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Question from Ray: I have been using my Mac for several years, and sometimes I have a feeling that it should be cleaned out. I am not sure what the best way is to clean it out, and delete some unnecessary files and junk.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Jason answers: This is a common dilemma. Macs run so well and there is no indication from the Mac Operating System that maintenance needs to be done. What to do?!

First off, if your hard drive is getting full, that can cause slowdowns. So what is considered too much data? The general consensus is to have about 10% free space to not impact performance. We typically get computers in the store that are running really slow or not booting up and they have less than a gigabyte of free space. To find out how much data and free space you have on your hard drive:

1. Click on your Finder Icon in the Dock.

2. Select your hard drive icon by clicking on it once. This view is for 10.5 and 10.6.

3. Go to File -> Get Info in your menubar or press Command + I

You’ll get a window with the details on your hard drive. Notice the Used and Available lines.

So I have about 20% free space.

What should you clean out? There are some cleanup scripts built into the Unix kernel that run daily, weekly, and monthly. However, these scripts run at strange times like 4am. So if your computer is asleep or off, they won’t run. Since I am up at 3-4AM updating this blog, these scripts run fine on my laptop. If you aren’t up at these times, there is a great piece of shareware called Macaroni. It installs as a System Preference Pane and runs these maintenance scripts when they are needed.

Another piece of software that does maintenance is Onyx. The software is free and will perform many maintenance and cleanup tasks. The Help file included with the software goes into detail on each task it performs. Remember to always have your data backed up before performing any tasks with Onyx.

Addressing “junk” and unnecessary files is very tricky. I can’t tell you what to delete off of your hard drive. The Mac allows users to put files wherever they want. We do see quite a few “Downloads” folders that are full of stuff that the user didn’t realize. Since Leopard (Mac OS 10.5), Apple created a “Downloads” folder that Internet downloads go into. It is in /Users/your home folder/Downloads. Take a look in there are see what you can throw away.

There are a couple of pieces of shareware that will find duplicate files on your hard drive so that you can clean them up. There is a highly marketed one called Spring Cleaning, but it constantly gets bad reviews. Here are a couple that have done well in the shareware community:

Tidy Up!

Find Duplicate Files


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