Tips for speeding up your Mac

1. Hard Drive Space
You should keep a minimum of 10% of your Hard Drive free to ensure smooth running of your machine, I normally aim for 15-20% free, so I still have a bit of space to play with

If you are unsure of whats exactly is taking up your hard drive then you can use a utility like DaisyDisk (Available on the Mac App Store) to track down those space hogs.

2. Clear Your Desktop
Lots of people use their Desktop as the store for all their files, this increases the amount of time it takes to startup as all of the preview icons need to load, so by storing these files elsewhere in the filesystem then you will improve startup times

3. Disable Login Items
Lots of items starting at login will also slow down your machine, and often, these will continue to run in the background, taking up memory and utilising the processor unnecessarily, to prevent this, do the following

Open System Preferences

Click on Users & Groups

Click on your account in the window on the left

Click on the Login Items tab to the right

Click on the items you no longer wish to run at startup, such as iTunes helper, VM Fusion helper and click on the minus button at the bottom of the window to remove them.

4. Disable Dashboard
I haven’t used Dashboard since 10.4, so I tend to disable it, you can do this by opening a Terminal window and typing the following

defaults write mcx-disabled -boolean YES


killall Dock

This will fully disable Dashboard so you will not even be able to run it manually by clicking on the icon in /Applications, to re-enable it if you change your mind then you can do type the following into a Terminal window

defaults write mcx-disabled -boolean NO


killall Dock

5. Repair Permissions
I recommend repairing permissions after every software update, but most people don’t have time to do get round to this as well, until the machine becomes slow and unresponsive.

To do this, navigate to /Applications/Utilities

Open Disk Utility

Click on your startup volume (Usually named Macintosh HD)

Click on the First Aid tab and click on Repair Permissions at the bottom of the screen

6. Repair Disk
Sometimes disks will develop directory structure corruption over time, this isn’t a problem if dealt with promptly, but in the worst cases will need attention from a specialist application such as diskwarrior.

To check if your drive needs this doing you can run a verify disk from Disk Utility, as follows

Open Disk Utility (from /Applications/Utilities)

click on your startup volume

click on the First Aid tab and click on Verify Disk

If all is well you will receive a green message signalling the drive is fine

If its not then you will recieve a red message stating the cause of the error

To run a repair disk you will need to boot from a non system drive, such as a Mac OS X Installation Disk, or a home made Bootable USB

Once you have booted from one of those then you will need to run Disk Utility again, and this time click on your startup volume and choose First Aid, then click on Repair Disk.

This may need running more than once, although my recent experiences have shown that it will keep running until it has resolved the issues.

7. OnyX
Finally I use OnyX to clear out a few caches and log files, I’d recommend sticking with the default options with this app, a free download from Titanium Software, just make sure you download the version that matches your Operating System, if you are unsure which OS you are running then you can find out by clicking on the Apple Icon in the top left corner of the screen and clicking on About This Mac

8. Add more RAM
Put as much RAM as you can afford into your mac, I’d recommend the minimum on the following Operating Systems

10.4 (Tiger) – 1GB

10.5 (Leopard) – 2GB

10.6 (Snow Leopard) – 2GB

10.7 (Lion) – 4GB

9. Reboot
A lot of people hardly ever reboot their macs, and for some unknown reason are even strongly against doing this, even though the majority of the time a reboot fixes a lot of issues, I’d always choose this option on a slow running mac, in case there are some applications that have been closed but refuse to release the RAM for the OS to reuse

Hidden printer options

Now the default printer options in the System Preferences Pane are not that extensive, so to get access to a range of extra options you can access the CUPS conifguration pages you need to do the following:

Open a web browser

Enter http://localhost:631 into the address bar

hit enter and you will have access to a bigger range of printer options

My iOS device is talking to me

If you have recently set up an iOS device then you may have encountered an issue where the device will keep talking to you, telling you what you are pressing etc.

To disable this, you will need to do the following

Go into Settings

Then go into General

Then Accessibility

You should find that VoiceOver is currently enabled, so switch this off

Problem solved

Mac startup keys

You can change the way that your mac boots by pressing & holding the following key combinations as the machine starts up

Option (ALT) – Display all bootable volumes

This will normally show you any internal hard drives, CD’s or DVD’s which are currently capable of booting from as well as external hard drives, USB keys, CD’s or DVD’s which could be used to boot the machine. If you have bootcamped your mac then this will enable you to choose between OS X or Windows.
If you have set a firmware password, then you will be presented with a padlock and a box to enter a password.

Shift – Safe Boot

This will disable any non system startup items, this can be very useful in troubleshooting a variety of issues.

C – Boot from CD

Hold this down until the machine boots from the CD, this can take a while sometimes so I would recommend the ALT method for this, this will be disabled if a firmware password is enabled.

T – Target Disk Mode

This will basically turn your mac into an external hard drive, connect it to another mac & you will have full access to all data on the machine, this will be disabled if you have a firmware password enabled.To boot into Target Disk Mode with a firmware password enabled, you will need to log in, and then select the Target Disk Mode option from within the Startup Disk preference pane located in System Preferences.

N – NetBoot

Startup from a NetBoot server.

X – Force Mac OS X Startup

This can be used if you have multi-boot machines and have set the default disk to be a non mac partition.

CMD-V – Verbose Mode

Verbose Mode shows you all that is going on whilst your machine is booting, very useful in troubleshooting as you can spot the faulting items.

CMD-S – Single User Mode

Command Line Interface, should only really be used for machines that are having serious issues, you can run a file system check (fsck) or Applejack if you have that installed.

CMD-R – Recovery Mode

On Machines with 10.7 installed then this will normally boot from the Recovery partition, although I believe the new Mac Mini Servers will connect to the internet and run a recovery over the net