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Mac Maintenance 101 – How to Extend the Life of Your Mac

Mac books were once seen as the cool and trendy computer to have and sometimes were seen as a status symbol, but these days everyone from school kids to small business owners will own a MacBook.  

While Macbooks are the cool computer to have and are often hassle-free it doesn’t make them immune from becoming slow or even being infected with viruses despite the popular myths that they can’t.

If you own a Macbook or an iMac it is up to you to keep it maintained and in this article, we will take a look at some of the best ways to keep your Mac maintained so it can perform well and you can use it for many years to come.

Backing up data

Our first tip is to backup your data as often as possible and while this doesn’t add to maintaining your Mac it will help you if a problem does arise and you need to wipe your current system completely.  

Backing you your computer can also help if it were to ever get infected with Ransomware which is a malicious bit of code that infects your system and then locks you out of your computer so you don’t have access to your files.

Creating a backup of your files isn’t as difficult as it sounds because your Mac has software called “time machine” on it which helps you restore your personal files from an earlier period. Apple has a good tutorial on getting started with Time Machine which you can read here

If you don’t want to use Time Machine you can use third-party software such as SuperDuper that clones your entire hard drive and allows you to backup your system very easily.

Using third-party software such as SuperDuper can allow you to create multiple copies of your hard drive and store them in separate locations to help recover your data in the event of a disaster.

Updating software

Not only can bugs leave your system open to security vulnerabilities but they can also slow down your system. When updates are released these vulnerabilities are usually fixed and your system benefits as the software is running as it should and not taking up additional memory as a result of the bug.

Minor software fixes are usually free so you should update when possible. If you find that you don’t have time to monitor all the latest changes with your software you can turn on automatic updates from the main menu on your Mac.  

To turn on automatic updates click on your Macs apple sign, then click on about this Mac, then overview and finally system updates. From here you can see all of the update options available. You can either choose to update your programs manually, or select the advanced features and then select to update the software when an update becomes available.

Keeping your software up-to-date is vital for maintaining the performance of your machine and keeping it safe from exploits.

Maintaining your hard drive

Your computer’s hard drive is an impressive bit of technology that can launch pictures, movies and programs in seconds, but over time the speed and the reliability of your hard drive decreases and this is because the drive has become fragmented.

To clean up and improve the performance on a fragmented drive you can use Apple’s inbuilt disk utility mode. You can find this by navigating to your applications then to utilities. You can also find this by bringing up a finder search window and typing disk utility.

When the window opens you can then click on the hard drive you want to test and once selected click on the first aid option. Your computer will then look for errors and fix them.

Apple’s disk utility is a good start to fixing a fragmented drive but there are other third-party software options out there that do a good job of maintaining and optimising your hard drives. Disk Warrior by Alsoft is considered a great choice for fixing your hard drive issues.

Keeping storage free

For optimum performance on your computer, you should aim to keep at least 10% of your storage free and if you are using macOS Sierra or higher you can take advantage of the optimised storage feature which deletes certain files and clears the junk folder automatically, it also moves some of your files to the cloud to free up space.

If you aren’t running macOS Sierra or higher you will have to manually delete files and move your files to the cloud. When manually deleting files think of movies or songs that you have listened/watched and won’t need again and delete these first.

Once again there are third-party tools available which go beyond the normal scope of deleting your junk files. Clean My Mac is a good tool for finding broken, damaged and other junk files and cleaning them from your hard drive.

One quick fix that most of us are probably guilty of would be to clutter the desktop with too many files and screenshots. This may seem like a small fix and it is but having too many files on your desktop will require your computer to allocate more RAM to it. To fix this issue and improve the performance of your Mac you can either delete all the files on the desktop or if you want to keep them create a new folder and drag and drop these files into there.

Run Malware and Virus Scanners

If you own a Mac you have probably heard at some point that it was a good choice to buy one because they don’t suffer from viruses. This of course is completely false and all computer systems are vulnerable to viruses and malware.

So now the myth has been busted, you should protect your system from viruses, malware and other harmful code by installing anti-virus, malware and firewall software.

You can buy the above or you can find free versions so there’s no excuse for letting your system be vulnerable to a cyberattack, and with 65,000 attacks happening every day on small businesses you would be risking it without any protection.

AVG offers great protection against viruses and has software for firewalls too, while Malwarebytes offers a free malware scanner that’s free of charge.

Restart your mac

Restarting your mac may seem like a strange tip but many of us who use Macs tend to leave them running for weeks at a time without restarting and while this is convenient to us as your computer boots up instantly it does hinder the performance of your computer.

When you leave your Mac running you are keeping your programs and your documents in its virtual memory and as you open and close more programs during this time some of the memory can “leak” causing your computer to seem much slower than it usually operates at.

The simple fix is to restart your Mac as this frees up your computer’s RAM and virtual memory. Alternatively, you can shut down your Mac when you are done with it at the end of the day which will also prolong your battery life.

Calibrating your mac’s battery

Your mac has an inbuilt sensor that alerts you to the remaining battery life left on your machine but overtime this sensor becomes inaccurate and can tell you that your laptop is going to go to sleep when you may have more battery life remaining that it thinks. The opposite is also true and it can cause real issues when you expect your battery to have more life in it for it to die suddenly.

To calibrate this sensor and keep it accurate overtime you should allow your battery to drain completely and then charge it up to full capacity at least once a month. Performing this technique will allow the sensor to reset itself and will give you more accurate battery level readings.

Keeping your mac clean

Macs, as well as other computers, can build up dust and grime over time and this can clock up the vents on your machine causing the fans and other internal hardware to work harder to keep your machine cool. If your machine can’t cool down because of this dirt and grime then it could cause the internal hardware to malfunction.

To clean dust from inside your Mac you will need to open it up and this does void Apple’s warranty so just know that before-hand. Opening up your Mac is no easy feat either and if you suspect that dust on the inside of your machine is causing it problems we would highly recommend consulting with an IT Support company that fixes these things on the daily. Not only does opening up your machine void your warranty but if you don’t know what you are doing you could also short your hardware from static electricity.

Not only does keeping your machine clean help with the performance of your computer but if you run a business you will be glad to know that you can cut down on employee sickness by keeping your office clean.

With more than 70% of office sickness passed on by touch, cleaning your keyboards and mice which can contain 300 times as much bacteria as the toilet seat can help with your businesses profitability too while keeping your staff healthy.

Closing down programs

The doc on the Mac is a great feature but what some users don’t realise is when they close down programs they aren’t fully closed and sit in the dock and still work in the background, this is especially true if you haven’t restarted your Mac in a long time.

Apps still working in the background can cause your machine to use up more RAM than needed and will slow down the performance of the programs you are using. A quick way to fix this problem is to click on the Apple sign at the top of the screen and then click on the force quit button. When you click on this you will see all of the programs that are running in the background. Close any you aren’t using for improved computing performance.

Upgrading your hardware – RAM and hard drive.

As technology advances software will need higher specifications to work and even a well-maintained machine can begin to struggle. Depending on your Mac upgrading your RAM may not be possible but on the devices that allow your ram to be upgraded, I would start here first.

Upgrading your RAM will allow you to run programs faster and will allow your machine to open more programs at the same time which is vital in the business environment.

To see if you can upgrade the RAM on your mac you can visit the crucial website.

If you have updated your RAM and want more performance out of your Mac you can also upgrade your hard drive. Upgrading to an SSD hard drive is going to allow your programs to launch at a quicker speed and provide overall better performance. If you have an SSD already installed but the drive is close to being full you could upgrade to a larger drive for additional performance.

Conclusion

Maintaining your Mac is vital for prolonging your machine’s life and keeping it running smoothly so you can focus on the tasks at hand. In the business world, a smooth-running mac could be the difference between hitting a deadline for a project and missing it. If you maintain your Mac you should see consistent levels of performance for many years and if you do suddenly see a decrease in performance you can check back to this article and run through the list.

Over time you will need to replace your computers but using the list above you will be able to prolong that expense and put your budget into other areas of your life or business.

If you have any IT support needs or would like to discuss any IT services please get in touch with us for a free no-obligation consultation.