Mac 101: Keep Your Mac Running with Regular Maintenance

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If your Mac is running slow or things don’t seem to be working as they should, it may just be that you need to give your computer a little bit of TLC in the form of regular maintenance. Here are a few ways to look after your Mac to make sure it doesn’t get too ill.

Before you start, it’s always a good idea to do a backup of your system, or at least your sensitive files. These are very basic steps that don’t incur much risk, but you’re always better off having a backup than not.

Do It Every Day: Empty the Trash

It might seem obvious, but emptying the Trash is a great way to claim back hard drive space, which can, in some cases, speed up your Mac. To do this, simply click and hold (or right-click) the Trash icon in the Dock. Then click Empty Trash in the pop-up menu which appears. You’d be surprised how often you might forget to do this for days or even weeks at a time.

Do It Once a Month: Give Your Battery a Break

If you’re like me, and you never completely shut down your MacBook, instead only closing the lid occasionally to put it to sleep, then your battery might be getting a bit worn out. It could even be losing the ability to charge completely. Once in a while, turn your laptop off completely to give the battery a rest. Apple even suggests regularly running the charge down until the notebook turns off, then waiting a while to let it run out completely before recharging.

You can check the condition of your battery if you’re running Snow Leopard (10.6.x) by holding Option and clicking the battery status icon in the Menu Bar. If it shows ‘Replace Soon’, your battery may be losing the ability to hold its charge. If “Replace Now” or “Service Battery” is displayed, you should contact Apple about getting the battery replaced, especially if you’re still covered under warranty or AppleCare.

Do It Once Every Couple Months: Verify and Repair Disks and Permissions

Repair Disk Permissions
Repairing disk permissions can sort out strange goings-on, particularly those related to starting up your Mac. Open up Disk Utility (Found in the Applications>Utilities folder) and click on the disk you’re interested in using the source menu on the left. Click the button on the left, Verify Disk Permissions. Disk Utility will automatically take care of the rest.

If you need to, you can click Repair Disk Permissions to iron out any errors that get picked up. I’d suggest doing this before restoring and erasing disks and so on. Oftentimes repairing permissions will sort out the problem, without having to resort to a disk repair.

Verify and Repair Disks
If something strange starts happening on your Mac, it’s a good idea to verify that your startup disk is okay. If the structure of the disk’s file system is changed in some way, then your Mac might start behaving strangely. In order to check that everything is as it should be, you can once again use Disk Utility. Select your startup disk from the list of drives on the left and hit Verify Disk. Disk Utility will go ahead and check the status of the disk you selected. Don’t worry if your computer is unresponsive during the test; that’s normal.

If Disk Utility finds an issue with a disk, you can use the Repair Disk button to have your Mac try to repair it automatically. Most of the time, a simple repair will sort out any issues you’re having with a disk.

Sometimes, though, you will have to boot your Mac from your OS X install disc in order for Repair Disk to work. To do that, make sure your OS X install disc is in your Mac’s drive, reboot your computer, and hold C. Don’t reinstall OS X, but instead choose Disk Utility from the Installer menu and try to verify and repair once again.

Getting It Done Automatically

It can be a pain to remember to carry out maintenance on your machine regularly. Luckily, there’s an application, OnyX, which can perform maintenance such as checking permissions and cleaning out temporary files automatically. OnyX can perform daily, weekly and monthly scripts which do all the boring things for you. Plus it’s free. OnyX can’t empty the Trash, but it can clear caches and temporary files. It also checks the status of your startup disk whenever you launch the application.

Got any maintenance tips of your own? Share them in the comments.

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