While Macintosh computers require considerably less diagnostic maintenance than PCs, good practices in file organization, safeguarding data, and malware awareness still apply.

Organize Your Files

Keeping all your documents in one folder is the first step to maintaining a tidy computer. OS X has a default folder to store your documents called the Documents folder. It is a good practice to create subfolders within the documents folder to organize your files according to category. Additionally, if you frequently access a single file, you should make an alias of it on your desktop instead of leaving the file itself on your desktop, to minimize the risk of it being accidentally deleted. These simple precautions can save you time and energy in the event of a system failure -- an organized computer is much easier to backup than a computer that has its files scattered all over the hard drive.

Do Routine Backups

Get in the practice of doing frequent backups. This could make the difference between a computer failure being an annoying inconvenience or a catastrophic meltdown. Backing up your computer is a highly personal task, and one that only you can do with confidence -- no one but you knows which files are important and which are not. Suggestions for files that you will want to back up are: photos, email archives, bookmarks, personal projects (Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, etc), contacts, and purchased software and music. Programs do not need to be backed up. Remember to always backup your data to external media, such as cd-r, dvd-r, zip disk, or an external hard drive.

Remove Unwanted Startup Items

If your computer which used to take 60 seconds to start up, now takes 2 minutes to start up, it may be loading too many programs upon boot up. Sometimes, the programs that we install configure themselves to run when the computer is started. They can run in the background undetected and considerably delay the start up process of the computer, as well as consume needed resources while the computer is operating. In OS X, there is a menu in the Account Preferences where you can see the processes that are initiated upon start up, and you can then deselect the programs that aren’t needed.

  1. Go to System Preferences from the Apple Menu or the Taskbar.
  2. Click on Users & Groups.
  3. Click on your user account name on the left-hand side of the Users & Groups window.
  4. Click the Login Items tab.
  5. Choose the application that you do not want to open at start up so that it is highlighted.
  6. Press the - button (minus) to remove the item.
  7. Close the window.  The item(s) you removed will no longer start up when you turn on your computer.

Download Software and Anti-Virus Updates

Periodically, Apple releases updates which contain patches for security holes, bug fixes, and sometimes added features and drivers. In order to protect your computer and enhance its functionality, you can activate the Software Update tool in your System Preferences:

  1. In the top-left corner of your screen, click Apple > App Store.
  2. Click on Updates, which is on the top of the window that opens.
  3. Your computer will check for any updates that are available. 

In order to make sure that you receive regular updates without having to check to see if there are updates, it is recommended that you have your system automatically check for updates. 

  1. Go to System Preferences from the Apple Menu or the Taskbar.
  2. Click on App Store.
  3. Make sure that you check the Automatically check for updates box.

Error Checking

The Disk Utility located in Applications> Utilities > Disk Utility is used when your computer is not starting up properly or when you suspect there are file system issues. When you start the program by choosing the First Aid button, it will ask you to select the hard drive that you want to check. You will see the drives listed on the left side of the window. Click the drive and then select the Verify Disk button.

This process could take several minutes, depending on the size of your hard drive. When it is done, it will display a log with the results of the disk verification.

Reboot your Computer

Although this is by far the easiest task on the list, it’s one that is most often overlooked. Leaving the computer on for days eats up system resources that can only be restored when the computer is restarted. Shut down your computer whenever you anticipate you will be away from it for an extended period of time.