Mac maintenance for a responsive system

Macs can get sluggish and misbehave, which maintenance can keep at bay. John Larkin asked a few of us what we did to keep our Macs in good working condition and this was my response, given that I usually try to maximise RAM on my laptop:

  1. My Powerbook is restarted every once in awhile, which might be in days or weeks. I don’t shut down when I shuttle between home, work, lectures and meetings but these days, the frequent system updates will force us to do this. Still, if the mac acts up, this is the first thing I do.
  2. More frequently, I restart my browser. Browsers can hog space after extended use so flushing that out helps.
  3. Keep an eye on RAM by only keeping open applications I am actually using at the moment. This is a habit from youthful struggles with insufficient RAM. I use Activity Monitor (in the Applications> Utilities folder) to examine and quit inactive apps whose relative thread and memory use is too high.
  4. I run Onyx perhaps every two months, using the scripts in “automation” for maintenance, rebuild and clean. Otherwise I use “Repair Disk” function in Disk Utilities (in the Applications > Utilities folder).
  5. I keep a buffer of empty hardisk space else the system can get sluggish for hardisk space is used for virtual memory. Recommendations vary, but once I am struggling to keep 10%, it’s time for a major cleanup or a new hardisk – like now!
  6. Empty Trash! I have a habit from OS 7 days but I am sometimes shocked by the gigabytes worth of deleted files some people carry. I think knowing the keybaord shortcut would solve that problem: Option-Shift-Command-Delete empties trash without a confirmation dialog.
  7. Keep the Desktop clean as this may consume RAM. Clean is a free app to help you do this, or just drag and drop into a folder every now and then. My “Desktop Cleanup” folder has more than 150 files occupying about 4GB.
  8. Backup data regularly.
  9. Keep applications updated. Most of what I use is listed here:
  10. Reinstall the OS every 1-2 years. My laptops can usually last at least five years, so I end up doing complete reinstalls at least three times per laptop. One of the reinstalls would be when I insert an upgraded hardisk after inevitably running out of space with the factory-installed hard disk.

I did used to run Disk Warrior many years ago, but stopped updating it and forgot about it. It helped me with file recovery once.

Do you do anything else?

14th Anniversary Mac Meetup on Friday the 13th

I have a mac meetup to look forward to this Friday the 13th of April 2012. I get to sit down with my buddies and chat about technology, education, digital literacy and mac apps of course. We’ve been doing this since 1999 and it reached a peak in 2003/4 with when we met every month in heady times!

That tailed off before stabilising to quarterly meetups at Suntec by 2007. We shifted over to Holland Village in 2009 once we realised all the regulars were bundling into a cab for a long ride back home after each meetup!

This time veteran Laurence Gwee, a mac meetup participant since 2002 has been away so this is also his reunion meetup. Also here is John Larkin from Australia who is back in town once again to conduct some teaching at NTU once again.

We head to our usual haunt at Holland Village Block 40 for dinner before heading over to the Starbucks just outside the Circle Line MRT. Since it remains opens on weekends, we can relax and enjoy the evening.

Anyone is welcome to join us, do let me know you are coming by email or twitter!

My Mac iBook 600 at the recent “legacy meetup”