We've talked about ways to extend the lifespan of your batteries, the life of an older machine, and what automated diagnostics you should run on your PC, but what are some good basic tips that cover both Apple and Windows computers? In this post we take a look at 5 tips we have gleaned from Genius Bar and Geek Squad visits and from our own user experience.
1. Always Keep @ Least 5 GB Free A computer needs about 10% free disk space at any time. One thing we've noticed on our machines is that anything less than 5GB is going to land us with problems. Essentially, computers need breathing room. Without that free space, there's nowhere for temporary files to be stored. Also, when the RAM gets full, it will start swapping things in and out of memory by using your hard drive. If it's full, then not only can you not save stuff, but your computer has no where to dump stuff from RAM. To top it all off the worst thing that can happen as a result of a drive with no space? Data can get corrupted. Want to find out what applications are taking up a bit of space? We love using DaisyDisk for this purpose. This application is by far the nicest and easiest way of seeing what files are taking up your space on any drive. As you are cleaning out your files, just make sure not to delete any files or folders with the name "Library" in as they normally contain settings and can result in you losing contacts and other media depending on the file. Another great application we love is Xslimmer. Xslimmer gets rid of Intel/PowerPC code and additional language files that your machine doesn't use/need to free up space and improve performance and load times. 2. Really Remove Applications Since not all applications come with an uninstaller, it's important to really delete the applications you want to remove. For a majority of applications on the Apple side, generally moving them to the trash works well but often they leave other files lying around on your system. To really remove an application on a Mac, Drag and drop an application into a program like AppZapper and it will find all the associated files and remove them for you. It's branded as "the uninstaller that Apple forgot," and we are pretty big fans. For PC users, CCleaner will do a similar job and will also take help take care of #5. 3. Leave Your Computer on Overnight Would it surprise you to learn that your computer tunes itself up overnight? For example, between 3-5am Mac OS X will run scripts to clear out cache files which in return improve performance. Many of the "tune up" applications that are sold are just running these scripts on demand. 4. Defrag While this tip is not applicable for Mac users since OS X does defrag automatically in the background, this tip is an important part of the Windows users experience. Check out these posts for more info on how to defragment your hard drive. 5. Remove Unnecessary Login Items It may not come as a surprise to you that removing unnecessary login items will help your computer run better. Lots of applications will try and make themselves run at startup and this dramatically slows down boot times and also uses up memory which you may need for something else (also it is kind of a nuisance). To remove these on a Mac, go to System Preferences -> Accounts -> Login Items. Ignore the hide check boxes and just click on the login item you want to remove and click the "-" button underneath. Next time you restart, they won't automatically launch. A good rule of thumb is to leave anything printer related and iTunes Helper as login launch items. Without iTunes Helper, your computer can't auto-launch iTunes when you plug in an iPhone or iPod and this can also disable automatic iOS device backups.
Of course we can't forget: Backup, Backup, Backup! As we've said before, the importance of backing up cannot be stressed enough. Hard drives are consumable parts, just like your battery (if you have a notebook computer). They have moving parts, the platters/discs inside usually spin at 5,400 or 7,200 RPM, which wear out over time or from your computer being knocked/dropped. Regardless of whether it's a PC or Mac, the hard drives are the same. Just like how cars or washing machines can break down because of moving parts, drives can do so from any point from within the first month or possibly after 6 years. Your warranties like AppleCare will cover this (and other faults) up to three years (compared to the standard 12 month warranty) and while that is great for the cost of replacing the drive, it does nothing for recovering the lost data. What are some of your tips to keep your computer running well? (Images: Flickr users Tricia Wang, Travis Isaacs, and Stephen Hackett under license from Creative Commons .)