7 Basic Tips for a Speedier Mac

This past week I was fortunate enough to be in the audience for an excellent presentation from John Purvis, an engineer and long time Mac user. The  topic was "Tune Up Your Mac," and I noticed many of his tips were simply about cleaning up your hard drive. I spoke with him about sharing some of his tips aimed at beginning Mac users, and he was gracious enough to OK it. 

So let's get to it.

Clean the Desktop

Oh, I am SO guilty of this. All those icons on your desktop have to be uploaded every time you turn on your Mac. I just checked mine and I have 78. 78! John’s advice is to put as many items as possible in folders and then put those folders in your dock where you will still have ready access to them. In an ideal world the only thing on your desktop will be your hard drive icon and you can even turn that off if you wish. In Yosemite, if you want to remove your hard drive icon, select Finder > Preferences > General and unclick the box next to Hard disks.

Finder Prefs

Finder Preferences

Free Space on the Boot drive

One thing I learned from John Purvis is that your Mac needs 10 to 20 percent of your boot drive free to operate efficiently. In Yosemite you can check to see how much free space you have by control-clicking (or right-clicking) Hard Drive Icon > Action > Get Info.


Hard Drive Info

Simple things you can do to make more room include quitting out of applications that you are not using. There are nerdy reasons for this, but suffice it to say that your Mac is using your hard drive for behind-the-scenes stuff for every open application. For apps in your dock, simply click on the application icon and select quit.  If you think you have other applications open you can select Apple Menu > Force Quit and see if anything else is open.

Another simple thing you can do is check out what is in your startup folder. The more things that have to open when you start your Mac, the slower it will run. Also, some applications will put “helper” items in your Start Up folder that you don’t even know about. In Yosemite, select Apple Menu > System Preferences > Users and Groups > Login Items. Uncheck any that you think are unnecessary.

Disable the Universal Access Features

For those who need them, the  universal access features are awesome. I have several friends who need and use these features, but if you don’t need them, uncheck them. In Yosemite, select Apple menu > System Preferences > Accessibility, and uncheck any of the features that you don’t need.

Accessibility Prefs

Accessibility Preferences

Empty the Trash

Did you realize that files in your trashcan are still taking up room on you computer? Empty the trash frequently to free up space. If you click on the trash can you can see a list of items you have thrown away. If you right-click on your trash can you can select Empty Trash from the options.

Clean Up the Downloads Folder

Just click on it in the Dock and see if there are things there that you don’t need. You might be very surprised at how many things have piled up in that folder, and all of them take up space.

Cull Your iPhoto Files

So, exactly how many photos of your feet or the ceiling do you actually need?  Yeah, me too. Open iPhoto and review your pictures for thing you don’t need. If you find photos you don't want to keep, delete then. Then delete the trash within iPhoto - it’s different from your regular trash.

Remove Any unnecessary Apple Supplied Files

How about all those fonts that you will never use because they are in languages you don’t speak or read. To delete them in Yosemite select Finder > Go > Go to Folder. When the little window opens, enter  /Library/Fonts. You will see a list of fonts. To check one out just click on it. To delete one, just highlight it and select trash. You will be required to enter your administrative password to delete. When I checked mine I had 278. Who needs 278 fonts? Designers do, but most of us don't.

Follow these same steps to check other files that can be discarded.

  • /Library/Desktop Pictures
  • /Library/Modem Scripts
  • /Library/Printers

When you are through throwing things away, empty your trash again and restart your Mac.This whole process is like Spring Cleaning. You feel so good when it is all done.