Popular Posts!


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mac OS X Support Essentials: File Systems

Managing Permissions via Finder

A significantly redesigned Finder was one of the major new features in the previous Mac OS X v10.5. This included a new interface for managing ownership and permissions from the Finder’s Get Info window. The redesign was necessary to incorporate support for ACLs. As covered previously in this chapter, the Finder uses the ACL architecture so you can configure unique privileges for an unlimited number of users or groups.
You may find that while the Finder makes permissions management simple, it does so through a form of obfuscation. In other words, the Finder hides the complexity of permissions by intentionally misrepresenting the full permissions of an item. If you’re more comfortable with traditional UNIX-style permissions, or you simply require full access to an item’s permissions, then you’re best served by managing permissions via the command line as covered later in this chapter. However, for the most common permissions settings, the Finder’s simplified permissions interface is still the quickest and easiest solution.

Modifying File Permissions via Finder

To change permissions in the Finder:

  1. In the Finder, select the file or folder for which you wish to change the permissions, and then open the Get Info window.
  2. Once you have opened a Get Info window, click the Sharing & Permissions disclosure triangle to reveal the item’s permissions.
  3. Click the small lock icon in the bottom-right corner of the Get Info window and authenticate as an administrative user or the owner of the item to unlock the Sharing & Permissions section.
  4. To add new users or groups, click the small plus button in the bottom-left corner of the Get Info window.
    A dialog will appear, allowing you to select a new user or group. To select an existing user or group, choose his or its name from the list and click the Select button. Alternately, you can create a new Sharing user account by clicking the New Person button or selecting a contact from your Address Book. Creating a new Sharing account in either case requires that you also enter a new password for the account.

  5. To delete users or groups, select the account from the permission list and click the small minus button in the bottom-left corner of the Get Info window.

  6. To assign different privileges, simply click on any privilege and a pop-up menu will appear, allowing you to choose another access option for that user or group. Details about the privilege options available from the Finder are covered previously in this chapter.
  7. If you are changing the permissions of a folder, by default, the Finder will not change the permissions of any items inside the folder. In many cases, you will want to apply the same permissions to the items inside the folder.
    You can accomplish this quickly by clicking the gear button at the bottom of the Get Info window to reveal the Action pop-up menu, and then choosing the “Apply to enclosed items” option from this menu.

  8. Changes made using the Get Info window are applied immediately. When you are done making ownership or permissions changes, close the Get Info window.
As long as you keep the Get Info window open, the Finder will remember the original permissions setting for the item. This is useful for testing different permissions configurations, as you can always revert to the original permissions setting. To do so, click the gear button at the bottom of the Get Info window to reveal the Action pop-up menu, and then choose the “Revert changes” option from this menu.

Managing Locked Items via Finder

Mac OS X includes a special file and folder attribute that trumps all write privileges and even administrative user access. Users can choose to lock a file or folder that they own from the Finder’s Get Info window. Locking an item will render it completely unchangeable to all users except the item’s owner. Even administrative users are prevented from making changes to another user’s locked file in the graphical interface. In other words, a standard user could potentially lock an item that the administrative user would have no ability to change in the graphical interface.
To lock a file or folder in the Finder:
  1. In the Finder, select the file or folder you wish to lock, and then open the Get Info window.
  2. Once you have opened a Get Info window, click the General disclosure triangle to reveal the Locked checkbox.
  3. As long as you are the original owner of the item, you will be allowed to select the Locked checkbox.
    Changes made using the Get Info window are applied immediately.

Once an item is locked, no other users can modify, move, delete, or rename it. In the graphical interface the owner can modify the content of the item or delete it, but the Finder still prevents the owner from moving, renaming, or changing ownership and permissions of the locked item. In fact, if you as the owner try to move a locked item, the Finder will default to making a copy. The owner can return the file to the normal state by disabling the locked attribute from the Finder’s Get Info window. An administrative user can disable the locked attribute, but only via the command line, as covered later in this chapter.

Permissions for External Volumes

Portable external disk and flash drives are useful tools for transferring files and folders from one computer to another. A downside to this technology, though, is that computers can’t properly interpret file ownership because they don’t share the same user account database. In other words, most Macs don’t have the exact same user accounts, so when a drive is moved from one Mac to another, the file ownership from one Mac is meaningless to another.
Unless you plan to implement a centralized network user database so all your Macs do share the same user account database, ownership on external volumes will have to be ignored to prevent access issues. This is the default behavior on Mac OS X for all external volumes. Keep in mind, however, that this approach introduces the security risk that all local users will have full access to the contents of external volumes. Because some may find this an unacceptable security risk, you can disable the default behavior and force Mac OS X to honor ownership on external volumes.
To honor ownership on external volumes:
  1. In the Finder, select the external volume for which you wish the system to honor the ownership, and then open the Get Info window.
  2. Once you have opened a Get Info window, click the Sharing & Permissions disclosure triangle to reveal the item’s ownership and permissions.
  3. Click the small lock icon in the bottom-right corner of the Get Info window and authenticate as an administrative user to unlock the Sharing & Permissions section.
  4. Deselect the “Ignore ownership on this volume” checkbox.
    Changes made using the Get Info window are applied immediately.

     By Kevin M. White

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How to Password Protect Files on a Mac

Edited by Scott Clark, Amgine, Chris Hadley, Arete and 4 others
This article details a are not designed to secure your user account. For that, Apple provides a service called FileVault which.

This technique follows similar steps to the "How to Make a DMG" article but places the emphasis on how to use a DMG as a secure folder-like container for your personal information.


  1. NewFolder Step 1.jpg
    Create a New Folder and place the files you would like in your disk image into this new folder.
  2. Size Step 2.jpg
    Right click (or CTRL-Click) the folder and select "Get Info" and note the size of its contents.
  3. DiscUtility Step 3.jpg
    Open Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility)
  4. NewImage Step 4.jpg
    Click the "New Image" icon to create a new disk image. Enter a name for the Image, and select a size adequate for the size of your folder you created in Step 2.
  5. ChangeSettings Step 5.jpg
    Choose either the 128 or 256bit encryption, set the Partitions to "Single Partition - Apple Partition Map" and set the Format to "read/write disk image." Click the "Create" button.
  6. Password Step 6.jpg
    Choose a secure password and enter it into the boxes provided. Uncheck the "Remember password in my keychain" checkbox as it defeats the purpose of securing the data. Click the "OK" button.
  7. PlaceContents Step 7.jpg
    Place the contents of the folder from Step 2 into the newly mounted disk image.
  8. Unmount Step 8.jpg
    Unmount the Disk Image by dragging its icon to the Trash. In the Finder window, you can also click the Eject symbol next to the mounted image.
  9. 9
    Each subsequent attempt at accessing the disk image will cause a prompt for the password.

    AccessRequiresPassword Step 9.jpg
Add your own method



  • Store personal information such as bank statements, credit reports and other sensitive documents in this disk image.
  • You can store your Quicken data file in this image, however, you will have to mount the disk image before you open Quicken.


  • Do not add the password to your keychain
  • Make sure you choose a password that you will remember as once you have encrypted these files with that password, you will not be able to access them without it.
  • DMG files are only accessible on a Mac.
  • Do not write the password down or put in on the computer

Why You Should Invest!

Patricia Lin

Interestingly, many people are not educated about the importance of investing. Most are afraid to talk about investment opportunities because of they are fearful of the “risks” involved with investing. Perhaps you are one of them.

But did you know that you’re making investing decisions everyday?

Though they may be smaller in size, such as choosing a new pair of shoes or what to eat for dinner, these are still considered investments that can affect you in the future.

For example, choosing to buy cheaper shoes now might mean they will need to be replaced faster in the future than nicer shoes. Or, the foods you buy at the grocery could mean eating healthy or not eating healthy.

However, there is also a different, bigger type of investing that anyone can partake in–the sooner the better. In fact, it is encouraged that teenagers and young adults open up a savings account at their bank or start putting money away to be invested and compounded over time.

But, why? Why should you care about this sort of investment?

Here are 3 Main Benefits of Investing:

1. Make your money work for you

Even if you have a steady job or created a secondary income revenue, it is always good to make your money work even more for you in the future. Having money in the present is well and good, but spending it all at once can be irresponsible.

In this world there are two ways to earn income; one is to exchange you time for dollars. In other words, you work actively for your income. Eg: The salary you get from your job.

The other method is to have your money earn money for you. And this is where investing comes in.

In fact, this is a method which is commonly used by wealthy people.

See, when you keep all your money in a “savings” account, the interest you earn is not even enough to keep pace with inflation. So you need to figure a place to put your money to beat inflation by a substantial amount.

And investing is an excellent way to have your money work for you as your investments have the ability to help you earn compound interest. With compound interest, you earn interest on the money you save and on the interest that money earns. Over time, even a small amount of savings can add up to big money and help you achieve your financial goals.

Example: If you buy a $1 chocolate bar every day, you would have spent $365 a year. However, if you instead put the same $365 into a mutual fund that earns 5% a year, it would grow to $465.84 by the end of five years. And after 30 years, you would have $1,577.50, which is more than 4 times the money which you invested initially.

That’s the power of “compounding.”

2. Builds a safety net for you and your family

Unexpected events do happen. Sudden retrenchment, accidents, vehicle breakdown & repair etc. do happen all the time and when they occur, the first thing that you’ll need to help you tide through the situation is money.

And that’s when your investments will come in handy.

Though it’s best to let investment money sit and accrue, they can also be tapped into when those emergencies in life are inevitable.

All in all, investing brings a peace of mind that you have a “safety net” building or already built.

Let me give you an example. A sudden retrenchment from your job will cost your active income to fall to zero. If you have problems finding another job, the bills, mortgages etc. will become a heavy burden to you and the amount will just snowball and weigh down on you. However, if you already have an investment that is able to pay dividends/rental yield that is sufficient to meet your daily needs until you find another job, you’ll free yourself of the stress & anxiety you’re faced with.

3. Create a better life for you and your loved ones.

Money can be a big part of stress at any age, but using your money in a responsible manner and making it work for you means you can have that nice car, house, and lifestyle you’re working hard for.

The thing about investments is that it provides you with the opportunity to reap in returns that can add on to your assets. You can start off with a small invesment in the right vehicle which requires some of your savings, but with patience and the right strategies, it can become a hefty investment.

“It’s not how much money you make, but how much money you keep, how hard it works for you, and how many generations you keep it for.” – Robert Kiyosaki

The amount you leave behind for future generations is entirely up to you. But remember that as your wealth accumulates, you’ll be paving a better life for not only yourself but your loved ones. Imagine your family having the ability to have a comfortable home, go on vacations and simply spend more time together. Won’t it be worth investing whatever time & money you have right now to create such a wonderful future?

The thing is, it’s definitely possible with the right investment vehicle & strategies.

So hopefully after reading this article, you’ll understand the benefits of investing and will seek to invest your money wisely to generate huge returns for yourself!


Thursday, June 12, 2014

9 Reasons Why a Mac is Running Slow and What to Do About It

Why a Mac is running slow and what to do about it
It’s a fact of modern life: Macs can run slowly for seemingly no reason, but chances are there is a reason the Mac is running so poorly and we’ll cover the most common reasons, how to know if each reason is causing the slow down, and most importantly, how to fix it. If your Mac is running slowly and it feels like a snail could launch a new app or load a web page faster than the computer could, read on.

1: Spotlight Search is Indexing

Spotlight is the search engine built into OS X, and anytime it indexes drive data it can slow down a Mac. This is typically worse after reboots between major file system changes when theindex is rebuilt, a major system update, or when another hard drive full of stuff is connected to the Mac. Typically Macs with SSD’s won’t feel the slowdown quite so much, but for Mac models still using spinning hard disk drives, it can feel very slow.
How to Know: It’s easy to check if Spotlight is what’s causing the slowdowns though, just click on the Spotlight menu in the upper right corner. If you pull down the menu to see an indexing status bar, you know it’s running.
Spotlight is running
You can also look in Activity Monitor for the “mds” or “mdworker” processes, both of which are related to Spotlight.
Solution: Wait for Spotlight to finish indexing, it usually doesn’t take too long.

2: Software Update Loading

Whether the Mac is newer and updates through the App Store, or older and goes through Software Update, either of these processes can cause a temporary slowdown to the system while they launch in the background, query for available updates, and
How to Know: After a minute or so you’ll get a Software Update notification
Software Update running
Solution: Keeping system software up to date is one of the best things you can do as part of a Mac maintenance routine. Let it run, install the updates, and reboot.

3: Low Disk Space

Anytime any computer is running very low on disk space, the computer will slow down dramatically, and Macs are no different. The reason is fairly simple; between the operating system and all your apps, a lot of temporary cache files are generated, and things are swapped in and out of memory and to the disk as needed. If your disk is full, those actions take longer because older cache files and swap files must be deleted before new ones can be generated, which creates a stall before any further system process can be taken. This whole thing can be painfully slow especially on traditional hard disk drives, and can leave any Mac feeling as slow as molasses.
How to Know: Checking available hard disk space is a cinch, just go to the desktop and open any folder, then pull down the “View” menu and select “Show Status Bar”. Now look at the bottom of the Finder window you opened, if the number of available space is less than several GB’s, you should take action. If the number is 0, you need to take immediate action!
Check available disk space on a Mac
Solution: The best thing to do is clear out files you don’t need any more. First, go to your Downloads folder and remove stuff you don’t need because it can fill up awfully quick if you don’t clear it out yourself. Next, recover disk space by downloading a free app like OmniDiskSweeper to discover where all your storage went. Delete unnecessary files. When finished, reboot the Mac, because rebooting will cause temporary caches to clear out and that can often free up space as well.

4: Out of RAM

There is no bigger slowdown to encounter than when you run out of available RAM. When you run out of RAM, virtual memory takes over, and virtual memory is slow because it relies on your hard disk to store information needed for apps and OS X to run rather than keeping that information in super-fast RAM.
How to Know: Open “Activity Monitor” from the /Applications/Utilities/ folder, click on the “System Memory” tab at the bottom, and look at the colorful pie chart. If you don’t see any green, you’re running low on “Free” memory, and you can check just how low by looking at the “Free” item. “Inactive” is another potentially valuable resource to look at.
Check for Free RAM
Solution: Quit apps that are no longer in use, and try relaunching ones that you are using. Web browsers in particular, like Safari, Chrome, and Firefox, will often consume more RAM than they need to the longer they are left open, as past web pages are stored in memory. Also, some websites have memory leaks. Quitting and reloading a web browser can often free up a ton of RAM.

5: High Processor Utilization

If an app or process is consuming a lot of your processor, other things going on with the Mac will slow down dramatically. Tons of different things can take up CPU, and though most are temporary as a process executes and completes, some errant processes go wild and continue to hog far more CPU than what is appropriate.
How to Know: Again, open “Activity Monitor” from the /Applications/Utilities/ folder, but click on the “CPU” tab at the bottom. Watch the “% Idle” for a few seconds, if that number is consistently below 60 or so, you have something that is eating up your processor.
Check CPU Utilization
Solution: Still in Activity Monitor, click the “CPU” item at the top to list items by processor usage. The topmost item(s) will be your culprit, if those apps or processes aren’t in use, quit them to free up CPU.

6: Too Many Apps Open at the Same Time

This is simplified way of saying you’re either out of RAM, have an app being a CPU hog, the disk is thrashing, or any number of other problems that can occur when you simply have way too many apps open and running at the same time.
How to Know: The easiest way to tell is if the OS X Dock is a plethora of every app installed on your Mac.
Solution: Quit apps you aren’t using, the more the merrier.

7: Not Enough RAM for Your Needs

Speaking of running out of RAM and having too many apps open, it’s possible that you simply don’t have enough RAM to use your Mac at optimal speeds for your usage patterns. Thankfully this is very easy to determine, find out how to tell if your Mac needs a RAM upgrade by reading this great guide.

8: Your Desktop is Full of Icon Clutter

Did you know that having a desktop full of a billion icons slows down a computer? This is because each icon gets drawn as a window, and OS X renders a preview of the icons and their contents, each of which takes up resources to redraw as things are moved around.
How to Know: Your desktop is a disaster of files, documents, folders, with more icons than wallpaper visible.
a Messy Mac desktop slows down Macs
Solution: Tidy up your desktop, ideally down to just a few select important things. If this sounds daunting, even creating a new folder called “Desktop Stuff” and throwing EVERYTHING from the desktop into it will dramatically speed things up. Also, there’s some great apps out there that will tidy up your desktop for you, try those out if you’re bad at managing the desktop clutter, or consider hiding the desktop icons completely.

9: The Hard Drive is Failing

Failing hard drives do not perform well, but potentially worse than that is the chance that you could lose all your important data and files. This is perhaps the least likely reason a Mac runs slow, but it’s also the worst possibility.
How to Know: You hear unusual sounds, clicks, or chunking coming from your computer and hard drive. Running Disk Utility’s First Aid fails repeatedly or throws tons of errors that are unrepairable with the “Verify” and “Repair Disk” functions.
Solution: First, stop everything else and BACK UP YOUR DATA because you could lose it if you don’t. Run Time Machine, copy all your most important files to an external drive, whatever it takes. Next, buy a new hard drive, and consider an SSD because they’re faster and less prone to some of the trouble traditional spinning drives are. Finally, consider taking the Mac to an expert, like the Genius Bar at your local Apple Store.

What Else?

Anything we missed? Let us know in the comments. For some general performance tips, especially for older Macs, don’t miss these 8 simple tips that can speed up Macs.

When your Mac slows down, give it a tune-up

When your Mac slows down, give it a tune-up

Tune up your Macintosh, and clean out the cruft

Macs are solid machines, but just like their owners they have a tendency to get lethargic as they age. Launching and switching programs takes longer, simple tasks become arduous, and the dreaded beach ball of doom appears more often than it did when your machine was new. The operating system just starts to feel crufty, and can get worse over time. I see these issues in my IT consulting business regularly.

You may be asking, why does this happen? There are many reasons, but some are more common than others. Sometimes your hard disk (or solid-state drive) gets too full and interferes with normal computer operations. Crashes or misbehaving programs can corrupt the disk directory or application cache files. Remnants from old software may still be running behind the scenes, or you don’t have enough RAM to deal with your OS and workflow.

Is there some sort of tune-up you can do to sort it out? Your tech always tells you to just reboot the computer, but there’s got to be more than that. The good news: Yes, there are some things you can do. And, perhaps, adopt some more efficient computing practices for yourself along the way.

Here are four common things I perform or check for clients when they complain that their Mac is sluggish:

• Free up more disk space
• Rebuild the disk directory and clear caches
• Remove unnecessary startup items and Internet plug-ins
• Install more RAM and manage memory better

Let’s look at each of these.

Free up more disk space

Far and away, the most common issue I find when computers are running slowly is that the hard drive is nearly full. When your hard drive gets too full, performance suffers. There is always a constant stream of information going between RAM and disk storage. The operating system uses disk storage for temporary data: virtual memory swap files, application cache files, etc. Programs and data you’re actively using get loaded into RAM and old data or background tasks are temporarily saved or cached to the hard drive.

When free space on the hard drive gets too low, the OS can’t operate efficiently and spends more time doing smaller read/write operations. You start to see that rainbow beach ball more often. When space completely runs out, the machine becomes unresponsive and virtual wheels grind to a halt.

You can find out how much space is left by going to the Apple Menu –> About this Mac –> More Info.  The Storage tab will show the amount of available free space your Mac still has. If the remaining space is less than 2GB, your computer is struggling. A good rule of thumb is to keep at least three times the amount of installed RAM free. For example, if you have 2GB of RAM installed, keep at least 6GB free on the disk.

To free up space, delete unneeded files, old downloads and installer files ending in .dmg or .pkg. Movies, TV shows, music and pictures can also take up lots of room. You can copy some of these files to an external hard drive, then delete the originals to make more room.

Remember to empty the trash after deleting to actually free up the space. When you can’t clear out enough data to make room, it’s time for a bigger hard drive.

Mac TrashRebuild the disk directory and clear caches

The disk directory is the list of files stored on your hard disk along with their locations. Sometimes this can get out of sync with the actual files on disk. If a program crashes or doesn’t complete saving a file correctly, the information in the directory may not match what’s actually on your disk. Various small read/write errors also slowly build up over time and can cause problems opening and saving files, again generating the dreaded beach ball of death.

Cache files are temporary holding places for constantly changing information, such as installed fonts, graphics from web pages, Spotlight indexing, etc. As above, program errors and crashes can corrupt cache files, making them fully or partially unreadable. This, in turn, causes individual programs or the OS itself to misbehave.

There are a number of utilities on the market to help with these problems, but a very simple solution is built right into your Mac: the Safe Boot. Among other things, a Safe Boot runs a full scan on the hard drive sector by sector and fixes problems found in the disk directory. It also clears cache files of old data, so you get a clean start on your next reboot.

To perform a Safe Boot, restart the computer and hold down the Shift key until you reach the desktop. This may take a few minutes, and depending on your OS X version you may see a progress bar onscreen for part of the process. Once you’ve reached the desktop, release the Shift key and restart normally.

For more advanced disk directory repairs, I highly recommend DiskWarrior. If your Mac won’t boot at all (even in Safe Mode) you can often get things working again with this useful utility.

One common step people take to try and solve disk problems is to repair permissions using Disk Utility. Back in the early days of Mac OS X this was helpful, but it has become much less necessary in current versions. It won’t hurt to repair disk permissions, but the errors listed and fixed typically don’t affect much.

Remove unnecessary startup items and Internet plug-ins

When your Mac starts up, programs you use frequently can be set to automatically launch at startup: Safari, Mail, Dropbox, etc. Several background processes may also get loaded to support programs you’ve installed, like backup software. And some programs may have configured themselves to launch at startup whether you want them or not – Skype, anyone? You may have extraneous items or out-of-date tasks vying for attention.

To prune these down, check in a few places:

First visit System Preferences –> Users & Accounts, and click the Login tab. Here you’ll see a list of items set to open automatically when you log in. Some of these items may no longer be needed or current. For example, if you used to run Symantec AntiVirus on your iMac in 2002 and have just migrated things along ever since, there may be one or two Symantec programs still set to launch at startup. You can also remove any programs that may have configured themselves to run automatically which you don’t use (like Skype).

To remove an item, select it and click the “-” sign. You can also safely remove any items that show an error code or as kind “Unknown.”

A long delay at startup could be a sign of a missing shared network drive. If you’ve previously connected your Mac to a server or another networked Mac (say at work), that drive may have been added to the list of items to open at login. If you’re then on another network or the share is unavailable for some reason, the Mac will pause as it waits for a response from the missing disk. Check to see if there are shared drives or “Volumes” in the Login Items list, and if so remove them.

The next few steps are a bit more advanced. You need to be familiar with locating and deleting configuration files on your hard drive. If you are not comfortable with these steps, skip down to the section on RAM.
System and User Library
On the hard drive, there are a few more folders you can check:

Macintosh HD –> Library –> LaunchAgents
Macintosh HD –> Library –> LaunchDaemons
Macintosh HD –> Library –> StartupItems
Macintosh HD –> Users –> Your Home Folder –> Library –> LaunchAgents
Macintosh HD –> Users –> Your Home Folder –> Library –> StartupItems

These folders contain .plist files that launch background processes (backups, VPNs, etc.). You can delete items you recognize as outdated or programs no longer needed; for example, as above you may see some items with Symantec in their filenames, or an old backup program you’re no longer using. An Administrator password will be required. Not all of these folders may exist on your system.

Note that in OS X 10.7 and above the User Library folder is invisible by default; to make it visible, hold down the Option key then in the Finder click on Go –> Library

VERY IMPORTANT: If you’re not sure what something does, leave it alone!!
Internet plug-ins can also cause problems, especially older plug-ins with newer web browsers. Plug-ins tend to get installed automatically as you visit websites over the years, but rarely get uninstalled. Do you really need the RealPlayer plug-in from 2005 any longer? Check the following two folders and as above, prune out anything you recognize as unneeded or more than three years out of date:

Macintosh HD –> Library –> Internet Plug-Ins
Macintosh HD –> Users –> Your Home Folder –> Library –> Internet Plug-Ins

After removing any Login items, LaunchAgents, LaunchDaemons or old plug-ins, reboot the Mac.

Install more RAM and manage memory better

Your Mac uses RAM to store data that the computer is actively using. The more RAM you have, the more programs you can run simultaneously with less need to cache and store data on the much-slower disk storage. Doubling or quadrupling the amount of installed RAM (if possible) will make a noticeable difference in how smoothly the computer functions.

You can see how much memory is installed in your system under the Apple menu by choosing About This Mac. For systems running OS X Lion 10.7 or higher, 4GB is really the practical minimum. If you’re still chugging along on 2GB, adding more will make a big difference.

Quitting unused applications can also improve performance. I’ve come across clients complaining about bizarre behavior on their Macs, only to find 30 apps running simultaneously! Quitting (or force quitting) most of them can substantially improve performance. If you need to force quit, restart the computer afterward.

Speaking of restarting — why do techs always tell you to do this? Well for one thing, it tends to solve problems more than half the time, so it’s our default response for a quick fix! But more seriously, after your computer has been running for a while and swapping lots of things in and out of RAM, or after a program has crashed, small errors can snowball into bigger glitches. The RAM storage itself can get fragmented, or stalled background processes can begin to interfere with running tasks.

Rebooting the computer clears out everything from RAM, stops all running processes, reloads the OS and brings things back to square one. Modern operating systems such as OS X, Windows 7 and Linux are much more resilient than in days of old, but the need to reboot has not gone away entirely. If your Mac hasn’t been restarted in several months, it’s time.

Now here’s a user workflow issue: If you tend to have many windows open at one time in a single program — say 20 Microsoft Word files, 34 PDFs in Adobe Reader, six dozen web pages in different browser tabs – this will definitely slow things down. Each open window requires memory to store and CPU power to deal with. In general, try to keep under (say) 10 documents open for any single program at one time.

I know, I know, you’re going to complain: “But this is how I work, I need all these things open at once!” Yes, yes. But remember you’ve just complained that your computer is running slowly, and this is one way to fix things. Pick your poison!

Is a fresh install of OS X worthwhile?

Sometimes problems seem so vast that a fresh installation of the operating system is a tempting fix. In my experience this isn’t routinely needed (OS X is not Windows). Trying the steps above is definitely worth doing before replacing the OS.

However, if you’ve tried all of the above and are still having problems, an OS reinstall might help. Remember to back up all your data first — I like either Time Machine or making a clone of the hard drive for this task.

I’ve also found it best to have a local copy of the OS X installation software with you — either Apple’s downloadable Lion, Mountain Lion or Mavericks installers, or the install DVD for older OS versions. These work faster and more reliably than online installers, and allow you to start over again if something goes wrong.

You did back things up first, right?

My Blog List