How to Maintain a Mac Computer

Introduction

Computers have become easier and easier to use, with many common maintenance tasks being taken care of for you, thanks to modern software. But, there are a few things that relate more to personal preference you can review to make sure everything stays in tip-top shape.
Tools You'll Need:
  • If you plan to back your system up, you may need external storage such as a hard drive.
Computer Maintenance.

1 Ensure Your Data is Backed up

Data Backups

It is always wise to backup your computer's data. Data backups should be performed regularly. Even beyond the scope of malware or for the sake of security, it is always prudent to have frequent backups because hard drives can fail, systems can crash, things can break, "life can happen," so you're always better off safe than sorry.

Data backups, just like any type of backup, are a matter of redundancy. One backup solution is good, two or more is better.

Offsite backups (such as online data backup services) are always a good idea, especially as a secondary backup. That way, in the unfortunate event that a fire, flood, or theft happens, you have a copy of your data in a remote, offsite location to fall back on.

It is always prudent to set your backups to use a versioning scheme. When it comes to backing up data, versioning is like a saved history of your files. Versioning allows your backup service to record multiple copies (or versions) of your files in its system (how many depends on the service). You can use file versioning to go back and retrieve the version you need. That way if files are corrupted, infected, or locked, you don't have to worry about having only one backup which may be the bad version.

If you are using a local backup such as an external hard drive or flash drive, it is always a good idea to disconnect the drive when it is not in use. This is a safety precaution, as some forms of malware can encrypt or corrupt all of the data on any connected drive, so a drive that is no longer physically connected cannot be affected.

macOS Backups
We have a special guide dedicated to data backups.

2 Remove Unnecessary Files From Desktop

macOS tends to slow down with more icons on the desktop, because it has to check and redraw them constantly. Also, the Desktop tends to turn into a 'default dumping ground' for many applications.

Having a clean, orderly Desktop with just the applications you use most frequently, and a few important files can lead to better performance overall for your computer.

Select a section below for assistance Moving important files or Deleting unneeded files.
Move Files to Appropriate Folders

macOS has built-in folders to help you organize your documents, pictures, music and videos. You can also create folders inside folders to help better organize projects and collections.

  1. Select Finder on your Dock, then select Go > Home from the menu at top.
    Finder
    Finder Go menu with Home highlighted
  2. You'll see a list of folders for common types of files.
    Finder with home folders highlighted
  3. To move a file to a folder, click on the file, and don't let go. Then, drag it over the folder you'd like it in, then release the mouse button.
    macOS Finder showing moving a file to a folder
  4. To view files in that folder in the future, click that folder.
    Finder with Documents and file highlighted.
Delete Unneeded Files

If you no longer need a file or shortcut you can delete it using one of four methods, depending on which you are most comfortable with.

Deleting With the Mouse
Click on the file or folder, and don't let go. Then, drag it over the Trash on the Dock, then release the mouse button.Mac dekstop showing dragging a file to the Trash
Deleting With the Menu
Highlight the file, then select File > Move to Trash.Mac desktop showing a highlighted file with the File menu open and Move to Trash highlighted.
Deleting With the Keyboard
Highlight the file, then press the Command ⌘ + Delete ⌫ buttons on your keyboard.Mac Desktop with file highlightedMac keyboard with Command and Delete keys highlighted
Deleting With a Right Click
Using your Right mouse button, Right Click on a file, and select Move to Trash from the menu.Mac Desktop showing right click menu for a file with Move to Trash highlighted

3 Remove Unnecessary Files From Downloads

One folder that routinely fills with files you may not use anymore is the Downloads folder. It's a good idea to check the Downloads folder, delete items you no longer need, and move files you wish to keep to other locations.

  1. Select Finder from your Dock, then select Go > Downloads from the menu.
    Finder
    Finder Go menu with Downloads highlighted
  2. This folder contains items you have downloaded using your browser and other programs. Look through each item, and decide to delete, move, or leave files in here.
    Finder showing Downloads

4 Uninstall a Program

If there's a program installed that you don't use anymore, it's best to uninstall it to save space.

  1. Select Finder, then select Go > Applications.
    Finder
    Finder Go menu with Applications highlighted
  2. Look through your list of programs for any you do not use anymore.
    Applications in Finder.
Uninstall a Program
  1. Make sure the program you want to uninstall is closed.
    Running Program
    There is a Dot • below the program's icon on your Dock.Program running on Dock
    Closed Program
    There's no Dot • below the program's icon on your Dock.Program not running on Dock
    Close a Program

    There are two ways to close a program on your Mac.

    Close a Program Using the Menu
    Select the program on your Dock, then select the program's name at the top, and select Quit.Program selected on Dock, with Program's main menu open with Quit highlighted.
    Close A Program Using the Right-Click Menu
    Using your Right mouse button, right-click on the program's icon on your dock, and select Quit from the menu.Right-click menu with Quit highlighted.
  2. Select Finder, then select Go > Applications.
    Finder
    Finder Go menu with Applications highlighted
  3. Drag the app you want to uninstall to the Trash.
    Finder showing dragging an app to the Trash
  4. Some apps have a little clean up to perform; carefully read and follow the directions on screen to complete removing the app.
    macOS will not allow you to remove apps deemed necessary by Apple from your computer.

5 Check for Updates

  1. Select the Apple menu, then App Store.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with App Store highlighted.
  2. You will now see the app store pull up. Select Updates.
    macOS 10.14 Mojave or LaterApp Store side bar with Updates highlighted.
    macOS 10.13 High Sierra or EarlierApp store menu bar with Updates highlighted.
Any version of macOS 10.7 (Lion) or older can check for available updates through the Apple Menu and Software Updates.

6 Check Startup Programs

  1. Select the Apple Menu and then System Preferences.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with System Preferences highlighted.
  2. Select Users & Groups.
    macOS Users and Groups Preferences
  3. Select Login Items at the top, then your Username on the left. Finally, select the lock in the bottom-left corner to unlock these settings.
    Users and Groups Preferences with Login Items, User, and Lock highlighted.
  4. Enter your macOS password, and select Unlock.
    System Preferences unlock prompt with password and Unlock button highlighted.
  5. Look through the list on the right. If you see an item you don't recognize, or an item you don't use frequently, highlight it by clicking its name, then click the Remove (–) button below to remove it.
    Users and Groups Login Items with an item and minus button highlighted.

7 Recover Files From Trash

When a file is deleted from your Mac, it first goes to the Trash. If left long enough, it will eventually be removed permanently from your computer, but this provides an excellent buffer for simple mistakes.

  1. Select the Trash icon at the end of your Dock.
    macOS Trash
  2. A window showing the items in your Trash will open.
  3. If you see the file you want in the Trash, it's best to put it back where it belongs.
    1. Click-and-Hold, Control-Click, or Right Click the file for the menu to open. Select Put Back.
      Mouse with Right Mouse Button highlighted.
      Trashed item with context menu open with Put Back highlighted.
    2. The file will be put back where it came from, and the Finder window showing that folder will open.
      Finder with file highlighted.

8 Empty Trash to Save Space

Once a file is deleted from the Trash, it is gone forever. Be sure to check the files in the Trash before proceeding.

  1. Select the Trash icon at the end of your Dock, then select Empty in the top right corner.
    macOS Trash
    Finder showing Trash with Empty highlighted.
  2. You will be asked to confirm you wish to empty the Trash. If you are sure you do not want the files any longer, select Empty Trash.
    Conformation to empty Trash with Empty Trash highlighted.

9 Manage Storage to Save Space

  1. Select the Apple menu and then About This Mac.
    macOS Mojave Apple menu with About This Mac highlighted.
  2. Select Storage.
    About This Mac with Storage highlighted
  3. Select Manage.
    About This Mac Storage with Manage highlighted.
  4. From Recommendations, you'll be able to use these tools to optimize, reduce clutter, and find large groups of files. Look through the items here for simple places to check to help clear unneeded files from your computer.
    Storage Management Options

10 Restart

  1. From the menu bar across the top of the screen, select the Apple menu, then Restart...
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with Restart highlighted.

11 Clean Keyboard of Dust and Debris

It is important to remove excess dust and debris from your computer and its peripherals periodically to ensure that proper operation and cooling of your machine can take place.

Make sure that the keyboard is free of dust, dirt, and foreign matter.
A dirty keyboard
Turn the keyboard upside down to allow for any foreign debris, such as hair, food particles, or dust, to fall out.
We recommend that you periodically use compressed air to blow dust out of the hard-to-clean crevices in the keyboard.
Compressed air being used to clean a keyboard
If you spill a drink or some other liquid on the keyboard, immediately turn the keyboard upside down to let the liquid drain out, and then remove as much liquid as possible. Wait until the keyboard is completely dry before you use it again.

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Computers have become easier and easier to use, with many common maintenance tasks being taken care of for you, thanks to modern software. But, there are a few things that relate more to personal preference you can review to make sure everything stays in tip-top shape.
Tools You'll Need:
  • If you plan to back your system up, you may need external storage such as a hard drive.
Computer Maintenance.

Data Backups

It is always wise to backup your computer's data. Data backups should be performed regularly. Even beyond the scope of malware or for the sake of security, it is always prudent to have frequent backups because hard drives can fail, systems can crash, things can break, "life can happen," so you're always better off safe than sorry.

Data backups, just like any type of backup, are a matter of redundancy. One backup solution is good, two or more is better.

Offsite backups (such as online data backup services) are always a good idea, especially as a secondary backup. That way, in the unfortunate event that a fire, flood, or theft happens, you have a copy of your data in a remote, offsite location to fall back on.

It is always prudent to set your backups to use a versioning scheme. When it comes to backing up data, versioning is like a saved history of your files. Versioning allows your backup service to record multiple copies (or versions) of your files in its system (how many depends on the service). You can use file versioning to go back and retrieve the version you need. That way if files are corrupted, infected, or locked, you don't have to worry about having only one backup which may be the bad version.

If you are using a local backup such as an external hard drive or flash drive, it is always a good idea to disconnect the drive when it is not in use. This is a safety precaution, as some forms of malware can encrypt or corrupt all of the data on any connected drive, so a drive that is no longer physically connected cannot be affected.

macOS Backups
We have a special guide dedicated to data backups.

macOS tends to slow down with more icons on the desktop, because it has to check and redraw them constantly. Also, the Desktop tends to turn into a 'default dumping ground' for many applications.

Having a clean, orderly Desktop with just the applications you use most frequently, and a few important files can lead to better performance overall for your computer.

Select a section below for assistance Moving important files or Deleting unneeded files.
Move Files to Appropriate Folders

macOS has built-in folders to help you organize your documents, pictures, music and videos. You can also create folders inside folders to help better organize projects and collections.

  1. Select Finder on your Dock, then select Go > Home from the menu at top.
    Finder
    Finder Go menu with Home highlighted
  2. You'll see a list of folders for common types of files.
    Finder with home folders highlighted
  3. To move a file to a folder, click on the file, and don't let go. Then, drag it over the folder you'd like it in, then release the mouse button.
    macOS Finder showing moving a file to a folder
  4. To view files in that folder in the future, click that folder.
    Finder with Documents and file highlighted.
Delete Unneeded Files

If you no longer need a file or shortcut you can delete it using one of four methods, depending on which you are most comfortable with.

Deleting With the Mouse
Click on the file or folder, and don't let go. Then, drag it over the Trash on the Dock, then release the mouse button.Mac dekstop showing dragging a file to the Trash
Deleting With the Menu
Highlight the file, then select File > Move to Trash.Mac desktop showing a highlighted file with the File menu open and Move to Trash highlighted.
Deleting With the Keyboard
Highlight the file, then press the Command ⌘ + Delete ⌫ buttons on your keyboard.Mac Desktop with file highlightedMac keyboard with Command and Delete keys highlighted
Deleting With a Right Click
Using your Right mouse button, Right Click on a file, and select Move to Trash from the menu.Mac Desktop showing right click menu for a file with Move to Trash highlighted

One folder that routinely fills with files you may not use anymore is the Downloads folder. It's a good idea to check the Downloads folder, delete items you no longer need, and move files you wish to keep to other locations.

  1. Select Finder from your Dock, then select Go > Downloads from the menu.
    Finder
    Finder Go menu with Downloads highlighted
  2. This folder contains items you have downloaded using your browser and other programs. Look through each item, and decide to delete, move, or leave files in here.
    Finder showing Downloads

If there's a program installed that you don't use anymore, it's best to uninstall it to save space.

  1. Select Finder, then select Go > Applications.
    Finder
    Finder Go menu with Applications highlighted
  2. Look through your list of programs for any you do not use anymore.
    Applications in Finder.
Uninstall a Program
  1. Make sure the program you want to uninstall is closed.
    Running Program
    There is a Dot • below the program's icon on your Dock.Program running on Dock
    Closed Program
    There's no Dot • below the program's icon on your Dock.Program not running on Dock
    Close a Program

    There are two ways to close a program on your Mac.

    Close a Program Using the Menu
    Select the program on your Dock, then select the program's name at the top, and select Quit.Program selected on Dock, with Program's main menu open with Quit highlighted.
    Close A Program Using the Right-Click Menu
    Using your Right mouse button, right-click on the program's icon on your dock, and select Quit from the menu.Right-click menu with Quit highlighted.
  2. Select Finder, then select Go > Applications.
    Finder
    Finder Go menu with Applications highlighted
  3. Drag the app you want to uninstall to the Trash.
    Finder showing dragging an app to the Trash
  4. Some apps have a little clean up to perform; carefully read and follow the directions on screen to complete removing the app.
    macOS will not allow you to remove apps deemed necessary by Apple from your computer.
  1. Select the Apple menu, then App Store.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with App Store highlighted.
  2. You will now see the app store pull up. Select Updates.
    macOS 10.14 Mojave or LaterApp Store side bar with Updates highlighted.
    macOS 10.13 High Sierra or EarlierApp store menu bar with Updates highlighted.
Any version of macOS 10.7 (Lion) or older can check for available updates through the Apple Menu and Software Updates.
  1. Select the Apple Menu and then System Preferences.
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with System Preferences highlighted.
  2. Select Users & Groups.
    macOS Users and Groups Preferences
  3. Select Login Items at the top, then your Username on the left. Finally, select the lock in the bottom-left corner to unlock these settings.
    Users and Groups Preferences with Login Items, User, and Lock highlighted.
  4. Enter your macOS password, and select Unlock.
    System Preferences unlock prompt with password and Unlock button highlighted.
  5. Look through the list on the right. If you see an item you don't recognize, or an item you don't use frequently, highlight it by clicking its name, then click the Remove (–) button below to remove it.
    Users and Groups Login Items with an item and minus button highlighted.

When a file is deleted from your Mac, it first goes to the Trash. If left long enough, it will eventually be removed permanently from your computer, but this provides an excellent buffer for simple mistakes.

  1. Select the Trash icon at the end of your Dock.
    macOS Trash
  2. A window showing the items in your Trash will open.
  3. If you see the file you want in the Trash, it's best to put it back where it belongs.
    1. Click-and-Hold, Control-Click, or Right Click the file for the menu to open. Select Put Back.
      Mouse with Right Mouse Button highlighted.
      Trashed item with context menu open with Put Back highlighted.
    2. The file will be put back where it came from, and the Finder window showing that folder will open.
      Finder with file highlighted.

Once a file is deleted from the Trash, it is gone forever. Be sure to check the files in the Trash before proceeding.

  1. Select the Trash icon at the end of your Dock, then select Empty in the top right corner.
    macOS Trash
    Finder showing Trash with Empty highlighted.
  2. You will be asked to confirm you wish to empty the Trash. If you are sure you do not want the files any longer, select Empty Trash.
    Conformation to empty Trash with Empty Trash highlighted.
  1. Select the Apple menu and then About This Mac.
    macOS Mojave Apple menu with About This Mac highlighted.
  2. Select Storage.
    About This Mac with Storage highlighted
  3. Select Manage.
    About This Mac Storage with Manage highlighted.
  4. From Recommendations, you'll be able to use these tools to optimize, reduce clutter, and find large groups of files. Look through the items here for simple places to check to help clear unneeded files from your computer.
    Storage Management Options
  1. From the menu bar across the top of the screen, select the Apple menu, then Restart...
    macOS Mojave Apple Menu with Restart highlighted.

It is important to remove excess dust and debris from your computer and its peripherals periodically to ensure that proper operation and cooling of your machine can take place.

Make sure that the keyboard is free of dust, dirt, and foreign matter.
A dirty keyboard
Turn the keyboard upside down to allow for any foreign debris, such as hair, food particles, or dust, to fall out.
We recommend that you periodically use compressed air to blow dust out of the hard-to-clean crevices in the keyboard.
Compressed air being used to clean a keyboard
If you spill a drink or some other liquid on the keyboard, immediately turn the keyboard upside down to let the liquid drain out, and then remove as much liquid as possible. Wait until the keyboard is completely dry before you use it again.

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