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Published on 1st September 2017

My Complete Guide To Cleaning Macs

If you’re like me, you’re the proud owner of a Mac Computer that you love. Whether you’re using your Mac to run a small business, write your way through college, or game like a boss, you want to do everything you can to keep it running like the well-designed powerful machine it is. This guide is designed to help you clean your Mac, preserve your files, add RAM when you need it, and clean up and make the most of your available storage by getting rid of junk files and speeding up the way your startup disc launches your computer.

Cleaning Your Hard Drive

A slow computer means slow computer work. That usually means a headache caused by aggravation or frustration at some point. Cleaning your hard drive will help speed up an old Mac computer, increase your storage space, and give you more room to work. From one Mac lover to another, here’s my tried and true advice for making your Mac faster and improving software and apps you use on a regular basis.

My goal is to create a simple, easy-to-follow guide that both tech savvy people and average Joes like you and I can use to get the most out of these workhorse laptops. This guide has short descriptions and easy-to-follow bullet points that help you clear space on your Mac whether you need a little space to create or a lot of space to work. If you’re ready to make you Mac quick, make the most of your Internet connection, and improve the routine maintenance of your computer, this is the guide for you. Let’s get started.

Take Out The Too-Full Trash on Your Mac – Twice

Do this once at the beginning of the cleanup process and once at the end. Emptying the trash at the beginning gives you a cleaner slate to work with through the rest of the cleanup process. Emptying the trash at the end of this guide helps you get rid of the files and apps you deleted during the cleanup process. Don’t worry – I’ll remind you at the end.

This first step will show you how to set your Mac to automatically empty your trash bin in thirty-day intervals. That simple action will go a long way toward eliminating unnecessarily stored files that you meant to get rid of in the first place.

  • Navigate to the Finder menu
  • From the Finder menu, select Preferences
  • Next, select the Advanced option
  • Check the box labeled “remove items from trash after 30 days”

You’re all done. The rest of the guide is as easy to understand as this first step. Let’s keep going by helping you understand why you took this step and what it did for your Mac.

Why You Took This Step

Moving a file to the Trash means you’ve told your Mac you want this file to be deleted, but it isn’t actually deleted until you empty you Trash – delete the Trash file. Think of like the trash can in your kitchen. Putting the trash in that can only works for so long. When it piles up enough, you take it to the curb to be emptied. You took this step in order to free up room on your Mac’s hard drive and get much of your prized hard drive space back.

Delete Annoying Apps You’re Not Using Because apps can be tempting with their cool icons, slick come-ons, and promises of fun and functionality, you’ve probably installed far more apps than you’ll actually use. All of us are guilty of this. Those unused apps that seemed like a good idea when they first came out can eat up lots of space, though. This step will show you how to get rid of them and help speed up your Mac.

  • The simplest way to get rid of unused apps is to drag their icons into the trash can.
  • You can also look in each app’s folder for an uninstall feature. If you find one, just follow its instructions.

Cleaning up the apps you thought you’d use, but didn’t, is simple and quick. It’s almost exclusively a drag and drop process, but on that’ll free up enough space to make you get ruthlessly honest about the apps you actually use.

Why You Took This Step

New apps with their shiny bells and whistles are built to grab your attention and make you want to take them out for a test drive. If you’ve let your Mac accumulate too many apps you aren’t really using, you just deleted them to free up space you can use and to help speed up your Mac.

Locate and Delete Languishing LARGE Files Large, image-heavy and text-heavy files you haven’t even opened in years are just taking up valuable space on your Mac. I know it can be hard to decide what to keep and what to purge, but if you haven’t opened it in more than six months, it’s a relatively safe bet that it can get stashed away or deleted. If you truly can’t bring yourself to get rid of certain files altogether, I’m including some other options in the last bullet point. If you’re serious about freeing up space on your Mac, take the following steps:

  • Follow this path: Finder > Go > Home > File > Find
  • Under Kind > Other, select a search attribute and choose a file size
  • Make sure no other boxes are checked
  • Enter a minimum file size (start with 100 MB)
  • When the results appear, choose an appropriate action:
    • Compress files
    • Store files in the cloud
    • Delete files

Each file you compress, send to the cloud, or delete frees up a little space. If enough of those files are banished, it frees up a lot space that can be used for something vital.

Why You Took This Step

Large files take up valuable space you could be using for more useful documents, downloads, images, and files. You took the time to get rid of unnecessary and outdated large files to speed up your Mac, make space, and make it easier to find documents, images, and downloads you actually do need.

Clean Up Your Sluggish Startup Disc

If your Mac takes forever to start, you probably need to clean up your startup process. Your Mac computer has a file that determines what programs start when the computer starts. Your Mac computer will launch faster and help speed up a sluggish Mac. There’s an added benefit – when your Mac takes less time to launch, it takes less time to do everything else as well. These steps will show you how to clean up (and speed up) that startup process:

  • Follow this path: System Preferences > Users and Groups > User Name > Login Items
  • Deselect the programs that don’t need to start as soon as you turn on your Mac
  • Close that window

Why You Took This Step

Has your Mac started to take an agonizing amount of time to launch? It has if it’s trying to do too many things in the startup phase. You restructured your startup disc so that only needed programs and systems start when the computer launches and you have the freedom to start all your other programs when you want them.

Delete Cumbersome Cookies

Cookies are those hidden nuggets of information companies use to keep track of your visits to their sites. They are also used in combination with your browsing habits to suggest websites based on your previous searches. Those cookies, in combination with your browsing history, can eat up a lot of space on your Mac’s hard drive and slow it – and your browser – down quite a bit. Cleaning it up your Mac’s cookie cache is a good idea and these simple steps will show you how you can do that:

  • Follow this path: Safari > Preferences > Privacy
  • Click the Remove All Website Data button
    • You can also select the Ask Websites Not To Track Me option
  • Click Remove Now

Why You Took This Step

Every time you search for a website or product online, or perform any search, your browser creates a cache of that info. Regularly clearing that stored cache lets your browser function more efficiently, clears your browser history and lets you maintain a bit of online anonymity. That’s why you did it.

Add Robust Ram To Your Mac

Installing extra RAM (random access memory) to your Mac is a fairly simple DIY project requiring only a screwdriver, a towel (to prevent scratching your Mac’s casing), and a larger RAM unit. You can buy more RAM online or from many reputable brick and mortar retailers. Be very careful adding RAM to your MAC because it means you’ll need to open your computer. Proceed with caution! That said, you can do it. Here are the steps you need to take:

  • Turn off your Mac, let it cool down, and unplug anything connected to it
  • Lay the Mac facedown and unscrew the covering over the existing RAM
  • Press the small gray button that opens the memory compartment
  • Press the levers on each side of the compartment to release the memory cage and pull them toward you
    • Pay attention to the DIMM slot’s notches because they must match up when you install the new RAM unit
  • Place the new RAM unit into place
    • Be careful to line up the DIMM slot notches
  • Replace the backing, screwing it carefully into place
  • Screw the cover back into place
  • Turn your Mac right side up, plug it in, and start it

Why You Took This Step

If your Mac is a workhorse – who’s isn’t? – full of documents, images, and videos, you probably needed more RAM to increase memory capacity and storage space. You added that extra RAM to boost your Mac's speed and to potentially extend its lifetime.

Clean Up Any Vexing Viruses

Viruses do more than work your nerves and slow down your Mac. They can completely take over your computer if you aren’t careful. The minute you suspect your Mac might have been contaminated with a virus or other malware, close your browser (FAST) and take the following steps:

  • Go to your downloads folder
  • Drag any unfamiliar files or recently download files into the Trash
    • Be especially suspicious of Install files you do not recognize
  • Empty the Trash immediately
  • Take the extra step of installing an antivirus program you can trust
    • Look for antivirus programs that have excellent online reviews

Why You Took This Step

Computer viruses are the absolute worst pain in the neck. They can actually render your Mac useless. You checked for, and hopefully got rid of, any viruses because they can infect your Mac, steal sensitive data, and other lead to frustrating, infection-causing viruses.

Part Two of Taking Out The Trash

Taking out the trash one last time after you’ve taken all the previous steps eliminates any residual files, apps, downloads, etc. you got rid of while cleaning up your Mac using my handy guide. Don’t skip this step – it’s why you cleaned your Mac up in the first place.

Why You Took This Step

To take one final step in thoroughly cleaning, clearing, and speeding up your Mac computer.

Helpful Resources

I designed this guide to help you get the most out of your Mac computer. But wait - there’s more! I’m adding my top seven go-to Mac resources because I found them helpful and think you will, too.

  • Apple Support – start with the guys who built the system in the first place. They have most, if not all the answers you’ll need.
  • Windows Switchers – if you’re switching from Windows to Mac, you’ll appreciate these tips for newbies to the Mac world.
  • Tips, Tricks, and Timesavers – there are some great tips and tools here to help you get the most out of your Mac.
  • Windows Software – learn how to use the Windows software you’re used to on the Mac computer you love.
  • Workhorse Apps – with all the awesome software and apps available for the Mac, you’ll love these essential productivity apps.
  • Antivirus Software – these software programs will help you protect your Mac from viruses and malware.
  • Mac Parts – when you’re looking for parts for you Mac, you only want the best. These places have great reputations and affordable prices.

That’s all folks! I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide and found it useful. If you follow the previous steps carefully, you’ll make your Mac faster, get rid of redundant and junk files, stop the Internet from running slowly on your Mac, wipe your Mac clean, and even speed up an older Mac. A clean laptop means you’ll improve functions and utilities, have space for useful tools, and have an all over better performance.