A well-maintained Mac is virtually infallible, no matter how old it is. As long as your apps and OS X are up-to-date, your RAM and hard disk are in good working order, and you’ve got enough space, you are likely to be entirely happy with your Mac for a good many years to come. For that, however, you need a proper Mac maintenance strategy, so check out our four-step guide below and try to make a habit of it.
Updating is the key of any Mac maintenance strategy
Whether via Software Update or by visiting the App Store, making sure your software is up-to-date is essential for a proper Mac maintenance strategy. Typically, Software Update runs a check every week, but if your OS X of choice is older than Mountain Lion (10.8), you will have to check for updates on the App Store manually. From Mountain Lion OS X onward, Software Update has moved to the App Store. Software updates can solve a tremendous amount of problems, fix bugs, provide security fixes, and introduce updated features for your apps, allowing them to work better.
Make Disk Utility your friend
It’s important to run Disk Utility every other month or so, because this is the one-stop tool that allows you to repair disk permissions, but also to check if your hard drive is in good state and repair it if isn’t. You can find Disk Utilities in the Utilities subfolder of your Applications folder, and the two actions you need to perform are listed (appropriately enough) under First Aid. Repairing Disk Permissions is a good idea particularly if you’ve installed or uninstalled many apps on your Mac, while Disk Repair is always a good idea. The best way to repair the boot disk of your Mac is by booting from the recovery partition, which means running Disk Utility from that partition. Make sure to verify both the drive, as well as the boot partition. Errors are never a good sign, but usually they can be fixed by Disk Utility itself.
Keep your desktop clean
If you’re new to Macs, you might be tempted to believe that desktop icons can’t really slow down a Mac computer. However, this is not a myth: on older Macs, the preview of each app’s desktop icon will actually eat up some of your RAM and its computing powers. Of course, any Mac maintenance strategy needs to take into consideration the available RAM of the machine – the less of it you have, the more sluggish your machine can end up working. Of course, a cluttered desktop is also distracting and not at all conducive to effectiveness, so it’s best to keep your desktop as clean and streamlined as possible. You can organize the desktop icons into folders yourself, or you can download an app that will do this for you. Usually, such apps check to see how often you’ve used the software to which your desktop icons are linked and delete those you don’t use that often. And don’t worry, that deletion is entirely revertible, should you decide you actually needed a particular icon.
Back up your Mac on the regular
You don’t need to perform Mac backups every day, but it’s a good idea to make a habit out of it and make sure you’re safeguarded against potential disasters. In fact, older Mac users will remember that, back in the days before the cloud computing craze, Macs were highly appreciated for Time Machine, their built-in backup utility. Setting up Time Machine is easy and only requires an external hard drive. External drives are cheap and easy to find these days, so make sure you buy one that can cater to your storage needs, then set up Time Machine via System Preferences. You can (and sometimes should) back up manually, especially before system software updates, or you can use a cloud-based backup utility via iCloud.