Lots of people wonder about maintaining their Mac and especially if they have made the move from Windows to Mac.  On Windows, there are many things that you need to do in order to keep your machine running fairly smoothly.  These include such things are running virus scans, malware scans, cleanup tools, defragmentation tools, registry cleaners etc.

So let's see.  Do you really need to worry about any of these things on your Mac?

Virus Scans - these involve both software running actively in the background all the time as well as scans that you have to run manually which can significantly slow down your computer.  Do you need them?  Should you have anti-virus installed?  I'll leave the decision up to you, all I can say is that I've been using Macs since 1984 and I have never had an anti-virus package installed, nor have I ever had a virus.  I installed an anti-virus once, but it got so annoying with it telling me about all the windows viruses coming in via email that I had to switch it off.  Those viruses cannot do any harm to my Mac anyway, so stop telling me about them already!

Malware scans - basically, the same thing applies as for viruses.  Except that there have been a few malware sightings on the Mac, so it might be prudent to run scans now and then.  Personally, I don't.

Cleanup Tools - there is some merit in using these tools, although they are certainly not necessary.  They tend to clean up temporary files and the like, things that you don't need but that are not really doing any harm anyway.  They can be useful for reclaiming space if you hard disk is getting full.

Defragmentation Tools - these, in my opinion, are generally over-rated anyway.  They can take a long time, they can be a little risky and the amount of speed you regain is usually minimal.  Except in the case where the disk is very badly fragmented, which would usually take a long, long time to happen.  So on Windows, yes you might want to run this occasionally but certainly not every week.  However, on the Mac, this is really not necessary.  The Mac does a good job of managing disk space and it actually optimises (or defrags) as it goes.  It's an ongoing process, so there's no need to do it yourself.  Macs rule.  🙂

Registry Cleaners - registry? what registry? You don't need to worry about this, if there's cleaning up to do the Mac usually does it by itself.  There is no real "registry" and therefore nothing really to get corrupted or dirty.

When it comes to maintenance, or even making sure your Mac runs as fast as it can, these are the things you need to consider:

1. RAM - this is a special kind of "short term" memory that your computer has.  It loads up the stuff it wants to use and puts it in RAM.  If it runs out of RAM, like if you have every program on your computer open and it's just too much for it, everything starts to slow down.  Very often you can upgrade the RAM and if you were running out, you'll notice a difference when you have more than enough.

2. Hard Disk - if your hard disk gets too full, it can also lead to the computer slowing down significantly.  You should always leave at least 20% of the total space on the disk free.  This will mean that there will always be enough for the computer to do what it needs, without slowing down. The speed of the disk itself will always be a factor.  A 7200rpm drive will run faster than a 5400rpm drive.  One of the new Flash memory SSD hard drives runs very significantly faster than these.  This has a noticeable impact on the speed of the computer overall.

3. External Disks & Devices - if you notice that you often get the spinning beach ball appearing, it can be because the Mac is trying to access one of your external USB drives and it's waiting for it to spin up.  There are settings you can change or you can leave the disk off until you need it if you are experiencing this.  Some other devices can also occasionally conflict with each other and cause a similar issue.  If you have this type of problem, it's always good to start with no peripheral devices connected and see if the problem persists.  If not, you've at least narrowed it down.

4. Outdated Software - a major cause of crashes or the spinning beach ball is using an outdated version of some software that runs in the background.  It may not be compatible with the version of Mac OS X that you are using and it can cause a variety of problems.  Always check your software to make sure it's up to date, especially after a major OS upgrade.

5. Reboot Occasionally - personally I find that I don't have a need to reboot my Mac very often.  It's always on.  It always works.  It's a pleasure to use.  The thing is, after a while things can slow down a little bit if there have been memory leaks etc. and over time this will build up.  The best thing to do is, every now and again, whenever it's convenient, just restart your Mac.  It will clear out a lot of stuff that's built up in RAM, reset all the relevant settings and give you a nice fresh Mac ready to go again... for a few more weeks... or months...

So I hope this helps in some way to explain what's needed and what's not.  Has anyone else any tips on Mac maintenance that they find particularly effective?