TABLE OF CONTENTS

I've created this site because so many of the Macintosh users that I have encountered have expressed frustration that they don't know what to do, or what to use, for performing routine maintenance on their Macintosh running OS X. There is also a huge amount of misinformation going around on the subject. Even Apple has contributed to the confusion with conflicting tech notes on their Web site. With the assistance of a few free utility programs, routine maintenance under OS X is very easy. The problem for most users is figuring out which utility to use, and for what. This site will tell you that.

Just a little routine maintenance can make a Macintosh that is acting old and slow run like it was new again! It can also banish vexing spinning beachball cursors, rid you of "out of memory" error messages, and keep your valuable data from being lost.

The Philosophy behind this site:

This is not (necessarily) a site for experts and power-users. What I recommend here is what I see as the easiest, quickest, surest, least intimidating, and least expensive way to accomplish valuable routine maintenance. If you enjoy inputting arcane commands at a UNIX prompt, if you know UNIX inside and out, if you have money burning a hole in your pocket for commercial software with lots of questionable features, or if you enjoy playing around with the features of powerful (and potentially dangerous) software that you don't really understand, this site isn't meant for you. I freely admit that there are other ways to do the routine maintenance suggested on this site, but the procedures that I recommend here are designed to be the best ones for the average Macintosh user.

I've tried to make it easy as possible. I tell you what you should do, and what you should do it with, and roughly how often. If you are an average user, you can just follow my recommendations and be happy that you have done what is necessary. If you want to know more...the "why," or the other options, or any controversy that exists in the Macintosh community over the need for these procedures, I've provided a "Discussion" section for each bit of routine maintenance, as well as a bunch of linked citations.

There are several very common myths circulating about Macintosh maintenance. I don't know anywhere else where they are all acknowledged in one place. I have endeavored to mention them all on this site. Look for the headings: "Maintenance Myth".

Note: Many problems that one might experience while running OS X, especially performance and memory error problems, can be traced to not having enough RAM (memory) installed. The amount of RAM that comes standard with a new Macintosh (assuming that you haven't paid to have more RAM installed at the time of purchase) usually the bare minimum necessary, and adding more RAM to your Mac is usually a good idea. In my personal opinion, in no case should a Mac running OS X have less than 512MB of RAM, for decent performance. OS X 10.5 should probably have at least 1GB of RAM available.  More RAM is just about always better.

If you want to find out if you need more RAM, try this free utility:
"Do I Need More Memory?"
http://www.hillmanminx.net/dinmm/index.html
(As of the date of this writing, "Do I Need More Memory" is no longer supported by its developer, but it still works perfectly.)

This Web page doesn't cover troubleshooting hardware problems. For instance, many, maybe even most kernel panics (i.e. system crashes)
http://support.apple.com/kb/TS3742
under OS X, are caused by hardware problems such as bad RAM, problematic USB hubs, incompatible PCI cards, etc. 

Disclaimer: When using any software utility that makes changes to your hard drive's system or structure, there is always the slim possibility that things can go horribly wrong. So, it is always a really good idea to have an up to date backup of all of your important data before using any software utility. Actually, it's just simply a good idea to always keep a backup of your data in any case, because hard drives are notorious for failing when you would least expect them to and you can least afford them to. For backup software, I suggest that you check out:
SuperDuper
($28)
http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper/SuperDuperDescription.html
and that you purchase an external hard drive to backup to. At this time I prefer and highly recommend Glyph external hard drives:
http://www.glyphtech.com/products/

If you are experiencing a problem with your Macintosh, performing all of the suggested routine maintenance found on this page will often fix the problem. If it doesn't fix the problem, and you are still encountering problems with slowdowns and/or seeing the rotating rainbow beachball, see:

Macintosh OS X Beachballs!
http://www.macattorney.com/rbb.html

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Slow operation and generally unusual behavior are signs that may indicate that permissions need to be repaired on your Macintosh's hard drive. To do so you can run Repair Disk Permissions from within Disk Utility, located on your hard drive at: Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility

Note: There is no need to verify permissions before you repair them. Unless you can read the report and understand what Disk Utility proposes to do, there is little point in verifying first.

You should run Repair Disk Permissions regularly. Maybe once a month, and every time after you have installed new software.  (Contrary to popular belief, it is not at all necessary to run Repair Disk Permissions prior to installing new software.  Though doing so won’t hurt anything.)

Open Disk Utility, and on the left side of the screen select your hard drive, then select the First Aid tab on the right side and click on "Repair Disk Permissions."

See: 

http://support.apple.com/kb/PH5821
and
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1452
and
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2963
for further details.

Note: Some users are reporting that they run Repair Permissions over and over again, and the same permissions are reported as being incorrect, and they are not being repaired. You should know that, in addition to reporting faulty permissions, until very recent versions of OS X, running Repair Permissions in Disk Utility also gave you advisory messages. For instance, it might report that it is using an updated set of rules to determine if any permissions needs to be repaired. These are not error reports and they will not change no matter how many times you run Repair Permissions. Advisory messages do not indicate that anything is wrong, and they can safely be ignored. Example:

"We are using special permissions for the file or directory
./System/Library/Filesystems/hfs.fs/hfs.util.
New permissions are 33261"

or

"ACL found but not expected" or “Warning: SUID file” error messages
http://support.apple.com/kb/TS1448
These messages can safely be ignored.

Note: Some users have noted that their permissions revert to apparently incorrect settings every time that they restart their Macintosh.  Disk Utility/Repair Disk will correct their permissions, but the next time that they restart the permissions have been changed again.  This has been traced to the fact that these users are running security software such as Intego’s Virus Barrier.  The security software is intentionally modifying permissions to close off potential malicious exploits.  Note that in this case, it is neither necessary, or even desirable, to repeatedly repair your permissions to “fix” this situation.

As of OS X 10.7 (Lion) there is a new (though slightly more complicated) way to repair permissions that might do a more thorough job:

1. Restart Lion, and before you hear the chime, hold down the Command and R keys.

2. You’ll be at the Repair Utilities screen. Click the Utilities item in the Menu Bar, then click Terminal.

3. In the Terminal window, type “resetpassword” and hit Return.

4. The password reset utility window launches, but you’re not going to reset the password. Instead, click on the icon for your Mac’s hard drive at the top. From the dropdown below it, select the user account for which you want to repair permissions.

5. At the bottom of the window, you’ll see an area labeled Reset Home Directory Permissions and ACLs. Click the Reset button there.

The reset process takes just a couple of minutes. When it’s done, close everything and restart your Mac.

http://blog.chron.com/techblog/2011/09/want-to-really-repair-permissions-on-your-
mac-try-this/

Discussion.

Maintenance Myth #1: "You need to repair permissions from a copy of Disk Utility that resides on the drive that you are repairing."
This is a myth that is very prevalent.

It used to be that you were warned against repairing permissions on one disk while booted from another because only the receipt files on the drive you were booted from would be consulted, not the receipt files on the drive you were repairing, and thus not all permissions would be set correctly. This is no longer necessary. As of late in OS X 10.2, you could run Repair Permissions while booted from a disk other than the one that you are repairing (e.g. the OS X installer CD-ROM), and it will correctly use the receipts on the disk being repaired.

http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1452

Maintenance Myth #2: There are some folks who are very adamant that you never need to repair permissions under OS X. While repairing permissions isn't a panacea, they are wrong, it is definitely worth your while to repair permissions occasionally. The reality is that Repairing Permissions doesn't require that you purchase anything to do it, it can be accomplished fairly quickly, it doesn't hurt anything, and after repairing permissions sometimes the problem(s) that the user is experiencing are gone. In addition, often the curative effects of repairing permissions are repeatable and predictable. I don't see any reason not to do it.

Apple provides a list of reasons that you may need to repair permissions:
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2963

Here is a (rather extreme) example of the "it's never ever necessary" school of thought:

Exercises in Futility Part 2: Repairing Permissions is Useless
http://www.unsanity.org/archives/000410.php

From the folks at MacFixIt, who recommend routine repair of permissions:

Another follow-up to the Repair Permissions debate
http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-10331125-263.html?tag=mfiredir

The MacFixIt article makes this excellent point: While Disk Utility's Repair Permissions feature only repairs permissions for Apple Software (and not any third party software), much of that Apple software is system software, and that system software contains routines that are accessed and used (and used often) by third-party applications. Thus, incorrectly set permissions, contrary to what some would tell you, can cause problems with third-party applications.

These MacFixIt articles further explain what repairing permissions does, and they document real-world cases where repairing permissions was extremely helpful to users.:

Unraveling the Repair Disk Permissions controversy
http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-10331113-263.html?tag=mfiredir

Repair Permissions Success Stories
http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-10331714-263.html?tag=mfiredir

More Repair Permissions Success Stories
http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-10331718-263.html?tag=mfiredir

Dan Frakes has written an excellent article for Macworld on permissions and the need to repair them:
Repairing permissions: What you need to know
http://www.macworld.com/2006/08/secrets/repairpermissions/index.php

Microsoft Office, and especially Microsoft Word, often requires, and responds very well to repairing permissions:
http://word.mvps.org/Mac/DiskIssues.html

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1) REPAIR DISK PERMISSIONS

2) RUN ROUTINE MAINTENANCE SCRIPTS
OS X runs its own built-in maintenance routines, sometimes called "cron jobs", or "maintenance scripts", automatically between 3:00 am and 5:30 am each day. (There are daily, weekly and monthly scripts).
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2319
The thing is that these scripts do just about nothing of great importance.  If they don't run for weeks, or even months, it's just not a big deal.  So, despite the fact that these are called "maintenance routines," don't get concerned if they haven't run in a long time.  Don't ignore this entirely, though, because if your Mac has a minor problem, in time failure to run the maintenance scripts will allow your Mac's hard drive to fill up with a bunch of invisible log files filled will message about that minor problem.

You can find a rundown of what the built-in maintenance routines do at:
http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=454874
https://discussions.apple.com/message/8906776#8906776

Prior to OS X 10.5, if you didn't leave your computer on 24 hours a day, or if you left it on but you let it go into sleep mode at night, these routines weren't run.   As of OS X 10.5 and later your Mac will run its maintenance scripts automatically at the next available opportunity if you put your Mac into sleep mode all night.  Though the scripts still won't run if you shut your Macintosh down at night.
http://discussions.apple.com/message.jspa?messageID=6552347
http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2143195&tstart=0
http://developer.apple.com/macosx/launchd.html
NOTE: As of OS X 10.5 the maintenance scripts are no longer handled by the UNIX facility "cron", they are now handled by a similar facility called "launchd," if that means anything to you.

NOTE: If you decide that you want to run the maintenance scrips manually, you can use this free utility:
YASU
http://jimmitchell.org/yasu/

Discussion.

If you want to be sure that the built-in maintenance tasks have been run, the daily, weekly and monthly maintenance scripts each write the details of every run into their own log file, which you can check. Open the Console application (located at: Applications/Utilities/Console), go to:
File --> Open Quickly --> /var/logs/. Select "daily.out", "weekly.out" or "monthly.out" for the maintenance logs.

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3) CLEAR CACHES
Even though running the routine maintenance scripts clears out some temporary files, none of the system caches are touched by them. Occasionally caches become corrupted, impacting the performance and stability of your Mac.  So it is a good idea to every rare now and then use a utility that clears the system caches, and/or your Internet browser caches. Deleting caches won't hurt anything. However, over time a cache speeds up your computer (assuming that you do some things repetitively), so if you aren't experiencing any problems, you may want to leave your caches alone. On the other hand, if it has been ages since you have flushed your caches, or if your computer is running slowly, or if you are experiencing odd problems, it might be a good idea to flush them. Use your discretion.

YASU is a free program which, among other useful things, cleans out system and Internet browser caches. This can prevent some very hard to diagnose flaky behavior. (You may not want to regularly clear your browser cache if you have a slow speed connection to the Internet.  Until your browser cache is rebuilt, your access to favorite sites may be very slow.) You can get YASU from:
http://yasuapp.com/

According to MacAddict, October 2005, page 20, it is a good idea to occasionally clear out application-specific caches. They specifically recommend clearing out the two main cache folders in Mac OS X.

While Apple doesn't recommend doing this routinely, they indicate that it is a good idea in certain situations:
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1199

A MacOSXHints tip also suggests clearing out the application cache files occasionally:
http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20060111202501460

This hint notes that there may be quite a few extraneous cache files in your cache folders and that clearing your caches (if you have been using your computer for some time) may save a lot of disk space.

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4) DO A FILE SYSTEM CHECK AND REPAIR DISK
I recommend that you occasionally restart your Mac, and hold down the Shift key right after the startup chime is played, and keep it held down until the spinning black bar cursor appears.  There is  no need to hold down the Shift key past the time that the spinning bar cursor appears.
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1455?viewlocale=en_US
This procedure invokes what Apple calls a "Safe Boot":
http://support.apple.com/kb/TS1417
and your Mac will report that it has been booted (started up) into Safe Boot mode. During startup in Safe Boot mode your Mac will do a file system check, entirely in the background, with no working status indicated, or report generated, and any problems will automatically be repaired.
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1564?viewlocale=en_US
It may take a while for your Mac to start up in Safe Boot mode. Be Patient.  Once it has fully started up, you should immediately restart your Mac normally, because certain files are deactivated when you startup in Safe Boot mode.

Note: A wireless or Bluetooth keyboard might make it difficult to startup in Safe Boot mode.  
http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-57570572-263/how-to-manage-os-x-boot-
options-with-wireless-keyboards/

Instead you may prefer to check your hard drive, and repair any problems, by starting up in Recovery mode and then running Disk Utility/Repair Disk:
http://www.macworld.com/article/1167870/hands_on_with_mountain_lions_os_x_
recovery_and_internet_recovery.html

Discussion.

Longtime Macintosh users know that under OS 8 and OS 9, if you were experiencing nasty problems with your hard drive, that running Apple's Disk First Aid usually didn't fix them. In such cases, users often resorted to using the commercial product Disk Warrior, which could perform near miraculous feats of repair on your hard drive. It was also an invaluable tool for routine preventative maintenance. Under OS X, Disk Utility/Repair Disk is the replacement for Disk First Aid. So, the question most folks have is, 'is Disk Utility/Repair Disk as lame as Disk First Aid, and is Disk Warrior still an invaluable utility to have?' There is an interesting thread on TidBits Talk that covers this topic:
Looking for Disk Warrior Justification
http://tidbits.com/article/8514

The answer is that Disk Warrior is a marvelous tool...when you need it. Fortunately, under OS X you don't need it as often as you needed it under previous versions of the Mac OS. For instance, you don't need to run Disk Warrior routinely as a preventative measure. (Though doing so, if you already own Disk Warrior, isn't a bad idea.) OS X is plenty stable without having to constantly rebuild its directory. And so, in my opinion, there is no need to purchase Disk Warrior (for about $100) unless a situation arises where Disk Utility/Repair Disk reports that it can't repair a problem with your hard drive. This is not to demean Disk Warrior. When you do need Disk Warrior, because your disk directory has developed errors that Disk Utility can't fix, it is a godsend to have.
http://www.alsoft.com/DiskWarrior/

For further information about disk repair software, have a look at:
http://db.tidbits.com/getbits.acgi?tbart=07451,
with a follow-up on TechTool Pro at:
http://db.tidbits.com/getbits.acgi?tbart=07696

There are other ways to run a file system check/Repair Disk under OS X, such as by running the command "fsck" from the Terminal, but these are more advanced ways to do exactly the same thing, that I don't think that the average user needs to know about.
For more information than you need, see:
http://support.apple.com/kb/TS1417

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5) DEFRAGMENT A HARD DRIVE THAT IS LOW ON CONTIGUOUS FREE SPACE
Macintosh Myth #3: Most folks with an opinion will probably tell you that Mac's running OS X never need to have their hard drives defragmented.

Here is a quote from a MicroMat technician, that I think is very insightful:
The claim that installations of Mac OS X on HFS+ volumes do not fragment is a myth believed by people who do not have disk optimizers that allow them to see how much fragmentation their disks have. It is an example of ignorance that is not able to be removed by any amount of evidence. I think theologians call that "invincible ignorance". It is now a widespread form of the pollution of information space.
http://www.macfixitforums.com/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/570817/site_id
/1#import

or
http://tinyurl.com/yuqn4

Actually, Some Macs running OS X can benefit quite a bit from defragmenting their hard drive. But not for the reason that you might expect There is often little in the way of performance to be gained by defragmenting your hard drive. But defragmenting your drive can stave off some very flaky behavior, out of memory errors, and possibly even data loss.

OS X handles "file" fragmentation (a file being broken up into chunks and strewn across your hard disk) automatically, and fairly well, every time that you launch a fragmented file under 20MB.
http://article.gmane.org/gmane.comp.macosx.general/22906
http://arstechnica.infopop.net/OpenTopic/page?a=tpc&s
=50009562&f=8300945231&m=9900929295

(registration required to access)
http://forums.macrumors.com/archive/index.php/t-13383.html

But OS X doesn't handle "drive" fragmentation (small bits of free space between files) well at all. In fact, OS X is prone to huge amounts of drive fragmentation.

Drive (as opposed to file) fragmentation under OS X is mostly irrelevant with respect to performance, as long as it isn't severe. Where hard drive fragmentation becomes important is when there are no longer any large contiguous chunks of free space left on your drive for OS X to use for working space, for virtual memory, temp files, databases, etc. When this happens, OS X can start acting flaky, and eventually, in extreme cases, it will suffer from data loss.
http://www.macfixit.com/comment.php?mode=display&sid=20070301091515843
&title=Does+Mac+OS+X+need+a+disk+defragmenter%2Foptimizer
%3F&type=article&order=&pid=25346

I used to recommend that folks defragment their hard drive when it was approaching 80% full (no matter how large the drive is), because I've heard from so many folks who were experiencing out-of-memory errors and flaky behavior at this level (no matter how large their drive was), and defragmenting invariably fixes the problem. But I've heard from a number of users who made heavy use of their drive, and they have experienced the problem as early as around 60% full. And other folks won't experience the problem until their drive is well over 80% full. Clearly how you use your drive makes a difference as to when, or if you run out of free contiguous space on your hard drive.

So now, instead of using a rough rule of thumb on when you should consider defragmenting your hard drive, what I recommend is that folks check to see how much free contiguous space the is on their drive routinely, once their drive is over 50% full. You can do this quickly and easily with the free demo version ofiDefrag:
http://www.coriolis-systems.com/iDefrag.php
or the free utility ShowVolumeFragmentation
http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/18451

There is no need to purchase anything until and unless you need to. When you have no large chunks of free contiguous space left, you can expect problems to begin to appear if you don't defragment your drive. Note that if you let this problem advance too far, it may become for any utility to work on your drive, protesting that there isn't enough free space on your drive for it to be able to run. (This despite the fact that you may have many gigabytes of "total" free space left on your drive.)

You may never need to defragment your drive (prior to purchasing a new one because the old one is becoming too full) or you may need to do so much earlier than you would expect, but by checking with one of these free tools you won't have to guess whether it is necessary or not.

If you drive needs to be defragmented, the "only" hard drive defragmentation utility that I recommend is iDefrag. (See my comments about other hard drive defragmentation utilities in Note 1. below) It is the only one that I know of that can optimize the files on your hard drive in a totally OS X-savvy way. OS X, under OS 10.4 and 10.5, has a journal, a hot band, virtual memory, metadata, etc. to keep track of. It is very important that these things be located properly on the disk or performance will be compromised.
Technical data about the hot band and meta data on hard drives running OS X 10.4 and later:
http://developer.apple.com/technotes/tn/tn1150.html#HotFile

iDefrag is the only hard drive optimization tool that does this perfectly (despite what some of the other companies that make hard drive defragmentation tools say).

Another option, instead of defragmenting your hard drive with a software utility program, is to simply purchase a new, bigger hard drive; copy all of the data on the old drive to the new drive, and then reinitialize (i.e. wipe clean) the old drive and start over with it. Moving all of your data from one drive to another will automatically defragment your data. Though it won't optimize it.

You have to reinitialize your data on the old drive for this plan to work, because if you just move "some" data from your old drive to your new drive, the old drive will still be badly fragmented, and without defragmenting the old drive it will still probably be flaky. (That is, even if you free up some space on the old drive, there more than likely still won't be the large chunk of contiguous free space available that the OS needs to run properly.)

Defragmenting your hard drive prevents any unusual behavior from your OS because it creates contiguous space, combining fragments of space strewn all over your drive into one large chunk of space.

Note that clearing off data from your drive, even a large amount of data, without also defragmenting, may not create enough "contiguous" space to keep your Mac running well.

WARNING: You should never, ever, defragment a solid state hard drive (SSD) or a hybrid drive.  (Macbook Air's use SSD's for their speed and light weight.  Several other Mac models use SSD's for their speed.)
http://helpdeskgeek.com/featured-posts/should-you-defrag-an-ssd/
http://www.coriolis-systems.com/blog/2009/04/real-world-fragmentation.php

SSD's themselves need no periodic maintenance.  There is built-in software in recent versions of OS X called TRIM that keeps them running at peak performance:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRIM

Since an SSD has a limited number of read/write cycles, theoretically you are limiting it's life span by defragmenting the data on it.  In practice, though, modern SSD's offer so many read/write cycles, that this isn't really a concern.

Discussion.

Definition of Terms:
Types of fragmentation:
1) "File fragmentation, where file are broken up and are not contiguous
2) "Drive" fragmentation, where, though files may be contiguous, the free space on the drive is fragmented.

"Defragmentation" means that things (that is, data, e.g. files and applications, and free space) are made contiguous (that is, not broken up into small bits and strewn about at different places) on your hard drive.

"Optimization" means that not only is the drive defragmented, but data is put where it should be and.or is put where it will provide optimum performance.

Let's refer to files A, B, C and D, and free space "__".

Here is a drive with no file fragmentation. All the files are contiguous, but free space is fragmented. In other words, there is no file fragmentation but there is disk fragmentation:
AAAAA__BB__CCCCC__DDD_

Here is a drive with both the files and free space fragmented:
AA__BBA__CCCCCB__DDDAA_

Here is a drive with no file or free space (disk) fragmentation. All of the files are contiguous, and all of the free space is contiguous:
AAAAABBBCCCCCDDD__________

Now, take a look at that first example, where there is a lot of disk fragmentation even all of the files are contiguous. Have you ever run a Mac under OS X with too little RAM? It was a dog, wasn't it? That's because your Mac was hitting your disk in a big way, using virtual memory instead of RAM for tasks. Now, think of the effect that you might see if you forced your Mac to use hundreds of little spaces all over your drive to write virtual memory to, instead of having it written to one big contiguous space. That's why drive fragmentation is more important than file fragmentation.

OS X automatically defragments files. OS X doesn't do any drive defragmentation at all.

Note that if you actually defragment your hard drive as part of a routine maintenance program (rather than just keep track of how much free contiguous space is available), let's say every coupe of months, then it won't take long to defragment your drive each time, and any potential problem will never rear its head. In addition, you should be able to use close to every last gigabyte of space on your hard drive, and you will always have every last ounce of performance that your Mac can give you as as side benefit.

See Note #1 below for more information on file defragmentation.

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6) CHECK S.M.A.R.T. STATUS
Hard drives are quite a bit more reliable these days than they were just a few years ago. Unfortunately, the old saying that "all hard drives die eventually" is still true. It would be nice to know in advance when a hard drive is going to fail. That way you would have time to backup your data before your drive ultimately met its end. S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) is a feature built into most modern hard-drives that acts as an "early warning system" for pending drive problems. OS X 10.3 and above have this ability built-in, but it only works if the actual hard drive in your Mac has this technology built-in also. Disk Utility, which comes with OS X (it is in your Application/Utilities folder), under OS X 10.3 and above can tell you the S.M.A.R.T.-status of your hard-drive. Unfortunately, you have to remember to regularly launch Disk Utility to check this. (See below for free utilities that will automate this process.)

To check your drive's S.M.A.R.T.-status using Disk Utility, launch Disk Utility and select your hard drive. If at the bottom of the window it says "Verified," your drive is in good shape. If it says: "About To Fail" you need to:
1) Not shut down your computer and hard drive until you have done the following...
2) Back up your hard drive, which you should do immediately, if you haven't already done so.
Hard drives on their last legs often will finally fail by refusing to start up.

I've been told that there is no hope for an internal drive once it reports "Failing" as its S.M.A.R.T status. Its time to get a new drive.

SMARTReporter is a free application that can automatically warn you of hard-drive failures before they actually happen! It does so by periodically polling the S.M.A.R.T.-status of your hard-drives.
http://www.corecode.at/smartreporter/

Volitans' SMART Utility ($20 for a 10 copy license) is different from other similar utilities which only read the overall S.M.A.R.T. Status. SMART Utility goes farther and displays the individual attributes tracked by S.M.A.R.T in an easy to read format so that you can see their status and information, and it also uses its own internal algorithm based on those attributes to detect drives failing before S.M.A.R.T. normally would. This pre-fail detection can save your data well before S.M.A.R.T. has determined that the drive is failing.
http://www.volitans-software.com/smart_utility.php

Note: FireWire and USB hard drives (that is, external hard drives), even if their internal mechanism is S.M.A.R.T.-enabled, can't be checked for S.M.A.R.T. status.

Discussion.

There was a study released by Google:
http://research.google.com/pubs/papers.html
http://research.google.com/archive/disk_failures.pdf
Failure Trends in a Large Disk Drive Population, which concluded that S.M.A.R.T. wasn't a reliable predictor of drive failure.

More information on S.M.A.R.T. technology:
http://www.ariolic.com/activesmart/smart-technology.html
http://support.apple.com/kb/TA27350
http://www.storagereview.com/guide2000/ref/hdd/perf/qual/featuresSMART.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-Monitoring%2C_Analysis_and_Reporting_
Technology

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7) CLEAR YOUR DESKTOP
Moving things to a location other than on your desktop is an easy and free way to pick up better performance. Users have noticed that reducing the number of items on their Mac’s desktop can noticeably increase the performance of certain activities in OS X. This is easy to do. You can even create one folder on your desktop and put everything on your desktop in it. That will do the trick. Nested items within folders on the Desktop don't count. It is only the total number of items directly on your desktop that matter.
http://hints.macworld.com/article.php?story=20051117154624368

http://www.macworld.com/2006/03/features/speedtoptips/index.php

http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-10328587-263.html?tag=mfiredir

Another way to go is to put all of the items that would normally reside on your desktop, that you want to be able to access quickly, in a folder; park that folder somewhere other than on your desktop, and then drag that folder to your Dock so that it is always available from the Dock. Whenever you click and hold (or Control-click, or right-click on a two button mouse) on that folder in the Dock, you will be presented with a menu of everything in that folder to choose from. Sort of like the old classic Apple Menu.

Discussion.

Things that you put on your desktop don't really reside there. They actually reside in a folder in your user account. The Desktop folder can be found at:
[hard drive icon]/Users/[your user name]/Desktop
otherwise known as: ~/Desktop, or your user desktop folder.
Open this folder and you will find everything that you see on your desktop!

It would be logical to conclude that the things represented on your desktop use a good chunk of cached memory and/or that it is CPU intensive to draw the icons for the things that reside on your desktop. And to a certain extent this is true, because under OS X each icon on your desktop is more like a folder than an ordinary icon.  However, I’m told that another source of the slowdown from keeping an excessive number of items on the Desktop is due to the “windowserver” process generating a huge number of logfiles, which draws resources away from other system tasks.

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8) RESET SAFARI
Lots of folks have problems with Safari bogging down and/or exhibiting the spinning beachball. When this starts to be a problem, there are several things that you can do to speed Safari back up.

Safari maintains a (pretty useless) Top Sites feature.  To do this, Safari caches almost every site that you visit.  This isn't at all good for performance.  You can "turn off" this feature by going to this folder:

In the Finder
Option-click the Go menu
Your ~/Library will appear in the menu; choose it
Trash all of the files in the folder at:
Caches/com.apple.Safari/Webpage Previews

You can then choose that folder (by clicking on it once) and then choose Get Info from the File menu.  In the Get Info window, check the Locked checkbox (NOT the lock icon).  This will disable the Top Sites feature.

http://hints.macworld.com/article.php?story=2009041808521944

http://www.macworld.com/article/1142257/disable_safari_image_cache.html

Another simple and usually quite effective thing to do  to restore Safari to like-new performance is to reset Safari, which will clear Safari's cache and other gunk:
Open Safari.  Choose "Reset Safari" from the Safari menu and UNcheck:
- Remove saved names and passwords
- Remove other autofill form data
Then click on the Reset button.

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9) UPDATE FLASH AND DELETE FLASH COOKIES
The first thing that you should do if you have a stability or speed problem with your Web browser is update Flash.  It almost always helps.

Uninstall the copy of Flash that you have installed with this uninstaller (Adobe recommends doing this first):
http://fpdownload.macromedia.com/get/flashplayer/current/uninstall_flash_player_
osx.dmg


Then download the latest version of Flash directly from Adobe, and install it:
http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/

In addition to the regular cookies that most users know about (and which are perfectly safe and legitimate), there are Flash Cookies, which are questionable and rarely legitimate. Safari's built-in security features don't block and can't purge Flash Cookies.  See:

http://www.orzeszek.org/blog/2009/08/12/how-to-delete-flash-cookies-conveniently/

http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/08/you-deleted-your-cookies-think-again/

When these cookies accumulate (and they do so very quickly), your Web browser will slow down.  They are easy to get rid of manually, and if you like at the same time you can make sure that they can't be downloaded to your Macintosh ever again.

Delete all of your Flash cookies (this cannot be accomplished using Safari's Security settings; they don't effect Flash cookies)

- In the Finder
Option-click the Go menu
Your ~/Library will appear in the menu; choose it
Trash all of the files in the folder at:
/Preferences/Macromedia/Flash Player/#SharedObjects

- In the Finder
Option-click the Go menu
Your ~/Library will appear in the menu; choose it
Trash all of the files in the folder at:
/Preferences/Macromedia/Flash Player/macromedia.com/support/flashplayer/sys

If you don't want to receive Flash cookies in the future, do a Get Info on each of these folders and lock them (using the "Locked" checkbox, not the little lock icon in the Get Info window).

For OS X 10.6 and earilier the paths are:

[hard drive icon]/Users folder/[your user name]/Library/Preferences/Macromedia/ Flash Player/#SharedObjects
[trash any folders enclosed here]


and

[hard drive icon]/Users folder/[your user name]/Library/Preferences/Macromedia/ Flash Player/macromedia.com/support/flashplayer/sys/
[trash any folders enclosed here]

One other thing that tends to really improve things when your Web browser isn't performing well:

Close all browsers.
Go to:
In the Finder
Option-click the Go menu
Your ~/Library will appear in the menu; choose it
 --> Preferences
and delete this file (it will be rebuilt the next time that you launch your Web browser):
com.apple.quicktime.plugin.preferences.plist

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10) REBUILD MAIL’S DATABASE AND BACK UP YOUR EMAIL
Ever since OS X 10.4, all archived messages in Apple’s Mail program have been kept in individual Finder-readable files. There are no archived messages in Mail's database.  OS X keeps your archived mail messages in this folder: ~/Library/Mail/Mailboxes/

This is a good thing.  Some other e-mail programs, notably Microsoft’s Entourage, store all of your messages in one big monolithic database.  If the database in a program with a monolithic database becomes corrupted and unrepairable, you can lose all of your archived mail.

However, Mail’s performance can lag, and it can become less stable, as you store more and more archived messages in it:

http://support.apple.com/kb/TS1895?viewlocale=en_US

Periodically deleting old, unwanted e-mail messages, and rebuilding Mail’s database, will usually give Mail a very noticeable performance boost, and help ensure continued trouble-free operation.

Since there are no archived e-mail messages stored in Mail’s database, it is quite safe to rebuild Mail’s database, because if something goes wrong with the rebuild, you can just start over, having lost nothing.

Every now and then (or, ideally, routinely as you use Mail) you should go through all of your mailboxes in Mail and delete all of the messages you no longer wish to keep. Then, in Mail, choose:
Mailbox menu --> Erase Deleted Messages --> In All Accounts
to purge all deleted messages.

After doing this, quit Mail.

You can then use this free utility to quickly and easily rebuild Mail's database:

SpeedMail (free, donations accepted)
http://www.1802.it/speedmail.php

SpeedMail stopped working as of OS X 10.7.  A little research shows that this is because the path on your hard drive to Mail's database has changed a bit.

Here are instructions for doing the same thing that SpeedMail did, under Lion and Mountain Lion:

http://brettterpstra.com/2012/09/15/vacuuming-your-mail-app-index-still-works-
wonders/


https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4217434?start=30&tstart=0

http://www.fixkb.com/2013/03/apple-mail-application-very-slow-to-respond.html

Discussion.
For background on what SpeedMail does, see:

http://www.hawkwings.net/2007/03/01/a-faster-way-to-speed-up-mailapp/
http://www.hawkwings.net/2007/03/03/scripts-to-automate-the-mailapp-envelope-
speed-trick/

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Note #1) More On Defragmenting Your Hard Drive

As I indicated above, there are those who will tell you that you *never* need to defragment your hard drive, and to some extent they are correct. Certainly the average user, with a hard drive that isn't anywhere close to being full, and using applications that don't require every last bit of performance that can be mustered, won't notice any significant performance gain, or other benefit, from defragmenting their hard drive. (Though you may find defragmenting your hard drive to be important if you do disk-intensive work, such as video editing.)

Just about all of the experts agree that there is a Macintosh problem that manifests itself when your Macintosh gets somewhere around 80% full. However, not all of these experts seem to realize that the problem is due to a lack of free contiguous space on your hard drive. As a result, these folks usually advise that you deal with this whole problem by purchasing a new drive when your old drive gets to be about 80% full. That will work, but, personally, when I have a 200GB drive, with 40GB unused, I expect to be able to use that 40GB before I have to buy a new drive. 40GB is a huge amount of space and it seems silly to just give up on it. Frankly, it seems to me that advising that one always keep a ridiculously large amount of free space available on their drive, to assure reliable operation, isn't the best course.

From MacFixIt:
http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-10334440-263.html?tag=mfiredir
See under: "Make sure you have enough free space on your startup volume"
Realistically, 20 percent of your Mac OS X startup volume should be kept clear in order to achieve best performance and avoid disk problems.

Rob Griffiths, of MacOSXHints.com and Macworld magazine writes:
Keeping at least 10% of your drive space free is advice that I've followed for quite a few years; I don't know if that figure is too high or too low, but I've never run into any drive-space-related issues using it as a benchmark.
http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20050714154930216&lsrc=osxh

Joe Kissell of Macworld magazine recommends defragmenting your hard drive as it starts becoming too full or when there is severe disk fragmentation.
Macworld, February 2008, page 102.

If a UNIX system employs non VM for memory management (that is, real memory) the issue of swapping is a different beast altogether. This is because when swapping memory out it has to be done in large contiguous chunks (not small pages of 4096 bytes). For this reason it's important that the swap file space on disk be a contiguous set of tracks/cylinders and if possible have a separate data path to avoid interfering with other user i/o activities.
http://hints.macworld.com/article.php?story=20010613140025184

Apple says that you generally don't need to defragment your hard drive if you are running OS X 10.2 or higher:
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1375?viewlocale=en_US
But then they say: If your disks are almost full, and you often modify or create large files (such as editing video...), there's a chance the disks could be fragmented. In this case, you might benefit from defragmentation, which can be performed with some third-party disk utilities.
Here they say that in some instances defragmenting your hard drive may be necessary:
http://support.apple.com/kb/TA27648?viewlocale=en_US
So, Apple seems to be saying that you don’t need to defragment your hard drive...except in those instances where you need to defragment your hard drive.

Apple adheres to the "leave a ridiculously large amount of free space on your drive and then replace your drive when it prematurely begins to hit its head" concept. They admit that defragmenting your hard drive is a good idea, but they will only admit it for those who badly need to do it. (Folks who really give their drives a workout, and those who edit video.) For everyone else they feel that its just fine for them to purchase a new hard drive when they encounter a problem with a lack of free contiguous drive space. As Apple says, modern hard drives are big. Apple knows that for many users it will take a long time for them to fill their drive up to around 80% full, if ever. They aren't about to recommend maintenance that isn't necessary for everyone. In addition, Apple has always been reluctant to admit to users that they might not be able to get along without some third party utility. For instance, under OS 8 and OS 9 Disk Warrior was practically a necessity. But you never heard Apple admit this.

According to one of their technicians, MicroMat feels that under certain circumstances that defragmenting your hard drive is very important, and may be even be critical to preventing data loss, and based on my experience I concur:
http://www.macfixitforums.com/php/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=Forum38&Number=570817&Forum=&Words=MicroMat %20strongly%20recommends%20that%20you%20always%20leave%20at%20least%2015%5C%25&Match=
Entire%20 Phrase&Searchpage=0&Limit=25&Old=3months&Main=570808&Search=true#Post570817

or

http://tinyurl.com/yuqn4

Continuation of discussion on fragmentation by MicroMat tech:
http://www.macfixitforums.com/php/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=techissues&Number=620840&page=0&view=
collapsed&sb=5&o=31&fpart=1

MacFixIt has an article on defragmenting your hard drive, including a test of iDefrag:
http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13727_7-10328197-263.html
“...in our informal testing, we noticed significantly snappier operation of Spotlight and quicker response from Mail.app after performing only the least invasive of iDefrag's optimization routines...
“The bottom line is that users with large files will benefit most greatly from defragmentation routines in Mac OS X. However, use of the disk optimization routines offered by tools like iDefrag can also serve as a boon to casual users of Mac OS X looking for a speed boost.”

ShirtPocket Software, makers of SuperDuper have a short "white paper" about the need to defragment your hard drive:
http://s3.amazonaws.com/com.shirtpocket/SuperDuper/Fragmentation.pdf

Other Defragmentation Utilities...and Disk Warrior:

Some manufacturers use the terms "defragmentation" and "optimization" interchangeably. For instance, as far as I can tell, MicroMat does this even though TechTool Pro doesn't really do any optimization when defragmenting your hard drive.
http://www.micromat.com/

Prosoft's Drive Genius
http://www.prosofteng.com/products/drive_genius_info.php
does both file and disk defragmentation, but as far as I can tell, no optimization. However, their advertising seems to use the terms "defragmentation" and "optimization" interchangeably.

Intech Speed Tool's documentation:
http://www.speedtools.com/Users Guides/Disk Defrag Guide.pdf
says that the product defragments your drive, but it does not optimize it. So it would appear that Intech's product is not an optimal choice.

NOTE: Alsoft refers to what Disk Warrior, their popular hard drive repair utility, does as "optimization" and/or "defragmentation." However, they are referring to the drive's directory, not to defragmentation and optimization of the drive’s files (data) and free space on the drive. Many folks get confused by the terminology used and think that Disk Warrior is a hard drive defragmentation utility, and it is not. Your Macintosh maintains a "directory" which is an invisible structure that is a catalog of all of your Mac's files and system parts. (It is actually more complex than this simple explanation.) If the directory becomes corrupted your Mac can lose track of what is on your hard drive. (e.g. Your files disappear.)
For a more detailed and technical explanation, see:
http://support.apple.com/kb/TA21692?viewlocale=en_US
Disk Warrior fixes your Mac's directory by rebuilding a new optimal one from scratch. Other utilities attempt to fix the directory by patching the directory structure rather than by rebuilding it. Disk Warrior also optimizes the structure of the directory for maximum overall disk performance.
 

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Note #2) Routine Maintenance Or Troubleshooting Technique

A couple of well-known Macintosh authors have been quoted as saying that many of the procedures listed on this Web page, such as Repairing Permissions, are not what they consider to be routine maintenance, but rather they are best reserved to be used as troubleshooting techniques when your Macintosh shows signs of decreased performance or starts acting in an unusual manner.  They say that you can go a long time without having to perform any of the procedures that I list here.

http://www.macworld.com/article/133684/2008/06/maintenance_intro.html

I can’t say that they are wrong.  However, I compare it to checking and adjusting the air in the tires of your car.  Do you do that regularly, or do you wait until your tires start to show signs of unusual wear and/or your car starts to handle poorly?  Many people do the latter, and I can’t say that they are wrong in doing so.

What if it took less than ten minutes to check and adjust the air in your car’s tires, and you didn’t have to get your hands dirty, or leave the comfort of your home to do so?  Would you then be more likely to check the air in your tires regularly, especially considering the benefits of better handling, longer tire life, etc.?  It seems to me that it would be well worth your while to do so.

That is where my feelings are as far as the procedures on this Web page.  You can do them all quickly, easily, and at no monetary cost, and there is no downside to doing them.  But the upside to doing routine maintenance is that your Macintosh will always be running at its best (not just when you have noticed that things are really out of wack, and you decide that its time to troubleshoot and repair them), and you may even avoid some nasty problems down the road. You can decide for yourself if the extremely modest investment of time and effort is worthwhile to you.

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Software mentioned on this site, and where to get it.

Free utilities:

YASU
http://yasuapp.com/

"DO I NEED MORE MEMORY?"
http://www.hillmanminx.net/dinmm/index.html

SHOWVOLUMEFRAGMENTATION
http://people.freenet.de/amichalak/page1/page1.html

SMARTREPORTER
http://www.corecode.at/smartreporter/

SPEEDMAIL
http://www.1802.it/speedmail.php

Free multi-function utilities:

Note: Ordinary users might find some of the options included in typical multi-function utilities confusing and/or intimidating. Even worse, they might find some of them to be dangerous! The following multi-function utility is easy to use and unlikely to get anyone in trouble. A multi-function utility will often save you time when doing routine maintenance, however, if you are intimidated by all of the features in the following multi-function utility, it might be best to stick with single-function utilities.
(Note: There is no need to write and tell me about the dozen or so other multi-function utilities for OS X that are available. I've left out mention of them on purpose for the above reason.)

YASU (free - futher development has been discontinued, but this utility still works perfectly through OS X 10.8)
http://jimmitchell.org/yasu/

YASU can take the place of several of the above recommend utilities. YASU runs the cron jobs, clears caches, repairs permissions, and more. I recommend YASU because it doesn’t get ordinary users in trouble by providing dangerous features, it is free (a donation is requested by its developer), and it is quick and easy to use. On the negative side, it doesn't give an estimate for the time it will take to complete a task, and it doesn't give you a log of errors found and repairs done.

Commercial software:

DISK WARRIOR (Useful if you have hard drive problems that Disk Utility/Repair Disk can’t repair.)
http://www.alsoft.com/DiskWarrior/

iDEFRAG
http://www.coriolis-systems.com/iDefrag.php

SUPERDUPER
http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper/SuperDuperDescription.html

SMART UTILITY
http://www.volitans-software.com/smart_utility.php

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The following are not sponsors, but rather products that I recommend highly.



Yasu!


If you have any additions to this Web site to suggest
I would very much appreciate hearing your suggestions.
Send them to:
Randy B. Singer
randy@macattorney.com


I'd like to give special thanks to Charles Lindauer for helping me with this site.
He is a wiz with Dreamweaver.  If you would like to hire a web designer/developer, or if you need a Macintosh consultant in the North San Fransciso Bay Area, e-mail me and I will get you in touch with him.


About The Author Of This Web Site

Randy B. Singer is:


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