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A Somewhat Snarky Guide To Mac Maintenance



Keeping a Mac healthy and running smoothly isn't just about fixing problems; it's about preventing them in the first place. Here are some of our favorite preventative maintenance tasks that can keep a Mac in tip-top shape:


Software

  1. Update macOS regularly: Apple releases updates with security patches, bug fixes, and performance improvements. Update as soon as they become available in smaller organizations, or if there’s a larger organization then consider testing updates in smaller release batches early prior to releasing them to a lager contingent of users (but still as quickly as possible). Seriously, this is the probably the top security and maintenance thing anyone can do. Don’t hit the “do this thing later” button for a few reasons, including the fact that the IT organization will make fun of you, restrict you, and potentially permanently despise you. (note, we never like to use “you” in articles but made an exception this time)

  2. Keep apps updated: Outdated apps can be vulnerable to security risks and may not work well with the latest macOS version. Update them regularly. Same goes for testing in smaller groups prior to going org-wide when possible and when the scale of impact of a net-new bug could cause a work stapage that costs an organization more than a better testing program might cost. The same about not updating crap in the above tip applies here. Don’t be that human who everyone in compliance, infosec, and IT support hates. Otherwise they won’t mind restarting the computer and updating crap in a destructive fashion. It’s deserved - ESPECIALLY if you should be leading by example rather than a Jerkface McJerkyson. Double-especially if you’re in IT leadership. Prison rules begin to apply, then.

  3. Remove unused apps: Clutter can slow down any system. In larger organizations, unused apps can also create a security nightmare and substantial patch management costs. Uninstall apps no longer used and keep track of what’s being used and by whom, looking for any chance to ditch software not touched in a deterministic amount of time. It’s also not a terrible way to save licensing moneys. That makes budget-holders happy. Not that most in IT think about keeping budget holders happy, but there’s this whol “free up budget” thing that might just buy that ticket to that cool conference. Speaking of which, conference season is coming up! Squeeeee!

  4. Disable unnecessary startup items: Apps that automatically launch at startup can consume resources. Disable those that aren’t needed, especially in larger organizations where they could be a canary in a coalmine of software that can become problematic. Apple has gone through great strides to make apps that load on start transparent. They did so for a reason. Know thy Mac.

  5. Optimize storage: Regularly clean up unnecessary files, photos, and documents using tools, or manually. In larger organizations, keep track of the amount of free space available to users and look for ways to remove files that can be scripted as part of a self service solution. For smaller environments (like a home user), check out the app store for stuff that is rated highly to help out.

  6. Empty Trash and Downloads folder: Regularly empty these folders to free up disk space. In larger organizations, be careful - some users apparently use the trash as a folder (we learned this the hard way). Thisi s really a manual thing, but…

  7. Use disk encryption: Encrypt your entire disk with FileVault for enhanced security. If using an MDM, also test escrow keys to be able to unlock disks in the event that doing so is needed

  8. Run Disk Utility: Repair and verify disk health using Disk Utility when the system runs slow. Used to be something recommend to do proactively but notsomuch any more. Also consider making this available to users in self service. This isn’t as much a thing as it used to be, but it does still come up from time to time.

  9. Schedule backups: Use Time Machine or another backup solution to protect data from accidental loss. This used to be a must. I even wrote a book about it. But with iCloud and the iOS-ification of the Mac, it’s less a thing, but still a good idea on certain hosts. And it can’t hurt to have a reliable previously known state to revert back to at home. ‘Cause some things are a pain to get back to normal and Time Machine can make doing so a snap, for a small investment, all things considered.


Hardware

  1. Clean the dang thing: Regularly dust the Mac with compressed air to prevent overheating. Wipe off the screen (gross). Clean out the keyboard so it doesn’t get too sticky. It’s not necessary to make the bed every day, but wash the sheets on a regular interval - and clean off that machine when doing so. Also maybe not a bad idea to clean off the hundreds of files many store on the desktop when doing that. And emptying the trash. Routine task day!

  2. Clean the keyboard and trackpad: Use a microfiber cloth to remove dust and debris. Seriously, the keyboard gets super gross. For those who didn’t have to clean mice balls (which yes, is as gross as it sounds but maybe not for why you think it is) in the 90s - that’s a thing.

  3. Check for spills and damage: Inspect the Mac for any liquid spills or physical damage. Especially if there are cats in the house. They’re jerks. Address them promptly. The wet stuff, not the cats - there’s no addressing cats.

  4. Manage cables: Organize and secure cables to prevent tripping and damage. Use magnetic cables where possible. Use wireless where possible. Even better, if there’s a cable, can it be replaced with a cloud. Clouds > cables because there are rainbows. Or something like that.

  5. Use a surge protector: Protect every electronic thingy from electrical surges with a surge protector. Except the microwave or anything that can blow up a surge protector or battery backup. They’re all cheap these days, and can also often be managed with some type of IoT app. Even better. Well, then there’s another device to keep updated. But worth it. Also, while we’re at it, there should toooootally be an IoT device management solution out there. Shame on the industry for not adhering to standards so that it would be easier to write one. Getting off topic again…

  6. Backup the NVRAM/PRAM: These settings can sometimes become corrupted, so having a backup can help restore them. Not much of a thing with an M2, but for older machines think about using the nvram CLI to dump them. It’s fun for the whole family. Especially toddlers - they love nvram.

  7. Reset SMC: The System Management Controller manages power and other low-level functions. Resetting it can sometimes resolve hardware issues.


Security

  1. Enable strong passwords: Use complex and unique passwords for all accounts. Not to be self-serving, but Secret Chest can make up a password for you, store it, and recall it when needed - as well as alert you when there’s an opportunity to swap that silly password out with a passkey. Well, not swap but supplement. Which then means there are two different things out there. Is that less secure or more? Ask the team behind kerberos. Actually, don’t - they are pretty jaded at this point. Instead ask… the guy that made openID - nope, also jaded, so instead… well, the list of non-jaded folks is pretty dang MIA - so don’t ask anyone, just make strong passwords. We’ll help with that if ya’ want. So ask us!

  2. Enable two-factor authentication: This adds an extra layer of security to accounts. Especially for keychain. Secret Chest uses keychain as our database, so we’d love for that to be as secure as is humanely (or programmatically ‘cause keychain isn’t a human) possible. Actually, given that keychain came out at the end of the 90s, it’s in its 20s now. That age where it can legally drink but not smart enough not to. We still trust our friendly little drunky buddy as our database. It’s got centuries of wisdom coursing through it from its creators. And unlike that not-quite-sober 20-something friend, it actually follows rules. We like rules.

  3. Beware of phishing scams: Don't click on suspicious links or attachments in emails. Or, do that on a system in a walled garden and mess with the people on the other end. It’s a fun sport. Much more fun than getting tackled by a left guard. Promise.

  4. Use a firewall: A firewall can help protect a Mac from unauthorized access. Well, that is… if sharing is enabled. Don’t enable sharing. But also use a natbox. Pretty much every internet service comes with one. But also use a tool that throws a prompt up on the screen when something tries to substantiate a connection to a port or other host. It’s not as fun as messing with scammers, but given that I figure it’s fair game to hack whatever is trying to knock on my ports, it can be!

  5. Install antivirus software: Use antivirus software for additional protection. Yes, the Mac can get them. They don’t have to be expensive. Gatekeeper isn’t enough. Promise. Also, most are just front-ends for a yara-rule-based scanner that all basically use the same database from Virus Total, so use whatever costs the least and doesn’t make you hate life. If something is wasting system resources move to something else.

  6. Disable Bluetooth when not in use: This helps prevent unauthorized access via Bluetooth. Every now and then there are new exploits against bluetooth itself. Be careful. Not running around like chicken little here (should that be capitalized?) but it’s just a good idea to disable anything not otherwise being used, including bluetooth.


Performance

  1. Monitor Activity Monitor: Keep an eye on the Mac's resource usage to identify any performance bottlenecks. Remove crappy McCrappystuffs.

  2. Manage browser extensions: Disable unnecessary browser extensions, as they can consume memory and slow down browsing experience. Actually, check out Extensions Manager on github, a tool we built to find any old extension, ‘cuase apps can be equally as annoying in this way in the fact that they can load extensions.

  3. Reduce visual effects: Disable unnecessary visual effects like animations to improve performance.

  4. Invest in a cooling pad: If a Mac gets hot, a cooling pad can help prevent overheating. If it doesn’t get hot, don’t bother. Been doing a bit of .stl to .obj to .usdz conversion batch processing recently and, um, the M2 can heat the heck up when it feels like it!


Some off this can be automated. Tools like CleanMyMac X can automate many of these tasks. They’re also Ukrainian-based and make a VPN tool, another way to protect certain aspects of computing experiences. Oh, and stay informed: Keep up-to-date on the latest security threats and vulnerabilities, as well as any of the fun little tips and tricks on common sites.


Extras

  1. Hire a pro: There’s a reason they make money, ya’ know…

  2. Just replace the damn thing: Life is too short for crappy old computers. Promise. It’s so easy to micrage machines now, and cathartic to demolish old computers. Especially when firearms are involved.

  3. Don’t donate old machines without wiping them. We buy a lot of old stuff. We see a lot of weird data. We haven’t lost all faith in humanity - but maybe lost most faith in humanity.

  4. Always look for better everything. Kinda’ like the life is too short for crappy computers thing. Life is too short for crappy processes, crappy web services, and crappy software. We’ve all written crappy software by accident. But it should get better over time. If it doesn’t, don’t stick with a crappy endor. Things like tech debt don’t fix themselves, and a sales-led organization is always going to be unless pressure is applied in renewals. Have about 5 minutes of customer loyalty and move on. Especially (self serving little bit here) if it’s password managers!!! This also goes for light switches, blinds, appliances, and everything else that costs real money. Including streaming services. Seriously, screw them. Raising rates while less content is out there. They deserve to be floating in a red ocean of mediocrity. No offense. But maybe a little. Or a lot.

  5. REBOOT SOMETIMES: There this thing called virtual memory swap files. And this other thing (about a hundred more, actually) that really only do proper house cleaning upon a reboot. Doooooo it. Macs reset most apps back to their previous state. It’s kinda’ cool like that.

  6. Clear notifications regularly: Apps that are too chatty suck. It doesn’t have a hunge impact on performance, but it might have an impact on productivity.

  7. Unsubscribe from email lists and Slack and Discord and whatever: Back to the productivity thing - people seem to forget that ever since the Pascaline, computers are really just here to make humans more productive. All the junk that flows through screens is one of the reasons for the “productivity gap” that comes up every decade or so to the people that later say that’s why it’s time to return to the office when people should theoretically be happy working from home. Crazy, right? But a thing. Stay as productive as your loving author is apparently frosty. It’s about reducing distrations, which can also have a second boon of reducing stress or anxiety or whatever that those icky conversations on Twitter can create. Wish it were better on the newer social networks that proport to be better. It’s not, turns out!

  8. Listen to the MacAdmins Podcast. Self-serving.

  9. Sign up for the Secret Chest beta. Self-serving.

  10. Send $10 to the Secret Chest listserv and we’ll have everyone that signs up with your link send $10 to you. You’ll be a thousandaire in no time! Seriously, don’t send us money. That was a joke about pyramind schemes. If it wasn’t funny, please note that this is a security software company, not a commedy troupe.  Think about it, if we were funny, we’d be on tour, have a TV show, or do something cool. Actually, comedians make crap money, we’d probably still be in software. No offense. Actually, we worked with comedians in former lives - a little offense. But that’s maybe a theme of the article…


Last but not least. Computing should be fun. Ditch anything that isn’t. We believe in fun at Secret Chest. You can’t spell Secret Chest without it! If you’re going to point out that there’s no f or u or n in the words Secret Chest, we strongly recommend getting a life. No one likes pedantic humans. Or just download the software and you’ll get what we mean by fun. Actually, you won’t. It’s security software. But it’s cool, ‘cause not getting your crap hacked is fun. Or so we think. Ymmv.

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But I NEED Photoshop 6 and Quark 6.5! Well, I just don’t want to pay for new licenses. :-)

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