Top 5 OS X Maintenance Tips to Keep You Running Smoothly

Top 5 OS X Maintenance Tips to Keep You Running Smoothly

Although the Mac operating system is much better at maintaining itself than many other OS’, there are a few things you should do on a regular basis to put off the inevitable periodic wipe and reinstall.

All systems, regardless the OS, get “tired” after a while if not properly maintained. Maintenance by definition is “stuff you do on a regular basis in the absence of problems,” to avoid problems developing. It’s not “stuff you only do when things go wrong.”

Most modern versions of OS X don’t suffer from the same problems as previous versions. In this article, we will look at the top five maintenance tips which can help you maintain peak performance in your machine over many years.

Ask Permission

One of the most common ways to keep things running sweetly in your Mac is to regularly verify and repair permissions on all your disks with Disk Utility. Do this once a week. Disk Utility can be found in the Utilities folder. Click on the drive you wish to check and click “Verify” or “Repair Disk Permissions”:

Verify and repair permissions with Disk Utility.

Check for Updates

It’s essential your software is up to date. On the Mac this is easy; you simply check for updates in the App Store and install them. It sounds simple, but you may be surprised how few users make sure they are up to date with their Mac and other Apple devices. Apple is very hot on security and consistency, so they release regular updates across all their platforms, OS X and iOS. You can’t complain about your machines not running smoothly if you aren’t fully up to date on all devices.

You can find out about updates by going to the Apple menu and selecting the App Store item.

Check for updates in the App Store.

Clear Defragged Space

For your machine to run well, you should make sure you have a large chunk of disk space free on your system drive. A good rule of thumb is that large apps like Photoshop demand around 30% free unfragmented drive space on your machine.

Have regular cleanouts and use a disk management software like CleanMyMac if you can afford it. It helps to keep your machine free of duplicate, large and no longer used files.

Use a disk management software like CleanMyMac.

Also consider defragmenting your drives. Drives become fragmented as files are written and deleted to disk, and the system sometimes has difficulty freeing up continuous space after all that, making the data fragmented. If the data is all over the place, the read heads have to zip much further back and forth to do their work, slowing things down.

You can use defragging software, but on the whole OS X does a great job of defragging itself. If you suspect the drive has become fragmented after overuse and infrequent reboots, try this:

  • copy all the bulky data files from your drive onto a backup disk
  • delete the files and empty the trash fully
  • copy the files back

That should make things a little more organised as the data is rewritten to the drive in the right order and in a tighter space.

Back Up

This is an obvious one, but obviously you should back up regularly, and you can automate this task with Time Machine.

Back up regularly and automate with Time Machine.

Add an external drive of sufficient capacity and have Time Machine back you up hourly, daily and weekly. This also prepares your machine for the most extreme (but fortunately infrequent) maintenance task of all …

Nuke From Orbit

Every year or two, depending on the wear and tear on your machine, you should back up your machine, erase it, and copy the files back. This works even better at prolonging the life of your machine if you also replace the drive hardware with a new one and populate it with a clone of your old hard drive. You can back up and restore with Time Machine.

Bonus Item: Safe Boot

Do a Safe Boot from time to time. Safe Boot will do all kinds of Cache clearing and other small fixes that can be beneficial, plus it disables most third party startup items that may or may not interfere with any upkeep or diagnostic tasks. It’s a good habit to get into.

Do a Safe Boot from time to time.

Safe Mode has the following effects:

  • Your startup disk is verified and where possible, it attempts to repair directory problems.
  • Startup and Login Items are not opened during startup and login on OS X v10.4 or later. No extensions other than kernel extensions are loaded.
  • All user installed fonts are disabled, and in addition, in OS X 10.4 upwards, any font caches that are stored in Library are moved to Trash.

There’s no need to run Safe Boot really unless you are experiencing problems.

What are your own regular maintenance routines for OS X? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Hitchster

Phil South
Phil South

Phil South has been writing about tech subjects for over 30 years. Starting out with Your Sinclair magazine in the 80s, and then MacUser and Computer Shopper. He's designed user interfaces for groundbreaking music software, been the technical editor on film making and visual effects books for Elsevier, and helped create the MTE YouTube Channel. He lives and works in South Wales, UK.

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