Rethinking Periodic Maintenance.

There are lot of good sources of Mac information and there are some people who you come to trust and respect. The crew over at Macworld produce an outstanding web site and magazine and Dan Frakes, who joined the staff in recent years, is one of the people I regard as a true Mac expert.

The July issue of Macworld magazine has a series of very good troubleshooting articles. Much of the content has also been made available on the web site. Dan Frake’s article, Five Mac maintenance myths has brought quite a few comments. In reading them, I was compelled to add my own. This is what I wrote:
There are lot of good sources of Mac information and there are some people who you come to trust and respect. The crew over at Macworld produce an outstanding web site and magazine and Dan Frakes, who joined the staff in recent years, is one of the people I regard as a true Mac expert.

The July issue of Macworld magazine has a series of very good troubleshooting articles. Much of the content has also been made available on the web site. Dan Frake’s article, Five Mac maintenance myths has brought quite a few comments. In reading them, I was compelled to add my own. This is what I wrote:

I am a Macintosh consultant. I work with Bob LeVitus Consulting. We work with clients around the world. That being said, I feel the need to comment on your article.

There are some people who come to us with really strange issues. I listen to their maintenance routine and I shudder! They treat their computer just as if it were a car and needed periodic oil changes--exactly as many have said in earlier comments. Our earlier Macs (and present PCs) do need to be treated like a car. Periodic maintenance keep things happily ticking. But times and operating systems change.

When Mac OS X 10.1 came out, we had to change the tasks we did in Mac OS 9, but without periodic maintenance, our computers just ran into problems. With every Mac OS upgrade, the amount and type of maintenance required has changed as Apple has built more and more of the maintenance tasks into the daily running life of the Mac and coders have gotten better at writing routines that cause less damage to the operating system.

We have arrived at a time when I can say that those people who insist on periodic maintenance routines seem to have more problems than the people who respond to issues as they occur. I suspect many of the old-timers spend too much time doing the old things and forget the things that really need to be done. In advising our clients about a modern maintenance routine, I suggest the following:

Establish a backup routine and use it frequently and consistently. Time Machine is a very good place to start.

Install a program such as MenuMeters or iStat pro to help you keep track of what is going on with your computer. These programs will let you see when your computer's memory needs to refreshed with a restart, see when your computer is just busy instead of frozen, and see when background network activity may be causing your computer to be slow on the Internet.

Restart your computer occasionally. Remember there is no contest for seeing who can run the longest between restarts. In fact, restart any time you are seeing something that does not seem quite right. A restart will probably fix the problem.

Be aware that long startup and shutdowns are probably a sign that your Macintosh is running a maintenance routine in the background. Don't interrupt those until it has been a good 10 to 15 minutes. If you do interrupt it, start Disk Utility and run the Verify Disk routine in First Aid. If there are any problems, find your latest OS DVD and restart your Mac from it. Repair your hard drive. If Disk Utility cannot repair a problem after 4 to 5 tries, then and only then, attempt to repair your hard drive with Disk Warrior. Make sure your version of Disk Warrior is compatible with your current version of Mac OS X. Do not use the Disk Warrior CD that you bought for Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger on your computer that is running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.

Watch how much space is left on your hard drive. When you get down to 15% of the total, begin housecleaning. When you are down to 10%, be aware that your computer WILL slow down and be less stable. Get it down to 5% and you are headed for real problems!

Keep an eye on Login Items. That list can get very long, causing extended startup times and since many of the items are hidden, you may be forgetting to keep them up-to-date.

Although you don't have to be the first person to install Apple updates, do install them within a month of their release. They fix problems that you may not be aware of and they keep you Mac secure and protected from potential intrusions.

Find a couple of assistance guides to use for when you run into trouble. For the beginning user, try the Apple Support Quick Assist here. For more advanced users, our Bob LeVitus Free Advice page here covers a wide range of things to try before calling in the pros.
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