Monday, 1 July 2013

Tutorial: How to speed up your Mac in 30 minutes

Tutorial: How to speed up your Mac in 30 minutes


You opened that beautiful Apple box to find your gleaming new Mac within ages ago! It booted up, and immediately the Mac seemed so much faster than what it replaced. Apps opened with a speed you found astonishing. And any task you could throw at it seemed to happen in the blink of an eye.
The novelty of your no-longer-new Mac's incredible speed wore off a long time ago. Now you find yourself tapping the table impatiently, sighing as you wait for applications to open and documents to load. And if the cursor changes to a spinning beachball, you get that sinking feeling that tells you you're going to be waiting a good long time for whatever you were doing to finish.
It isn't you. You're not getting irrationally impatient - your Mac really may be slowing down. Over time, the software you install may affect the overall performance of your Mac. What's more, software updates, full version upgrades and new versions of OS X may put additional load on your Mac. And as your hard drive fills up, files can get fragmented - that can hurt speed too.
As system and application software specifications change, your Mac's hardware itself may not be as up to the task as it once was. Faster drives, more memory and other hardware tweaks can breathe new life into an old system in dramatic ways, and you don't need to spend a lot.
There are a lot of ways to slow down your Mac, but there are a lot of ways to speed it up too. We're going to take a look at many of the ways you can restore your Mac to its original potential, and we're also going to look at the ways you can improve your Mac's performance beyond factory spec!

What's slowing down your Mac?

Take the guesswork out of tuning your Mac's performance with some helpful tools
Your Mac didn't slow down just by itself. The software running on the device, even core operating system processes, take their toll on your Mac's overall performance over time.
The first step to figuring out how to speed up your Mac is to find out what's running. To that end, OS X includes some handy tools to give you a sense ofyour system resources are being spent.

Activity Monitor

Activity monitor
Check inside the Utilities folder on your Mac, and you'll find a tool provided by Apple that will help you understand what's running on your Mac. It even gives you a way of stopping stuff in its tracks if it's causing problems.
Activity Monitor shows youthe processes that are running on your Mac - not just applications that you might recognize, butthe discrete functions the system needs to operate, or software that you depend on may need to continue working even when it's not running.
At a glance, and by rearranging some columns by clicking on their headers, you can quickly ascertain what processes are demanding the most attention the CPU, or gobbling up the most memory.
You'll find a lot of stuff running on your Mac that might otherwise be invisible, but don't panic. These are usually legitimate things that your Mac and the software you've installed needs to work. Still, if you find a runaway process that's gobbling up resources, you can force quit it here.
Before you do, though, Google the Process Name exactly - perhaps with 'CPU', for example, if it's soaking up your processor - to check if others have solved the problem.

Activity Monitor's Memory tab

At a glance, this piet, accessible by clicking on Activity Monitor's Memory tab, tells you the state of your Mac's memory:
Free: How much RAM is available.
Wired: How much memory can't be offloaded to disk in a pinch.
Active: Information in RAM that's recently been used.
Inactive: RAM that's recently been touched by an app but that can be allocated for something else if need be. 
Used: The amount of RAM used in total.
On the right, Page Ins and Page Outs gives you a sense of how often the Mac is moving information between RAM and the hard disk. If you have a high number of Page Outs, or your piet is mostly warm colours, adding more RAM to the Mac can help improve performance.


Also inside the Utilities folder is Console, a handy app that lets you check the logs your Mac produces to document what it's doing. The Mac is constantly writing notes to itself, and these notes are useful in diagnosing problems - especially kernel panics.
Console is a handy troubleshooting tool if you think an app is giving you trouble but you're not exactly sure why. OS X documents what it's doing and when it's doing it, and if an app or processes crashes it, a log will be generated telling you what happened. You can even set a preference in Console to alert you when an open log changes, if you want to keep an eye on a specific process or app that you think is giving you trouble.
Admittedly, there's a tremendous amount of alphabet soup in here, with processes running with names you may not recognize. Doing a quick Google search can usually yield answers. Apple Support Communities can also be a great resource to search for what you need.

iStat Menus

iStat menus
This indispensable $16 utility Bjango populates your menu bar withts and graphs that show you at a glance how full your hard disk is, what sort of inbound and outbound network traffic your Mac is experiencing, how memory is being used and much more.

30 minutes to a faster Mac

Quit open apps you don't need

Just because you've closed open windows doesn't remove apps memory - you have to remember to quit them altogether to remove their footprint the operating system.
If you're a recent Windows convert, this idea might be a bit strange to you. If you run a lot of apps simultaneously and you don't have to, make sure to actually quit them to reduce their impact on your Mac's performance.
Any app that appears in your dock with a light underneath is something that's taking up RAM. You can quit open apps by ing Quit the application menu to the right of the Apple menu while the app is active, or right-click on their Dock icon and Quit.

Clean your desktop

Do you knowthose files and folders you keep within easy reach on your desktop, or the stuff that you saved to the desktop but you're just too lazy to put away?
Technically, the Finder treats every icon on your desktop as a separate window behind the scenes, and that puts a significant additional strain on resources. Find a place for everything in the Documents folder or somewhere else you're likely to remember, away the Finder.

Clear your browser's cache

Safari cache clear
Safari can fill up with a lot of junk that will slow it down over time, and the last thing you need when you're in a hurry is a spinning beachball.
To do so, first open Safari's Preferences, then click on the Advanced button. Click the checkbox labelled 'Show Develop menu in menu bar' and a new menu will appear. Half way down the list is Empty Caches. Alternatively, try Reset Safari… in the Safari window.

Close Dashboard widgets that you don't need

The Dashboard can be a convenient way to run tools you might need occasionally, but each of them take up memory and eat up your Mac's limited resources. If you only need to know the value of British pounds against Icelandic Króna every once in a while, close the converter Widget when you're not using it (click the minus button and then click the x buttons on the Widgets you wish to close).

Reduce the number of Login Items

start up items
If your Mac is slow to boot, it may be because there are too many software processes trying to load when you first log in. You have control over this activity, however. Simply go to the System Preferences and click on Users & Groups. Click the Login Items tab, and you'll be presented with a list of software that loads before you see your desktop. the items you don't want the Mac to load, and then click the minus button below.

Run Software Update

Software update
Apple regularly posts system software updates and even occasionally produces firmware updates for its computers. Some of these can have a positive effect on performance, so they're clearly worth doing. Software Update the Apple menu to check for the latest changes, and make sure to apply them within the Mac App Store to see if your Mac can speed up a bit.

Clear caches using OnyX or another tool

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