Good Mac habits - things I have always wanted to know but have been afraid to ask:

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by Queenredspecial, Sep 24, 2009.

  1. Queenredspecial macrumors regular

    Sep 14, 2009
    I have a Macbook Pro, (one of the first ones that came out,) and am running OS 10.4.11.

    1. What are the things one should periodically do in order to keep one's macbook happy, fast, and healthy? (Emptying caches and restoring stuff, etc?) Please be specific -- not hugely computer proficient.

    2. What is the best way to keep the hard drive from unnecessary stress, in order to prolong its life? (How do I make sure it rests as much as possible?)

    3. Is a screen saver a good thing, or is it better to just set the screen to turn off when idle?

    4. The desktop -- does it care if you use photos as a background rather than the regular mac thing? Does using photos take away too much memory?

    5. How often does one clean one's mac, and how? (I use iClear about once a month, and I blow it out as well as I can.)

    6. This computer gets incredibly hot -- I have a little fan blowing on it, but is that normal, and what can be done to cool it off?

    7. Is there any virus danger for macs? How does one know if one has a virus?

    8. What are the most taxing things on a computer? Playing video? Music? Running big programs for a long time like Photoshop?

    9. Is it a good idea to always accept updates?

    That's all I can think of for now -- please feel free to share any tips about anything macbook pro maintenance related, even if I forgot to ask.

    Thank you. :)
  2. BlueRevolution macrumors 603


    Jul 26, 2004
    Montreal, QC
    Fix a problem when something breaks. Your computer will take care of the menial stuff on its own.

     -> System Preferences -> Energy Saver -> Put the hard disk(s) to sleep when possible

    This is more a consideration of battery life than hard drive life. Hard drives have a finite life, but they're designed to be used. Of course, you should always maintain an up-to-date backup.

    There is no hardware benefit to using a screen saver. It just exists to flash pretty lights at you when you're distracted. Have the screen turn off.

    Nope. Use whatever you like.

    Wipe it down from time to time, bit o' spit and polish. Without spit. Or polish. But, like I said above... if it's not dirty, don't clean it.

    Personally, I've never had problems with just rubbing the computer with a damp cloth.

    Yes, those computers have a tendency to get quite hot. If it bothers you, you may want to think about investing in a cooling pad. Of course, as with any laptop, avoid putting it on a bed or cushion or something, because it insulates the computer and prevents it from getting rid of the heat properly.

    If you have a Mac, you don't have any viruses. It's a pretty straightforward diagnosis.

    Photoshop > video > music. You can see how much memory a particular application or process is using under /Applications/Utilities/Activity

    Yes. There are a few anecdotes where updates have caused problems, but I have never encountered any. Once you begin the update process, though, ensure that it isn't interrupted or your system may become corrupted.
  3. Queenredspecial thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 14, 2009
  4. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Oct 14, 2008
    a great resource that i found helpful, and I actually performed quite a bit of them (even though i just reformatted and did a fresh install of leopard and then snow leopard) is in this months' MacLife. It has info and steps of things to do to "tune up" a Mac. I am sure it will be beneficial to you, and def. worth a look!!
  5. Queenredspecial thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 14, 2009
    Thanks! Do you by any chance have a link?
  6. toolbox macrumors 68020


    Oct 6, 2007
    Australia (WA)
    This little app here will clean your machine up, cache etc - Onyx
  7. chaosbunny macrumors 68000


    Mar 11, 2005
    down to earth, far away from any clouds
  8. Rampant.A.I. macrumors 6502a

    Sep 25, 2009
    • Shut it down, or restart it more often than you think you need to. If you're not using it for a while, shut it down instead of sleeping it.

    • Always keep it elevated. If you don't have a laptop stand, shove a couple of books under the edges to let air flow underneath. Laptops aren't really made to be used for extended periods like a lot of us use them. It may seem silly, but get a decent cooling stand, or focus a fan on your laptop when you're going to be using it for an extended period.

    • Get an external keyboard for your desk. I know, I know--kind of defeating the purpose of having a laptop. But it keeps your integrated keyboard nice for when you're on the go, and it'll last longer. Plus, having a full-size keyboard is kind of nice.

    • Always let your HD spin down before you move your computer. Shut the case, wait 5-10 seconds or until you hear it spin down.

    • Keep it well-insulated when you take it places. Macs are tough, but bump and jostle it enough and things will break. Get a well-padded laptop backpack. If you like, throw a hard case on your laptop. I have the Speck model and love it.

    • If you're going to eat and drink around your laptop without a keyboard... Prophylactic--uhh, protector, be very careful. You may not hurt your Mac with accidental spills, but then again you may damage something and have tons of problems down the road.

    • Don't load up with a bunch of junk applications and stuff you'll never use. If you do--most of us eventually do--you should backup your drive and re-install your system software. Otherwise, your laptop will start to run slooooooooowly in a couple of years.

    * I've run Macs since... 93? 94? Somewhere around there. I have never had a virus. That doesn't mean it can't happen, but it is pretty rare. You should probably be running an antivirus program anyway.

    All of this stuff may seem a little OCD. It's just something to keep in mind when you're using your Mac. It should give you many, many years of great use even if you beat the heck out of it.
  9. Nicolecat macrumors 6502a


    Apr 2, 2008
    Isn't it always a good idea to periodically "safe boot" just to keep it running smoothly, though?

    I haven't done it much with my macbook...but at work I have to safe boot once a week. (That may have to do with server issues...not 100% sure)

    (I think I had a tech tell me that 3 safe boots in a row can fix just about any lag you may this true too?)
  10. Queenredspecial thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 14, 2009
    Ok, I have 3 more questions. (Rampant A.I., thank you for all the info!)

    1. What is 'safe boot?'
    2. Why do people reinstall their OS, and is it necessary? If so, how does one do it?
    3. What are the 'disk permissions' people always talk about, and should i be doing something with them?
  11. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    It's a mode that loads none of the kernel extensions or login items you have installed. Basically it's a way to boot the OS with nothing but the necessities enabled. Some people boot into safe mode before doing OS updates (10.x.x ones, that is), but to be honest in the 20 Mac network I run and all three of my home systems I've never found this necessary. It's mostly a troubleshooting technique--if something is crashing/freezing your computer when you log in, Safe mode is a way to try and bypass it.

    Usually if something went very wrong (disk corruption or they mucked with the wrong thing) and something is broken or it won't boot. In these cases it can be more efficient to just reinstall the OS (since that won't affect any of your settings or even most apps) rather than trying to pin down exactly what went wrong. People occasionally do this to go back to an earlier OS version after an update they absolutely hate or broke some program they rely on, and a few exceptionally (and unnecessarily) paranoid people do it as some kind of a maintenance routine, but those are fringe cases--like rebuilding your car's engine and replacing all the tires every time you get an oil change.

    Essentially, if you need and OS reinstall you'll probably know.

    It's the default permissions settings on applications you've added through an installer and system files. Permissions are a UNIX term, basically meaning "which users on the computer are allowed to do what with which files."

    If you open up Disk Utility and select your boot drive, there's a "Repair permissions" button that will check the settings the installer(s) said files should have, and correct anything that doesn't match.

    Realistically, it's one of those "try it first even though 99% of the time it has nothing to do with the problem you're having" things that people always recommend. There are occasional times when repairing permissions does actually do something useful, but nowhere NEAR as often as its recommended. People who don't understand the process too clearly also have a tendency to freak out when they see "warnings" in the list of things corrected that are totally benign--look around here, there are dozens of threads.

    That said, the only thing repairing permissions costs is time, and it has a functionally 0 chance of messing anything up, so if it makes you feel better to run them periodically, go ahead. I do personally run a permissions repair before and after installing aforementioned 10.x.x OS updates as a bit of paranoia, and some stuff does get corrected, but I doubt it's really anything of consequence. It does usually fix the permissions on Adobe-installed junk, which is often not set properly by their installers (some of the worst in existence), but that's more of a very minor security risk than anything.
  12. Neotyguy40 macrumors regular

    Jul 15, 2009
    I suggest using Maintidget about once every few weeks (you will notice a large performance difference if you went for years without using it.

    I suggest doing a fresh install and installing the things you usually use. Then I suggest you use the energy-saver preference pane to put your harddrive and screen to sleep whenever possible.

    Just turn it off. If you aren't using it, then I don't see why you would need a screensaver.

    Doesn't really matter, but if you use a plain color, then it will most likely give your GPU more speed (very little, but possible).

    Clean as in? Clean the inside out? Clean out the hard drive space? If you mean the inside of the computer, then I suggest only cleaning out the underside of the keyboard, because nothing else 'should' get dirty.

    Prevention is hard, but the fan should work finely. If it gets REALLY hot, put some ice in a waterproof package (like an ice pack or thick towel) and rub the underside (especially the battery area) with it. If it somehow get's wet, do not tilt the computer, and rub it with a dry towel or cloth.

    Macs do not have any known viruses. Do not bother installing any anti-virus programs since they will only slow the computer. Macs can't get any viruses because it uses the Unix Kernel (which is like trying to get through a mile of concrete with a hammer).

    I would say trying to run intense high powered programs for long times. Video and music on a Mac is like the iron chef making a microwave dinner...

    Yes, always accept updates. No question about it.
  13. Queenredspecial thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 14, 2009
    I did mean externally, but you have brought up another point --

    is there some good housekeeping that can (needs to be) performed on the hard drive? (I downloaded and used Onyx today, and that seemed to do some 'cleaning' of the inner workings. Any other ways?
  14. dukeofism macrumors member

    Jul 22, 2009
    thanks to the OP. This is a very informative for me. I am a new Mac user with a MBP and many of these questions you have posed are questions I have wanted the answer to.

  15. toolbox macrumors 68020


    Oct 6, 2007
    Australia (WA)
  16. Queenredspecial thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 14, 2009
    ^^ Thanks! (I really like some of those stands. I have been using an encyclopedia and a vent pad. :D)

    Dukeofism -- :)
  17. toolbox macrumors 68020


    Oct 6, 2007
    Australia (WA)
    Yeah i have two mstands, one for home and work.

    I use a iSkin too for the keyboard and i bought a product from a company called marware, it's a wrist protector for the mac to stop from scratches from watches and stains.
  18. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    Not really. If you're not working with huge media files (dozens to hundreds of gigabytes of video, that is) or running with your drive 95% full, most of the standard "housekeeping" (that is, defragmentation and log file rotation) sort of thing is taken care of automatically by the OS.

    You can manually run the daily/weekly/monthly log rotation scripts (I believe Onyx does), but those will of course happen on their own--that's kind of the point. Defragmentation isn't necessary under normal use, nor is any kind of directory optimization.

    You can, of course, throw out files/apps you don't want anymore, and empty the trash on occasion, but that's good enough for most use patterns. If you want to be particularly careful you can boot from the install DVD once every month or three and run a disk check, though I rarely see any problems anymore (you can also run a check, but not the repair, without needing to boot from another disk as of 10.5).

    I'd also do a reboot at least once a month, if you sleep your computer instead of shutting it down, but then if you install updates in a reasonable amont of time you'll do this incidentally to that.

    This isn't to say that people don't have all manner of cache purging/disk optimization/shell script voodo that they do to clean up their drives, but realistically for the average user with a <90% full hard drive none of it will really matter much, if at all.
  19. Roy7 macrumors newbie

    Sep 17, 2009
    What about battery life-span?

    Meaning, should I leave it plugged in all the time, or plug it in, then unplug it till the battery dies to maximize the longevity of the battery.

    I just remember my PC if I "overcharged" the battery, the amount of time it stayed charged went down progressively.
  20. beala macrumors member

    Sep 25, 2009
  21. savar macrumors 68000


    Jun 6, 2003
    District of Columbia
    I think the single best thing you can do for a modern laptop is to calibrate the battery once per month.

    My laptop is 4 years old and still runs great.

    Don't worry about the HDs. They are built to run. In fact, if you're frequently sleeping them and starting them back up, that puts more stress on them. Plus it slows down your computer while you wait for the HD to spin up.
  22. Rampant.A.I. macrumors 6502a

    Sep 25, 2009
    ^ Good to know, I guess I was mistaken about shutting down whenever you're going to leave it for a while.

    My two other Mac laptops have had lifespans of at least 4 years, and continued to run well enough to sell to another user after that.

    My most recent, a Powerbook G4, even after all the problems it's had, is still chugging along just fine.

    They really are solid little machines.
  23. Queenredspecial thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 14, 2009
    Ok -- More questions. :)

    (You guys rock my world, by the way.) :D

    My hard drive is 74.21GB full and 8.57GB are free. (Is that bad?)

    I have cleaned pretty much everything I can, and moved things on to an external drive.

    I also have downloaded DiskInventory, and I can see everything that is on my drive, but a lot of it is not anything I would dare delete. (Some of the files are not even deletable. Fore example -- what is .Trash?)

    Anyway -- do you guys know if there is some kind of way to slim down the information on my drive? A lot of it is unfamiliar to me. Are there any unnecessary things? I don't want to screw it up...
  24. BlueRevolution macrumors 603


    Jul 26, 2004
    Montreal, QC
    No, but I wouldn't suggest filling it up much more or you'll start to see performance drop.

    Good. "Oh, I don't know what this is so I'm sure I don't need it," isn't a good philosophy.

    What it sounds like. When you move a file to the trash but haven't emptied the trash yet, that's where it goes. Manually deleting stuff inside that folder is the same as emptying the trash.

    You could try running a program like Monolingual to clean up some of the unnecessary system files.

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