4 techniques to check the health of your Mac
Mac Tip #486, 11 May 2011
Your Mac should mainly look after itself and stay healthy, but you can help it along with some regular checks and clean-ups. These 4 techniques will help you along.
Check up on your Mac
A reader, Dave, recently asked:
Is there such a thing as a health check for Macs? My computer seems to be running OK but I just wanted to make sure it’s doing what its meant to be doing!
If you haven’t noticed any actual problems with your Mac then it’s probably doing just fine. There are some things you can quickly and easily check though, to make sure it stays in good condition.
Check installed RAM
One of the best things you can do for any computer is to add RAM. If your Mac feels a bit slow, especially when doing tasks such as editing photos, then more RAM could definitely help.
For a start though you might just be sure to actually Quit any applications you don’t need to have open. That’s an easy and free option.
System Profiler.appfrom the
Hardwarein the left-hand
Hardware Overviewis displayed on the right.
- Look at the
memoryline to see how much RAM is installed in your Mac. I’ve highlighted that line in my screenshot: my MacBook Pro has 8Gb RAM. I recently added 4Gb to the original 4Gb it came with and find my photo and video software works much more easily and quickly. See My Christmas RAM is a treat for details of how I did this at a low cost.
Get Tech Specs for your Mac
Just out of sight in my screenshot is the serial number for my Mac. Copy your serial number and go to Apple’s Tech Specs page. Paste the serial number in the Search box and a page appears telling you everything about your model of Mac. Look at the
Processor and memory section to see how much RAM you are able to install in your Mac.
Check hard drive space
Most Macs these days come with gigantic hard drives.
I’ve had clients ask me if they should take files off because they’re worried they’re running out of room. Often these clients only have a few wordprocessing documents that would fit easily on an old floppy disc and they have no reason to worry.
If you have a lot of videos, music files, photos and other things that really do use a lot of space then how much remains empty could be an issue for you. Any computer needs plenty of free space for working with.
To check how much of your hard drive is used:
System Profiler.appfrom the
Hardwarein the left-hand
Serial-ATA. Details of the drives in your Mac are displayed on the right. Note: if
Serial-ATAisn’t the right choice on your particular Mac read on and look for an item that does display the type of information I mention in the next step.
- Look for the
Macintosh HDitem. It will show
Available. On my MacBook Pro the Capacity is 499.76 GB — in other words it has a 500 GB drive installed. My screenshot shows I still have around 285GB available. That means the drive is around half full and I still have plenty of room.
If the available free space on your Mac’s hard drive is around 20% or less of the total capacity then consider how to free up more space. Some options:
- Trash files you actually no longer need. Remember to empty the Trash to make the space available.
- Move some files into long-term storage and trash the copies that remain on the hard drive.
- Buy an additional hard drive and move some files to there.
- Install a bigger hard drive in the Mac and move all your files to it.
Check the OS version
The Operating System is the basic software that runs your Mac even before you try to work or play on it. The OS runs the screen, keyboard and all the other features you take for granted.
The specific version of the Operating System becomes important when you consider running any other software. Some versions of some apps require a particular version of the OS.
To check which version of the Mac OS your machine is using:
About This Macfrom the
Applemenu. A window appears with information about the processor, RAM and version of Mac OS X. My Mac is running Snow Leopard (10.6), version 10.6.7.
Note too that clicking the
More Info… button opens up the System Profiler app for you.
Install software updates
Most applications these days offer a
Check for updates option somewhere in their menus.
Updates may offer new features or just better performance and security. See if any updates are appropriate for your Mac.
Make sure that updates will still run with your version of the Operating System, especially if you aren’t running the latest version.
Install Apple updates
Apple regularly issue updates to Apple software that may fix bugs, improve security or offer additional features.
While you may have your own reasons for not installing some of these, you should always promptly install any that claim to be security updates.
Software Update… from the
Apple menu. A window appears showing a progress bar for checking for updates. If any updates are available, they appear in an Updates window. Select the updates you want and follow the on-screen instructions to install them.
There are also a couple of routine maintenance tasks you can do for free to make sure your Mac is in tip-top condition. I’ll explain them in another Tip.
How often do you check for software updates? Please leave any Comments at the website.