Sooner or later, every active Mac user realizes that the device needs regular care, which is actually a routine computer maintenance. Certainly, the rules of a good care of your Mac machine apply no matter what operating system you run. They are to follow when you ask yourself: “How to clean my Mac OS X?”, and when you look for a proper guide how to clean Mac OS X Yosemite. The same advice will help you if you have, say, macOS Sierra installed on your computer. And first, you should naturally get acquainted with the basics of the maintenance procedure or, in plain words, learn what Mac maintenance actually means.
Mac maintenance, which is basically the same that any computer maintenance, means a series of routine procedures to preserve your Mac in a proper condition in which it ensures satisfactory performance in accordance with specs. As regards hardware, maintenance includes cleaning from dust and small trash, and, once in a year or even less frequently, reapplication of the thermal grease. Also, it is necessary to observe basic rules concerning the place where your Mac is located to keep it away from excessive moisture, heat, and cold. As regards to the software, you certainly must follow the procedure of proper shutdown. Besides, you need to regularly delete unnecessary apps, and clean your hard drive from all kinds of junk like old cache elements, log files, and trash. Although being somewhat time-consuming, those simple procedures are not so difficult to perform remembering that they safeguard the proper functioning of your Mac.
Maintenance Tips: The Manual Procedures
Let us start with general procedures, which take so little time and effort especially if you make them part of your habit.
Firstly, unless your Finder Icon Previews is disabled, try to keep your Desktop clean from unneeded files. On your Desktop, you should only have those files that you frequently use. Having on your Desktop any other stuff, especially pictures, takes up your system’s resources and must be considered as absolutely purposeless.
Secondly, you should control the Downloads folder. It fills up very quickly and begins to affect your Mac’s performance as the amount of free space on your hard drive goes down from optimum. The free storage becomes insufficient and the machine’s speed decreases. That is especially the case with Time Machine backup process, which requires considerable resources. Get rid of the redundant content in the ‘Downloads’ and the result will be a notable speed gain.
Thirdly, follow the proper complete procedure of Emptying Trash. When you just clean your storage from junk moving it to Trash, it is only a part of the job. In order to complete the task of freeing your Mac from unneeded stuff, you still have to Empty Trash. For this to be done, either use scheduled Trash removal or perform the emptying procedure on your own.
SEE ALSO: How To Clear Storage on Mac
Removing Cache Items: Do Not Forget
At this point, Mac maintenance really becomes a time-consuming matter. What is the cache? In very plain words, it is no other than some data stored on your computer for quick access either to various data used by apps installed in your system or to internet web pages. Thus when you delete caches you kind of delete saved pages with data about visited websites. The right cache items make it easier for the application to access and load necessary data and your browser uses its cache (so-called page cache) to quickly access the already visited websites. The process of cache accumulation is hard to monitor (no speed indicator), and you don’t realize when its amount exceeds the limit and starts to cause considerable delays. Besides, cache sometimes gets corrupted, which will slow down corresponding apps and the entire system. Hence cleaning your machine from the cache is a must, and should be performed as an important regular procedure.
You will find system cache in Library/Caches and user cache in ~Library/Caches. In the Finder, hit cmd+shift+G to move to Go menu, then Copy & Paste either directory to open it. Make your cleaning.
How Do I Uninstall Apps and Delete Leftovers?
Most users have quite a few apps that they never or almost never use. Many such programs run in the background, performing update checks or similar functions. You actually get no benefit from such apps, which are just undermining your Mac’s performance. Go to Finder > Applications and drag the unneeded apps to Trash, then perform Emptying Trash to actually get rid of them.
But reaching this point does not mean that all files pertaining to the unused applications have been actually removed. There are files outside the ‘Applications’ folder, which are called leftovers. Most of them can be removed via Library/Application Support and ~Library/Application Support.
What is a specialized application for Mac maintenance?
If you perfectly know all main junk locations and necessary commands, you certainly can rely on the manual cleaning of your Mac (though it’s a time-consuming choice).
However, if you wish to save time and focus on using your Mac rather than maintaining it, you have specialized software products for your service. What is Mac OS cleaner? There are plenty of such programs and we’ve tried one of them, MacFly Pro. The application can safely locate and remove application leftovers, uninstall unused programs and clear caches. The great solution in case you don’t want to waste your time and clean Mac manually.
1. Maintaining the OS X File System via Disk Utility
Disc Utility is a tool with many uses that comes with OS X. You will find it in the Applications/Utilities folder.
There are three functions in Disk Utility I normally use:
- Repair Disk
- Repair Disk Permissions
- Erase Free Space
The repair disk function is useful for fixing common file system issues. This includes things like corrupt directory structures and files left in unknown state because of crashes, forced restarts or forced application quits. To only identify if you have any issues, run “Verify Disk” first.
Repair Disk Permissions
I try to do this every couple of months. It’s not the end-of-all-problems as some seem to think, but it still pays off to keep your file permissions in check. To only identify issues without making any repairs, run “Verify Disk Permissions”.
Erase Free Space
This is a little feature in disk utility that many people don’t know of. It is meant for rewriting the free space on your hard drive in order to improve security. This is because deleted files don’t actually get properly deleted until the physical part of the disc where they are located is rewritten.
But I use it for different reasons.
What most people don’t know is that this rewriting process of free space can actually increase the available disk space on your drive. I have yet failed to find an exact explanation for why this is. I am not an expert but I’m guessing that over time your hard drive becomes fragmented and more inefficient, and erasing the free space fixes that issue (at least partly).
In any case, the first time I erased free space… 11 GB of more free space appeared on my 750 GB hard drive! Not bad huh? Since then I have erased free space every few months and it always gives me a few extra GB of free space.
3. Cleaning Startup Items
Startup items are applications that launch automatically when your Mac boots up. A lot of software you install tend to sneak their own processes into your startup items. Often times these processes can be absolutely unnecessary.
These unnecessary startup items are eating up your computer’s resources. You should periodically check and clean up your startup items list.
You will find startup items at:System Preferences -> Users & Groups -> Login Items.
My startup items. Nice and tidy.
Note that in order to remove startup items, you need to click the little minus button below the list. The little checkboxes are for hiding startup items (they will still run).
Be careful not to remove stuff you might actually need. If you’re not sure of what something is, I advice you to leave it be and go do some research (Google is your friend there).
4. Getting Rid of Junk: Clean My Mac 3
I’ve been using this brilliant piece of software for a couple of years now and grown extremely fond of it. Clean My Mac 3 by MacPaw is a tool for scanning your computer for all sorts of crap and then getting rid of it.
Getting rid of junk is not only about the files you create or download. Many kids of supporting files are constantly being created by different applications. Ultimately these become useless and can be safely removed.
This not only frees up space on the hard drive, but also makes the system faster and more efficient.
Clean My Mac 3 consists of several cleanup modules, each performing different tasks:
- Automatic Cleanup (runs all cleanup modules, suggests areas of improvement and let’s you confirm before cleanup)
- System Cleanup (different cache & log files, broken preferences & login items, universal binaries, development junk, unnecessary language files, etc)
- Reindex Spotlight
- Large & Old Files (identifies the space hogs and large files you haven’t used in a while on your drive)
- Scan Mail attachments & Reindex Mail
- iPhoto Cleanup (for removing unnecessary photo versions, includes a preview function)
- iTunes Cleanup (for removing iTunes junk files)
- Trash Cleanup (knows how to remove locked files too)
- Uninstaller (for correct removal of applications and all associated files)
- Extensions Manager
- Eraser (for secure removal of data)
In addition, there are some very handy maintenance scripts (and more) available.
Clean My Mac 3 just saves me tons of time and frees up resources that I would never otherwise get to on my own. Highly recommended.
5. Dealing With Duplicates and Similars: Gemini 2
MacPaw are one of my favorite software companies. Besides Clean My Mac, they have also created an application called Gemini. Gemini 2 is a godsend for me.
More good news.
I always end up with lots of duplicate files on my hard drive. Gemini 2 solves this problem in a very sleek way. It searches your hard drive (or the folders you choose) and uses an intelligent process to identify files that are potential duplicates or similars (yes it can even look through your photos and identify ones that are not identical but look similar). It then lets you look at the list of files and make the decisions.
Gemini lets you preview files straight from the interface. It shows exactly where the different files are located and lets you jump to look at them in Finder which is very helpful.
My duplicate problem gets especially bad with iTunes. Over time the iTunes library becomes riddled with differently named versions of the same tracks. What is cool with Gemini 2 is once I have my list of potential duplicates, I can use the preview function and listen to the files straight from Gemini 2. When it comes the time to remove duplicates, Gemini 2 actually launches iTunes to do it properly (without me having to do a thing). Very cool.
iTunes cleanup with Gemini.
8. Backing Up
Make sure you have a proper backup strategy in place. Here are my recommendations:
- Automate your backups.
- Don’t rely on a single backup.
- Don’t rely on a single location for your backups.
- Make sure you have access to proper file history (Apple’s Time Machine is great for this).
- Have the ability to restore your operating system quickly.
- Have proper archives (archives and backups are different)
- Verify that your backups are actually working.
My favorite software for backing up:Backblaze – affordable cloud backups.Carbon Copy Cloner – maintains a bootable clone of my drive.
For more detailed information on backing up, here are a couple of articles I’ve written before:
7 Deadly Data Backup MistakesMy Easy Automated Backup Strategy
9. Using the Computer
Other than Os X maintenance, you should also pay attention to how you actually use the computer in order to keep it running optimally. Here are a few tips:
- Reboot regularly.
- Properly quit applications you’re not using (don’t just close the windows).
- Close unnecessary browser tabs (these take up RAM, too).
- Turn off Bluetooth if you’re not using it.
- Uninstall applications you’re not using (if you have Clean My Mac, use it’s uninstall function as it removes all traces of the apps that could be left in different locations on your HD).
- Use Activity Monitor (in Applications/Utilities) to find out about your CPU and RAM hogs.
- Bypass or remove unused audio plugins in your music projects. They are applications, too.
- Turn on firewall to help prevent intruders (System Preferences -> Security & Privacy -> Firewall)
- Make sure cooling works properly and the fans are getting a good airflow (small laptop fans are also prone to get clogged up with dust and debris over time).