Top 4 Ways to Keep Your Mac Humming

by Chris Howard Jul 12, 2006

We all hate them—the spinning beachballs. We all get them too. Today I’m going to provide you a list of four easy things you can do to keep your Mac humming along, and not feel like a glugged-out Windows system.

Of course, if you want, then the easiest way to make your Mac feel like Windows is to run Windows on it, but that’s taking the easy way out. Let’s look at some other ways that don’t involve quite as much polluting of your Mac.

Bear in mind though, that these are dependent on the specs of your Mac, especially your Mac’s memory (RAM). Tiger likes 1GB of RAM. Panther doesn’t mind it either. The problems described will be a lot worse and happen a lot sooner if you run your Mac with insufficient RAM. Upgrading your memory could go on this list, but for this list, I’m sticking to simple things you can do from time to time.

Let’s do this countdown style. So here they are, the Top 4 Ways to Will Your Mac, or if you follow each one’s instructions, the Top 4 Ways to Keep Your Mac Running Sweet.

Number 4: Use Fast User Switching
Fast User Switching is good in theory – provided you follow the theory of it letting you log in, do what you need to do, and log out again. It’s when you leave a user left logged on in the background that you’ll notice a performance hit.

This one I only discovered recently, but was amazed how much the system slowed down with even one user logged on in the background .

Recommendation: If Fast User Switching is enabled, log off inactive users where possible.

Number 3: Have heaps of applications open at once
OS X can be forgiving of bad habits and handles many applications open at once very well, so it can take a while for this one to hit. It’s easy to get in the habit of not closing applications because you might need them again soon or later. Often though it’s later. Sometimes days later. I find when things start to get sluggish, I have over 20 applications open and closing a few helps. Even so, I’ve rarely got less than a dozen open.

Also, some applications are more resource hungry than others, so get to know which ones are, and only keep them running when needed. You’ll be able to tell because you’ll notice the performance drop when they are open.

Recommendation: Close applications that you won’t be using again for a while.

Number 2: Use a web browser
Those suckers seem to be built for killin’.  They’re the most effective computer killing software known to man (besides Windows viruses).

Okay, this is not entirely true. Some research has identified the problem is not so much the browsers, as rogue websites. I found one that I visited each week, that chews up 20MB of virtual memory every few minutes – and it doesn’t matter which browser I use.

Also, opening many browser windows or tabs chews up resources. It’s not uncommon for me to have dozens of web pages open. So closing web pages you no longer need, or don’t have the time to read yet, can help.

Beware too of applications that have web browsers built-in, such as the excellent NetNewsWire, as these can drain resources for the same reasons.

Recommendation: From time to time (maybe once a week), quit your browser and restart it.

Number 1: Never reboot
Okay, so I know that one’s going to test my fire insurance, but have you ever read the forums after a minor upgrade of OS X? You get so many: “Maybe it’s just me, but my system feels a bit zippier after installing this update. Shame I had to reboot though - my uptime was 273 years.”

Believe it or not, even Macs need to be rebooted. Occasionally. Sure you need to reboot Windows PCs regularly - daily never hurts, but it doesn’t hurt to reboot a Mac either… every few weeks.

Recommendation: If your system’s sluggish, and the above don’t help, then don’t be afraid to reboot.

These are four things that I have found work for me. If anyone else has simple tasks they regularly perform to keep their Mac running sweet, let us know.


  • If you turn your computer off at night, like I often do, I find it helpful to manually run certain cron jobs (like “sudo /etc/Daily”, or “.../weekly”, or “.../monthly”) once in awhile. And the occasional permission repair, especially after a bunch of app updates, doesn’t hurt either.

    tao51nyc had this to say on Jul 12, 2006 Posts: 45
  • I only have two or three apps that cause me any consistent problems.  The main culprit is Soundtrack Pro, which makes a mockery of the word “Pro.”  It’s AUDIO, Apple.  Macs and PCs can sling around video (even HD) with no problems, but Soundtrack Pro can’t handle one track of audio without a spinning beachball every three seconds.  The newest update made one big improvement, though.  The app no longer crashes when you try to save your project, which is a nice feature.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jul 12, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • This is a great article. It talks about how to keep your Mac humming along. I love it. Keep printing articles like this to help our Mac experiences be as smooth as possible. I love articles on Mac maintenance and utilities to use to keep our Macs as smooth…fast and trouble free as possible.

    Also, keep printing articles on reviews on software and hardware that are useful and fun to use for our Macs.

    Keep up the good work.


    Mac_Man had this to say on Jul 12, 2006 Posts: 14
  • i turn off my PC daily, and so my mac.

    nana had this to say on Jul 12, 2006 Posts: 63
  • If Aqua GUI, for some out-of-this-world reasons, become too bland and boring, go ahead dive in to BSD Unix X11 and run some great open-source apps. That should keep your Mac perky. wink

    Robomac had this to say on Jul 12, 2006 Posts: 846
  • And don’t forget to run the standard *NIX maintainence scripts.  Apple has them set up by default to run at odd hours of the day and if you have a portable this is problematic. To get around this, I use an absolutely fabulous app called Macaroni (  It installs a preference pane that runs the 4 major maintainence scripts (repair permissions, log rotations, updating whereis and locate database) and also has another setting that allows you to remove all the localization files.  It saved GIGS of space on my HDD.  And the beauty of all this:  the process is automated.  You never have to remember to run the daily, weekly, or monthly scripts.  It does them for you in the background with absolutely no performance hit.

    Very highly recommended.

    anokajim had this to say on Jul 13, 2006 Posts: 3
  • My number 5 for the list above, would be to log out of System 9.  I sometimes need to backtrack to 9 and noticed the frequency of spinning balls reduces after quitting System 9.  So do your thing and 9 and stop Classic as soon as possible.

    erich had this to say on Jul 13, 2006 Posts: 2
  • Thanks Mac_Man smile

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jul 13, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • I have one buy a powermac. smile

    Frozonecold had this to say on Jul 13, 2006 Posts: 32
  • This is in response to the suggestion of closing tabs on your web browser. When I browse a webpage, like this one, I see many adds and links that I want to view later, but after I finish this article. I usually click them and open them in new tabs, so I can visit later.

    Here’s my question. Is there an option or some plugin that allows you to click the link and do a quick bookmark (not to add to your bookmarks list, requiring “are you sure you want to add this bookmark” or something like that). Then maybe I could have a window of links that I’ve saved?

    rradjabi had this to say on Sep 29, 2006 Posts: 1
  • rradjabi, none that I know of, but it’s a great idea. I’ll have a look around.

    Does anyone else know of anything like that?

    Chris Howard had this to say on Oct 01, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • Hey…this is a wonderful website buddy and an informative post!!! i am new here and i found this site very interesting and informative ,, you are a professional blogger i think i have a great interest in such things…thank you for the post buddy and keep on posting nice stuff like this smile i am a student.
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    williamrichard611 had this to say on Aug 10, 2011 Posts: 12
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