modern day version of “zap the pram”. Useful only in a very limited set of circumstances

  4. To clean that screen, you actually need nothing more than a microfiber cloth and a fine mist of plain old tap water from a spray bottle. This chemical-free approach actually works on most things around the home if the item isn’t too soiled or needs to be disinfected.

    1. I agree for regular cleaning a microbfiber cloth is great…that is if you regularly clean. For many of us, we don’t do it nearly often enough and stuff develops on the screen. A key indictor is when you start wondering why iPhoto won’t remove those black dots in the picture. Oh wait, that isn’t the photo, that’s my screen!

  5. What a load of useless suggestions

    1. Can you offer some useful ones that should be added?

  6. Any suggestions on how to do a clean install of Lion or make a boot disc?

    1. Dave Greenbaum Bob Friday, January 13, 2012

      Not right now, but I’ll try to write one in the next few weeks. Keep watching for it.

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