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Even Macs can crash, run into hard drive problems, or contend with other issues that could put your data at risk. Making it a habit to backup your data every week or two can save you the heartbreak of having something go wrong and losing a slew of files that you can’t salvage from anywhere else. A full Time Machine backup is one option, and is probably the easiest way to clone your entire hard drive for easy restoring later on. You can also just drag and drop files and folders over to an external hard drive—a good idea for those who are also backing up files that no longer fit on their Mac—or use an online cloud-based service.
How many utilities or tasks do you have running in the background on your Mac right now? Printers, Bluetooth, home file sharing networks, cloud-based services, other applications that send data to the internet: all of these items will run in the background of your machine, more or less at all times, and can monopolize RAM and slow down your computer. To know which tasks are running in the background, look to the upper right corner of your screen and see how many icons are lined up in the top navigation bar alongside your battery and Wi-Fi icons. The more you have, the more likely that those utilities are the culprit behind your computer’s sluggishness.
Every Mac user has heard the myth about Macs not being vulnerable to viruses and other types of malware. But it’s just that: a myth. The amount of malware that targets the OS X operating system is growing as Mac computers become more and more popular. Downloading some good anti-virus or anti-malware software—to scan your computer for infection and block future threats—can help you avoid becoming a victim of this growing scourge of malicious software.
This one is more or less just common sense, especially if you are using a smaller or slimmer Mac laptop without much hard drive space. Regularly cleaning out old files—photos, videos, mp3 files, word documents, etc.—can help to preserve hard drive space and keep your computer running smoothly. You should have a minimum of 10% of your disk space free at all times, and probably more if you can spare it. So, if you have a 500 gigabyte hard drive, you should leave 50GB free for best performance. For those with very full drives, a regular cleaning—and perhaps a backup of old files to an external hard drive—is essential. For everyone else, it’s just a good idea to keep your machine from becoming too cluttered.
All Macs come with the Disk Utility program included. You can find it in your Utilities folder, which is itself stowed away in the Applications folder. Opening up the utility and running it four or five times a year is a good way to make sure that your hard disk is healthy and fully functional. The Disk Utility includes two basic functions. The first, used for repairing disk permissions, can be run right there in the app, once you open it from the Utilities folder. The second function, used for repairing the disk itself, can only be run in recovery mode, which you can access by holding down the Command and R keys as you boot up your computer. In recovery mode, you can boot into a recovery partition of your disk, from which you can run Disk Utility on your normal boot disk. This method is used to handle a corrupt hard disk or other errors, and is a must if you think there is an issue with your hard drive.
Some Mac users love keeping all of their most frequently used apps, folders, or documents on their desktop, but believe it or not, this habit can actually make your Mac slow and sluggish. The Mac needs to contribute RAM to display each icon on your desktop, so the more cluttered your desktop is, the less computing resources your machine has to use on other tasks. So keep your apps in your Applications folder, and file your other stuff away into folders. It’s okay to have a few folders on the desktop, but as a general rule, clutter should be avoided for the best performance.