The end of the year is a natural occasion to pause, take stock, and implement adjustments and changes for the coming new year. As 2018 comes to an end, use any corresponding gaps that might arise in your professional calendar to help ensure your Mac is ready for 2019.

SEE: IT pro’s guide to effective patch management (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. Remove unnecessary applications

Begin by reviewing the applications installed on your Mac. Over time, it’s normal for unnecessary programs to collect on a system; however, these unused or no-longer-necessary apps often load services at startup, can consume system resources when not in use, and occasionally eat disk space otherwise needed for other programs and files.

Multiple options are available for reviewing and removing unneeded applications. You can open Finder, click the Applications directory, and manually browse and remove programs you no longer need by right-clicking the application and selecting Move To Trash, but I don’t recommend that method. Manually deleting apps typically leaves various libraries and system files behind.

Alternatively, macOS 10.12 (Sierra) and newer users can click the Apple icon, click About This Mac, select the Storage tab, click the Manage button, and highlight the Applications option within the left-hand navigation menu to display installed applications within the window’s right-hand pane. This System Information view lists the application name, kind, last used (accessed) date, and the program’s size (Figure A). You can highlight a respective app and click the corresponding Delete button, but again, you still run the risk that various extraneous libraries, system files, and other information will be overlooked and left behind.

Figure A

For more thorough application removal, consider using a system maintenance utility, such as WinZip Mac Optimizer or CleanMyMac 3. Alternatively, you could also use a utility dedicated to application removal. App Uninstaller is one such example.

2. Reduce clutter

Once unnecessary programs have been removed, proceed by removing unnecessary files. Again, third-party system maintenance utilities, such as WinZip Mac Optimizer and CleanMyMac 3, simplify the process, or you can use a dedicated disk-cleaning utility, such as Disk Cleaner.

Another option for macOS 10.12 (Sierra) and newer users is to leverage macOS’ integrated storage management tools to remove unnecessary files. To do so, click the Apple icon, click About This Mac, and then click the Manage button. Ensure Recommendations is selected from the left-side navigation bar, and then click the Review Files button within the Reduce Clutter section.

macOS will display Large Files. Clicking the Downloads and File Browser tabs enables manually reviewing and deleting (using the provided Delete button) corresponding entries (Figure B). Always be certain a file is no longer required before deleting an entry.

Figure B

3. Update macOS and applications

Finish basic year-end housekeeping by ensuring your Mac is current with program updates and security fixes. Security patches, performance fixes, and application enhancements are regularly developed and distributed by software manufacturers, including Apple. But unless your Mac is set to automatically download and install updates–the corresponding Automatically Keep My Mac Up To Date checkbox is found within the Software Update System Preferences pane (Figure C)–you’ll have to manually perform the task.

Open the App Store from the Mac Dock, or, if you’ve removed the program from its default location, open Finder, click Applications, and double-click the App Store icon. Click the Updates option within the left-hand pane and review and install available updates.

For applications you’ve loaded manually outside the Mac App Store, open the corresponding application and look for a software update or check for an updates option. You will often find these selections within the program’s Preferences or beneath the File or Help menus.

SEE: 2018: The year Apple finally remembered its extreme pro users (ZDNet)

Upon completing these best practices, it’s always a good idea to ensure you have a recent full-system backup. There’s no better time than the end of the year to collect and archive a backup.