The beginning of a new year is a natural time to ensure your Mac — likely used every day to power your professional obligations — continues operating efficiently. Follow these diagnostic, maintenance, and tune-up steps to encourage trouble-free operation in the year ahead.
1: Run Apple's hardware diagnostics
Hardware surprises are usually unpleasant, so leverage Apple's integrated hardware diagnostics and give your Mac a quick once-over. Running Apple's built-in utility helps you determine whether your Mac's hardware is operating properly and flag potential issues and failures. TechRepublic contributing writer Jesus Vigo walks you through the process of using Apple's hardware diagnostics.
2: Remove unneeded applications
Often multiple applications are installed that end up not being required; these applications sometimes load processes, slow performance, and consume needed disk space. Consider deploying a maintenance utility such as CleanMyMac or Disk Aid that assists in properly and efficiently removing an application (just deleting an application, for example, doesn't necessarily mean all corresponding library files and corresponding detritus are uninstalled).
3: Run a system cleanup operation
It's best to always begin any maintenance or tuning exercise by performing a full backup using Time Machine. Running a system cleanup operation is no exception to that rule.
Run a backup, and confirm the backup completed properly before making system changes. Then, select a scanning utility with a good reputation, such as CleanMyMac or CCleaner, that lets you run several scans and seek a variety of unnecessary files and programs at once.
Perform a system cleanup scan, but choose carefully which files and programs you remove and which cleanup actions you approve. Removing unnecessary language files, offline data, cached information, and outdated patches can free significant disk space and, in some cases, improve system performance. Emptying trash, including the separate trash container included within Photos that can rapidly grow in size and is often overlooked, can further disk space reclamation efforts.
4: Remove redundant files
Over the years I've worked with applications that locate duplicate files (e.g., The Duplicate Finder and Disk Aid), thereby enabling removing redundant unneeded files. So, when testing a third-party application on my meticulously administered MacBook Air last fall, I was surprised to find gigabytes of duplicate files present on the disk. Running the duplicate file scan enabled freeing significant disk space, eliminating an issue I was confident didn't exist. Files have a way of multiplying on a Mac, so I recommend including a duplicate file check as part of an annual tune-up operation.
5: Download and install updates
I'm surprised when others hand me their Macs to troubleshoot an issue how many patches, hotfixes, and system updates are awaiting download and installation.
As with any significant system change, always start by making a full backup using Time Machine. Then, download and install Mac OS X and application updates by going to the App Store, clicking Updates, and downloading and installing available patches and updates. I've lost track of the number of times that simply downloading and installing updates has resolved the original issue prompting someone to request service or repair.
If you have time to perform a First Aid scan using the integrated Disk Utility (accessed from the Utilities folder within Applications on OS X El Capitan systems), identifying and correcting issues OS X finds is another way to help ensure continued proper operation. Plus, scanning a disk gives you a good excuse to grab a cup of tea and take a quick break while the operation completes.
- Pro tip: Manage Apple software updates remotely via the command line (TechRepublic)
- How to fix five known issues affecting OS X El Capitan (TechRepublic)
- Pro tip: How to use TechTool Pro 8 for Advanced Diagnostics (TechRepublic)
- CleanMyMac 3 offers many new features in a single, elegant interface (TechRepublic)
- Keep your Mac and Windows apps running smoothly with the help of these VM config tips (TechRepublic)
- 10 common OS X troubleshooting solutions (TechRepublic)
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.