6 Helpful Tips For Improving Mac Performance

Friday: 12.5.2008

My first Mac was a blueberry iBook with a matching hockey puck mouse and like most people who switch from a PC, becoming a Mac user was a revelation. It worked faster, the menus were more intuitive, and you could switch between programs easier. Life’s generally simpler if you use a Mac.

If you’re a fellow convertee, then congratulations. Although if you switched a few years back, then the joys of faster start-ups and quicker processing speeds may have diminished slightly by now. If it feels like the spinning beach ball appears more times on your screen that it does on your family holiday to Spain, then it’s time to get your set-up back up to speed.

Here are six tips for improving the performance of your Mac.

1. Check your RAM

The less RAM you have the slower your Mac will be, as you’ll be using disk space to perform the tasks that your RAM should be doing. So make sure your RAM is running as close to the max as it can.

To check your RAM, click on the Apple icon in the toolbar and then select “About This Mac”.  The “Memory” line lists the RAM that your Mac currently has. To see how much RAM you should have, Apple has provided a list. You can buy additional RAM for your machine. Shop around, as Apple’s prices aren’t the cheapest.

2. Run software that maintains your Mac

Clean-up software could be a quick and easy answer to your problems if you’re in a state of confusion about how to speed up your Mac. AVG’s Cleaner for Mac is a good choice. Custom designed for the operating system, it’s a simple way to clear up your disk and create valuable space. Before you know it you’ll be running at optimum speeds again.

3. Back up your Mac

When’s the last time you backed up your Mac? Last week? Great. If it’s longer than that, or you can’t remember ever doing it, then this is vital.

Backing up is essential before carrying out any maintenance on your computer or installing or deinstalling programs, but it’s also a something that you should do on a regular basis. How often you need to back up will depend on the size and amount of files you create, but you should be doing this task on a monthly basis, at least. So schedule a time when the family won’t be using it and then back up your Mac hard drive.

4. Clear up the clutter on your hard disk

Once you’ve backed up, it’s time to clear any unwanted files and programs from your hard disk. Lots things may be clogging your disk space and making your Mac run slower. So delve into those long-forgotten folders and remove all the clutter. Offending items could include large files you no longer use, duplicate files, trash contents, cache items and your internet browsing history.

Pre-installed items that you don’t use might also be worth removing, however google the file names first to make sure you don’t get rid of anything essential for your operating system. Language files are a good example of something that has been installed and that you may not need.

5. Clear up your desktop

The more stuff that’s on your desktop, the slower your Mac will start up. Cleaning up your desktop is therefore a great way to improve Mac performance.

If, like me, you often default save things like screen grabs and download docs onto your desktop, then there should be a fair amount of stuff to clear. Either delete these files completely or move them into a folder in another part of your system.

6. Use Activity Monitor to see what’s going on behind the scenes

If your Mac only runs slowly intermittently, then use Activity Monitor to find out what’s happening behind the scenes. To open Activity Monitor, go to the Finder and click on the “Applications” folder. Then select “Utilities” and “Activity Monitor”. Clicking on this will bring up a window that shows exactly what your Mac’s doing at the moment and how much processer space that activity is taking up.

The tabs, charts and terms that appear might initially seem a bit daunting, but Apple provides useful information about using Activity Monitor.

By Sam Wright

Sam Wright is a business and technology journalist based in Norwich, Norfolk.