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  • Keeping Mac OS X Running Smoothly
    Most of what can go wrong with your Mac, aside from hardware failure, has to do with all of the files and applications stored on your hard disk. Old business documents, Web browser files, pictures, music, and even Mac OS X itself can develop problems that can affect your computer's performance. With so many files, cleaning up your hard disk and checking for errors could be a part-time job.

    Fortunately, Mac OS X automatically runs background routine maintenance tasks periodically to do such things as delete temporary files, and remove system files that are no longer needed and/or have old information. These tasks help prevent problems from occurring and keep certain log files from becoming too large.

    Mac OS X's maintenance tasks are scheduled for early in the morning—daily tasks occur at 03:15 a.m. everyday, weekly tasks occur at 04:30 a.m. on Saturdays, and monthly tasks occur at 05:30 a.m. on the first day of each month (in your computer's local time zone). If your computer's routinely off or in sleep mode at the designated times, the maintenance doesn't get done, so you might want to do the tasks yourself.
    There are two ways to manually run maintenance tasks:
    • Using a third-party application (like Norton Utilities)
    • Using Terminal (advanced users)
    Using a Third-party Application
    There are several third-party applications that can help you maintain your Mac:
    • Norton SystemWorks by Symantec (A system diagnostic AND repair tool. Includes Norton Utilities™ and Norton AntiVirus™. It costs around $100)
    • Macaroni by Thomas Harrington (An automated maintenance tool. Shareware)
    • MacJanitor by Brian R. Hill (Allows you to run Mac OS X maintenance by hand at your convenience. Freeware)
    • OnyX by Titanium Software (A maintenance utility that also helps optimize the Finder, Dock, and Safari. Freeware)
    • MainMenu (Allows you to run regular system maintenance tasks, as well as repair permissions, clean caches, empty browser history, empty trash, repair disks, and more. Freeware)
    You can search for these and other applications at VersionTracker.

    Using Terminal
    1. Open Terminal (you can find Terminal in the /Applications/Utilities folder). You'll see a prompt and a cursor that looks something like this:
    2. Type the following into the Terminal window exactly:

      sudo sh /etc/daily

      (There's a space after "sh".) Then press the RETURN key.

    3. When prompted, type your Mac OS X Administrator password and press RETURN. The Terminal window will show you a read-out of what it's doing, and then present you with another prompt. If you're done, you can quit Terminal.

    4. You've successfully run the daily maintenance. To run the weekly or monthly tasks, type weekly or monthly in place of daily. Monthly tasks may take more time to run.
    Performing Other Maintenance Tasks—As Needed
    • If your hard disk is nearly full, if you use your computer for tasks that use lots of disk space (like video editing), or if you need to read or write information to the disk very quickly, you may see some performance benefit from de-fragmenting. For details about how to de-fragment your hard disk, see our previous Tech Tip.
    • If your computer freezes, or seems to have slowed down, you should run Repair Disk. See To repair disk and permissions below. Repair Disk checks your hard drive for damage and directory problems; such damage, if it's serious enough, can prevent your Mac from even starting.
    • After installing software updates (particularly third-party application updates), you should run Repair Permissions. In Mac OS X, every file and folder on your hard disk has an associated set of permissions—who can read and write to the file. Sometimes these permissions can be modified unintentionally, causing problems with the speed and performance of your Mac. Repair Permissions is a utility that resets these permissions to their correct default values.
    To repair disk and permissions:
    1. Open your Applications folder.
    2. Open the Utilities folder.
    3. Double-click Disk Utility.
    4. Select your hard disk in the left column.
    5. Click on the First Aid tab.
    6. Click the Repair Disk Permissions or Repair Disk button.
    Note: Depending on which version of Mac OS X you're using, Disk Utility may be found in different locations on your computer. If you can't find a Disk Utility icon in your Applications folder, you can find Disk Utility on your Mac OS X software installation disk #1.

    If you no longer have your software CD, you can download Cocktail—an application that uses several little utilities to perform routine maintenance tasks.

    Performing routine maintenance on your Mac will keep it running smoothly and help prevent big, costly problems from occurring.

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