Speed up your Mac
There’s nothing — nothing — more frustrating than trying to beat a deadline with a slow computer. So, what do you do if you can’t afford the best and newest hardware? You’d be surprised, but a little time spent cleaning up the hard drive you’ve already got will yield impressive returns in terms of speed and useability. Here are some tips for both Windows and Macs that you can do right now to turbo-boost your hard drive.
As always, before futzing around with your computer, please make sure you’ve backed up any and all important files to a safe place!
Site note: I was politely clued-in to the fact that the Windows tips that originally appeared in this piece were woefully out-of-date. I regret the error, and I will be planning a follow-up for the Webcomics.com members who use Windows machines.
Resolving RAM and memory leakage
To regain the leaked memory Restart the computer.
Random Access Memory (RAM) is the memory used to run applications. As more applications open, less RAM is available for use.
Memory leakage occurs when an application is closed, but does not return the entire amount of RAM it was allocated by the operating system.
Memory leakage decreases the amount of RAM available to run other applications, resulting in memory or disk space errors and slow or incorrect scans.
Checking the amount of space available on the hard disk drive
From the Apple menu, select About This Mac.
- Click More Info. The About This Mac window appears.
- Click Storage. The window shown below appears.
Use this window to check how much hard drive space is available on your Mac. The startup disk is shown at the top of the list; other partitions are shown below. Notice that you can see how much of your hard drive space is being consumed by audio files, movies, etc. This information could be useful when your hard drive is nearly full and you need to delete some files.
Checking the amount of system resources available
Restart the computer and check the resources again. Usually more resources are available after restarting the computer. This is because of a condition called memory leakage. See the memory leakage section below for more information. Follow the steps listed below to check the system resources:
Check the Activity Monitor (in the Utilities folder). This will enable you to check the vital signs of your system’s performance while it’s running.
Click on “Memory”. If you have little to no “Free” memory (or the Memory Used number is almost as large as the Physical Memory) you may want to close a few open applications. It may also be a signal that you need to buy more memory.
Swap Used is the amount of hard disk space currently being used as virtual memory. If “swap” space is used, your computer has run out of physical memory and is using a portion of your hard drive as temporary storage space. This will slow you down. Your hard drive isn’t meant for that.
Check the CPU usage. If your “% CPU” is substantially high (for example, if it’s consistently above 50%), then you may have applications running that are using more system resources than needed. Consider closing unused or unneeded applications. You can also select View -> My Process to see if any unused processes are currently running. If they are, consider closing them.
By the way, that’s where that whole “launch applications upon startup” function kind of bites you in the behind. If you’re launching, say, InDesign and Photoshop on start-up — and then not using them immediately — you’re eating up a lot of memory.
Go to System Preferences, then to Users & Groups and then click on the Login Items tab to see a list of the apps that open when you boot your Mac. Uncheck the apps you don’t need at startup.
Cleaning up the computer system
Restart your Mac while holding down the Command-R key. This launches your Mac in Recovery Mode. Now run Disk Utility. to verify and repair your disk (and disk permissions). Now restart as usual.
To clear the cache that your Mac’s various applications and processes have stashed on your hard drive, install the free utility, OnyX. Open the Cleaning tab at the top of the app. Check off items across six categories, clicking Execute to delete the cache of the checked items, freeing up space on your hard drive.